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This Interior Artist Transformed A Firehouse Into A Dope Home

"If I had it my way, everyone would have a well-designed space that makes them feel extraordinary."

Dope Abodes

In xoNecole's quarterly series Dope Abodes, we tour the living spaces of millennial women, where they dwell, how they live, and the things they choose to adorn and share their spaces with.

Outside, the brisk January air sent cold shivers up our spines, but inside Jersey-based interior artist Bailey Li's firehouse station loft, warmth radiated from the bright hues and plush fabrics adorning her space.

Everywhere we looked – the textured, downy sofas in the living room, the canopied bedroom boudoir area, the gilded bar cart – vintage artifacts and structurally bold pieces intermingled in a delicate dance. No piece overpowered the other yet demanded attention in its own right. An artistic oxymoron if you will.

Even warmer than the heat radiating from the clusters of candles arranged throughout her space, Bailey's smile drew us in immediately. "Every time I design a space or paint a technique on a wall, I am tapping into infinite intelligence, source energy, and the pulse of unlimited love that I always have access to. I never want to forget to show love and compassion to others who could very well be out in the world feeling alone and/or suffering from depression— especially Black women. If I had my way, everyone would have a well-designed space that makes them feel extraordinary; I truly believe it's essential to one's well being."

Tell us about yourself.

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"My clients say that I'm an artist. Lately, many of them have been calling me a 'life-changer', which is music to my ears! That's what this is all about for me – transforming spaces and lives through my artistry. I'd like to think of myself as an interior artist/creative who designs spaces, hand paints walls, makes bespoke chairs, and more. Interior design has helped me uncover my true passion—bringing out the best in people by interpreting who they are at their core and translating that through their environments. The impact that my work has on my clients' lives is truly the reward I seek."

Tell us a bit about what environment you were seeking to create in your space and the thought process behind your decorative choices.

Interior artist Bailey Li firehouse apartment dope abode

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"My space is representative of three components: who I was, who I am, and most importantly, who I am becoming! Deep down I've always been fearless, it's just who I am. It's exemplified through my work and now my home. My ability to curate and recreate the old with the new, adding a modern pop to an antique is something I've been doing for over 10 years. The craftsmanship and character of antique and vintage pieces are so intriguing to me.

"The fact that I live in a firehouse loft/art gallery blows my mind. It's a creative live/work loft and it speaks to the artist that I have become. I have pushed myself and stretched myself; as a result, many talents I had no idea I possessed emerged. My bespoke chairs and hand-painted walls have become my canvases. I truly feel like an artist in my home and my artistry is being actualized by the fact that I am able to live and create in the same space."

"It's a creative live/work loft and it speaks to the artist that I have become."

How did you approach finding and financing your place?

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"I live in a creative live/work art gallery loft located in the Valley Arts District of Orange, New Jersey and I've been renting here for two years. Discovering the Valley Arts District through an organization called Hands Inc. was such a huge breakthrough for me. I am able to lease this beautiful firehouse abode at a reasonable rate. I recommend anyone who is an artist/creative to seek out communities that have active art initiatives in place. They typically offer affordable live/work, loft-style spaces to creatives – it's a great way to gain exposure and be surrounded by like-minded people."

How do you feel your space impacts your mental health and happiness?

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"The shape of furniture, the colors of the walls and floors, the lighting and arrangement of it allabsolutely influences how we feel and perform on a conscious and subconscious level. I'veincluded subliminal reminders and cues that stimulate positive feelings and thoughts throughoutmy space. For instance, if you look closely at my hand-painted copper colored doorway it hasthe words 'You Are Not Alone' inscribed on it. I painted those words as a reminder to myself thatI am not alone; every waking day is proof that the creator is present."

In addition to an apartment tour, xoNecole was able to sit down with Bailey to discuss her design ethos, neuroaesthetics – the impact of our spaces on the way we feel, and some of her favorites pieces present within her Orange, NJ firehouse station loft:

Vaginas Are Lit

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"Recently, I did an art exhibition where I featured my art installation, 'Vaginas Are Lit'. I created these paintings on canvases with silhouettes [of vaginas] with antique light switch plates and bulbs that lit up. It was an interactive moment for people since they could actually come into the exhibition and 'turn on' the vaginas. Whoopi Goldberg happened to be a fan of [the installation] and ended up purchasing the first two [pieces], which was a very proud moment [for me]. 'I was like, Oh my God, I'm an artist!'"

Sweet Escape

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"Growing up, there were times that I didn't have my own room. I remember visiting my sister's friend's house when we were young and seeing her bedroom. It was a little girl's dream come true! She had a canopy bed with drapery to match, beautiful pastel walls, and dolls for days. I remember leaving there feeling sad knowing that my grandparents could not afford to give me a room like that.

"As an adult, I can finally have my version of a dream canopy. It's nothing like that little girl's bedroom, but it certainly represents the girl in me. The feminine canopy is juxtaposed with a masculine leather and sheet metal aviator headboard, gauzy sheer drapery with jute trim and huge industrial style metal light fixtures that I also embellished with jute trim.
Although it's one my favorite areas in my apartment, my boudoir was a painstaking process because I did not know where to put my bedroom in this wide open space. I originally had my bed over by where the living room is, and then I decided that I wanted to switch it up. I created this canopy to give me a little bit of privacy and delineate the areas [in the apartment], but still, leave it wide open."

Something Old, Something New

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"15 years ago, I bid on [this couch] and it was originally Pepto-Bismol pink! I had it reupholstered in the black velvet that you see here today. It was originally in my showroom for sale and I was so happy no one bought it because… it's mine."

On the Run

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"In my early twenties, I always dreamt of driving around town in a Vespa wearing high heels; my vintage scooter console satiates that desire! Every time I look at it parked in the middle of my loft, I feel adventurous and free.

"I discovered this vintage scooter console at Sierra Trading, believe it or not. I just fell in love. I had to have it. And, it lights up, which I thought was really cool! In a loft space like this, I thought it was a great aesthetic piece that serves a dual purpose. It's a shelf where I can display my favorite objects – my favorite shoes, my favorite books, stones that I love. Again, [this loft] is an open space and it's very hard to find storage and this [console] can be used to show some of my favorite things."

Indoor Picnic

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

"My dining room table is a unique experience. I don't have room for a full-out dining area, but I did want to create an indoor picnic moment where you can have anything from a romantic dinner to a nice little community area where you can catch up with friends."

Click through for more pics of Bailey's gorgeous live/work loft:

Photo by Ana Rice for xoNecole

Bailey Li pictured with writer Lydia Lee

Favorite part of your home? My boudoir bedroom area

Favorite song? "Adore" by Prince

Favorite vacation? Tulum, Mexico

Next vacation? Bali and Morocco

Team iPhone or Android? iPhone

Favorite social media platform? Instagram

Favorite hair product(s)? Fermented rice water and African Chebe powder

All photos by Ana Rice

For more Bailey Li, give her a follow on Instagram @interiorista_baileyli and @designedbybaileyli.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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