Nowadays more than ever, fashion, beauty, style, and everything in between is at an all-time high. And in order to stand out, you have to bring something new and different to the table. Insert HVS Home created by Bukola Are, a black designer who’s recently become infatuated with home decor and all things surrounding. Described as “modern luxury home décor,” the social cause brand creates and curates a unique collection of vibes.
In describing herself, Are states, “I’m Nigerian-American. I’m based here in Maryland or DMV metro area. I’m a creative entrepreneur. Some would put serial, but I’d like to say I’m a creative entrepreneur. Right now, I’m having this love affair with home decor.”
After having conquered the fashion and beauty industries, Are has gotten the cosign from various celebrities such as Spice, Ugo Mozie, Dimma Umeh, and Seyi Shay. Which leads into her most recent project, the Africa Tic Tac Toe game board released in retail partnership with Wayfair. The item features shining pieces shaped as the African continent, a one-of-a-king board game created with the finest acrylic materials. The goal was to send some peace, love, and fun to all those who need it, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additionally, HVS Home has its charity initiative called HVS Cares, empowering women and children in their local communities and across West Africa. Flaunt caught up with Are via Zoom to discuss her love for home decor, how the pandemic affected the industry, how she remains inspired, how the Africa Tic Tac Toe board originated, partnering with a huge retailer like Wayfair, upcoming projects, and more!
Where did your love of home decor come into fruition?
I’ve always been all about the vibe. Vibe is a branding word for us at HVS Home. I love entertaining. I’m that person that’s hosting the boxing party, dinner party, because I love boxing. I’m that person: “oh, let’s do brunch at my house.” I love to entertain. Every time I have people over, they say “oh this is cute.” Some say “oh you’re so bougie.” I said you know what, a lot of the things I put together myself. Some are DIY, some are things I curate around my house. The pandemic gave me the space to finally develop this line I’ve wanted to have for some time now, it really gave me the push and the time to put it all together.
How has the home decor industry evolved over COVID-19?
So, everyone’s home. Our world has definitely changed, we have a new normal. Everyone’s like now what? Maybe I need some paint on that wall. Maybe I need some art here. Maybe I need a more comfortable chair. Perhaps if you have a little workstation or a dedicated space in your home for work, you have a cute little furry chair, you’re like “oh, maybe I can’t sit on this for 8 hours now.” Maybe I need something a bit more functional. Maybe I need a coffee table now.
Before the pandemic, we were out and about. Now, we’re spending a lot of our time and having more intimate affairs so everyone’s out there shopping to create that comfort zone for themselves. The pandemic definitely impacted the home decor industry in a positive way. I’ll tell you this, our very first retailer when I went into one of their locations to have a meeting with their owners, I was there for 2 hours, and I said “wow.” People are out here shopping. During the meeting, she said “oh darling, we’ve been in business for 10 years, but this is our best year ever.” Everyone’s on home improvement, everyone is doing DIY. Right now, everyone’s remodeling, redesigning, or creating this concept they found online. The pandemic helped our industry.
What’s your style? Contemporary, modern?
I’m between modern and contemporary, but I’m also a minimalist. Everything has to have a place. Everything has to have a place. [laughs]
How do you remain inspired?
For me, inspiration is everywhere. I consider myself a minimalist, but if there’s a lot around and everything is disorganized, it’s hard for me to really tap into my creativity. I will literally unplug and say “okay, it’s a slow moment right now. Everything pause, everything needs to get back in order.” I’m the type of person where get on a train and go to a museum and I’m inspired. I do this all the time. One of my favorite routines is I wake up in the morning and do 3 miles at 6am. I’ll go walking, listening to music. It gives me whatever it is I’m looking for.
How’s the landscape for Black women in home decor?
A lot of times, Black design is affiliated with craft. The message I want to get out there is hey, we’re here. We’re also occupying and presenting luxury. We need space, we need our own market share. We’re not just doing craft. Don’t think of us as hey, you can find us on Etsy. No, we’re here. We’re putting together amazing work, amazing designs.
How did the Africa Tic Tac Toe board come about?
That started with me giving back. When quarantine started, I was in Nigeria. 2 days before the airport shut down over there, I was able to get out and get back to the States. When I got back, I was thinking about friends and family and I wanted to send something out to everyone. I curated a wellness box, of course it took forever for all the items to come in. Sanitizers, things I love and know people would enjoy. When everything came, I said “something is missing here.” I wanted to send something fun, a stress-reliever. You know what? It’s a game. It was a no-brainer because my favorite game is tic tac toe. Some will say X and O.
Forever, I’ve always loved that game. Sometimes I could be in traffic and I’m on Google playing tic tac toe. This is my game. You know what? Let me see how I can put this together. It took me a few weeks to get all the items that I’d ordered in because the postal service was insane at the time. I’m really proud of that product because it took me 35 days to go from design to finding a manufacturer to having product in hand. As a creative person, that’s not usually the case. When you find yourself designing for a client, oh you have a deadline. But when it’s your project, you’re always painting. Painting is “it’s not done yet!” I was really happy that I was able to fast track that.
We have the original, then we have the Africa which is a play on the original. The Africa element was really me wanting to incorp my culture, my heritage, where I’m from. It felt right. it just happened. I said “I wonder if this will work?” We went from carving it, I said “I think this might work.” The first order was a client order, and they wanted over 50. They’re sending out boxes as well. Okay, I might have something here. This might be our star product. Here we are 8 months later, and it’s our best-seller.
How’s the feedback been since getting major retails partnerships like Wayfair?
That’s been amazing. Earlier this year, I made a goal for myself: I want us to be in 20 stores by the end of the year. At the time when I said that, I wasn’t really thinking what that means in terms of inventory. I didn’t know what was going to be in front of me, but I thank God today we can say we’re at 14 and it’s August. Wayfair being the biggest partnership to date, that’s amazing. It’s a dream come true because 70% of my home came from Wayfair. I’ve been shopping on Wayfair for a long time. We went from shopping on Wayfair to selling on Wayfair, being in business with them and their other subsidiaries. I literally presented one product to them, and it was the Africa Luxury Tic Tac Toe board. In a week, they’re like “hey, let’s do this!”
What’re you most excited for next?
You know what? Short term we’re working on our warehouse and I’m really excited about that. It’s a lot of work. Of course I anticipated it, but I’m really excited about that. Every moment I really cherish: single orders, wholesale, new retail opportunities. Every time something happens, and they’ve been happening a lot lately, I have a frozen moment. I was telling my partner: at the end of the day, we put in a lot of hours and a lot of time. Day, night, wake up, do it again. The real blessing is being able to witness your dream, to actually see it. A lot of people put in time, effort, everything that’s considered required to accomplish a goal and don’t get to see it.
Every time, every opportunity, this interview, an order coming in, I’m grateful. I take everything as it comes, thank you God. This is why all of my businesses, especially HVS Home is a social cause brand. Every time you shop, we donate. I just came back from Nigeria. In Nigeria, we were doing our annual Act of Kindness Day where we provide for the kids. That was amazing. It gives me the juice and the drive of “oh, we have to do more.” Every time I get with the kids, I realize we have to do more. It’s all exciting, I don’t take any of these opportunities for granted.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Support us, we’re here. We’re HVS Home. Inside our House of Versatile Styles, we curate and create a collection of vibes and so much more. Towards the holidays, we’ll be introducing a lot of categories. I can tell you we’ll be introducing wellness and beauty into HVS Home. We have some celebrity brand collaborations coming up for the holiday season. I’m really excited, I can’t wait to share it with you guys.
What does HVS stand for?
VS stands for House of Versatile Styles. We’re a House of Versatile Styles, befitting right?