Pride in Design: 8 LGBT+ New Yorkers Pioneering Change in Modern Design

The fields of design and architecture is, in most cases, a place where openness, self-expression, and honesty are celebrated. For centuries, LGBT+ individuals have been instrumental in the development of design trends, architectural breakthroughs, and ways to improve our homes and buildings, but due to stigmas around sexuality, many professionals kept their identities a secret out of fear of judgement. In the past few decades, as public perception and acceptance has improved, people from all sects of the LGBT+ community have been proudly working in the fields that they thrive in, open about their sexual orientations and spreading messages of inclusivity simply by being themselves. While full equality for all is still a goal on the horizon, these designers and industry pros use their passion for design to be forces for change, and bring us some of the best creations in modern design. New York has long been at the heart of the Pride movement, and these eight New Yorkers have contributed significantly to the progression of pride in design. 

(photos from Business of Home, Perkins Eastman, Out Magazine, House Beautiful, Wikipedia, The New York Times, Joy of Design, Apparatus, E-Architect, Scott Brothers, Newsday, Something Curated, Todd Oldham Studio, Archinect)

Gabriel Hendifar and Jeremy Anderson, Apparatus Studio

When it comes to lighting, Apparatus, founded by design-and-life partners Gabriel Hendifar and Jeremy Anderson, takes things to the next level. Not only has Apparatus (founded in 2012) quickly become one of the most sought-after brands in modern lighting in under a decade, but they have shaken up the industry by celebrating each light collection launch with extravagant themed parties, filled with installations and visual fantasies that create a story around each release. Whether you are in the know about their events and brand identity or not, an Apparatus piece in any home steals the show, regardless of its backstory. Combining fashion, theatrics, design, architecture, and fun, Hendifar and Anderson have set a new standard for decorative lighting and product branding in a refreshing and thrilling way, and established them both as major voices in the field. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, and award-winning projects around the world.

The New York Apparatus showroom

Asad Syrkett, Elle Decor

Editor, design enthusiast, and strategist Asad Syrkett became a face of representation and curatorial excellence in 2020, when he was named Editor-in-Chief of Elle Decor. As the first Black male editor-in-chief of a national design magazine and the youngest ever at Elle Decor, the difference Syrkett’s leadership is making is already crystal clear. While continuing the legacy of beloved publication, he has also infused more diverse stories, featured designers of color on the covers, and been an active voice in the movement for racial equality. He aims to start discussion about Black influences on the design world, celebrate designers of all backgrounds, and, of course, continue sharing amazing stories and projects with Elle Decor readers. There is no better choice to lead a major magazine than someone with a fresh perspective and bright personality.

AL Hu, Ascendant Neighborhood Development

AL Hu is a millennial New Yorker already making big waves in the industry. As a non-binary designer, they know that archutetcure must be accessible and inclusive to everyone, and they work hard to make that a reality. Formerly a senior designer at Solomonoff Architecture Studio, AL now spends their days ensuring proper, sustainable housing for New York communities at Ascendant Neighborhood Development in East Harlem. In their free time, they continue to raise the voices of others by running Queeries, an online group for LGBT+ designers to discuss their experiences and find queer colleagues to connect with. They also work with “Design As A Protest,” a collective aiming to confront and prevent design inequality that damages communities, where designers from anywhere in the country can join Zoom calls and have their voices heard. Hu’s love for their community and commitment to grassroots initiatives is a testament to the change the next generation of designers can make by using technology to join together and be heard. 

Jane Greenwood, Kostow Greenwood

One of OUT Magazine’s 2017 most Influential People of the Year, architect and activist Jane Greenwood is a major figure in queer inclusion in the architecture and construction industries. When she began her career in the 90s, she devised a map of buildings in Manhattan associated with LGBT+ history. She is a celebrated architect who uses her influence to speak up for equality in all forms, ensuring that people of all genders, races, and sexual orientations feel safe and respected in the workplace. In recent years, the firm  she leads has completed projects such as the restoration of 109 Prince Street and the Nevelson Chapel and broadcast facilities for Verizon Media, CNN and SiriusXM and is currently working on The Apollo Performing Arts Center in Harlem and Smart Design’s new workplace studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

A CNN broadcast facility by Kostow Greenwood

Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, “Nate & Jeremiah By Design”

Known for his appearances during home makeovers on “Oprah,” interior designer Nate Berkus is a household name around the country, known for his helpful personality and livable, realistic designs. His memorable moments on Oprah led to his own TV career, with a talk show, an executive producer role on the film “The Help,” signature collections with retailers, and a new show on TLC, with his partner, “Nate & Jeremiah by Design.” His partner, Jeremiah Brent, whom he married in 201, is a well-known interior designer, who got his big break on “The Rachel Zoe Project.” The design-superstars-turned-TV-personalities live in New York with their daughter and son, and have appeared on many magazine covers, commercials, and advertisements, making them proud faces of the LGBT+ community. Some of their magazine ads were the first to ever feature a gay couple. 

A shot from “Nate & Jeremiah By Design”

Horace Gifford

Born in 1932, architect Horace Gifford is the reason Fire Island looks the way it does. The gay architect built over sixty modernist beach houses on the island in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, creating a haven for people like himself to escape the brutality of the rest of the world. The homes employed green building standards before people were talking about green building. His work was celebrated by those of all sexual orientations, especially those who traveled to Fire Island as a queer safe haven. Before passing away in 1985, Gifford contributed to building a community on the now-famed island. The book “Fire Island Modernist,” featuring Gifford’s designs, brought him back into the public spotlight.

A modern beach house by Horace Gifford on Fire Island

Alan Buchsbaum

Often overlooked, New York architect and interior designer Alan Buchsbaum is one of the incredible LGBT+ designers lost to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Known for his involvement in three design styles; supergraphics, high-tech and postmodernism, Buchsbaum was not afraid to go big and bold. His initial use of large-format prints or photographs in his projects helped to transform the space without adjusting its physical makeup, and became a major part of the supergraphics movement. His interiors clients included icons such as Anna Wintour and Bette Midler. Unfortunately, much of his work has not been preserved digitally, but the portion of it that was, is breathtakingly inventive and stylish.

A brightly-colored modular kitchen by Buchsbaum

Todd Oldham, Todd Oldham Studio

The former fashion designer-turned-interior designer Todd Oldham is not just a New York fashion staple. As one of the most talked about fashion designers of the 90s, he closed his synonymous line in 1999 and consulted for brands such as Escada and Old Navy, eventually into the home industry with a role at La-Z-Boy in the early 2000s. Known by the public for his appearances on MTV as a fashion expert, he pivoted his career into interior and furniture design. In the past two decades since closing his label, he has become a figure in the home industry, where he has designed home goods collection in partnership with many brands, written books on DIY design, and completed various residential and commercial projects, including a redesign of The Hotel in South Beach, which received critical and public acclaim. His 2016 book “Queer Threads,” highlights the work of incredible queer artists and crafters.