In Bryan Mason’s family, there is one house that has been home to many. Now serving five generations, it is the house that Mason, co-founder of AphroChic, a design and multi-media company, lived in for the first year of his life — an unassuming Philadelphia row house, purchased by his great grandmother, known as Mama, in 1956. Mason says it was the second house on the block to be owned by a Black family.
Mason writes about the life of this house in every issue of AphroChic magazine since its debut in 2019. In a series entitled “It’s a Family Affair,” he explores the house’s history and the people who lived there. The house was once a family hub. It was the center point for all holidays, and it served as a refuge for members who needed a landing spot during life transitions.
When Mama passed away in the early 70’s the house was passed down to Mason’s grandmother, Alice Harper, and it has stayed in the family since. Mason lived there after college for a spell with his brother Andre. His sister lives there now with her family which includes Mason’s nephew, Sebastian. With a young soul once again milling about Mason writes, “It was time for a new vision,” and so he and his wife, Jeanine Hays, AphroChic co-founder, began renovating the family home.
And while the renovation gave Mason and Hays an opportunity to flex their design muscles, the project had a deeper meaning. “One goal was to renovate the home so that it could last in the family for many more generations to come,” says Mason.Contemplating the direct relationship between inheritance and wealth, he notes the challenges of home ownership for Black families and how that has minimized opportunities for passing down wealth.
This thoughtful series has inspired a new book to be released in the fall of 2022. “The Black Family Home” will focus in-depth on the Black American experience at home.
“The series focuses on my own family home in Philadelphia and how generations of my family lived and celebrated in that home,” explains Mason. “‘The Black Family Home” will expand on that and showcase homes of African Americans across the U.S., as well as some expat homes in other countries.”
The book will be divided into five sections — Heirloom Homes, Curatorial Homes, Off-the-Beaten Path Homes, Boss Homes and Creative Homes — with historical content woven throughout.
“Home is a missing character in the social narrative of Black life in America and around the world,” says Hays. “The time is right to dive deep into what home means to African Americans, those who live here and abroad. We want to celebrate what’s important to us in the home, and how design supports what we love and need.”
This will be the couple’s second book released together.
Jane Dagmi is Editor in Chief of Designers Today.