by Whitley Adkins • photographs by Amy Kolo
After living in a cramped New York City apartment for more than a decade, Shawna Freeman was so excited after buying her current home in Charlotte, she recalls twirling around in the empty closet.
“I lived in a space the size of the bathroom and this closet for 12 years,” says Freeman, 42, a Virginia Beach native who works in corporate leadership development.
“I used to travel to Charlotte for work — I thought the city was really charming. I met some really good people here.” So seven years ago, Freeman moved to the Queen City. The self-described “Glamohemian” chronicles the ever-changing design of her home on Instagram @bellybaila.
Comments have been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get into decorating?
I had a lot of space, and I was on a budget, and this led me to become very resourceful and fall in love with the hunt and the process. I love combining unexpected elements. I love art. I don’t know anything about it — I just like it.
I see a vintage-modern mix in your wardrobe. Talk to me about that.
I’ve been a fan of vintage and thrift since I was 15 and had my driver’s permit. I love mixing it up. I love eclectic. From an interior design perspective, I call myself a Glamohemian. I do like glam, a little bit of flash, but still elegant. I like colors, I like neutrals, I like it all!
Describe your personal style.
Edgy with elegance.
Do you have any style icons?
Tracee Ellis Ross and Issa Rae.
How or why does someone inspire you?
Having fun with clothes without being tragic. I don’t like trying too hard, but I do like a little irreverence, a little play. Something unexpected. Uniqueness without being forced. They wear who they are.
How does your interest in design connect with your fashion sense?
I bought my first house, this one, six years ago. I had lived in apartments my whole adult life. I moved here from New York, so this was a lot of space. If I could have gone to Restoration Hardware or Crate & Barrel and bought everything, I probably would have, but I couldn’t afford that, so it forced me to be creative and resourceful. I hit up the yard-sale circuit, the thrift-store circuit, the second-hand circuit, the Facebook Marketplace circuit, and it became fun. And then I realized, just like with clothes, you could get more unique things, more high quality things, things that could rival a high-end designer when you thrift.
Do you have a favorite accessory?
I’ve been feeling my tennis sneakers lately, but my Paul Andrew black-and-white gingham shoes with the bows are comfy and cute. I got them in New York at Barney’s before they closed.
Any other shoes in here you love?
Lately I’ve been feeling flats and anything with comfort. I have a pair of pink velvet Gucci loafers that were worn by Brooklyn Decker in her show Grace and Frankie. They were a gift from a friend. For Christmas, I got myself a couple of pairs of sneakers — a pair from the Nike x Sacai collab and a pair of Nike Air Max.
Tell me about this closet.
The closet was a selling point of the house. After living in an apartment in New York, I was so excited about having a closet where I had space and I could see everything. I twirled around and had a friend take a picture of me in the empty closet with a dress on when I first closed on the house.
How did you approach the design of the closet?
The shelves and cubbies were already built when I got in. I wanted to keep it simple, so that I could see my clothes. I changed the light fixture — I got a second-hand crystal chandelier from SouthEnd Exchange. I purposely got something white that would recede. I picked white paint for the same reason. I’m colorful in my home, but I wanted my stuff to show, the clothes to pop out. I found the mirror on Facebook Marketplace. The vintage chest I got from Dressing Room Interiors. I ordered the rug originally for another room, but I thought it could be sexy in my closet.
Where do you like to shop?
I love East 8th Vintage in Elizabeth. When I was in Brooklyn, I shopped at the Brooklyn Flea. My favorite vintage shop is in Hampton, Va., called Olivia Beale. It is size-inclusive and is a Black-owned shop. I have started shopping online during the pandemic. I love Zara for staples. Also, the Real Real, Nordstrom. I have stuff from Target. Up until the pandemic, I traveled to Brooklyn every Memorial Day weekend for an African festival. I do a lot of my shopping there — most of my jewelry and a lot of Ankara prints are from there.
What’s your daytime outfit?
I like funky, flowy or flirty. I’m almost always wearing a vintage jacket. SP
THIS OR THAT
Skirt or dress: Dress
Neutral or color: Color
Pattern or solid: Clothes solid; home decor, pattern.
Heel or sneaker: My heart or my head, who’s answering the question?
Dress for day or night: Night
Supermarket attire or work attire: Neither. I’ve never gotten into athleisure. So, a night-at-a-nice-restaurant or brunch-with-the-girls attire.
Handbag or shoe: Both, but handbag. Handbags don’t hurt.