Decades ago, Shanica Hilux’s neighbors were greats like Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and rock and roll legend Frankie Lemon.
Its 600-square-foot brownstone, shared with two endearing name plants Danny And Mona, tucked away in Harlem’s vibrant Sugar Hill neighborhood. Named after the sweet life its residents enjoyed, this neighborhood was a popular area for black creatives to live in during the Harlem Renaissance.
“Sincerely, I refer to my house as #SugarHillocks as a nod to the sweet life I personally live in the space,” said the marketing consultant and tastemaker, and that meaning hasn’t lost it. “And while there are certainly new additions to the house, there is a beautiful reverence that lies within its bones and adheres to a local vibe.”
This veneration dates back to the 1920s, the decade that saw the flourishing of black art as writers, musicians, and artists merged in Sugar Hill. Jazz filled the streets and stars gathered to build their communities.
The Hillocks space is a gateway to that magical time – enchanting black paintings on the walls, and black graffiti adorning the shelves. However, it wasn’t just up to fate. In fact, the cut is entirely intentional.
“At this point in my journey, I consider myself the architect of my life. It was important to me to be [thoughtful] Hillocks explains in what I display in my home and have various pieces that are a reflection of my personal values.
The Hillocks was already signing papers for another Long Island City condo before finding out their Sugar Hill residence in 2020. But with the reality of quarantine fast approaching, I wondered if it was a good time to leave the area you know and love.
“I began to wonder if moving to a new neighborhood was possible without being able to connect with new people and explore given the necessary limitations we will all soon be facing,” she says. “With the news cycle at the time, my intuition told me to turn a pivot.”
As is often the case, listening to her intuition was the right move – and what can only be described as spiritual alignment – she found a place with exactly what she was looking for.
“I was shocked to find that my current apartment was just two roads west, between the same cross streets, and even more surprised by the pictures and videos of the listing. I checked all my boxes: a brownstone building, a modern kitchen, a washer and dryer in the unit, original wood, And crown molding, and plenty of natural light,” she recalls.
In order to ensure the apartment of her dreams—especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic—Hillocks quickly enlisted some experts to realize her vision.
Enter Julianna Fraser and partner Robinson Bouas, a cosmopolitan creative couple with a love for interior design. During our initial conversations, I expressed my desire for my space to be a reflection of my growing personal style, while also being a haven for friends and family gatherings.
Help the Hillocks duo get bold items off their must-have list—like the emerald velvet sofa à la Urban Outfitters and shiny Sarinen Marble dining table – plus fresh ideas for table items and houseplants in the living area.
Traveling from the white-sand beaches of Mexico to the quaint wineries of southern France – Hillocks has developed an elegant style inspired by the international destinations in which they have resided.
“I have had the pleasure of staying in beautiful concepts both domestically and outdoors. What I enjoy most from a design perspective are the eclectic common spaces and lounges, with a neutral monochromatic look in the living or sleeping quarters,” she details. “I’ve injected this into my home while keeping the aesthetic and natural, earthy textures in my bedroom.”
In the bedroom, Scandinavian minimalism with a Scandinavian theme provides an oasis of comfort against the colorful living area, which Hilux says “is for sleep and intimacy.” well ventilated the umbrella Bedding pours on oak thoma A luxurious comfort cloud frame. and above hidden gem pillows and berth 1 Knitted knit provides a dark and warm contrast.
However, her favorite aspect of the space isn’t the decor or the aesthetic—it’s in the bones of the house, particularly “maintaining the original wood around the living room windows, bedroom door, and floors,” says Hilux. “I am interested in the beauty of generations and believe these elements are a subtle gesture to blend the past and the present together.”
Despite its time-tested architecture, the building was renovated shortly before the Hillocks moved in.
“Having said that, I didn’t have to make any changes due to the recent updates paired with the classic brownstone charm,” she notes.
To display wood details in all their glory, the Hillocks chose to mimic what they saw in nature—the greenery of trees, the yellow of sunlight, and the blue of water scattered around an ornate brick fireplace.
“For me, it was more important to complement the apartment elements as opposed to painting them in colour. As such, primary colors in earth tones were a focus in the living space,” she explains.
The color theme extends from the sofa to the windowsill, where a Yue Hand carving spill with lime colored grapes, symbolizing abundance and growth. Besides the two-color paper candles wilting away, the wicks were tinged with black—obviously in consistent use.
Given her background as a seasoned food and wine writer – with byline streaks from Bon Appétit to Michelin Guide – it’s no surprise that the Hillocks house prioritizes entertainment and dining as much as style.
As such, the kitchen was a major selling point. Her favorite part? Monochrome lockers.
“I love the way the gray blends with the worktop, making a beautiful canvas for pops of color and dinnerware and ceramics when I host,” says Hillocks.
“I’m also a huge fan of my gas stove,” she adds. “Call me biased, but I swear the water boils more quickly. I also love that I can iron tortillas or peppers right in the range.”
On any given day, you might find it blazing, slow-cooking beans from scratch or West Indian dal—dishes that complement apartment beauty with warm aroma and love.
“I finally mastered my last version,” Hillocks says. “The scent from the infusion of spices brings with it a sense of nostalgia, and I’m happy to experience that in my dwelling.”
Recently, the Hillocks got an auspicious find via Breton Gallery closes, an art gallery in New York City dedicated to representing women of color artists. In the widget – called First of all I want to see him by Amy Amalia – Black female portrait starkly appearing against the bright plush background.
“Last month, I’ve been browsing Instagram and the vibrant colors have stopped me in my tracks. Themes in this narrative include transformation through the alchemy of the soul, expressions through the chakras, and the deconstruction of body and mind—all of which resonate with me at the moment,” reflects Hilux. “Amalia is also a Guyanese American, and my grandmother is from Guyana. The synergies cannot be ignored, so I turned to this and made the leap to invest in this business.”
The artwork sits proudly in the living room across one of the Hillocks’ cherished treasures: the rocking chair.
“It’s where I find myself most mornings drinking tea and enjoying the sunrise. It’s also a modern nod to a rocking chair we used to have around the house while we were growing up,” she says. “As a kid, this sensation brings a sense of comfort, and I’m happy to have one of my own.”
When she remembers her childhood, it’s hard for Hilux not to think of her grandfather. The elderly were brought up by her grandparents, and they have always held significance. Therefore, when he passed away, it was important to honor him in her home – both visually and spiritually.
“A lot of his teachings are often at the forefront of my thinking, and as I get older there is this silent reverence I hold for him. In a simple way, having him at my altar is a gesture of honor and gratitude for the sacrifices he made for his family,” says Hilux.
“I have fond childhood memories of my paternal great-grandfather,” she adds. “It was important for me to acknowledge it and keep the path open for communication.”
At the altar, he included a $2 banknote, a candle, and flowers honoring their presence and feeling in the Hillocks’ home—a home they helped pave the way for.
The colorful books behind her – stacked to the edge of her non-working stove – offer an insight into this tenderness: the healing words of bell-hooks “all about love” that sit against heartbreakers like “a thousand wonderful suns.”
In the end, the pandemic gave Hilux the opportunity to slow down and create the home she had always wanted.
“I’m the Sun of Cancer, so home is a huge priority to me,” she notes. “I knew that if I were to spend more time there, every little article should give me a sense of joy and pleasure to my senses.”
And what does Hilux think her home says about her? “Listen to Diana Ross’ ‘It’s My House’,” she says. “The lyrics are an expression of what I hope my house embodies.”
Upon hearing Ross Serenad, “There’s a welcome mat at the door/And if you go in/You’ll get more,” it is clear that the Hillocks has achieved what she had hoped for.