Zeba Blay is the author of Carefree Black Girls, a celebration of Black women’s impact on pop culture. In exploration of what it means to be free as a Black woman in an unfree society, the book examines the nuanced role of representation in liberation. On Instagram, Zeba’s carefully curated energy boards honor the joy of Black womanhood, featuring both vintage and modern-day images.
When Zeba relocated to Brooklyn from Jersey City last summer, she was hoping to jumpstart her motivation and momentum. Having battled a period of severe depression, she felt disconnected and stagnant, and was ready to explore a new city. “I wasn’t really connecting with the world in the way that, as a human being and a writer, is really important,” she recalls. “I wanted to create a home.”
Having grown up in Jersey City, Zeba was living in a spacious apartment there in an Art Deco building that she loved. The move to Brooklyn required downsizing her square footage, and the smaller space made design a bit more of a challenge.
Rather than move everything from Jersey City at once, Zeba and her partner decided to work room by room. While creating a plan for their new living room in Brooklyn, Zeba hit Craigslist to search for furniture. “I was just trying to figure out what this new space was going to be,” she recalls. On the last day of May 2021, she stumbled across an artist’s work while browsing Craigslist at 4 a.m., and fell in love with one of his pieces.
Although they had been planning to continue using the coffee table they already had, once Zeba came across this listing, she knew it was an absolute must-have. The table is a little over six feet long, and has two bases; one glass, the other a carved plaster painted lavender. It was designed by a dentist from Yonkers named Marc Johnson. “He bought the plaster forms himself, painted it, and had the glass cut to his specifications!” Zeba says. Despite the hefty price tag, she decided to pull the trigger after realizing that the piece had stayed on her mind for an entire week.
The coffee table is calming and grounding for Zeba, two things that she was seeking in last year’s move. The piece has become a landing place for the things that make her happy, including books that she’s reading at any given moment, sage, and games. “It makes me feel like me, and it’s just nice to have such a big table that can literally hold all of the things that are important,” she explains.
It took several people to get the table into Zeba’s apartment, as it comes in three heavy pieces: the tabletop, glass base, and plaster base. But for Zeba, the weight and drama of moving the coffee table also adds to the grounding aspect. “Once you actually assemble and place it, it’s kind of there for a while. If I had to move this table again, I would need to actually map out and plan a day for that because it’s that heavy,” she says. “I like [that] it’s just kind of this immovable, heavy thing centered in the middle of the room.”