Interiors

A Global Art Exhibition at Home in Brooklyn

by Annie Werbler

Peering out across the street from Nasozi Kakembo and seven-year-old son Rafayonda Kalungi’s top-floor apartment just so happens to offer a view of the high school attended by entertainer Lena Horne. Though it’s not yet of much significance to her young child, Nasozi cherishes the daily reminder of her Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood’s historical significance. With a background in architecture, art history, and urban planning, Nasozi is the creative director of her own home textile company xnasozi. “My work is influenced in equal parts by my Ugandan heritage and my American upbringing and education,” she shares. Nasozi has called the borough home for a decade, and this apartment hers for seven-and-a-half of those years. Having traveled widely throughout the world, she relishes learning about the many cultures around her, proud to live in “Brooklyn, home to one of the highest concentrations of ethnic diversity in the world.” However luckily within that vast local population, Nasozi quickly discovered a cousin just blocks away, and with that revelation came many new friends. “It felt so good living in a community that was so culturally vibrant and proud,” she adds. “This has always been home in New York and I know most of my neighbors, young and old.”

Having lived in her place for a relatively long time (by city standards), Nasozi has had ample opportunity to tease out how best the space works for her. The current living room had been, until more recently, functioning well enough as her bedroom. Many of the home’s nooks and crannies need to serve new purposes for a growing kid, and most areas do double duty. Upon closer inspection, almost all of the decorative elements in the home are functional in practical ways, too. “It’s also really important to me to have images and reminders of our family and heritage around the home, mainly for the benefit of my son,” Nasozi says.”Living in one of the most global cities in the world doesn’t inherently dictate a global and empathetic worldview, but that is what I am trying to foster in him every step of the way… My home is basically a rotating art exhibition.” Over time, Nasozi has collected many heirloom and otherwise special pieces from family, amassed a collection of photographs of her travels, and thoughtfully displayed these treasures around the home. “That is one thing I love the most about living in a small space. It forces you to live simpler and more deliberately.” —Annie

Photography by Nasozi Kakembo

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In Nasozi Kakembo's Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn brownstone bedroom, a multipurpose casual sitting area is set up for chatting with company for when son Rafa takes over the living room.
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Though Nasozi's apartment is on the top floor of the brownstone building, she adores the original details still present in the parlor-floor hallway, which remind her of a sophisticated bygone era.
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The bedroom seating nook doubles as a cozy spot in which to read.
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Mix-and-match knobs on the functional shutters add a dose of Nasozi's own personality to the architectural detailing of her home.
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Because the living room is the center of activity in the home, Nasozi opted to get rid of the other half of a once-large sectional in favor of more open, flexible square footage.
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The wallhanging has been in Nasozi's family since the 1970s. "My mom got it in Liberia," she explains, "Although the design provenance is Ivory Coast."
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Nasozi is such an avid fan of Brazilian Bossa Nova and Tropicalia music that she picked up the Portuguese language fluently from listening.
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Without guitar-playing talent herself, Nasozi hopes that Rafa will one day pick it up and learn.
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The artwork above the bookcase is by Nasozi's aunt Renée C. Neblett, who runs the runs Kokrobitey Institute in Ghana for arts education.
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Notes from her son and "borrowed" decorative items from her parents' house adorn Nasozi's living room mantel.
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A collection of design books from college stacked in the fireplace.
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The bench offers a convenient place for guests to sit and abide by the family's firm "shoes off" policy.
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Hallway wall space doubles as a gallery for Rafa's school and art work.
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Mom's photography, a decorative mask, and doodles fill the wall.
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"What we love most about our home is the natural light from the abundant windows." - Nasozi and Rafa Kalungi
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Two people can eat comfortably in the small kitchen.
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Nasozi DIYed handles using discarded leather from a former studio neighbor, and the hardware from the cabinet doors' previous knobs.
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Open shelving above the stove makes use of vertical space in the kitchen.
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The layout of the apartment, drawn on the fridge!
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"When I first moved into the home, I painted all of the walls wild colors. A couple of years later, I moved out while the landlord completed some renovations, and when I came back they were all this color and I wasn't [allowed] to paint them over," Nasozi recalls. "So I had to be creative with what to do with the walls and I've grown to love accenting them with art and other accents, rather than paint."
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"My bike lives in my bedroom. Such is life in Brooklyn," Nasozi jokes.
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The second fireplace in the home retains its original iron grate behind the frames.
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On the other side of the bedroom, the two hats hanging above the mirror are descriptive of Nasozi's life. "I'm classic and practical," she says, "And global at the same time. The woven hat is from Central Asia and was given to me by a former colleague."
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"I've always been intrigued by the genre of colonial era depictions of indigenous people," Nasozi shares. "It's the suppressed art historian in me."
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The "YOU ARE MAGIC" pennant from rayo & honey is the first thing Nasozi sees upon waking in the morning. "Well, after I put on my spectacles!" she jokes.
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A large window in the bathroom helps the efficient space maintain a light and bright feeling.
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The pedestal sink lacks storage space for bathroom items, so vertical space is used instead.
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Nasozi fashioned a display and towel rack by installing hooks and a shelf together.
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A vanity area atop a slender kitchen cart in the bathroom.
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Rafa's loft bed creates added space in his bedroom.
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Simple decor in Rafa's bedroom can easily be switched up as he grows. "The poster on the right was decoration from one of his birthday parties," Nasozi recalls. "The flags are from the first year I took him to the Caribbean Day Parade, which happens up the street from our house."
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Nasozi carved out an area for coats and backpacks in the stairwell just outside her apartment.
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An original skylight floods the top floor stairwell with sunshine.

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Comments

  • This is beautiful! I always saw myself living in Brooklyn, in a home with such great original details and I LOVE the way that you have carefully and purposefully made use of the space. It looks warm and inviting, like an extremely pleasant and fun place to come into from the outside.

    • hi Keia! We really tried to make it feel like a “Brooklyn” home by honoring the legacy of the neighborhood. I’m glad you enjoyed our home :) It’s so pleasant to come home to that sometimes it’s hard to leave haha.

    • Thank you, Lindsay! It’s especially cozy on these snowy Brooklyn days like today! Glad you enjoyed the tour. Thank you for taking your time to check it out.

    • Thank you, George! It certainly is our cozy humble home. There are two small steps behind me that lead to the L-shaped landing of the stairs. So that’s where you enter ;-)

  • Love this place. And I adore the woven chair in the bedroom. Any info on where it’s from or where I can find something similar?

    • Thank you for taking a look at the tour! The chair is a Hans Wegner style rope chair (prob a reproduction). Originals and reproductions can be found on Craigslist, eBay or a vintage furniture dealer. I just did a quick Google search and plenty came up. This was a lucky curbside find for me. Good luck!

  • I love visiting my daughter and grandson’s home in Brooklyn.

    She has a remarkable knack for putting objects in a perfect spot to create just the right feel, which is all their own.

    I’m hoping she will give me some tips the next time she visits us in Maryland.

    • I love visiting my daughter and grandson’s home in Brooklyn.
      Nasozi has a remarkable knack for placing objects in the perfect spot to create just the right feel, which is all their own.
      I’m hoping she will give me some tips the next time she visits us in Maryland with Kalungi.

  • Love, Love ,Love your space.
    I could feel the warmth.
    I too loved the Mother’s Day note.
    I also liked your shower curtain. Did you make it yourself?

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