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Interiorssneak peeks

An Entrepreneur Leaves Brooklyn for Maryland & A Long-Awaited Dream

by Kelli Kehler


Nasozi Kakembo and almost-10-year-old son Rafa Kalungi moved into their new home three short months ago, but their space already exudes their unique personalities and values through and through. That’s because, for Nasozi, moving from Brooklyn to her native Maryland represented more than just a transition for her and Rafa Kalungi; it was a profound shift for the two that’s been a long-sought-after dream in many ways. Nothing about embarking on this new journey was a quick decision.

“I am a creative social entrepreneur and communications expert who recently returned to my hometown after 12 years in Brooklyn,” Nasozi shares. “I have a son in elementary school, and despite having been raised here, returning as an adult and raising a Brooklyn kid in the suburbs has been quite an exercise! I am preoccupied by design and social justice, so everything I do informs one or the other, and occasionally both! We love to travel and have family all over the world.”

These travels and global connections are thoughtfully sprinkled throughout their 1,300-square-foot home, a two-story 1970s structure with three bedrooms and two bathrooms which Nasozi meticulously tracked down. This was to be her first-ever home purchase — and a much bigger space than the one-bedroom apartment they previously lived in — and she was prepared to make no concessions on their ideal home’s list of must-haves. “I loved this home as soon as I saw it online because it wasn’t cookie-cutter,” Nasozi recalls. “I had been scoping the market for many months before I was ready to buy, and most of the homes were your typical traditional layout with very little character. I studied architecture and planning in school, so I am very particular about how spaces are utilized and relate to one another. I don’t believe bigger is better by any stretch of the imagination, and I owe my décor solutions and creativity to living in small spaces with a growing child (and business) for so long. Plus the natural light in the home is phenomenal.”

Nasozi is endlessly creative and clever with DIY solutions and decor, a facet of her personality that leaves a lasting impression on their home. Each room is already so deeply personal in its design, despite their short time living there. Through family origins and heritage to artistic expression (like a striking bathroom feature wall painted in 10 minutes), Nasozi and Rafa Kalungi’s marks are already firmly made upon this home. But despite all the aesthetic makings of a home, the most important feature to this family is the community that surrounds them. “The city we live in was founded very unapologetically on principles of socio-economic diversity and equality,” Nasozi shares. “I grew up here, and even after spending 16 years away, it still feels the same. I didn’t grow up feeling or being treated like ‘a minority’ or an ‘other’ and I think that was crucial to how I navigated the world once I left for college and adulthood. Raising a Black child in America, this is priceless.” —Kelli

Photography by Nasozi Kakembo / @xnasozi

Image above: “I feel a tremendous sense of pride and inspiration every time I walk through the door,” Nasozi says. “I had to sacrifice a LOT to get to this point and work extremely hard. I feel like we finally have a home that fits our lifestyle, our personalities, and how we can grow in comfortably in the years to come. It just feels really good. I can also live out all of the décor fantasies I’ve been harboring since childhood. I always lived in rentals growing up, so we never truly got to put our personal touch on our living space to the extent that I can now.”

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The vaulted ceilings and windows shed much appreciated light upon Nasozi’s beautiful collection of beloved mementos. “My favorite memory so far is just seeing the looks [on] the faces of my niece, nephew, and brother the first time they came over,” Nasozi recalls. “The kids proceeded to dump out all of the Legos in the pristine living room, despite having a playroom set up for them, but it was an affirmation that I bought the right home, just seeing them spread out and jump and not have to worry about getting in anyone’s way (or disturbing the neighbors downstairs). We were always so tight on space in our previous homes, we rarely entertained or had more than a few people over at a time.”

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In the living room, a proudly displayed Obama POTUS Pillow from Nasozi’s own xNasozi Home Collection.

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“Magazines and books are kept nearby for reference or leisure reading, while Legos and miscellanea are stored in the Ugandan baskets I grew up with in my childhood home,” Nasozi notes.

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Nasozi shares, “The soapstone statue is a common East African motif. I purchased the sculpture during a trip to Uganda in my teens.”

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In the dining room, Nasozi’s trademark half-black accent wall, a feature she’s included in her past three homes.

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On the dining table, playing cards Nasozi purchased from a Black Market Vintage stoop sale in Brooklyn.

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“I scored these William Platner chairs on the side of the road in Baltimore. I decided against reupholstering them, preferring to keep the 80s charm. I reupholstered the Cesca chairs in mix-and-match Malian textiles. Some were new and others were passed down from my mother,” Nasozi says.

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One of many examples of how Nasozi adds clever and beautiful DIY touches to her home: a light fixture that she rigged up in the small hallway off of the entry which previously lacked lighting.

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“The [Hygge & West] wallpaper is one of my favorites, because it reminds my family of our heritage in the tropics (Uganda and Jamaica), and of Brooklyn, where we first used this wallpaper.”

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“Reflections of African and Black history are sprinkled throughout the home. The Jamaican $500 note featuring Queen Nanny of the Maroons was illustrated by Rafa Kalungi’s grandfather, so it is a reminder, coming and going, of familial pride,” Nasozi shares.

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“The wallpaper placement was inspired by those ‘how do I fill that awkward space above the cabinets?’ question,” she shares. “I already had enough storage, and not one to fill spaces with objects, I opted for visually filling the space with an accent wallpaper.”

12/25

“One way I distinguish my space from the inspiration I draw from design magazines is by incorporating souvenirs from my travels, and a design from my own wallpaper collection.”

Design tip: Use design magazines and blogs as a baseline, but make sure to switch it up in some way that reflects your personality or how you use your home in reality.

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Once Nasozi bought the home and moved in, she quickly launched her plan of DIYs. “The kitchen redesign took the longest to complete,” Nasozi begins. She added the subway tiling, the open shelving, painted all of the cabinets, and not only added drawer pulls, but had to drill the holes as well. “I quite literally had a work plan and timeline sketched out for the projects I needed and wanted to complete when I first moved. I even had a floorplan for the furniture complete while I was still in contract! My son was in New York and Jamaica, and was returning at the end of the summer, so I had a very hard deadline for getting the projects done. The biggest was the kitchen: I painted the cabinets and tiled the backsplash on two walls. The projects consumed me after work and every weekend until I was done. Now I don’t want to see another paintbrush or drill ever again, haha.”

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Upstairs, the hallway landing’s wallpaper provides a taste of the pattern that awaits in Rafa Kalungi’s bathroom.

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“Rafa Kalungi’s bathroom is kid-friendly and simple. I painted the cabinet from its original Oak finish to white, and used the same hardware as I did in [my own] bathroom.”

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Nasozi shares, “Leftover paint samples, clearance paint sample, and painter’s tape turned this blank slate into a fun DIY mural. Rafa Kalungi and I pinned all of the countries we have been to (34, collectively), and countries on our bucketlist (countless more) on the world map.”

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In Nasozi’s bedroom, high ceilings and lots of natural light create a perfect canvas for bold color and artistic touches.

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Nasozi’s creative flair strikes once again — this time, she used leftover indigo textiles to fashion a faux upholstered headboard for her bed.

One of the main goals is to integrate function into decor. I don’t want excess, of anything. I’m not a full-on minimalist, but I’m pretty close.

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“In a departure from the black-and-white theme in the home’s common spaces, I based the master bedroom around an ‘indigo’ theme,” Nasozi notes.

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The framed art was drawn and painted by Nasozi’s aunt around 30 years ago. It is a portrait of her and her two older brothers, Craig and Lamine.

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A simple DIY project that left a big impact: Nasozi replaced all of the door handles in the home with a more modern style.

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“The downstairs bathroom is both an ensuite and a guest bathroom. I painted the accent wall, a nod to my textile design work. This ‘project’ took about 10 minutes.”

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These vintage wooden combs are from Nigeria, where Nasozi and Rafa Kalungi have extended family. 

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In Nasozi’s home studio, a close-up shot of some trusted tools she uses in her work and various ephemera from which she draws inspiration. “I am usually working on orders while my son is doing his homework, or once he goes to bed, and I can only do that if my workspace is in the home. Fortunately, it is in a dedicated room, so when I’m done, I can close the door and walk away.”

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Nasozi in her studio, which, she jokes, only recently became organized in preparation for this home tour.

SOURCE LIST

Entryway

Wallpaper: Cosmic Desert, Hygge and West/Justina Blakeney collab
Hairstyle painting on wood: Made in Ghana, purchased from Chelsea Flea Market
Ceiling medallion: by Ekena Millwork on Amazon
Framed photography: Nasozi

Living Room

Sofa: Article, Sven sofa
TV console: IKEA bench
Cesca chairs: Vintage, reupholstered
Obama pillow: xNasozi Home
Pillows and Ottoman cube: xNasozi Home
Shelving: Vittsjo, IKEA
Black and white linocut (“A Tear for Biko” 1984): Renee C. Neblett of Kokrobitey Institute, Ghana
Arc brass lamp: Georgetown Flea Market, from Nasozi’s mom

Dining Room

Ceiling medallion: by Ekena Millwork on Amazon
Platner and Cesca Chairs: Vintage, reupholstered
Acacia Plant base: Target

Kitchen

Wallpaper: xNasozi Home
Paint: Giani Inc.
Stools: Overstock
Open shelving: IKEA
Runner: HomeGoods
Cabinet pulls: Wayfair Professional

Nasozi’s Bathroom/Guest Bath

Accent wall: Handpainted by Nasozi, inspired by Pinterest
Drawer pulls: Target

Rafa Kalungi’s Bathroom

Shower curtain: Opalhouse for Target
Drawer pulls: Target

Main Bedroom

Paint: Benjamin Moore, “Bold Blue”
Juju Hat: Zawadi Arts (Washington, DC)
Brass lamp: Family heirloom
Lampshade: xNasozi Home
Upholstered bench and pillows: xNasozi Home
Ladder: Gifted by Alexandra, a work studio neighbor in Brooklyn
Indigo wall textile: Burkina Faso
Siblings drawing and watercolor: Nasozi’s aunt, Dr. Barbara Hardaway
Basquiat crown: Nasozi (gold spray paint)
Door levers: Kwikset Milan

Rafa Kalungi’s Room

Pillows: xNasozi Home
Light pendant cord: IKEA
Geometric Mural: DIY

Studio

Pegboard: IKEA
Create and Resist pennant: xNasozi Home/ Rayo & Honey collaboration

Upstairs Landing

Wallpaper: Opalhouse for Target
Stool: Jasmine House of Scents (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn)

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Comments

  • Such a warm, welcoming home! And I love the wall color in the living room. Nasozi, can you share the color?

  • I really really want to comment on how warm and beautiful this home is…but I am still having heart palpitations from reading the words William Platner and “side of the road score” in the same sentence! The Chair Gods are definitely with you young beautiful lady! LOL!

  • Just beautiful. Colors, patterns, found objects, family pieces. Love your indigo bedroom. I hope you have many happy years in your home.

  • This is fantabulous. Thank you so much for sharing…and from someone else with indigo and mud cloth and pagne and and soapstone and baskets throughout her house, it is particularly good to see how you sharpened things up, added some bling and generally wove together a composite which is neither ‘nuts and berries’ nor west elm. Lots of inspiration here.

  • That Basquiat crown is powerful and makes me grin. What a gorgeous, not-too-precious, meaningful home.

  • The kitchen wall paper is my favorite thing–both the idea and the actual paper chosen. Looks amazing!

  • This is great, it gives a totally calm relaxed feel. This style makes knick knacks flow so well together. I think the woven stool is my favorite. The map wall decor is something I will consider in my future. Thanks for sharing this, I always enjoy looking at your posts for ideas for our homes.

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