I recently had a friend visit my beachy apartment in California from New York City — also known as “The Concrete Jungle.”
She was mesmerized by the amount of plants I had in my home, calling them lively and elegant. I was a bit surprised by her confusion. I grew up with a garden, plants perfectly placed to ignite life throughout the home, and as an adult, surrounded by quite a bit of concrete myself (and not an acre of land to be found), I’ve resolved to fill my home with potted herbs and succulents. Plants hang from the ceiling, sit on the windowsills, accompany me at my office desk, wake me up on my nightstand in the morning.
And then I came across Summer Rayne Oakes, who lives in an “urban jungle.”
Upon researching her website, I studied her endearing biography. Oakes had an epiphany while reclaiming mine sites, researching sewage sludge, and restoring forestlands: She could create a career for herself by bridging her interest in ecological systems to industries that affect our everyday life — from what we wear to what we eat:
These are things like improving our supply chain with technology, designing more environmentally-sound products, creating entertaining media with a message, helping people eat better, and bringing back the joy of movement to a sedentary world.
The environmental scientist, plant whisperer, bug collector, and model has managed to show off just how inspired she is by bridging these two seemingly opposite worlds of nature and style outside of work as well. Oakes has crammed her 1,200 square-foot apartment in The Concrete Jungle borough of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with 500 different plants ranging from herbs and flowers to fruit and vegetables.
“I think that the only way I’ve really been able to survive in New York is by surrounding myself with plants,” Oakes explained.
Every room in her apartment is rich with vegetation. Her bedroom beholds a living wall connected to an irrigation system; jars and pots hang from makeshift platforms made from planks and plywood; a tray of succulents brightens up her bathroom; the windowsills host magnificent miniature greenhouses that contain more “light-necessary” plants such as herbs. And while many people might fuss over the small closets that accompany their New York apartments, baffled by how they’re supposed to even fit a shoe in there, Oakes has transformed hers into an entire vegetable garden.
As a result of her keen eye for connecting nature and style, Oakes has taken cramped quarters, limited sunlight, and scant access to soil and turned it into a hospitable environment for a lush garden.
She has lived in this previously industrial building for 11 years now, and continues to find endless and inventive ways to turn it into a haven for flourishing a plethora of flora.
It’s a thoughtful reminder that, as our world continues to progress, we do not have to limit our interaction with nature.
Check out the photos of Oakes’ home below and prepare to be absolutely amazed, and hopefully inspired: