Natasha’s Well-Traveled Brooklyn Studio Apartment

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Name: Natasha R. Johnson
Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant; Brooklyn, New York
Size: Approximately 500 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; Rented

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With no extra space to spare, Natasha was both deliberate and maximal in organizing the decorative and essential elements of her studio apartment. In the 35+ countries that she has lived and/or worked in as a college professor and international human rights attorney, she has assembled her fair share of global keepsakes. Despite the small footprint of her studio home, she has created a functional, eclectic, and cohesive atmosphere, meanwhile expressing her own interest and talent for DIY and the visual arts.

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Natasha heightens an otherwise narrow entrance with floor to ceiling artwork and playful shell lighting fixture. (Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Natasha is no stranger to composition and art collections. She recently curated two exhibits at the college where she teaches, and is herself a photographer, exploring the intersection of human rights and fashion in her work. In her windowless entry hallway, Natasha converts an otherwise narrow passage into her very own home gallery. A gentle blue-grey paint warms up the space without making it seem small, and trims are a bright white, adding dimension to the slender space. This turned out to be the perfect setting for her collection of art, which she sourced from as close by as friends in Brooklyn, and as far away as the Solomon Islands, where she was writing their anti-human trafficking law.

Once in the core of Natasha’s home, it’s hard to tell that it is actually just a one-room studio! She has created distinct zones and areas through the use of furniture, screens, and curtains. Her bed is tucked away behind two tall wardrobes, which act as a footboard while creating a “foyer” just on the opposite side. The bed nook is so well-placed that it can easily go unnoticed when the curtains are drawn. What is uniform throughout Natasha’s space is her reinvention and interpretation of standard objects. Whether that be through DIY projects (like her breakfast bar table) or simply using an item outside of its intended purpose (like the candleholder-turned-light fixture in the kitchen), Natasha creates an immeasurable atmosphere that far exceeds its modest proportions.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Global, eclectic, ethnic, spiritual, whimsical, functional, purposeful, inventive, and nuanced.

Inspiration: Everything I’ve ever seen, everyone I’ve ever meet, and anyplace I’ve ever been.

Favorite Element: The explosion of color—it makes a super small space seem alive and my “bedroom” curtains. My 8-year-old niece says “Auntie lives in a grown-up princess castle!” I agree and that makes me happy!

Biggest Challenge: To stop trying to do everything DIY and just bring in new items.

What Friends Say: How do you get so much *&%$ into such a small space?? That and they feel comfortable and/or inspired.

Biggest Embarrassment: My plant game. I kill them and I love them. If there’s a group for that, I’ll attend.

Proudest DIY: My breakfast bar table or EVERYTHING.

Biggest Indulgence: I’m a budget shopper, so I don’t indulge. I make something out of nothing, and make it prettier than you’d imagine.

Best Advice: Try it if it’s on your heart/mind and it will invite you into your own space. If it doesn’t work, take it down the next day and putty up the hole 🙂

Dream Sources: Morocco, India, and everywhere.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Resources of Note:


  • Paint: I forgot, but a nice grey that I bought from Home Depot.
  • Red Toran above doorway: This is a traditional toran from India. I didn’t get it when I was there however. I got it in queens. They are designed to be a form of welcome in the home and red is yum yum Fung Shui for the entry.
  • Drums: The little one is a South African funeral drum I got there. The other is a Djembe I got in Ghana.
  • Shell chandelier: West Elm
  • African Ladies Hair Art by Kofi: I sat on this and didn’t get one while I was in Ghana. I regretted that and hunted for one here. I found it down the street on Tompkins Avenue 🙂
  • “The Problem We All Live With” painting by Norman Rockwell (1964)
  • “I am” painting: YK Hong
  • Ceramic mask: Aisha Bell


  • Juju hat: Cameroonian head dress that I got from a street fair.
  • Dresser under juju hat: Burlington Coat Factory and changed the knobs
  • Couch pillows: Owl pillow I got from a thrift store in Chelsea; the turquoise one is from Ikea; the beaded one was a gift; the green one is from Pier 1; I made the grey ones and the matching foot stool, too 🙂
  • Settee: The vintage furniture store on Putnam and Bedford Avenues in Bed-Stuy. I repaired the seating and the spring and I’ve been meaning to reupholster it.
  • Masks next to the window: I got the top mask Mozambique and the one below it, from Barbados. The third I got in Papua New Guinea.
  • Screen: TJ Maxx


  • Wooden spoons: (Top to bottom) Bahamas, Togo, Trinidad, and South Africa
  • Lantern: it was a candleholder from West Elm that I tweeked to be a hanging fixture.
  • Stools: A now defunct furniture store that was on Lewis Ave and Halsey Street in Bed-Stuy.
  • Breakfast bar table: DIY with a friend


  • Bed pillows: Grey one is from Home Goods; the ectangle bird pillow is from Urban Outfitters; the two pinks pillows are from Pier 1; and both sets of shams are from Target.
  • Bed lanterns: I got them from a discount store on 33rd that’s no longer there. It was across from Jack’s.
  • Mandala bed throw: Urban Outfitters


  • Cabinet knobs: Anthropologie
  • Mirror: A store at the end of Atlantic Avenue near Columbia street (can’t remember the exact name)
  • Combs and mask: Top comb is from Fiji, the mask is from the Solomon Islands, and the bottom comb is from Benin
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Thanks, Natasha!

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