Woman Turns Her Brooklyn Home into a Lush Urban Jungle

Fashion Model Summer Rayne Oakes has been living in a 1,200-square-foot converted industrial space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for 11 years, and during in that time she has managed to turn it into a stunning oasis filled with 500 plants, including a living wall, an irrigated vertical garden, a closet garden, edibles and exotic species.

“I think that the only way I’ve really been able to survive in New York is by surrounding myself with plants,” Oakes told Modern Farmer Magazine, which makes sense considering she grew up in a country house on five acres of land in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, surrounded by domestic animals and lots of plants. It was fashion modelling that first brought her to the Big Apple, but that, and everything else she has been involved in since relocating to the big city, has been about raising awareness to the environment.

“It was the modeling at start because at that point in time I wanted to look at how I could bring environmental awareness out to a wider audience,” Summer said in an interview with 6sqft. “I got kind of stuck on the idea that I could do it through fashion. Not that I had ever really been involved or interested in it, and I didn’t even know how to get there other than by meeting people. Putting myself back into my 18-year-old self, it was the idea of wow, I think fashion could be a really cool way to disseminate environmental awareness.”


Photo: Summer Rayne Oakes/Facebook

Summer is an ecologist by training (she graduated from Cornell with degrees in Environmental Science and Entomology), a published author, an eco-business entrepreneur, runs a website about detoxing from sugar and is in charge of marketing for Foodstand, a service attempting to “connect a community of good eaters”. She is described as a “model-turned-sustainable-clothing-activist-turned-sustainable-food-movement-activist” nothing says more about her healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle philosophy than her Brooklyn home. She has somehow been able to overcome the limitations of growing a lush plant garden in a city apartment and currently has over 500 plants in her care.


Photo: Summer Rayne Oakes/Facebook

It all started with one fiddle leaf fig plant, but since moving in 11 years ago, Summer Rayne Oakes has been adding all kinds of plants, tending to their every need and slowly turning her Williamsburg home into a small botanical garden. As you may have already guessed, taking care of hundreds of plants is not the easiest thing in the world, and the young woman says she spends half an hour every day watering them, plus another hour and a half for additional upkeep like composting and clipping once a week. She also keeps an eye on them constantly, moving them around her apartment, so they can have the perfect conditions tho thrive. But she doesn’t see caring to the plants as a chore, but more like meditative practice, and claims all the work is worth it.


Photo: Summer Rayne Oakes/Facebook

“Every time I come into my home, it’s a sense of relief. I know it has the same effect on other people because when I invite people into my home now, I see their faces change,” Oakes says. “And for the people who come for the first time, they just go “ahhh” and have a look of awe. But this is also because we’re so undernourished of green in our life being in the city. Even if you didn’t grow up in the country, on a cellular level you miss this kind of environment.”


Photo: Summer Rayne Oakes/Facebook

Every room in her 1,200-square-foot apartment is home to dozens of plants, from the kitchen to the bathroom. In the kitchen, the pots hang next to potted plants, her old office is now home to a living wall complete with custom irrigation system, one bedroom is home to her first plant – the fig tree which has now overgrown toward the ceiling, and even her closet has been converted into garden space.


Sources: Modern Farmer Magazine, 6ftsq, Gardenista

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