For so many people in the LGBTQ+ community—including myself—making our own homes and refusing to apologize for how they reflect our essential selves is an act of self-love and a source of endless inspiration. Home is where we celebrate the lives we make and the people we welcome into them.
We all know the deep comfort that comes from lounging on a favorite pillow or nestling into the favorite corner of your couch—but the notion of comfort is more than the tangible aspect of a fluffy pillow or cozy chair. Home, and the comfort it brings, can mean everything from a place to slow down when the world tells you to hurry, to a place where trends are not followed but created. In our homes, we can uphold a daily commitment to affirm who we are and who we’re constantly becoming—in how we use plants to create rest or color to declare our joy. To celebrate the exuberance of Pride Month, I spoke with three of the food and lifestyle world’s biggest influences to learn more about how they celebrate themselves and their identities in the places they’ve made home. Their stories remind us of the joy and richness that comes with making a place for yourself in a world that rarely does so. No exceptions, no obligations, just joy.
If there’s one thing Christopher Griffin understands, it’s abundance.
To their more than 350,000 Instagram followers, the Brooklyn-based plantfluencer known as The Plant Kween is the walking embodiment of joy; each photo on their Instagram grid shows a hyper-saturated, greenery-filled snapshot of plants and a person thriving. And while Griffin typically takes center stage in the photos, adorned in technicolor sundresses and a bright, wide smile, one of the most calming, comforting aspects of their online presence is their home.
“Prior to this spot, I was living in a little one-bedroom apartment,” they said. “It was my first time living alone in New York, and I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I was like, “This space is by itself […] I can figure out the rest later.’”
The rest didn’t come so easily. The space was dark and cold—and complicated Griffin’s efforts to keep their growing plant collection alive. When they toured the bright white, sun-drenched, one-and-a-half-bedroom apartment they’d soon call home, they knew it was time for a change. “I whipped out my compass app and saw that it had south-facing windows; that was it,” they said.
Now, Griffin’s apartment houses their collection of thrifted, gold-framed paintings, a warm yellow couch and their collection of more than 100 plants, of course. And each painting or furniture piece comes with a deeply personal memory. The couch’s golden hue reminds them of their grandmother and the joy they’re manifesting for their life.
In the hallway hangs the framed Black Lives Matter pennant Griffin carried at one of the movement’s first major marches. Not to mention an ornately painted peacock that reminds Griffin of their mother. It’s curated, free to evolve and, most importantly, just theirs.
“Decorating my apartment is my love letter to myself,” Griffin says. “Why rush myself when I enjoy the process? I really enjoy decorating my spaces, and this space is just for me.”
For them, that’s more than enough.
Tara Bellucci remembers it clearly, the day in 2005 when she was walking around Boston between college classes at Boston University and stumbled across a street full of Victorian row houses in the South End. They exhilarated her to the point that she made a mental note that one day, she’d hope to live in a place like that. Years later, the news and culture director at Apartment Therapy now lives in the very building she’d previously longed for.
“It took me a long time to manifest that one, but it was really cute,” Bellucci says of the home’s exposed brick walls and deceptively sunny interiors, despite only having five windows. “It was just the character of it [that drew me to the apartment].”
As she walks me through each corner of the Boston brownstone, the vibe is striking yet cozy—almost like the technicolor dream home Barbie wishes she had. Cheeky and delicate illustrations from Bellucci’s friends line the walls. The pink-and-blue pastel couch she tie-dyed herself holds court against an exposed brick backdrop. And more, and more. But at no point does Bellucci’s mix of cat towers, expertly selected artwork and plants in luminous disco ball-like planters feel overwhelming.
But really, from the way Bellucci chuckles through the backstories of trinkets or pauses when telling me about the framed vintage photograph of her mother, it’s not the forced joy of someone just trying to get by or fit into some sterile, unforgiving aesthetic.
“Everything has a little bit of a story because it reminds me of a project [I’ve done] or a memory,” she says, mentioning the kitchen renovation she did with her landlord or the gallery wall of photos she’s taken each time a different friend came to visit her. “You need to figure out a way to make your life work in your space without being worried that people are going to judge you for it. I hope that some of the pretense is gone now that the pandemic has happened.”
Making a home isn’t a process centered on pleasing everyone or strictly, rigidly adhering to arbitrary rules. It’s about making your own safe haven—gorgeous prints, cat trees and all.
Even if you’ve missed the ongoing conversations around the food world’s reckonings and reevaluations over the last two years, you’ve probably seen footage of James Beard nominee, cook and cookbook author Rick Martinez charring poblanos or grilling shrimp in his home just off the ocean in Mazatlán, Mexico. A fountain of energy and humor, Martinez glides across the screen, backed by warm-toned open shelving carefully accented with small stacks of cazuelas and other terra cotta ceramics.
“I don’t separate everything else from myself,” he says. “The biggest influence for me would be my cultural heritage: a second-gen, Mexican-American who is also gay. That’s just who I am, and I think those two things define everything I am and everything that I do and have done. That’s informed the space.”
If you’ve followed along with the process of Martinez’s home renovation or two-year cookbook writing process, which he documents religiously on Instagram, you’ve likely seen pieces from his travels reappear in the home or inspire some aspect of the design.
Two of the most notable additions? The show-stealing, aqua-hued Spanish floor tiles and a commissioned piece from a self-identified queer artist and drag queen in Mexico City he met during his travels.
“When I bought this house, I had this idea that I wanted this house to be the manifestation of the last two years of my life, in terms of the travel, who I’ve met and what I’ve seen,” he says. “I want everything in my house to be made by Mexican hands. My tiles are from a small company in Guanajuato. I’ve seen the process, I’ve talked to the owners, and they’re stunning.”
After years of striving, contorting and adapting to strict workplaces that rarely encouraged him—let alone made space for him—to fully embody all of his identities, Martinez isn’t negotiating or stretching to fit anyone’s expectations but his own.
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