Woman Takes a Greener Path, Grows Career and Life out of a Forest in Her Apartment

By Venus Upadhayaya

How green can your life and home be in a concrete jungle like New York? Many yearn for fresh air, calmness, and an ambiance that makes them feel truly at home, but only a few can realize it. For Summer Rayne Oakes, this journey of over a decade has come through growing 750 plants in her apartment in Brooklyn, an endeavor that can be rightly called a “forest in an apartment.”

In this breathing space, and there’s nowhere where there’s not a plant. The kitchen shelves have more plants than saucers and pans and there are fresh organic eggs in small trays, provided by Summer’s pet chicken Kippee and another 11 chickens that she takes care of in the community garden.

“It’s more spiritually uplifting. I’m home or when I work from home, it’s the place that I want to be the most because it’s the place that I feel the most me and I love that,” said Summer.

View this post on Instagram

⁣ Though many of you know I wrote a cookbook @sugardetoxme last year—and that I’ll be releasing my book, “How to Make a Plant Love You”, this July—next month I’ll be launching a new cookbook called “Models Do Eat”, alongside my gal pals Jill from @_ModelsDoEat (head wrangler), @courtneyjamescj, @lajoy224, @vesselandsoul, @adelacapova, @lianawernergray, @sarahdeanna and @nikkisharp. (shout out to @BenbellaBooks, our publisher). ⁣ ⁣ We each got together to contribute a chapter…The core essence is that there really isn’t any one-diet solution for everyone’s specific dietary needs, so we highlight the meals that keep us feeling at our optimum—and you’ll see how wide-ranging they are! My chapter is entitled, “Mostly Plants”, and highlights primarily whole, plant-based meals with an emphasis on reducing free sugars in one’s diet…I keep recipes on the simple side, because quite frankly—if you’re going to be eating well every day, there’s really no need to overcomplicate things. Curious to hear what are the simple meals that you return to again and again…⁣ ⁣ (Both ‘Models Do Eat’ and ‘How to Make a Plant Love You’ are available for pre-order (link in my bio under “My Other Books”)).

A post shared by Summer Rayne Oakes (@homesteadbrooklyn) on

There’s a candle burning here and there on the kitchen shelf, a few packets of fragrant incense, a lid that leads to a compost bin, and a small pot with a curry plant that brings an instant smile to Summer’s face. “This one is really fragrant,” she said as she plucked a leaf and waved it around.

This home and Summer’s dreams are very much in love with nature as Summer believes plants “are a pro-active measure for living in a city.” This fascination with growing plants in her apartment started almost 15 years ago as she moved from the countryside to New York.

For Summer, bringing the outside in felt like bringing in sanity. “Plants bring a sense of calm,” said Summer, who studied environmental science and entomology (the study of insects) before she took up modeling.

Inside Summer’s bedroom, there’s an entire wall of plants, there are cacti on a window and in a corner; inside a once-upon-time aquarium plants twine to each other in a thick mass of miniature tropical forest. On a shelf under the aquarium are two trays that Summer uses to grow her saplings in spring.

“I think as someone starts to bring plants into their homes and starts to recognize them as other living creature, they begin to recognize different nuances up in the same way,” she said.

Summer’s foray into growing plants in her apartment has grown into a full-fledged career. In July, Summer is releasing her third book “How to Make a Plant Love You.” She has a series running on her youtube channel called  Plant One On Me, and there’s also a Houseplant Masterclass that she regularly hosts to share her houseplant wisdom.

As Summer shows the hanging garden that she built together with her dad, Kippee pecks on her shoes. Summer said, “If you go into a room where there are no people, it’s going to feel a certain way. If you go into a room where it’s like 100 meditators, it’s going to feel a different way … and if you go inside a house with say 100 plants, it’s going to feel different than a blank room.”

Summer has also been an ardent support of sustainable fashion and decided to take on an untrodden path because she wanted to bring about an environmentally viable and more ethical fashion system. “Sometimes you have to create the industry that you see and you want to be in,” she said.

Sticking to her choices came with its own challenges, many times she refused to sign deals that didn’t align with her values. “Here are all the places that I don’t want to work. So I had to create my own path. And the way to build a more integrated life is to live it and you have to say ‘no’ sometimes,” said Summer.

Success didn’t come easy, but like everything ethical and sustainable, it came by taking the harder path.

“My biggest fear was my best will never be good enough … I was never good at being somebody else,” said Summer.