Executive Editor Amanda Carter Gomes chatted with director and screenwriter Rachel Fleit about the evolution of her home—which, as you will read and see, is a beautifully curated collection of a life well lived. We know you will glean design inspiration as well as personal encouragement from this badass woman.
Even though I have not met Rachel Fleit in person, I can attest to her magnetism based on email alone. A writer and director based in NYC, Rachel has an exceptional sense of style, made evident throughout these images. She is, quite simply, radiant—and her eclectic and inviting Brooklyn home follows suit.
Rachel's space is filled with family heirlooms, found objects, books, and personal mementos, all displayed throughout her home. Her contrasts of light and dark, old and new, bold and restraint beautifully come together in her one-bedroom apartment. Read on for design tips (that double as advice for both personal style and life), observations on career evolution, and wisdom galore: "I think style is so much more than what you adorn yourself in and amongst."
Please tell us about your home: Where did you live? How long have you lived in this space? And what initially attracted you to this apartment?
I live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I’ve lived in this particular apartment for two-and-a-half years but overall I have lived in this building since 2013. I moved from a studio to a huge, by New York standards, one bedroom apartment. It’s a pre-war building so the rooms are big. I like old things. I am in a constant search for things that feel like old New York. There are so many gutted and renovated apartments that are overpriced and so boring, there’s no character. I love the lobby of my building, the floor especially.
My apartment has good vibes. It just does. The previous owner was a writer and she fell in love here. I liked that detail. Physically, I love the arched entry into the living room and dining room. I love the shelf that’s set into the wall and last but certainly not least, the sink and the bathtub and bathroom tiles are—from what I gather—original, and SO GOOD. I often choose fashion over function. Having to really tighten the bathtub knobs when I’m done is worth it for the look of everything.
Also, it’s rent stabilized and I am dear, dear friends with many people in the building. Its very Melrose Place, there is a lot of walking downstairs and leaving my door unlocked and having a tea with my friend in the building, or someone will arrive at my door with arugula and we will make a salad and then go back to our lives. I have always been attracted to that commune lifestyle, so this really works for me, especially because we get to have our own spaces and like, not live in a commune.
You have a distinct personal style: It is bold, radiant, and unique. Do you feel that same style transcends to your home? How would you describe your interior aesthetic? Have both evolved over time, and if so, how?
When I was a child, and through my teenaged years I was notorious for rearranging my bedroom furniture usually around the time in which a paper was due or I had to study for a test. One year I locked my door and painted the walls all different colors. I tore pages out of magazines and wanted no blank space. There was a shrine to Kirk Cameron, Luke Perry and Jared Leto over the years. I have always felt like more is more.
As far as the evolution of my aesthetic is concerned, I have landed somewhere between a minimalist and maximalist. I love things. I love color. Everything in my house is intentional, it’s there because it means something. I collect things the way I collect clothes. There is a story behind every item in my house. The rug in my living room was previously owned by my great grandmother for whom I’m named. The mirror in my bedroom belonged to her as well. The huge amazing hand-painted pillows came from a room of huge pillows at my friend Scotty’s wedding to her husband JJ. It was the safe room. She’s a genius so she knew she would need a safe room at her wedding reception.
The yellow Dansk pots in my kitchen were my grandmother Claire’s. She kept them in pristine condition for 30 years. I inherited them when she died nine years ago and have almost ruined two of them. I think style is so much more than what you adorn yourself in and amongst. I am who I am because of people and experiences and the objects in my home are the direct reflection of that.
What are a few important elements—be it decorative, spiritual, etc.—that you bring to every space you inhabit?
I love photos and I love photographers. I keep photos of my relatives, both alive and living in the fourth dimension, around me at all times. I need to see them on a daily basis. I have a few photos of myself from when I was young that remind me to be nice to myself, something about the inner child.
Other than that, I have been carrying around many, many things in my apartment: tchotchkes, artwork and textiles, from place to place for a very long time. I’ve always been a collector and everything has its home in my house. I have a sign that says, "Still The Fairest Of Them All" that I found in the basement of a crumbling vaudeville theatre in Ithaca in 2002. It’s been to 15 apartments in 17 years. There are iconic family photos that I have stolen from albums and boxes of photos over the years that bring me joy—mostly of my late grandparents. I keep them on my entry hallway wall pinned up with colored tape. It’s an ever-evolving mood board.
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"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
Besides that, I’m a hippie at my core, so a smattering of crystals and seashells and sage and Palo Santo always. Last: color. Color is really important to me. I had the notion that the kitchen should be painted forest green after many dark nights scrolling Pinterest for inspiration. My books, some have travelled with me for 30+ years, many at least 20, and are color coded on a custom bookshelf hand built by the artist and my friend, Molly Welch.
What are a few things you love most about having a space of your own? What are a few pieces in your home that are current favorites, and why?
I have been traveling so much for work. The best thing about having a place of my own is that I get to always return here, to the quiet, and be alone in my solitude. My work is so rewarding right now. On every level, but it’s exhausting. It’s so nice to be back in my place after a long shoot day or a long shoot out town—to be with my things and my clothes.
I bought this very beautiful dining table designed by my dear friend Martin Forster. The table becomes my desk and transforms into my canvas when I construct and enormous spread of food for friends. I love to cook for my people and have parties. It is my true joy. Since the work and travel schedule has gotten really intense, these moments with my closest friends and family are becoming so precious. Having a place of my own to host them and spend quality time is everything to me. I am really into my plants too right now and I have been very proud of myself for keeping them alive.
How do you want people to feel upon entering your apartment?
I want people to feel like they can take their shoes off and open the refrigerator, make themselves a snack, and lay on the couch. I want my place to feel warm and inviting. I think it does.
You have had a few career incarnations (as have we): How did you navigate and manifest those changes? Why is having a sacred "home base" important when making said changes, or traveling for said career?
For the longest time I stood in my own way. It's sort of boring story but mostly I was in fear, in a total panic that there would be no way I could be a film director and be self-supporting. For years, I did all of this work adjacent to what I really wanted, which was to be an artist. At first I wanted to be a performer, but I was too afraid so I became a producer, then I hated being a producer and finally accepted that I wanted to be a director—but I was a bit aimless and overwhelmed by that so I took a detour and worked in fashion for six years. During the fashion period, I realized that everything I had been doing all along was informing my ability to do that job. When the fashion chapter ended, there was a bit of a transition but I recognized that I had been storytelling all along, and I finally started to direct my own films, I was equipped.
Most recently, now that I am a director, it’s about fine tuning the vision, its so easy to self abandon no matter how much you are standing in your truth. I often have to ask myself, Is this ok? Is this the vision? I am getting granular right now about my creative work. I am almost 100% supporting myself through writing and directing. I occasionally pull out my producer chops for a 7-year-old's birthday party or curate a friend’s closet, but mostly that's for fun. Having my sacred space is everything to my creative process. I work from home if I am not working out of town or filming. I write and read in bed a lot. I wrote my script almost solely under the covers. I have a dear friend who has made a very exciting career almost exclusively from bed and so I believe in it.
What do you love most about your path and where you are right now?
I am in the midst of one of the most fulfilling moments in my entire life. I have crystal clear clarity of what I am supposed to do in my life right now and I am doing it. I am also open, really for the first time, to the possibility of what may unfold, like this is what’s happening now and I don’t know what the future holds. I am just enjoying right now.
I am making three films and writing my book proposal. It is bananas. Last year I was writing a script and organizing my friend’s closets for extra cash. I mean, we never know what’s going to happen. Also, I am the most single I have ever been, there is no one, not even the inkling of someone. I say that with utter humility and at the same time total confidence that there will be someone again soon. It’s like serious tumbleweeds in my romantic life and yet I am so happy and fulfilled. That has never happened. I have always sort of been like, where is my boyfriend? That’s not my experience right now. It’s very freeing. I feel like a whole person with a lot of exciting stuff going on who is deeply loved by my friends and family. I had no idea my life would look like this at 38. It’s rad all around.