Jungwon's Ocean-Inspired Brownstone in Brooklyn

Jungwon's Ocean-Inspired Brownstone in Brooklyn

Nasozi Kakembo
Apr 22, 2016
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Name: Jungwon Kim, Senior Editorial Manager at Rainforest Alliance, Soyoung, Anire (15), and Seiami (11)
Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant; Brooklyn, NY
Size: 2,200 square feet
Years lived in: 8 years; Owned

Born and raised a stone's throw from the beach in Southern California, the home of Jungwon and her family is a true reflection of their tidal roots. But having lived in Brooklyn for two decades, she's infused her home with the creativity, eclecticism and free spirit that is iconic of its Brooklyn habitat. And just a short train or car ride from Jungwon's Bed-Stuy home is a beach she often heads to at the break of dawn to get in her surf. This proximity is why, despite the home's immediate urban surroundings, the beach-inspired decor is aptly in context here.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

The two-level home that Jungwon shares with her sister and two daughters has evolved throughout the years. Before the space beneath the staircase housed bikes and surfboards, it was the interior entry to the home's lower-level rental unit. While the space was functional in a sense, it was also redundant. So Jungwon worked with an architect to cap off the passageway and create a zone that addressed her immediate needs: storage. Jungwon bikes to work in Manhattan on average two times a week, weather permitting, and surfs year-round, so equipment needs to be easily accessible but non-obtrusive.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

The Kim-Amoda family are avid entertainers as much as they are avid readers. So the spaces in this home for four must be multi-functional and fluid. As Jungwon's girls progressed in their studies, she transformed yet another space to fulfill an immediate need: academics. The library, located in the core of the home was once a dead space of sorts. Now it serves as a productive space where both girls can do their homework and lounge. Still, the flush custom built-ins allow for easy movement between the kitchen and living room, and additional seating during gatherings is available when needed, too.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Beyond its malleable layout, Jungwon's home is characterized by a sustainable approach to living. Her very career is centered on sustainable land management and livelihoods, and she espouses this from the reclaimed wood used in the built-ins to her affinity toward vintage (or found) home furnishings. Her work and wanderlust have taken her to four continents around the globe and her aesthetic is an authentic reflection of that as well.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Simple, eclectic, and warm—and most importantly, lived-in.

Inspiration: I'm deeply inspired by the ocean, as well as many of the places I've traveled for work, especially the Amazon. As an environmental advocate, I also get really excited about fresh approaches to up-cycling.

Favorite Element: The hammock is unequivocally everyone's favorite place to be. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, it's the perfect perch from which to read, listen to music, or just gaze out the window at the trees and listen to the cacophony of birds that hang out in the backyard gardens of these historic brownstones.

When I first put the hammock next to the window, my daughters fought over it so much that I had to impose a half-hour rule. .

Biggest Challenge: In my fantasy life, I live in a minimalist bungalow in the tropics, with polished concrete floors and wall-to-wall windows that open onto a vegetable garden overlooking the ocean. In reality, I live with my two daughters, my sister, and our dog in a slightly dilapidated brownstone built in 1802 and have not yet received the windfall necessary to do a serious renovation. I've tried to bring touches of my tropical minimalist parallel life to freshen up the crumbling old moldings and parquet floors. But it's challenging to mix modern and earthy elements with the formality that characterizes Brooklyn brownstones. Sometimes I'll try something wacky, like hanging a big tree branch from the dining area wall—and the rest of the family will just shake their heads and laugh at me.

What Friends Say: Friends have said that being in my home feels comfortable and rejuvenating, the most meaningful compliment I could ever hope to receive. Many of the pieces of art in my home were created by dear friends of mine, so I believe what our visitors are actually feeling is LOVE.

Biggest Embarrassment: Each of the kitchen chairs was either found on the street or passed along to me by friends. This is not because of my love for up-cycling so much as it is due to a combination of sheer laziness and an aversion to shopping. Out of six chairs, we have two that match. Someday when I'm grown, I hope to have eight matching chairs.

Proudest DIY: Sadly, I have no DIY skills at all. I did come up with the idea for the bookshelves and desk in the study that my awesome contractor made from salvaged scaffolding planks.

Biggest Indulgence: The cement tiles in the parlor-floor W.C. How I wish I'd had the budget to do the entire kitchen and dining area floor with these!

Best Advice: Surrounding yourself with objects that have special meaning to you and gathering your loved ones in your home frequently infuses your space with soul...something no interior designer can create through material objects

Dream Sources: I'd love to take a global shopping trip, starting with antiques at the Saturday Market in Bangkok and the Insa-dong district in Seoul, then moving on to Morocco for tiles, the Amazon for plants, and perhaps a few beaches in New Zealand for seashells.


(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Shoe organizer: IKEA
  • Image above organizer: IKEA
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Sofa and side chair set: Bauhaus
  • African textile pillow: xNasozi
  • Bike hooks: DIY
  • Mirror on mantel: Antique from Brooklyn Flea
  • Yellow light fixture: CB2
  • The figures on mantel: The tall one is Gwan Eum, the Bodhisattva of compassion and also of the sea. My favorite Bodhisattva of course!
  • Anire portrait: coming-of-age gift from Stacey Billups (@artbystaceybillups)
  • Seiami self-portaite: self-portrait, hand-crafted frame of California hardwood gifted by dear friend Sven Atema (@atema7)
  • Piano: Steinway
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Shelving and Desk: DIY by Michael Dehire from reclaimed SALVAGE PLANKS (FROM BUILD IT GREEN)
  • Desk chairs: found on street :-)
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Hammock: Novica (Mexico)
  • Mirror behind hammock:
  • Boys jumping painting/art: Sajjad (@sajjadworks)
  • Picture between window and door: Bday gift from Justin Valdes (@justinsedlav)
  • Light fixture: CB2
  • Buffet table: Antique library table inherited from former roommate!
  • Dining table: ABC Carpet and Home floor sample, stripped and oiled
  • K: Old carnival letter from Sterling on Atlantic Ave.
  • Cabinetry: IKEA
  • Shelving above sink: Salvaged scaffolding plank, a contractor DIY/creation (Michael Dehire, Creative Home Interiors)
  • Warning Mermaids: Paper Source
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Bed frame: My Little India (now closed)
  • Red chest next to bed: Antique Chinese cabinets
  • Bathroom sinks: Talavera ceramics from Mexico
  • Shower tile: Combo of Home Depot and black granite
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Bedframes: IKEA
  • Rug: IKEA

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Thanks, Jungwon!

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