And the Insecure star's decorator calls her "the perfect client".
Issa Rae is one of those actors whom fans sometimes have a tough time separating from their beloved character. On her hit HBO show Insecure (she is the cocreator, writer, and star), she plays Issa Dee, a young woman who often
struggles in her career, love life, and friendships–and makes up rap songs in the mirror to encourage herself along the way. In real life, multihyphenate Rae has it a bit more together, which was helpful during the process of buying and decorating a new home recently while also juggling a schedule that includes roles in numerous upcoming movies, plus executive-producing A Black Lady Sketch Show.
"She's still in her humble beginnings phase, doing the best she can to be comfortable at age 30," says Rae of the onscreen Issa. "Her artwork is sick, and I want every piece. But other than that, [our decor styles are not similar]. She has the patience to thrift." By contrast, "I'm almost 35 and I'm pretty confident in who I am," says Rae. This meant that from her first meeting with designer Barbie Palomino, she knew what she wanted.
Rae with designer Barbie Palomino in her new family room. Photo: Jess Isaac
"She's the perfect client," Palomino tells AD. "I have the utmost appreciation and respect for an authentic person who knows what she likes, and maybe more importantly, what she doesn't!" The decorator partnered with Pottery Barn to overhaul Rae's two living rooms and entryway to her exact specifications. "It was important to Issa that she have a space that both could easily accommodate tons of friends, and still be capable of feeling intimate and casual. She was very involved in the entire process and signed off on every last detail," says Palomino.
The formal living room and the family room are separated by a fireplace, and connected by a unique curved wall. Photo: Jess Isaac
Rae had already put in new floors and updated the fireplace before Palomino came in and created two distinct seating areas, a bar, and a grid of pictures on a statement-making curved wall. "The existing curved wall that defines the dining room was a bit of a challenge, even though it did inspire repeating that element with the living room's sectional," says Palomino. "We tossed a few ideas back and forth for a while before finally embracing one of the original concepts; what's more personal in any home than dozens of your photos? She selected every single image herself and it's an impressive grid. Sort of the original Instagram."
Architectural Digest: During your first meeting about this project, how did you describe what you wanted?
Issa Rae: I love to have people over and entertain, so I wanted something inviting, modern, and minimalist. I like my spaces to feel open, and I knew that I wanted my backyard and pool to feel like an extended part of the living room. Some of my favorite houses are in Palm Springs, and I wanted my home to have that same resorty, chill vibe. I also knew I wanted two living rooms: the "good room" for company only-like my mom instilled in us-and the family room for commoners.
AD: Did it turn out the way you envisioned, or did it evolve?
IR: Beyond. Barbie was very communicative throughout, and got what I wanted while also lending me her taste and thoughts. It was an ideal collaboration that exceeded my expectations.
AD: Are there any elements of the room that surprised you?
IR: The little trinkets on the shelves. There were also these faux hanging plants that I received without context, like, "where the hell do these go," and she placed them on the floor in an area that is beautiful and just works.
Rae calls the curved white couch in her formal living room her favorite piece, and Palomino notes that the blue swivel chair inspired the color palette for the entire space. Photo: Jess Isaac
AD: What is your favorite piece of furniture in the rooms?
IR: My semicircle off-white couch! It is the best. My young niece and nephews are always drawn to it to come [mess] it up when they come visit, so I know it's nice. I rarely sit on it. I also love my bar.
AD: Favorite piece of art in the rooms?
IR: I have an Adrienne Wade tapestry that reminds me to unwind and unplug. I need to listen to it more often, though.
"Once we settled on light and bright for the formal living room, it felt natural to shift to the deepest, intense shades of those colors in the family room. That room just whispers, 'Netflix and chill...with a cocktail,'" says Palomino. Photo: Jess Isaac
AD: What lesson did you learn through the process of buying and decorating a house?
IR: It can be a long process, and it is so satisfying. But you're always going to want to do more over time. I'm already trying to redo my kitchen. So, Barbie, stand by!
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