Danielle Brooks’ Brooklyn Brownstone Gets an Ethnic Vibe

African-American interior designers bring serenity to the Orange is the New Black star’s home

Danielle Brooks

  • Homeowner: Danielle Brooks, an actor in Netflix’s Orange is the New Blackposted her project on Sweeten
  • Where: Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York
  • Primary renovation: African-American interior designers Aphrochic refresh the 5-story brownstone
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Designer’s quote: “We honestly didn’t face a lot of challenges with this project,” said designer Jeanine. “A big reason for that was having an excellent team. We had incredible communication with the Sweeten team.”
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering guidance, tools, and support—for free..

Written in partnership with Aphrochic. After photos throughout by Chinasa Cooper.

A growing family motivates a new domicile

Danielle Brooks has made a career in a bright orange jumpsuit as Taystee on Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. But don’t take that to mean she doesn’t have style. The actor is known for her sense of glamour, a love of color, and her embrace of her cultural heritage. It would be a strong influence on the 2,000-square-foot Brooklyn brownstone she purchased.

living room during renovation
kitchen during renovation
SWEETEN Jeanine Hays-Townhouse-Before-01
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The four-bedroom, four-bathroom home was a clean slate—a designer’s dream. The house had a lot of great touches, but they were the work of the developer. Danielle planned to move into the house with her family and wanted to make it their own. 

To renovate the sleek five-floor brownstone, she turned to African-American interior designers, known for embracing culture and design. Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason of AphroChic would bring a modern, soulful interior to the project. The designers collaborated with Sweeten and hired a general contracting team who understood how to execute their aesthetic. The contractors had also been featured as a Sweeten Black-owned contracting firm and as a woman-owned contracting firm.

‘What does your house sound like?’ The trio arrived at a ‘jazzy Ella meets Jay-Z meets Bob Marley-type feel.’

living room

A homeowner’s first home purchase

Jeanine explained, “To start the design process, we came to Sweeten in our quest to identify the right contractor.” The designers were matched with a choice of experts and received bids. They chose their general contractor, who set out to give the space a face-lift that would elevate the home’s character. “Through the renovation,” Jeanine said, “we were able to give each room in the home a warm and evocative color palette. The beautiful metallic lighting perfectly suits Danielle and her own eye-catching aesthetic.” 

living room

For Danielle, who moved from a rental apartment to the multi-story house, the new place was a dream come true. “Getting to buy my first home has been a joy and such an accomplishment,” she recently told People magazine, adding that she had long hoped to be a homeowner by the time she turned 30. This was the actor’s first experience with renovating, and she couldn’t wait to turn the brownstone into a true home for herself, her partner, and her soon-to-be-born little one.

African-American interior designers find inspiration

The AphroChic principals honed in on what inspired Danielle. “They asked me, ‘What does your house sound like?’” Danielle told People. After much discussion, the trio arrived at a “jazzy Ella [Fitzgerald] meets Jay-Z meets Bob Marley-type feel,” Danielle said. This sound, the designer said, was an ideal fit for the actor, who is also a Tony Award-nominated vocalist.

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The resulting plan focused on creating a warm, family-friendly environment. It would include a variety of hues and saturation and a lot of patterns. Art conveyed images of African-American heritage and Black beauty. They decided first up to lavish the house’s interior with an artisan label specializing in low VOC paint. Lighting selections included a gold-finished chandelier for the dining room and two cage-style pendants with an open geometric form above the kitchen island. Sconces from the designers’ own home lighting collection were chosen for the bedroom. 

Danielle Brooks

A vision for open-concept living

The walls in the open-plan living and dining area are a sophisticated hue that looks blue in the daylight and turns to a soft gray at night. In the dining area, the cool shade allowed the warm finishes to shine, including the smoke-black and metallic dining table. Gray walls popped against the new-build kitchen, with hints of salmon and warm browns.

In the home’s living area, the walls made an excellent backdrop for an array of colorful pieces. Here, forest green velvet sofas are flanked by a golden silk dupioni drapery. For an African touch, the designers brought in a table lamp from their collection that featured handmade details. The room’s bright and bold color palette is mirrored in the Saint and Miss NoHo art pieces by Australian artist, Brent Rosenberg, whose work Danielle learned about through her designers.

living room

living room

The color palette expands

Next up, the master bedroom. One of the elements the designers were most excited about was the decision to paint this room black. “It was something that Danielle was hesitant about at first,” Jeanine said, pointing out that, as designers, she and Bryan felt it was their job to introduce their client to new ways of making a visual impact in her home. “We got her to embrace the black bedroom,” Jeanine said, “and it’s one of our favorite spaces,” giving the room a luxe appeal and a sultry depth. 

An All-Black renovation team delivers

The job went smoothly from start to finish. “We honestly didn’t face a lot of challenges with this project,” Jeanine said. “A big reason for that was having an excellent team. We had incredible communication with the Sweeten team; they were committed to the plan and worked hard to make things go smoothly.” The biggest challenge may have been choosing the exact height of the sconces for the bedroom, when the bed Danielle had chosen had not yet been delivered. Planning and attention to detail by the contractors took care of this issue without a problem, according to Jeanine

dining room

dining room

For AphroChic, the home is a crowning achievement. It’s a rich and textured interior where the African Diaspora is celebrated through African-inspired prints and art. Handmade Moroccan light fixtures and artisan items from Danielle’s home state of South Carolina layer in personality. 

Danielle agrees that her new place feels like home in so many ways. “We really wanted a space that felt communal,” the actor, who loves to cook and entertain, told People. With a bustling neighborhood outside her door, the house feels happy, full, and big on style.

Thank you, Danielle, for sharing your home Sweeten home!

Renovation Materials

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Overcast: C2 Paint. Forest Green Samara sofas: World Market. Silk dupioni drapery: The Shade Store. AphroChic Amur table lamp: Dounia Home. Artwork: Saint and Miss NoHo pieces by Brent Rosenberg.

DINING ROOM RESOURCES: Radford dining table and Jensen chandelier: World Market. Mali Kuba window treatments in ink: The Shade Store.

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Gold Circle Cage Franco pendants: World Market.

MASTER BEDROOM RESOURCES: Paint in Stout: C2 Paint. AphroChic Amur wall sconces: Dounia Home. Floral fossils: Ronni Robinson. Juju Hats: Maman Afrique Boutique.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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