Danielle Brooks has experienced her fair share of New York apartment fiascos.
Like the time her ceiling fell down thanks to a flood upstairs. Or when her toilet started filling with bubbles because someone put too much detergent in the building’s washing machine. “It was crazy,” the Orange Is the New Black star, 29, recalls of her first rental near her alma mater, Juilliard. “That place looked beautiful, but it was definitely broken.”
Now the actress, who is expecting her first child with her boyfriend, has found a much more serene—and more family-friendly—townhouse in Brooklyn to call home. “Getting to buy my first home has been a joy and such an accomplishment. It’s always something that I wanted to do before thirty,” she tells PEOPLE. “I moved a little further out so I could really find a place that I could build a family in, and that I could share.”
She decorated the 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom property with help from interior designers Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason of AphroChic, who found an unusual way to discover her style. “They asked me, ‘What does your house sound like?'” explains Brooks. The trio landed on a “jazzy Ella [Fitzgerald] meets Jay-Z meets Bob Marley-type feel.” It was a natural fit for the actress, who is also a Tony-nominated vocalist. (She’s releasing new music this summer.)
Together they collaborated on a design that felt young and modern, but also incorporated Brooks’ South Carolina roots and African American heritage.
Brooks discovered one special piece while exploring the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn. “My boyfriend and I found this last summer,” she recalls of the black-and-white face that hangs in her dining room. The seller said “it represents safety in the household and security in your space. And we were like, ‘Oh yes, we’ve got to have it.'”
In the master bedroom, two traditional Cameroonian-style juju hats that were handmade in her home state via a collaboration between AphroChic and Maman Afrique Boutique hang above the bed.
“The red guinea feather hat that has specks of black in it provides a perfect contrast against the deep black shade that we painted the bedroom,” says Hays.
“I love to host. I love to have people over,” she says, attributing the inclination to growing up in a house that was always full of guests. She also loves to cook. “If you’re coming over, you’re going to get fed really well.”
Even the furniture placement in her city retreat is intended to encourage people to come together. A pair of velvet sofas from World Market (one shown) are arranged for conversation, rather than watching TV. And the kitchen — her favorite space in the house — is open to the living and dining areas, making it perfect for entertaining.
As OITNB premieres its final season on July 26, Brooks is looking forward to some down time at home. “I want to take a moment to just be normal for a month or two and to enjoy my family.” The top spot on her kick-back list? “I have a hammock on my roof,” she adds. “Sitting out there and reading a book or script, that’s my plan. To just enjoy the space and my home.”