Jess Tran’s Brooklyn Loft Is Bursting With House Plants and Creativity
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Brooklyn, where photographer, strategist and all-round creative Jess Tran has designed a dreamy warehouse home.
It was a frosty January day in New York City when Jess Tran first set eyes on her new home. The Australian creative – she is a photographer and a content strategist for various clients – had been living in America for about five years when she saw a listing for a split-level warehouse in Brooklyn: big windows, good light, lots of character.
“I remember walking in the door during magic hour,” Tran recalls, “and just instantly falling in love. The excessive amount of light, the ridiculous layout, the incredibly high ceilings. Even the fact that there was this decrepit vibe to it was attractive to me,” she adds. “The whole place just looked like nothing else I had seen in my five years living in NYC.”
In the two years since Tran first moved in, she has filled the space with pots and pots of house plants, “a billion paintings”, and reclaimed furniture. Her one big renovation, given that she is renting, is purely aesthetic. “We did decide to install a fully functioning disco ball,” admits Tran, “that lights up and spins when you say ‘Hey Google, let’s party.’ I think that was a good decision.”
Create Jess' look with our Rust Throw.
Tran’s interior style is colourful, creative and cosy. In the bedroom, contrasting shades of Rust and Sage Bed Threads linen sheets fit the warm and earthy colour palette throughout the apartment. Tran has achieved this through an abundance of plants, many of which are stored in planters picked up on overseas trips – “pieces that come home with you from travel are always my favourite,” she says – such as the leopard planter that she picked up in Mexico City.
“Plants warm any space up,” she explains, “elevated plants on different levels even more so.” And now, after years of collecting, Tran is satisfied with the careful curation of design elements in her beautiful home, so much so that she has decided to halt new purchases for the moment. “It feels as complete as it needs to be for right now,” says Tran. “Trying to practice restraint.”
Create Jess' look with our Rust Throw.
Hi Jess! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I make photos (I both shoot and model) and make everything from content strategies and calendars to TikTok videos for my purpose-driven brand marketing agency, Scallion Pancake. I also lead all creative and photography for The Consistency Project, a re-work/vintage store, where I also help source vintage pieces.
Another way I would think about this is that I make connections happen too – my professional job and side projects all revolve around being the magnet that brings in all the right people for different projects. I'm like a marketing glue stick.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
For me, "making" is an act of doing – it's not passive. I am anything but passive. It took me a long time to accept the part of my personality that some would call "intense", but I'm trying to reframe it as just a deep curiosity, energy and joy for life.
I love making new connections, serendipitous moments and really just squeezing the most out of the lemon that is life. I think that is what really drives why I like the act of "making" and why this particular type of work environment really suits me.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I have always been in consumer-facing marketing from a professional full-time capacity up until the pandemic. Within my full-time life, my experience has been all over the place. I've had experience with editorial writing, PR for all the chestnuts of Australia (for real – this was my first job), social media for a cricket protein bar company, video editing, partnerships, experiential, direct response and influencer gifting. On the side, I've been dabbling in the vintage and second-hand/sustainable fashion world through my work as a content creator, with Second-Life Marketplace, and The Consistency Project.
Post-pandemic is when all these different pieces really came together to form this mish-mash of a freelance life/career that I'm living now. That's all to say that I think my very Gemini desire to try a lot of things and build a range of skills has definitely lent itself to my current career where no day is the same.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
With parameters! I definitely work best when I have a frame of reference or specific context to work around. Otherwise, it feels like there are too many things that could be done, so the energy isn't directed or focused. I think the other ingredient that is necessary is space – mental and physical space to really allow creativity to unfold rather than trying to time box it around a bunch of other commitments.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?
My network. I know that that is a generally frustrating answer, but there's a reason people say it. The strength of my network and my professional relationships were single handedly the key to me being able to generate enough business to work for myself, and to find support and knowledge.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your business?
Setting boundaries. I am absolutely terrible at setting personal or professional boundaries. I saw a TikTok that said having your own business is tough because you're simultaneously the world's strictest boss, and the laziest employee. There is a constant tension between wanting to have a work/life balance, and knowing that you are the captain, so the income, opportunities and growth are all your own responsibility. Operating from a personal history of scarcity in the larger context of capitalism requires hard and fast boundaries to protect mental wellbeing.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
The deep knowing that I can create the life that I feel like I deserve, and that I can create my own path. Surrounding myself with the most incredible people professionally, who are also heart-forward and empathetic, has been one of the most rewarding parts of starting a business. Your business is only as good as the community that surrounds it, and being able to witness the creation of my own special professional community has been such a joy.
The privilege of being alive today is that we get to redefine the industries and jobs we want. We get to challenge the status quo, and create a more equitable, kind, creative and just world through our actions, and through our small businesses.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Do everything, say yes to it all. I think the hardest part of figuring out a career is understanding what you like and what you don't like. Reach out to people you admire, slide into the DMs, try every facet of marketing for not just one industry, but a whole range of things. You can only understand what works for you by doing the hard slog of figuring out by doing.
Now, the home stuff. How did you initially know this was the space for you?
I initially found the space on Listings Project, which is a weekly community-led real estate listings newsletter. It was a five-minute walk from the apartment I was living in at the time.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
No, we're renters, so the most we've done is nail a billion paintings and artworks onto the walls!
Create Jess' look with Rust and Sage in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
People always ask me this question and honestly the strategy is intuition. The way that I decorate is purely by seeing what I need furniture wise and seeing what's available on Craigslist, vintage stores, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Chairish, TheRealReal and AptDeco.
If the piece is a strong standout to me, and my partner signs off on it, the rest is built piece by piece as I find it. That's the magic of buying vintage and second-hand, you are a bit at the whim of the universe in terms of selection.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I would have to say my animal planters or animal plant stands. There's something about the combination of animals and plants that helps me avoid the fact that the view outside my apartment is literally a brick wall! The leopard planter in particular is from a previous trip to Mexico City that I'll always remember. Pieces that come home from travel are always my favourite.
I also love my vintage fish sake set with matching carafe that I bought upstate at an antique store. The idea of pulling these six fish shot glasses out at a dinner party is the exact kind of host I aspire to be.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
Not anymore! We've spent 2+ years in this apartment and have been so lucky to have been able to fill every nook and cranny of this apartment.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The upstairs lofted living room! It's just a beautiful space that I do therapy in, journal, meditate. It always makes me feel completely relaxed and the height of the room makes me feel like I'm floating on a platform which adds to the general vibe. I also just love the soft carpet and the way there's no TV there, which orients the space towards deeper connection and conversation.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I'm excited about the work we're doing at Second Life Marketplace. We used to be an IRL event series for vintage and second-hand closets, but have shifted our focus in building out a comprehensive online platform and community around all things vintage and second hand.
For more from Jess, follow her at @jessglistening
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