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An Actor’s Brooklyn Brownstone Honors His Heritage

by Garrett Fleming

This past summer, in between days filming Independence Day: Resurgence in New Mexico, Actor took a little road trip. With his foot on the pedal of a U-Haul, he drove a set of old movie theatre chairs from Albuquerque, NM to his Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn brownstone. He then turned right back around and flew back to continue filming. Needless to say, Gbenga is a man who will do anything for the apartment he loves.

The brownstone those chairs adorn has been Gbenga’s for three years now. Initially, he wasn’t too keen on making the jump from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but once he got a feel for the neighborhood he was hooked. Kids play outside, neighbors actually know one another and there’s a sense of community he hadn’t felt when he lived in Manhattan. It also didn’t hurt that he was able to snag so much space for a price Manhattanites only wish existed on their island. Boasting three floors and six rooms, Gbenga’s home lets him spread out like never before.

With such an abundance of space came a unique challenge: How to decorate it all. “My initial decorating goal was to create a classic home hospitable for guests… I wanted to create a space where friends and family could stay and feel that they had a home away from home,” Gbenga explains. To achieve this, he’s peppered in both modern and vintage touches, mixing the old and the new to create a look all his own. In one room, nods to his Nigerian heritage sit next to a sleek mannequin atop the fireplace mantel. In another, a modern sofa sits in contrast to the restored, original woodwork.

Gbenga tells us the space is a work in progress, but that’s okay. He’s in for the long haul, even if his agent would love it if he moved to LA. See, when you’re an actor, the West Coast is always calling. Gbenga says it’s not in the cards, though. “I am grateful for my neighbors and neighborhood. They make me feel at home, and like someone is always looking out for me. [I’ve] stayed in New York for so many reasons, Bed-Stuy being the best [one].” Click through to see the home that keeps Gbenga a Brooklynite year after year. Enjoy! —

Photography by Melony Van Der Merwe

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Last summer while filming "Independence Day: Resurgence" in New Mexico, Gbenga came across these old theatre chairs from 1924. "I packed them in(to) a U-Haul with other special items and drove 27 hours to get them back to Brooklyn before I had to turn right back around to fly back to Albuquerque to continue shooting," he explains. Melony Van Der Merwe, a close friend and photographer, took the stunning portrait that hangs above them while traveling through Africa.
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Actor and furniture designer Gbenga Akinnagbe wasn't too keen on living in Brooklyn after being in Manhattan for so long, but the tree-lined streets, older homes with character, and neighborhood feeling won him over in the end. This is the third Bed-Stuy home he has lived in and his favorite yet.
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The home office looking into Gbenga's bedroom.
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One of his favorite aspects of his Bed-Stuy home are the fireplaces, the first of which is in his home office. Quirky accessories and a mix of modern and vintage finds make the room feel just as unique as man who works from it.
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The home office features the first of many pieces of vintage furniture Gbenga has given new life through his company . He found the peacock fabric that covers this beauty while filming a movie in South Africa last year.
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Almost completely silent and overlooking the back garden, Gbenga's bedroom offers a calming retreat after a busy day. His bed and dresser were bought off of a friend who skipped town to go backpacking in South America.
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Gbenga says he can never have too many plants in his home because they "make all the difference and give life to a room." The door is sealed, but behind it lies a renovated bathroom accessible from another room.
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One of his friends couldn't fit this sofa into her apartment when she moved to NYC. With only one hour to get rid of it before the movers left, she called Gbenga to help take it off of her hands. As luck would have it, the sofa fit perfectly into his living room and has become a natural, stylish divider between the kitchen and living area.
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Music is important to Gbenga, so a guitar is never far out of reach. Neither is a chess board. A passionate player, he's spread game boards throughout the house for whenever a guest wants to go head-to-head with him.
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Across from the sofa is this stunning, original fireplace. It was covered in layers and layers of paint when Gbenga moved in, but he hired a team to meticulously return it to its 1899 splendor. Decorations from Nigeria and Palestine as well as sentimental pieces dot the mantel, as if it were a shrine to great memories.
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A signed copy of Nigerian Afrobeat artist Seun Kuti's album sits on the fireplace behind a hand-blown gas lamp Gbenga brought back from Palestine.
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The previous owners overhauled the downstairs kitchen, even tearing down walls in hopes of making it feel more open. The light bouncing off of the sleek stove is streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows that face the backyard. Gbenga likes the new look, especially how the exposed ceiling and glossy appliances "marry the old and new seamlessly."
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Across from the kitchen is another seating area. Above it hangs artwork made right here at the house. Gbenga explains, "As a board member of MOCADA (The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art), I host an annual fundraiser here at the house where one of the activities is finger painting. Many of them are done by children, and having them up on the wall takes me out of the rat race of New York and reminds me of simpler times."
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The three-story home's floor plan.

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Comments

  • I keep clicking through hoping I missed a shot of the chairs in the office and bedroom that appear in the frame edges (the peacock blue one and a yellow/turquoise one I’d love to see more of), because your upholstery game is completely beyond everything!
    What an amazing meld of personal style with the space, just beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and oh yes, I’d love to stay in the guest suite, how kind! (whoops, all that dreamy gentlemanly elegance just carried me away there…..;-)

    • Thank you for your comment and note of the upholstery! You are in luck – those pieces you see in the frame edges are all part of Enitan’s vintage repurposed furniture line. See more of them at , and follow us on instagram (@enitan_vintage) and facebook (enitanvintage) as new pieces are continuously designed and added.

      We’re so glad you enjoyed Gbenga’s home :)

  • Wonderful work in progress! That house has major bones – a beautiful sense of space and enclosure. Very welcoming. I’d love to have my bedroom so accessible to the front door. Just walk forward after a long day and fall into bed. (LOL!)

    I look forward to seeing your house again in another design sponge article – perhaps a peek into the garden?

  • What a fine looking place that is…. And so calm and soothing it must be to live there. I noticed how I had to flip through the photo file several times as my eye kept noticing new details. There was a black wall with some shelving on it in a corner that really caught my eye. That handsome man matches his handsome apartment in a most harmonious way. Super nice post!

  • What a great home! I love the kitchen-wood floors with the green stone tiles-so different! The other thing I love is that it’s colorful but subtle and that his personality comes through. It looks like a comfortable oasis for a busy man and its something I want to achieve in my future home.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • I totally identify with getting a centered feeling from your home, and I love your place! So many interesting touches carried off so well.

    cactiandmountains.com

  • This is a curation of furniture and decor is breathtaking! I absolutely love it! The natural character of the home is charming, too. Such a great setting for amazing pieces.

  • To the writer: “Decorations from Nigeria and Palestine as well as sentimental pieces dot the mantel.” Palestine is technically not a country so I am not sure what geographical area you had in mind. It would have been more accurate to simply say “Palestinian decorations.”
    This is not a political blog and your description is provocative and takes away from the job at hand, which is to depict a lovely home.

  • A lovely, peaceful-looking retreat, and a great curation of diverse furnishings and art! I am especially curious to know the story of the man in the photo above the peacock chair.

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