Entering the home of Summer Rayne Oakes is a botanical dream you never want to leave. Surrounded by some 500 plants (!!) , we chatted about her life, career in activism, and latest projects. Not only beautiful and eloquent, Summer is a passionate innovator and a true artist. As I toured her home, I realized she is exactly the botanical neighbor I've always wanted to meet. #itsplantporn
IPP: WHAT is YOUR BACKGROUND?
SRO: I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the country. I thought I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I realized that art for me or the way I would express myself would be a tool in my tool belt that I would effectively use. I think that’s important now since we are such a visual culture.
I was very active in my community growing up, I was definitely the most nature oriented in my school. I didn’t really acknowledge that until college and it took me a while to even recognize that I had a real passion. I think sometimes passion trumps talent. I was definitely the one who always wanted to take her science experiments home which really sent different types of feelings to the professors: this is really someone who is engaged. So I went to school for environmental science and entomology (the study of insects) and I got very much involved in my research.
It was very cool for my university [Cornell] to have allowed me to do a lot of different types of projects. I was one of the earlier people who started to think about sustainability and fashion and I wanted to somehow branch outside of my current lines of study. I wanted to go to places where people didn’t act or think like me and affect industries on a larger change. It was just a gut instinct. I had no prior connections to the design world, I never had fashion magazines around. I spent the better part of 10 years in sustainability and fashion but it is really the sustainability that moved me through that.
IPP: WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
SRO: Currently I am working on a book called Sugar Detox Me Cookbook to help people cleanse themselves from sugar. It came about as a side project that I was doing. About 3 years ago I transitioned into more sustainable food systems. At first looking at how can we get farm to fridge products to people’s homes, then looking into how we can actually connect people along the supply chain in food to share their finds or products, ask questions, or talk to chefs. I had been working on nixing my own sweet tooth which is something I’ve always had since a young girl and launched a blog called sugardetox.me and low and behold so many other people have the same problem. It was something I became pretty passionate about.
"Health, wellness, and sustainability are all interconnected. if you don’t have your health you're not going to be able to do the amazing things you possibly could in this world. "
IPP: HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT TO AMASS SO MANY PLANTS?
SRO: This was essentially the first place I moved into and haven’t left. When I moved here [ Williamsburg, Brooklyn ] taxis wouldn’t take me home; friends wouldn’t come out here. A Brazilian shiatsu massage therapist was my roommate for about 6 years and when she left I realized the apartment was for myself now to play around with. It took me a while to get there. I got my first plant which was a fiddle leaf ficus about 3 or 4 feet tall and its about 14 feet now. Once I got that it just started the ball rolling. I get a lot of plants at Sprout Home which is nearby and I also go to the Chelsea Garden Center in Williamsburg and the farmer’s market.
"stilt Peperomia looks like it has pinstripes. It’s a very handsome plant. "
IPP: WHAT'S YOUR SPIRIT PLANT AND WHY?
SRO: Bamboo. Resilient, it bends it doesn’t break, and its a quick grower.