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Before I came out as trans, my only design aesthetic was a futon mattress on the ground and a simple shelf in the closet for my clothes. Because I couldn’t imagine an authentic way to exist in my body, I don’t think I could imagine, let alone create, an affirming physical space to live in. And while I still appreciate minimalism in home design, coming out as transmasculine and coming home to my own body helped me realize, among other important realities, that the more centered I am in my own skin, the more comfortable I feel bringing a strong sense of uniqueness, joy, and care into my home design.
“Our home is a queer home,” says artist and cultural worker Emulsify, the founder of Emulsify Design and the creative director of Arrebato, a community space for queer and trans Black and brown people, about the Brooklyn apartment they share with their wife and pets. For them, that means reflecting the ethos of community care and validation in everything from the art on the walls to the plants growing throughout the home. “I strive to make our home a safe space for all our queer and trans family to feel loved, seen, and cared for,” they say.
Scholar, activist, and artist Nereyda explains that a queer home space is about more than art that says “pride” on it. “Lighting, the usage of space, and different materials make a space queer — cozy, liberating, warm, tender, and sharp,” they say. “It is a radical act for trans people to claim space and home when we are so often systematically denied home/house — especially those of us who are trans people of color, and even more so for Black trans folk,” she says. “I disrupt cisnormative hegemony through my art and home.”
I talked with seven visual artists and members of trans communities about how queer and trans joy show up in their home decor. Every person I spoke with about their home design echoed similar sentiments — it might be our home, but community comes first when we think about setup and decor.
Nereyda creates “art for trans people, and more specifically transfeminine people, to feel seen.” They want their art to remind people “that we have the power to create the worlds we want through our imaginations.”
While they recently moved and doesn’t have all of her home space set up yet, Nereyda says that in the past, queerness in her home “has manifested in colorful lights that allow for the creation of different vibes, as well as items from my Peruvian culture, like a sun mirror, a wind chime, and other artifacts from Peruvian culture and heritage.”
Nereyda explains that cultivating a queer space and expressing pride in their home “means feeling comfort, breathing, resting, and feeling safe.” To do that, they focus on “caring for myself, cleaning my space, and decompressing, regarding my space as sacred.”
Being unabashedly yourself, she explains, can be a huge part of your home space and the art you surround yourself with. “I highly recommend the work of Travis Alabanza and Alok Vaid-Menon,” Nereyda says. “Both of them are trans femmes of color and some of my greatest inspirations. They have taught me freedom through poetry and writing, and empowered me to be.”
Arthit Chandransu — or PJ, as her friends call her — sells downloadable prints, clip art, and seamless patterns, as well as offering custom design orders. “My specialty is a hand-painted seamless repeat pattern,” she says. “Clients use my work for their wallpaper, upholstered furniture, packaging, stationery, invitations, and also fabrics for fashion.”
Her home in Bangkok includes her home studio and also a relaxation corner for prioritizing her health and refreshing her soul. “I am always a mix of feminine and masculine moods,” Chandransu says, “and it shows in my home decor and collectibles.” She spends most of her time in her studio, so she makes sure to host plenty of plants to keep her feeling both inspired and grounded. Botanical art is very important to her — “my works are basically always inspired by nature.”
Chandransu’s shelves are also full of collectibles and art supplies. “I love to travel,” she says, “which is why you see the large atlas frame on the wall.” In her relaxation corner, she features warm colors to create a soothing atmosphere. “Oak brown in combination with green and mustard yellow looks modern together with the white bookshelves.”
Art doesn’t have to explicitly be about being trans to be infused with transness, Chandransu says. “My transness shows in my art through the shapes and colors I always use,” she says. “I love organic shapes, curved lines that give a sense of movement, and bright colors. My works always convey a feminine feeling, but if you look closer you will see the geometric planning behind the pattern, which also gives a hint of masculinity.”
*Apartment Therapy reached out to confirm Chandransu’s pronouns and will update this article to reflect them.
Emulsify sells prints, stickers, pins, and other assorted goods that celebrate queer and trans joy and liberation. They live in an apartment in Brooklyn with their wife, cat, two dogs, turtle, and an abundance of plant friends. To bring a sense of togetherness into their home, they surround themself with love for both their inner children and adult selves.
“I love children’s books because they affirm and care for my inner child so much,” they say about the books they often have open on their earthy coffee table. Houseplants also “bring incredible energy into the space,” they explain. Sure enough, you can see plants everywhere you turn in their Brooklyn living room.
Emulsify also uses lots and lots of art to turn their walls into a space focused on queer joy, including plenty of framed portraits and paintings of queer people of color living and loving together. They also display older art from advocacy organization Act Up Philadelphia and a painting of a queer person captioned with the slogan “queer as in f*ck the police.” They also take the time to switch their art out every so often because “we have more art than we can fit on our walls.”
They get their prints from other trans and queer artists, they explain, “because I want to live in a world that respects everyone’s autonomy and happiness. Art is a tool that helps me imagine what this world would look like and create alternatives that affirm and uplift my community’s existence, joy, and power.”
Some of the trans artists whose work is in their home — and in the homes of their loved ones after they’ve commissioned pieces — are Ash + Chess, ggggrimes, and The Brooklyn Bruja. “I love the queer and trans BIPOC representation in a lot of this work, and I also love the fun bright colors these artists use,” they say. “Some of these artists also make political work and I find it super powerful.”
As an artist and apparel creator, Meg Emiko works to “create a safe space for folks to be their most authentic self in a society that tries so hard to fit everyone into a cookie-cutter shape.” They do this through the art they sell as well as through the way they decorate their living space — an apartment in California where they live with their partner and shar-pei/pit bull mix. They have dog toys sprinkled across the floor, along with houseplants, wall art, blankets, and warm lighting to make the space cozy.
Splashed on their walls are “all the bright and rainbow colors that make my space feel like me,” they say, noting the artistic reminders in their space that “good things are coming” and that there is joy to be found in “trans pride” and “trans power.” Since they live and work in the same space, their desk area plays a large role in their home decoration.
“My favorite part of my space is my rainbow and trans-colored keyboard, along with some beautiful art made by other queer artists [Hannah Simon and Ash + Chess] that remind me why I do what I do,” they say. “I also have a paw print on my desk from my dog, Nani, who recently passed away. She was my special work-from-home buddy who I miss very much.”
For Emiko, being able to finally deck their home space out in glorious queerness is an act of self-love. “Throughout my childhood, I spent most days trying to be like my friends, classmates, and peers in order to feel accepted by the rest of society,” they explain. Now, they feel safe cultivating a sense of affirmation and acceptance in their own apartment. “Being able to create a career and safe space for myself has been the best thing I’ve ever done because it’s allowed me to finally be my most authentic self without apologizing for it.”
Jade, who is also known as Nonbinary Baps, is an illustrator who largely draws digital images. Their shop features everything from earrings and badges to postcards and zines, all of which are “embedded with love for other queer and trans folks.” They say they want their art to reach out and say, “I see you; I made this for you.”
The artist, who lives in Suffolk, England, designed their space to celebrate community. “I think as trans folks, our homes and private spaces are sacred — places we build to welcome others into and heal together while keeping out those who cause us harm,” they say. “My little council house is a privilege I fought for but am very lucky to have, and every aspect from the kitchen to bedroom is set up to accommodate extra bodies if needed. I think this comes from knowing housing insecurity, as so many of us do, along with the feeling of not being wanted.” One in five trans people has experienced homelessness in the United States, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, and at least 24 percent of homeless youth in the U.K. are queer. That instability and that feeling, as Jade noted, can last a lifetime for many trans folks.
Jade’s favorite parts of their flat are their bedroom and kitchen, and they prioritized filling each room with meaningful furniture, much of which lived a previous life in other homes. “Furniture salvaged from the street and as hand-me-downs, every piece of crockery odd and gifted — these things hold the magic of the community around me, and people I’ve known and some we’ve lost,” they say, adding that food is also an important feature in their home. “Cooking for others is a way I can show up and support them,” they explain. “The cupboards are filled with spare stocked-up food, a lot of which has been given or shared or foraged by my loved ones. These ingredients are my personal wealth, a buffer in case I’m broke and a stock for others to explore when they cook in my kitchen.”
Their bedroom is another important feature. Beneath the strings of fairy lights dangled artfully from the simple wooden four-poster bed, Jade continues their home’s commitment to community. “Hidden beneath my mattress is another; kept alongside the couch are three air beds ready for sleeping friends to dream on,” they explain. “This bed for me is where I love my body and share it with others. I feel safest and the most unquestionably trans here.”
A painter and illustrator who creates and sells stickers, prints, buttons, and more, Emerson Forman’s work “often centers around queer and fat liberation, while chasing a sense of whimsy in dreamlike imagery.”
Forman currently lives in Pittsburgh with his partner’s family, and he says a space doesn’t have to be big to be bold and proud. “Our space isn’t the biggest, but it’s filled with color and things that express both of our interests, with a juxtaposition of cute characters, video game merch, and art pieces that we’ve collected while anticipating expanding it in the future. It’s filled with little trinkets and mementos, and feels eclectic and warm in a way that’s very comforting for us.”
As in his artwork, Forman celebrates queerness and transness in his home through trans flags and art that centers queer pride, and he takes care to display simple portraits of trans people by trans artists throughout the space. For him, it’s soothing and validating to see trans people represented by other trans artists as they are instead of how they are often sensationalized in the media.
The variety of Forman’s art collection underscores a crucial point: that pride doesn’t always have to be literally represented, he says. In his home decor as well as in the art he creates, he explains that “many identities are not always visible, [but] I’m always imagining queer identities for most of my characters.” In other words, his walls don’t have to be painted light pink, light blue, and white to be dripping with trans pride.
Still, Forman says it’s vital for him to be surrounded by “details and imagery of transness” in his home, in part to counteract transphobic depictions that are both harmful and still frustratingly common. “I absolutely believe transness to be an incredibly beautiful, natural, valuable, and at times even ethereal thing,” he says.
Some of Forman’s favorite trans artists include stoffberg, SamsonCeramic, TeddyPaints, and AdamBCreates. “All of their work has a tenderness and vulnerability that feels really warm to me,” he says. “This tenderness is actually something that feels very connected to queerness and pride for me. I love how softly many of them portray queerness, and all of their work is incredibly inspiring to me.”
Mars Wright is an artist dedicated to “helping people feel seen, loved, and less alone.” He does this by designing clothes, including the “Strong Men Cry” shirt that I wear entirely too often (yet somehow not nearly enough). “You have no idea what wearing an ‘I Love Queer People’ shirt can do for the people who pass by you,” he says.
Wright translates that energy into designing his home space, too. His Los Angeles studio apartment, which he shares with his tiny dog, features work by trans artists everywhere, from his bathroom mirror to his kitchen. “I try to exclusively buy other trans folks’ art for my home,” he says. “I also like to use my walls as a mini gallery of my own work and progress.” He determines which art goes where by thinking about the functionality and emotions that flow through his home each day.
“By my weights, I have my work that is most motivating and uplifting, like my ‘Strong Men Cry’ and ‘I will face the world fearless, proud, and strong’ print, and in my bathroom I have my ‘My dysphoria taught me how to be strong’ print with my actual body on it in case I get dysphoric and need the extra reminder,” he says.
“Above my bed I have one of my first ever designs and it says ‘Trans is Beautiful,’ because I want to wake up with the reminder that I am beautiful and I am grateful to be alive.”
Wright uses his space in a very intentional way. “One of my biggest dreams is to have my own gallery show,” he explains, “and my home is a manifestation of what that could be.”