Sacred Spaces: Plant Expert Christopher Griffin’s Brooklyn Apartment Is Its Own Botanical Garden

Elianel Clinton

This story originally appears in ESSENCE’s March/April 2024 print issue.

Christopher Griffin is a self-described Plant Kween: a Black, queer, nonbinary person living their truth and adoring their plants—one pot, stem and leaf at a time. Petite in stature but bright and bold in style, Griffin, 35, is a source of light, inspiration and education for their 476,000 Instagram followers.

Their platform, Plant Kween, is a treasure trove for propagation tutorials, nature tours and celebrity interviews—but it’s the reaffirming video vignettes, delivered in vintage gowns and patterned two-piece sets, that establish holistic wellness as ­Griffin’s true calling. Not just fashion; or just plants. Horticulture and couture are connected byproducts of a lifestyle, rooted in rituals and wisdom, passed down from the matriarchs in Griffin’s bloodline. Their late mother, Katrina Griffin, was the Flower Queen; and her mother, Andrell Griffin, was the OG Plant Queen. Griffin didn’t stumble into this space by accident. Caring for plants and honoring their relationship with nature is ancestral.

Sacred Spaces: Plant Expert Christopher Griffin’s Brooklyn Apartment Is Its Own Botanical Garden
Elianel Clinton

“We’re basically houseplants with complex emotions,” they tell me, on a call from their cozy abode in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. Griffin has just returned from a weekend getaway to Storm King Art Center, an open-air garden museum in upstate New York that features the largest collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the country. “Immersing yourself in beautiful living things is therapeutic,” they continue. “There’s a lot we can learn from connecting with nature.”

When Griffin was a child, their grandmother Andrell—a certified nursing assistant raised on a farm in rural Georgia—introduced the curious youngster to lush green spaces across Philadelphia, the city where they were born and raised. “I was so immersed and fully present,” they recall of the gardens, planetariums, parks and greenhouses they visited with the OG Plant Queen. “She just let my imagination wander.” 

When Griffin moved into their first sunny Brooklyn apartment back in 2016, their plant journey officially began. With a struggling Marble Queen Pothos and an earnest interest in how to care for and ultimately restore it, the nature nerd and author of You Grow, Gurl! Plant Kween’s Lush Guide to Growing Your Garden began documenting their experience and sharing it with the world.   

“What we do for our plants is also inherently good for our own bodies,” they say. “I talk to my plants, especially when they’re growing. It’s kind of like a mirror. I’ve also learned, through this journey of taking care of plants, that my body reacts to sunlight in a very positive way. I knew that with habits and behaviors I wanted to practice, I needed a nest that had a lot of sunlight.” So they moved to an even sunnier 700-square-foot space, with five south-facing windows and a room dedicated specifically to plants.

Sacred Spaces: Plant Expert Christopher Griffin’s Brooklyn Apartment Is Its Own Botanical Garden
Elianel Clinton

Inside the narrow nook, terracotta pots are artfully arranged and stacked on shelves against the walls, along the radiator and even on the windowsill. A mauve Moroccan runner from Ruggable brings warmth to the area, while a quirky stool from Ayva & Avery captures the essence of Griffin’s personality. Interlacing stems descend from the ceiling, cascading and flowing the way they would in their natural environment. 

Griffin skillfully uses plants as decor, always placing the organisms’ needs before the outcome they’re trying to achieve aesthetically. “The trick is to get them to think that they’re living in a lush little jungle where the temperature and humidity is always the same,” they advise. “When folks bring nature into their home, I encourage them to lean into curiosity. There needs to be a willingness to learn, not only about the care of the plant but also where it came from and how it came to be a little houseplant in your space.” 

At first, when designing their apartment, Griffin’s focus was solely on the plants. The goal was to be a maximalist when it came to curating nature indoors and a minimalist with furniture, art and traditional decor. But that intention has changed. “Oh. My. Goodness,” they belt out in a theatrical tone, when queried about their current approach to creating a self-reflective space. “I think I’m in a place where I’m finally allowing my aesthetic to grow and evolve. I’m a dramatic Kween. I just want maximalist everything.”

Sacred Spaces: Plant Expert Christopher Griffin’s Brooklyn Apartment Is Its Own Botanical Garden
Elianel Clinton

Elevated ebullience explodes in their bedroom. Gradient polka-dot wallpaper accents the canvas behind their bed, but it’s a tasseled, jewel-toned vintage fan that steals the show on that wall. A brighter shade of blue colors the surrounding walls. Thrifted blue and orange nightstands, a round area rug from Ikea and knotted sheer curtains from Target contribute to the overall cheerfulness of the space. “I had the opportunity to create a room inspired by Christopher John Rogers’s fashion sense,” Griffin says. “He’s one of my favorite Black, queer designers.” 

Overall, Griffin is in a place where they are trying to be more playful with colors—while matching their love of prints, patterns, silhouettes and shapes with their design approach. “Nothing is here for show. Everything has purpose and a story,” they say. “That’s the evolution I’m going through right now. I want to translate my love for fashion, nature, vintage, thrifting and Black people into home. And I think it’s something that’s really beautiful and profound.”

Plant Kween’s Home Edit

The Snake Plant

(aka Dracaena Trifasciata) 

“While these kweens can be quite adaptable to a myriad of lighting situations, I find that they thrive in bright, ambient light with some direct sun. You do not have to water this plant often: every two weeks in the warmer months and every three to four weeks during the colder months.” 

The Pothos

(aka Epipremnum Aureum) 

“The pothos ivy is a tropical kween that is near and dear to my heart. These climbing vines enjoy bright, ambient light but can survive in lower light conditions as well. Watering this plant is pretty easy: once a week during warmer months and every two weeks in colder months.”

Sacred Spaces: Plant Expert Christopher Griffin’s Brooklyn Apartment Is Its Own Botanical Garden
Elianel Clinton

The ZZ Plant

(aka Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) 

“These rhizomes store water, which is why they do well during droughts and in the houses of plant parents on the go, who occasionally forget to water their green gurl.”

Giant Vintage Wall Fan

“I live for the dramatic, and what’s more dramatic than an oversize vintage fan?” 

Wall Art + Paintings

“Most of the artwork on my walls is from a local Brooklyn vintage shop that I frequent. Thrifting is a sustainable way to give art, furniture and clothing a second life.”

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