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In Bed-Stuy, a Fashion Editor Finds Balance Between the Old and New

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Rajni Jacques at her two-bedroom home in Bed-Stuy. All photos by Max Touhey for Curbed

For Rajni Jacques, moving to Bedford-Stuyvesant was a homecoming of sorts. When she was younger, one of the first movies that had a big impact on her life was Spike Lee's seminal film, Do the Right Thing, about simmering racial tension in the neighborhood in the late 1980s. The film left an indelible mark on Jacques, and right from that first viewing, she knew Bed-Stuy was the place she wanted to be. Now a painting depicting Mookie hangs above her dining table at her two-bedroom apartment on Bainbridge Street, where she has lived along with her husband for the past two years. "I wanted to live somewhere that had a high black population, and that celebrated black culture," Jacques told Curbed. "Bed-Stuy has always been that way for me—I always wanted to live here or be connected to here in some way."

Prior to moving to Bed-Stuy, Jacques (who works as the fashion editor-at-large for Racked) and her husband, David Dowd, lived in a Victorian home in Montclair, New Jersey. But after five years there, Jacques knew she wanted to move back to the city. After graduating college, she had lived in Crown Heights and Sunset Park, so she knew it had to be Brooklyn, but this time she was also certain it had to be Bed-Stuy. Spike Lee helped, but even more than that, Jacques had fond memories of visiting her cousins and family in the neighborhood as a kid, and she wanted to be somewhere that had a strong sense of community.

Jacques had originally come to look at an apartment across the street, and only stumbled upon the building, a new construction, as she was leaving. Living in a Victorian home had left her craving something modern, and she also didn't want a home where she had to spend hours on end painting every wall and nook to her taste. The white walls and abundance of light instantly called out to her. "With this apartment there is just so much light that everything just seems brighter," she said.

Jacques makes the minimalist space come to life with some of her greatest passions: artwork and photography. Jacques has painted many of artworks that hang on her wall, and her impeccable taste highlights even the smallest corners of her home, whether it's the soulful black and white images in her study, or the glass vases by her bed or the stack of books—works on fashion and art insiders Isabel Toledo, Steve McQueen, and Anna Sui—placed on a long wooden bench by the entrance.

Even the furniture has a stripped-down yet rustic feeling. The dining table is a combination of two Ikea tables that Jacques purchased several years apart, and that her husband fitted together. The white couches in the living room, also from Ikea, are so old that Jacques has a hard time finding replacement covers, as the old ones begin to tear. But that only adds to the apartment's charm; every piece of furniture here tells a story. An eye-catching goldframe was picked out by her mother several years ago from a flea market. A set of stackable futuristic chairs were created by her husband as a birthday gift.


A frame that Jacques' mother picked out a flea market.

For the past two years, what's made her home even more special is the sense of community. "Your neighbors always say hello," she says, noting that her neighbors say "Hey, fashion" when they come across her on the street. She fondly recalled another neighbor who DJs for the block every summer afternoon. And she enjoys the block parties and the barbecues that bring everyone on the street together. And even though Bed-Stuy has changed drastically even in the short time she's lived there, Jacques notes that a growing number of new business owners are catering to the needs of longtime residents. She likes the balance between the old and the new in Bed-Stuy.

"There are parts of this neighborhood that are more rugged, but that's what I like about it," Jacques says. "Because it still has the people who were here when Bed-Stuy wasn't trendy. If I have children, I want them to be in a space where the neighborhood looks out for you and people know your name."


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