On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I visited Isom Johnson’s two-bedroom home in the Crown Heights district in Brooklyn, which she shares with her husband, actor Ryan Johnson, and their blind Lhasa apso, Paco. The trio occupies the first floor of a limestone row house that’s as simple and unassuming as the steel-colored leggings the hostess slipped on for our chat.
Enter the home of many young women these days, and one dull story unfolds: She shopped at
“These are very special to me,” she says of the Jonathan Adler metallic coasters that were a gift from Simon Doonan, a creative ambassador for Barneys New York and her fellow reality show judge. In her best British accent, she playfully recalls his presentation: “Darling, I think these are perfect for you.”
Some non-native New Yorkers scrub their apartments of any trace of life before the Big Apple. Not Isom Johnson: She grew up in Louisa County, Virginia, “making mud pies and dandelion necklaces,” as she puts it. Those rural roots shine through scores of family photos, framed artwork painted by her 10-year-old nephew, and other decorative mementos.
“These are original recipes written by my great aunt,” she says, pausing near framed instructions for corn muffins and other Southern fare in the galley kitchen. “I love to have that close.” She adds later, “My family foundation and the values they taught me remain intact, and are what make me who I am today.”
“Ryan and I are super spiritual, so we always like to have
Isom Johnson tucks reminders of her personal icon, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, into nearly every nook—a sepia-toned portrait in the dining room, a quote etched into a small bench in the living room.
“I love to have a little piece of Frida everywhere I go, because she is such a great [source of] strength to me,” she says. “In my eyes, she represents perseverance, confidence, and she was unapologetic. All of these traits are things I hope to embody and channel within my own life.”
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