“When people come over, they’re like, ‘Oh, you truly in plants,” laughs Christopher Griffin, houseplant expert, aka Coin Factory. They live in a colorful Brooklyn apartment with over 225 “green girls,” but because each plant is strategically located, the space feels more airy than cluttered. Here’s a peek inside…
In a sweet-smelling house: My apartment looks like a lush rainforest. When a plant blooms, my space fills with scent. Plants release moisture into the air, so after watering them, the humidity level in my apartment goes up. In fact, a friend recently said my flat felt clammy. And I was like, well, I love that.
About the origin story: When I was little, my grandmother introduced me to her love of gardening. I grew up on a family farm in Georgia, where they grew their own food. When I brought home my first houseplant – a Marble Queen pothos -Seven years ago, it felt so lovely to give her loving and tender care and watch her grow; And that relationship sparked this adventure.
On meaningful decor: Every plant is associated with a memory. I have some that I have collected on travels; Or maybe it was a beautiful day and I was like You know what, I’m going to get a plant that will keep the memory of this day for me. I wouldn’t describe bringing plants into my home as “decorating.” Instead, I think of it as writing a love letter to myself past, present, and future.
When accepting a family: My neon “love” sign is a constant reminder that my journey began with love. I exist the way I am because of my family – their love freed me to experience the way I wanted to appear in this world, knowing that no matter what, they would have my back. There is a poem by Maya Angelou called “Love liberates,” and I amended it to read it at my mother’s funeral in September 2020. I am who I am—and I will be who I will be—because of love.
At checkout: In addition to Coin Factory, I lead a varied job at a technology company. Since my job is remote, I try to get out every day, bike around Prospect Park or walk to the gym Brooklyn Promenade To watch the sunset.
On contemplative gardening: Every day, I need some time to be. So, I’ll put down my phone and laptop, and switch to my plants, like Let me see what happens with you. I like the term “meditative gardening” because meditation is all you need to do to feel present in your body. Sometimes my body won’t allow me to sit still, but I can garden.
About staying curious: There is no such thing as a “green thumb”. I don’t think there are intrinsic skills one needs to care for a plant – it just takes time and curiosity. The biggest piece of advice I give to people who want to start this plant journey is to do an environmental assessment of the space you intend to green. What is the average temperature and humidity level? What direction are your windows facing? How much sunlight gets in? Then you can see which plants will thrive there.
When shopping at the factory: When you get to your local plant store and a green girl catches your eye, ask one of the cool people who work there to see if you’ll be able to provide her with her optimal environment. Then find a pot at least two inches larger than the nursery pot. You’ll need room to grow, hell. She may also go through a period of stress as she gets used to her new home, so be patient with her.
About sharing tips: I wrote my book You are growing up girl!, to help make plant care accessible and enjoyable for people. It’s a fun, campy, and colorful window that comes alive with plants.
About lessons learned: It is important to give yourself grace. It killed a lot of plants and it was a process of taking notes and learning from those mistakes. As long as it’s not infested with pests, I compost it so it can be put back into the ground. If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again!
On self-care: Like plants, we need water, sunlight, nutrients, and space to grow. But you can’t always water yourself. I have a community of loved ones, including my co-parent and chosen one, and I’m learning that it’s okay to depend on them. I am in therapy and my therapist has space for me to explore my needs and desires. Finally, my green girls remind me to always keep growing.
In the morning sun: My apartment has five south facing windows and lots of direct natural light. It always gives me a little chuckle when people don’t know which direction their windows are facing. For me, sensing how sunlight enters space is quintessential. It’s not just for my plants, it’s important for my body, too. I love waking up with the morning light filtering in through the windows.
Pennant: Rayo and honey.
When creating a campus: I have a real and deep connection with this apartment. I am very intentional about what, and even who I invite into my home. As a black, queer, non-binary person, existing unapologetically in this world is a beautiful thing, but, unfortunately, it is also a very dangerous thing. When I walk out the door, I’m not sure how to picture it, especially knowing that over 450 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in US state legislatures, and most of those laws are anti-transgender legislation. And so, for me, my home should be a place where I can rest easy, rejuvenate, and participate in my healing. I had to make a sacred space to get home so I could return to the world the next day.
On family photos: This photo with mom, dad and me is literally my favorite photo. If there was a fire in my apartment, this is the first thing I would save.
In books that will change your life: Top of my book pile is It’s all about love By bell hooks I believe the world would be a much better place if people’s actions were rooted in love. But because of the time this book was written, it has become very sexist. As a non-binary person, I have to think about how I fit in. So, I’m taking my time with this. It is also a book to be read You for filth. When you’re like, damn it, maybe I I’m the problem, you know it’s a good book! I also recommend Audre Lorde’s Zami: A new spelling of my name. It’s about a person going through her life trying to figure out who she is and understanding that there are a lot of intersections to her identity. She tries to find a home only to realize that the home is inside herself.
Thank you so much for sharing your space with us, Christopher! we love you.
(photo Christine Hahn for a cup of joe.)
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