W&D Studio Apartment Society: Ra’eesa Motala’s Enlightening Space

Interiors & Decor

Studio Apartment Tour | Wit & Delight
All photos by Laura Rae at Laura Rae Photography

We are the women who live in tiny apartments. We are the women stretching out on our beds alone. Our laundry and our empty bottles of La Croix and scribbled notebooks, our own. We are the women that cry in our pajamas late into the night. We are the women that feel the strongest we’ve ever felt, cooking a roast in our kitchens listening to Solange, growing well into the seasons of our lives. We are the studio apartment society. The big-hearted variety.

A talented friend of mine, Laura Rae, and I are venturing on a little journey to share the story of these quaint apartments and the women living in them—here on Wit & Delight. She’ll capture the visuals and I’ll try the best I can to tell their stories. Studio Apartment Society will follow the stories of the things they keep, the spaces they tend, and the people they love. Out on their own in the world.

Come on in! Ra’eesa is baking fresh cookies and banana bread by the skillet. 


Ra’eesa is putting together a roadie sandwich for her boyfriend when we arrive, spinach and roast beef and a delightful vegetable medley with sourdough bread. “I promise, this will only take five minutes. He was supposed to leave at 2:30 p.m. today.” She expertly wraps it in parchment paper, talking to us and laughing as she hustles around the kitchen island. Although working from home, she’s dressed for a Friday afternoon at the office. I admire her dedication to the most simple gestures, putting 100% into the sandwich, the moment, and welcoming us into her home—all at once.

Sun bathes the white room. Giant windows, scaling the wall to the floor, open up the apartment. Everything instantly feels right in its place. The first thing I notice is a pristine put together photo wall, peppered with moments that have intention: a watercolor painting of her apartment, travel quotes, and photos of family. Her space is so sincerely intentional. Everything has a spot. From the throw pillows to the bookshelves to the minimal items on her kitchen counter, she is calculated in a gorgeous way. (Writer’s Note: don’t even get me started on the impeccably organized shoes in her closet). “People are always like, ‘thanks so much for cleaning your space for us’ when they come,” she laughs. “But I’m like, ‘Haha, it always looks like this.’”

The windows look out to the grandiose hustle. Bars, gyms, a grocery store, restaurants, and a busy highway thread its way along the horizon. Up on the sixth floor, you can really see everything. “When I moved in [six years ago] it was so cool here, the bars and the energy. Now, I’m an old lady and if there’s too much noise, I’m like ‘I’m just trying to be in bed by 10:30 you guys!’”

Sun bathes the white room. Giant windows, scaling the wall to the floor, open up the apartment. Everything instantly feels right in its place.

Everything is blissfully functional and contemporary. Under the photo wall is a desk, decorated symmetrically, with a yoga ball as a chair. “This is my office now and it makes me nuts,” Ra’eesa explains, laughing.

Three shelves, matching her gorgeous natural wood coffee table, house books like Atlas Obscura, The Ideas That Changed the World, You Are a Badass, a translated version of The Arabian Nights, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and Rupi Kaur’s poetry collection. The shelves have three themes: meaning, fantasy and success. I love bookshelves, because they highlight so much about what a person values. It’s clear that Ra’eesa is passionate about her heritage, cultures around the world, and how to have a positive, professional impact in the world. Also accompanied by books are impressive personal awards like a “Next Generation” glass trophy and a “Humanitarian” award. 

I’m so oddly intrigued by how people “design” their refrigerators. Ra’eesa has decorated hers with over fifty magnets from trips: Utah, Colorado, Montana, Canada, Boston, Chamonix, London, Seattle, Italy, Portugal, Detroit, Mexico, and more. They’re colorful and strategically placed, making the collage incredibly satisfying to browse. I ask her the favorite place she’s traveled.

“South Africa?” she asks herself out loud. “Honestly, I’m from there so I don’t think it counts. Probably Morocco or Iceland. I’m kind of obsessed with Iceland a lil’ bit. Sweden was really great.” She ponders for a moment. “It sounds so cliché but the culture, the food, the people, the lifestyles they live…it’s so new to you and different. These countries we are going to aren’t like here. We have this hustle culture. They take naps in Barcelona during the day! Barcelona is probably one of my favorite cities in Europe.” 

She sits down on her couch and notes it feels weird to simply sit there, without a laptop or the T.V. on, proving her daily hustle matches what’s outside her window. She’s always moving—and good at it. She tells us she just finished “The Floor is Lava” on Netflix and watched it on mute so she could make up her own conversations between contestants. “Because, that’s how bored I’ve been.”

She looks out the window briefly. “The hustle culture is very much good or bad,” she notes. “But other cultures have found a way to incorporate both in a way that’s seamless. They enjoy going to work because they don’t feel like it’s their end-all in life.”

I regret not asking how her work feels for perspective but it’s obvious she is proud and well-deserving of her success. One of the most poignant things about her space is how deeply she connects other cultures to her own orbit in the meantime. The magnets on the refrigerator, an intricately carved map of the world in her bedroom, travel quotes and valuables from trips—all seamless additions to define her place with purpose.

She tells us how she loves observing how people treat work in other countries from the streets when she travels. They stop for croissants and espresso, for example, slowly breezing their way to work as late as 9:30. “Their lifestyle is more important to them…what they do for themselves and family.” 

Her lifestyle is important to her, too. The way she organizes her things, pays respect to cleanliness, and showcases what matters most to her are all clear, top-minded notes throughout. She keeps what she values about the world close to her (figurative) hearth and (literal) heart, each spot dedicated to a specific item filled with a lesson from another culture.

A gorgeous, dark wooden set of coasters, for example, sits on her coffee table. On it, carefully carved with the “big five” in South Africa, represents safari royalty: the rhino, leopard, elephant, lion, and cape buffalo. “I bought those in Cape Town from a woman whose son carves them. In South Africa, the Zulu tribe set up their shops on busy roads. They’re like bazaars. They make beaded earrings and all sorts of things by hand. That’s one part of shopping I will never negotiate. No one needs to be patted on the back for that but you’re supporting hand craftsmanship and a family-owned business.”

Ra’eesa’s space is delightfully sophisticated with an organized comfort. . . . . This is where she started her career, as a leasing agent after medical school. It’s where she filled memories and stories of the world and woke up many mornings to a busy city beneath her feet.

Ra’eesa’s space is delightfully sophisticated with an organized comfort. It’s contemporary, bright, and filled expertly with traveling tales. She fills it with pride, knowing that someday, her first “big girl home” will be long missed. This is where she started her career, as a leasing agent after medical school. It’s where she filled memories and stories of the world and woke up many mornings to a busy city beneath her feet.

Last, but not least, Ra’eesa only has the time for two finicky plants in the apartment: Bob and Dick, a stringy pair of cacti. “I named them Bob and Dick because they’re the names of the most quintessential men who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. I’m like ‘if you two plants were humans you would be two guys because you do whatever the f*ck you want.’” 

This made us laugh. A home isn’t a home without two plants with a complex, after all.

BY Brittany Chaffee - July 22, 2020

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