Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone

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Sacred Spaces: Inside 'Evil' Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef's Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone

Marisa Langley

This story is featured in the January/February 2024 issue of ESSENCE.

The Black home holds a significant place in our history. At the core of this space is our individual identity of Blackness. It’s our interpretation of Black culture—whatever that means for us and for our families.

For many, the experience of growing up in a Black home includes glittering memories of Black art. Black ephemera. Black people in the community, carrying generational traditions forward. Black holidays. Black spirituality. Black lectures given by militant Black parents and grandparents—reminding us that in America, our Blackness is both a gift and a curse.

Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone
Marisa Langley

Even with a housing system predicated on systemic racism, and Black homeownership rates in 2023 lagging way behind Asian, Hispanic and White Americans, the Black home—owned, borrowed or rented—is a sacred space. Black families have a deep and very personal relationship with an environment that ideally provides comfort and nourishment.

Brooklyn-based screenwriter Nialla LeBouef knows the importance of curating your home to offer that sense of tranquility. After living in an ornate 19th century–style Victorian home in Ditmas Park, she fell in love with her present abode, a sunlit walk-up in a brownstone across the borough. Just seeing a photo of the space in 2019, she knew it had immense potential. “The bedroom has this beautiful crown molding,” she says of the spacious sanctuary where she feels safe, warm and, most important, at peace.

The focal piece in the room is a green four-poster bed that she found on Craigslist, her playground for off-kilter furniture and home decor. LeBouef doesn’t believe in placeholder furniture, so if she decides to buy new, she must be sure she’s purchasing pieces she loves. “I’m in a space now where I’m able to just sit, and think,” she says, “and take the time to figure out what I like.”  

Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone
Marisa Langley

There’s floral wallpaper. Shelves stacked with books. An antique blush couch with a framed, painted bouquet placed directly above it. But the star of the space is her theatrical release Daughters of the Dust poster—a gift from her father, a former actor and cinephile who introduced his prodigy to ­cinema when they were young. “I didn’t get money, but I got really incredible Black movie memorabilia,” she jokes.

“I had a formative cinematic upbringing,”LeBouef continues, reflecting on her childhood in Washington, D.C. “When my dad wasn’t working, he was giving me what he called his version of film school. Movie nights consisted of dramas and historical epics, Japanese cinema and films from various countries in Africa. I got to meet Kasi Lemmons, the director of Eve’s Bayou, one of my all-time favorite films. She even signed my VHS copy.”

LeBouef purposely positioned the poster for the Julie Dash film adjacent to her desk. “I can sit and write and look up at the movie’s lead actress, Cora Lee Day,” she says. “She looks vulnerable but also extremely powerful. It’s inspiring.”

Inspiration is a key ingredient of LeBouef’s quirky aesthetic. She credits her work on the Paramount+ original series and supernatural thriller Evil with giving her the means and flexibility to finally design a space that feels like home.

Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone
Marisa Langley

“For me, home is not where you grew up or where you spent the most time,” she says. “It’s truly wherever you feel comfortable enough to nest. I don’t need to see myself and my Blackness in everything, but I do want to see everything I like.”  

LeBouef references a framed drawing of a crying girl hanging in her living room, sketched by a Black artist known for body-horror art. Horror is her favorite genre. Ironically, it’s the sole category of cinema that her parents prohibited her from watching when she was growing up. 

“I’m a very sensitive person, so naturally I was drawn to this piece,” she says of the artwork. “In therapy I learned that I am a crier, and that’s okay. For a long time, I lived my life being told how to think, how to feel and what to be interested in—to the point where I’m now realizing that I have created small rebellions for myself by sticking with my interests. And that feels so incredible.”  

In the living room, there’s a decorative fireplace and rows of wooden and metal string shelves, an investment LeBouef stares at every day. “They make me so happy,” she says of the Scandinavian storage system she learned about on Pinterest. Custom-made, life-size angel wings soar on the wall, draped by a felt banner from 1948 with “Washington, D.C.” on it: “When I look at it, it reminds me that I’m an angel from D.C.”

Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone
Marisa Langley

LeBouef jokingly calls this section of her home Trust Fund French. “When curating this space, I was really inspired by the interiors of French apartments,” she explains. “The beautiful, super-decorated, very elaborate designs you look at and think, I know you have money, and your family has money too. I don’t have a trust fund, but I’m going to pretend like I do.”  

A lover of vintage gems, from a powder blue leather Ikea couch made in the eighties to a massive poster for the 1967 drama Belle de Jour, LeBouef is intentional about filling her space with things that give it the look and feel she desires.

“Stand up in what you like,” she advises. “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s outdated or nobody’s going to appreciate it. Experiment with your space, and don’t be afraid to really lean into your interests. Sit with yourself, look at all your resources and make sure you show up everywhere. You’ll feel so much better when you don’t play by someone else’s rules.”

Nialla’s Home Edit

Vintage Iron Four-Poster Bed “I’ve dreamed of an antique, cast-iron four-poster bed since I found out what they were. Perhaps it’s my insistent need for fantasy. These beds just scream it.” (One modern version is the Frame Black Iron Canopy Bed, $700,

Design Within Reach String Wall Shelving “Customizable, easy to assemble and really unique, these shelves were one of my first big purchases. They completely transformed my living room.”($555,

Sacred Spaces: Inside ‘Evil’ Screenwriter Nialla LeBouef’s Home In A Brooklyn Brownstone
Marisa Langley

Mociun Beer Spill “I love fake food as decor. It’s a fun fake-out for friends who visit me. The little pool of resin reminds me of hot college nights.” ($35,

Navet Clamp Tray “This versatile tray is great for displaying any item. Ever since I clamped it to my Ikea stool by the window, my plant has flourished.” (about $97,

Photography by Marisa Langley

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