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In Jeremiah Brent’s new book, The Space That Keeps You, the designer profiles the homes of his nearest and dearest, including Oprah Winfrey. (What a flex.) “This isn’t supposed to be a pretty design book,” Brent writes in the book’s introduction. “It’s an emotional design book.” In each chapter, he asks homeowners to describe the space that has kept them, or in other words: What makes a house feel like a home that you never want to leave? 

In one of the final chapters, the designer writes about Fatima Robinson, a dancer and choreographer who’s worked with Michael and Janet Jackson, Pharrell Williams, and even the Backstreet Boys on their iconic “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” video. (You know you know the choreo.) Here, Brent writes about how Robinson found her spiritual home—and literal one, too—in Ojai, California.

The space that kept Fatima and her son for so many years was a Spanish-style home [she called Château Normandy] that was full of color—4,600 square feet of art and memories. It was a home full of parties and visitors, one she always cared for and tended. As she recalled, “I redecorated three times over.”

When her son went away to college, she felt like she didn’t have a purpose anymore. After talking to a life coach, she realized that this next phase of life offered her room to live a little more for herself.

 “What do I want to do, and how do I want to do that?” she asked. She found inspiration when she was at the yurt she kept in the Santa Monica mountains, her “secret space,” where she had a copper bathtub and the backdrop of nature. The whole place was a natural, out-of-the-city experience, one she shared with her then-boyfriend, Thomas. 

Fatima has always been a girl who loves plants and flowers, and she was able to imagine herself living a much more peaceful, wonderful existence in the garden, hands in the dirt. Reaching out for something in nature was a path to understanding how she wanted to live the next half of her life. 

Ojai, California, called to her. “You need to be here,” something in her said. “You need to be in nature.” 

There was a house online in that area that seemed promising, but the photos were terrible. She went up to see it anyway and discovered a house like a blank canvas, waiting for her to fill it with herself. All it took was that one viewing to inspire her to buy it.

Early on, when she was in escrow, she would drive up from Los Angeles and have conversations with herself about what she was doing. “You know,” she would tell herself, “you and Thomas probably aren’t gonna stay together, so you’re gonna have to be able to live out here by yourself. Are you okay to live out here, all the way out here by yourself?” 

As she crossed into Ojai, when she got into the valley, came around, and went through the hills, the answer was screaming at her. “Yes. You’re gonna be fine.” 

A few months after she moved in, the pandemic happened. For her, it was like the universe had plucked her out of the city and put her here. It was the time of year when the orange trees blossom, and the smell in this small city was intoxicating. She was so happy that she had listened to the call and come to Ojai. 

Living in this peace, she became comfortable with being quiet and alone. Even making tea became a meditation for her. She began to really appreciate the stars and the moon. It’s because she let go of the noise of the city that she feels her career is exploding in the best of ways.

“This place is something so special,” said Fatima, talking about how magnificent it all is when the moon is full. “I have dance parties by myself. I make these playlists, and then I’ll light my candles in my fireplace. Completely all alone, and you would think I was just in a nightclub, smiling and laughing and just in love with life.”

All she wanted was to go home, and now she has.

The house in Ojai already felt like a piece of her when she moved in—she just had to add some personality. She kept her art from Château Normandy, much of which she’s had for 20 years. Hung on these big white walls in her Ojai house, the pieces have become unrecognizable. Her friends ask, “When’d you get that?” about things she’s always had. In the old house, it was around so much color that it just blended in. In this home, all her art looks different. She can appreciate it in a different way. 

Fatima is right where she wants to be. There’s something magical about this valley for her, and she is softer here. “I think I have more patience,” she said. “I’ve reprogrammed. I’m not on the same frequency. The city, you’re just in it. You don’t realize how much you’re in it until you step away into a place like that. It’s a frequency shift and change that I needed in life.” 

She bought a greenhouse for the backyard, and she’s been teaching herself how to landscape, making some mistakes, and buying big old olive trees as she figures it out and learns about plants. She has planted a pear tree, a pomegranate tree, a fig tree, and a plum tree; persimmon and apricot trees were already there. 

Fatima has been watching all the trees start coming into bloom. She is blooming with them.

Cover of Jeremiah Brent's The Space That Keeps You
“The Space That Keeps You” by Jeremiah Brent, Amazon ($40)

From The Space That Keeps You by Jeremiah Brent. Text copyright © 2023 by Jeremiah Brent. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.