Home is a precious place, it is a sanctuary, and it is wherever you feel most at peace. Moving to New York early on, I knew it was that safe space for me to explore who I was. But over time, the weight of everyday life caught on and I needed to find a place that was an escape from my escape. Funny how that plays out?! It isn’t just the externalities of life that were getting to me, my needs personally were changing too. I no longer feel that constant pressure to “see and be seen”. I need the comfort of my bedroom just as much as I need a night out dancing with my gals.
Any New Yorker will tell you how much easier it is to find the job of your dreams in this city than your quest to find your perfect apartment. And if such a thing exists, I don’t think I am anywhere near the salary bracket for that yet. I sometimes think the real estate market in New York has become the benchmark to who makes the cut and who gets weeded out – which is so totally unfair. I still love living in Manhattan but with the way rents have hiked in the past few years, it is no wonder that all the cool kids and the people who made Manhattan what it was, have moved on to places like Brooklyn and Astoria. I feel like I’m seeing culture dying at the cost of capitalism and that makes me really sad.
But despite all that’s going on, I wanted to live in Manhattan, close to my friends. But after having paid my dues to Murray Hill (or Curry Hill as it is known to its locals), I knew it was time to finally move downtown and experience a different way of life. I gave up the comforts of a doorman/elevator building and set out to look for a neighborhood that fit my life but still held its essence. I was lucky to find my abode in Chinatown. But before I get too carried away, let me tell you, it’s not always pretty.
I’ll start with the have-not’s, so we can talk more about the haves later.
There are no grocery stores, the building is a walk up (hello stiletto loving me) and falling apart at its seams, it definitely smells of fish a lot and the neighborhood definitely could use a lesson or two in what is deemed “hygienic”.
But that’s where the bad ends – because if it weren’t for all the aforementioned, I probably would not even be able to afford it on a single persons salary. My building is half Chinese and half filled with young working professionals from all over, like me. The man who is my neighbor is a frail Chinese guy who doesn’t speak a word of english. But without fail, he is there smoking a cigarette when I get home every evening and he gives me a million watt smile that lights up his face and certainly makes coming home for me a wonderful joy. Chinatown has taught me to look past appearances (which is something I am usually pretty judgmental about) and to see what lies beneath it all. All my favorite spots in the city are now a 10 minute walk from my apartment. There are 20+ galleries that constantly update their work to showcase new talent – I get to experience this anytime I want. There are a lot of local boutiques selling exceptionally made – leather, jewelry, hats and clothes. It made a huge difference to me knowing the neighborhood that I went home to everyday, really fit who I was.
I chose to decorate this apartment like an adult because it really is my first adult space. I wanted to bring a change in my life – I wanted to entertain at home more than wanting to go to a new restaurant every time I saw my friends. I wanted to be surrounded by good design and art. I wanted it to have drama and represent my tastes. So I built an abode that is just that.
It is filled with accoutrements from all my travels and many gifts from friends – I love knowing that the things I look at everyday have a special story behind them. I also attempted my first DIY’s. I have a motto – go big or go home. And so I ended up DIY’ing a bookcase, a dresser and a mirror to fit both my aesthetic and my budget. A lot of the furniture I found online and vintage stores and there were certain elementary things that I found at Ikea.
People are always taken aback when they walk into my apartment – because it is just not what they expect as they walk into the building. And I love nothing more than a good element of surprise 😉