Peeking into the Brooklyn apartment.

Even though we’ve been renting it for the better part of seven months already (!!!), I’ve been extremely slack about sharing photos of the Brooklyn apartment. I’m not sure why, exactly. I definitely don’t have the same attachment to my apartment as I do my house, obviously, but in truth I don’t even feel half the affection for it as I did the last apartment we rented in Manhattan. I really loved that place.

I do like DUMBO, and of course I’ll always love Brooklyn, and there’s no question that I feel extremely fortunate to have even one place to live, let alone two. I guess the disconnect comes from the fact that this apartment doesn’t NEED me.

Going all the way back to the very first apartment I rented (Yonkers, 1995) and through all the ones I’ve rented since (White Plains, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Beacon and Manhattan—I’ve moved a lot!), I’ve consistently been in places that are both old and run-down around the gills. They’ve all needed me to make them better. I’ve done extensive renovation work in some of these apartments, investing myself not so much financially as emotionally—and that’s really how you become connected to a place. That’s how it goes from being just a place to live to being a true home. Every apartment I’ve lived in has been in better condition when I left it than when I arrived, and that makes me feel good.

You know, for all of my perfectionist tendencies, I actually adore imperfection. Imperfection is a sign of hope that things will improve. Imperfection is full of promise. Imperfection makes that which is beautiful look even more so by comparison.

This new apartment, though…it doesn’t really need anything. There are no real imperfections. The walls are white, the floor is pale oak in perfect condition, the kitchen is well-designed—it’s fine. All of it is just fine. There’s nothing for me to do here except arrange my stuff, and where’s the fun in that? This apartment doesn’t need me, and it will inevitably look worse when we eventually leave, not better. Even though it’s in a late-1800s building, the entire thing was gut-renovated less than a year before we moved in. And so: Track lighting, sprinklers, pre-finished MDF moldings, veneered doors, built-in AC, and so on. Our lease is an inch thick, and we can’t change anything. (There’s even dishwasher. I have a dishwasher?! What?)

It’s weird, being in this new, fancy apartment in a bizarrely fancy part of Brooklyn. I’m trying to love it. Part of me feels a lot like when I go into Saks to buy a lipstick, though—like I don’t belong, like I’m a kid trying to pass myself off as a grown-up, and I like I’m just too sloppy and, well, run-down around the gills to pull it off and fit in.

Anyway, I think I like this little spot in the apartment. It’s starting to feel right. I love the neon sofa legs, and I finally bought some decent pillows. It’s getting there. I’m getting there.

42 comments
  1. Anna @ D16Sep 19, 20121:10 am

    p.s. I want to address this even though it’s come up before: Yes, that’s a real sheepskin on the back of the sofa, and yes, that’s a wool rug. While I do have a vegan diet, I’d be lying if I said the rest of my life is in strict adherence with veganism. I’ve kept the things that pre-date my dietary changes, and they don’t bother me to have around. Going forward, my goal is (as always) to only buy things I plan to have for many, many years—whether it’s a rug or a pair of shoes or a trash can. Life is by definition a work in progress, and we live by the individual choices we make every day. That’s all.

    [Reply]

    willow /

    Hey Anna I’m interested that you addressed this because when you posted about that amazing BB concealer I wanted to ask you about how you felt about cosmetics etc in relation to your veganism but thought it might come across as snark: not my intention! I’m not vegan — just vegetarian — and recently realised/found out that my MAC make up is now apparently tested on animals, when I always thought it was okay. I think it used to be okay? Anyway, when you posted about BB I went immediately to check it out because I’ve been looking for a good one, but apparently the parent company is one that is now using this “except when required by law” caveat which apparently is all the time due to China’s legal requirements. Do you know much about this? I’m trying to find out more but I’ve really only got the information available via Peta or the really evasive company websites themselves — I don’t know whether that is just when it is produced for the Chinese market, or just when/if it is produced in China. And now it’s feeling like a “the more you know, the less you wish you knew” kind of situation, which is exactly the kind of denial mindset I was trying to avoid when I became a vegetarian! I completely respect that these are individual choices and I’m definitely not meaning to imply anything about your choices, I’m just looking for advice I guess and wondered if you had any insight that might help inform my decision… Thanks

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Willow, yeah, I’ve pretty much gone through all of the same thought cycles as you on this issue! MAC and Bobbi Brown are actually both made by the same company (Estee Lauder), and for years and years they were free from animal testing. In fact, according to their (evasive) websites, they still are.

    Does your company test on animals?

    No. Bobbi Brown is committed to the elimination of animal testing. We are equally committed to consumer health and safety, and bringing to market products that comply with applicable regulations in every country in which our products are sold.

    We do not conduct animal testing on our products or ingredients, nor ask others to test on our behalf, except when required by law. We evaluate our finished products in clinical tests on volunteer panels.

    Bobbi Brown fully supports the development and global acceptance of non-animal testing alternatives. To this end, the Company works extensively with the industry at large and the global scientific community to research and fund these alternatives.

    HOWEVER…there is the China issue. I actually had no idea about this until Urban Decay (another favorite brand of mine) was criticized for making the decision to sell in China—a decision they’ve since changed their minds about. If I’m to believe Urban Decay (and I have no reason not to, especially now that they’ve withdrawn from that market), the deal is that cosmetics companies who want to sell products in China have no choice but to agree to allow their products to be tested on animals in that market by a third party. In other words, the testing would occur in China and in Chinese laboratories, regardless of where the product was manufactured and packaged.

    I don’t know how I feel about this, honestly. It’s not that I don’t think about it or don’t want to know, but I’m forever trying to figure out where I draw the line. I wish I could give you some guidance or tell you why I think it’s OK or not OK, but the truth is I’m just as conflicted and unsure as you are. The amount of goods being shipped to and from China is ever-increasing, and it’s very hard to even know where COMPONENTS of finished goods are coming from or going to. It’s kind of an endless cycle, you know? I’m never sure if I’m kidding myself or being rational. :\

    willow /

    That does somewhat reassure me that it is purely for the Chinese market, though obviously that they’re engaging in it at all is problematic. So many feelings! I guess I will keep thinking and try to decide what I can tolerate. The Urban Decay link is interesting, so many comments that people won’t forgive them for even considering it. Not sure we can get those products here in Wellington, NZ but will keep an eye out. I really appreciate the thoughtful response, so thank you!

    Kathryn /

    Willow, you may be interested in looking at Inika cosmetics which are an Australian cosmetics brand. I saw their products in a department store recently. Their products are registered with the UK Vegan society and with Australian Choose Cruelty Free Organistation. I haven’t looked closely into their vegan/organic claims but they seem like they could be a good option to look into.

  2. lisaSep 19, 20121:33 am

    i know what ‘cher sayin’…. i had one landlord tell me i was the first person he ever returned a deposit to.
    the only line above i wasn’t 100% on was, “Imperfection is a sign of hope that things will improve”… for me it’s not always about improvement, but making it mine. improving IT might remove some of the character for me… makes me think of the japanese aesthetic – wabi sabi. and it also makes me think of the charlie brown christmas tree… it’s all about the love man! please continue what you’re doing what you’re saying ms d16 because i love it! we love it!

    [Reply]

  3. koryansheaSep 19, 20121:59 am

    I really really love that you started posting more often :) (I don’t care about ads one bit, as long as you keep writing :) )
    about the apartment and the humble “It’s starting to feel right” – I say come on! that little spot has more style then most apartments have altogether. I am envious. Our flat (of year and a half) is not feeling right AT ALL, due to budget, laziness and lack of choice (shops&thrifting in Croatia suck :( ). But there is one more problem – courage, combined with making my husband believe something will work, so I wonder how does that go with you two, does Evan agree with everything you do, does he care at all, do you think as one, does he make suggestions that you like or that make you shudder? :)

    [Reply]

    Troy /

    One tiny voice against posting more often, at least from early indications. I only started noticing this week that the post quality seemed a bit lower than normal, but volume seemed higher. Might not be causality (or accurate), though.

    I also have no problem with ads, just please don’t change the thought process you’ve been using to decide when something is worth posting. I don’t think there’s much value in aspirational photos of houses, which hundreds of blogs do well. I think it’s hard to post more unless one also spends more time working on the house and doing all of the things that inspired posts in the past (and not merely writing more).

    Please take this as constructively as it’s intended. Only writing it because I care. The blog is awesome and your design adventures are fun to follow :)

    Anna @ D16 /

    Just so it’s clear, Troy, this is a photograph of MY APARTMENT. I’ve always shared photos of interiors and gardens and other spaces (which are not mine) that I enjoy. I really couldn’t care less if “hundreds of blogs” are already doing that, frankly. There are also hundreds of people blogging about their dinner and their dogs and the movies they saw and their bathroom renovations. What draws a distinction between all of those voices is the context in which visuals are presented.

    Writing MATTERS. Perspective MATTERS. Interpretation and juxtaposition MATTER. That’s why I have this blog. It’s not just a collection of pretty stuff. I get that you see what I’m doing as being “merely writing,” but that’s what gives the pictures I share meaning. This isn’t a post about my living room, but if you didn’t read the post (and I’m assuming you didn’t, since you think this is an “aspirational photo”), you wouldn’t know that. I wrote this post in tears and with a lot of thought behind my words. Please don’t try to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be blogging about. This is MY blog.

    There has been zero change in my thought process, and there never will be—ads or no ads. I write about what I want, when I want. If you feel like the quality isn’t there for you anymore or if you’re hoping I’ll only post when I work on the house (which would probably result in one or two really boring posts a year), then this probably isn’t the blog for you. Likewise, if a potential advertiser wants me to change the content of my blog for some reason, they can take a hike. The people who read my blog do so because they like it. I’m not about to change that for ANYONE—not an advertiser, not my mother, and not you.

    I write with an audience of one in mind, and if others feel they can take away something of value, that’s great. I can’t please everyone. (Fortunately.)

    Congratulations on making me feel like putting more care into my posts is futile and stupid, though. If that was your goal, you win. I guess I should go back to blogging once a month, huh? Except then I get comments from people asking where I am, so I guess I can’t win.

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks, Koryanshea. Writing about stuff like this is very cathartic for me, and it feels really good to be posting on a more regular basis again.

    I definitely wouldn’t say that Evan agrees with everything I do (hah!), but it’s not as though he isn’t involved in all of this—he is! We pretty much have the same taste, though, so it’s kind of a non-issue. Neither one of us are into overthinking or overdesigning or whatever. We just want to feel comfortable and at home. :)

    Troy /

    Hi Anna,

    This reply is to your comment but I can’t tie it to that one. I’m sorry that my first comment made you feel anything other than appreciated. “The blog is awesome and your design adventures are fun to follow” was and is my opinion.

    Even if my comment happened to be accurate, that shouldn’t mean anything close to futility. It means you have created a community, and one that cares enough about the blog and you that they’ll – we’ll – give you actual opinions. The only reason I thought of it was because “Just a Small (Big) Thank You” requested it and then the exact topic of post frequency came up here.

    There’s no way to do that without explaining the opinion (well, there is, but it’s called whining, not feedback). which with such a personal blog means touching sensitive subjects. I tried to write my comment as narrowly and constructively as I knew how. From your response, it’s obvious that I don’t have the skills to write that comment without crushing your spirit, so I won’t try. If the net effect is anything other than a couple seconds of reflection – let alone a perception of futility – my comment was not helpful to you, which means it was counterproductive for both of us.

    The part about aspirational photos was because I’d just read “Yeah, I Could Live There,” and the day before, “Just a Small (Big) Thank You.” I should have said so.

    Feel free to delete this entire thread beginning with my first comment. Given the response, I think we’d both prefer it. Good luck with and thank you for your blog, which I will continue to read and enjoy.

    Anna @ D16 /

    Well, Troy, I guess we’re just different kinds of people. And yes, I am a person, not some company soliciting feedback.

    I would never—NEVER!—make my very first comment on a blog one which criticized the quality of the writing of the blogger. I think that sucks, and I think it sucks even more to leverage that kind of criticism and then follow it up with a compliment and smiley face. I know you think you’re coming across as constructive and friendly, but your tone is actually pretty nasty. (Using a fake email address just compounds the whole sense of lameness, by the way.) If you were someone who had commented before or had ANY kind of interaction with me whatsoever, my reaction might be totally different. As it stands, though, you chose our introduction as an opportunity to tell me my posts are valueless and declining in quality—and you left your comment in response to post that was deeply personal. Who does that kind of thing? Not me, and not anyone I respect.

    And no, I won’t delete your comment, but thanks for giving me your permission.

    The net result here is hurt feelings, not me sitting here wondering what I can do to be a better writer so some random person who might be named Troy who has never participated in this community before likes my blog more. The more I read your earlier comment, the angrier it makes me—it’s a perfect representation of exactly what is WRONG with blogging today. The idea that the author of a PERSONAL BLOG should cater their content to elicit a certain kind of response from their audience is, frankly, terrible. There’s a reason why hundreds of thousands of people read my blog, and it’s not because I asked them what they want me to post about.

    Easy solutions:
    1. Don’t read the posts you don’t like.
    2. Stop reading my blog completely.
    3. Start your own damn blog, and contribute something to the blogging community that YOU consider worthwhile.

  4. StephanieSep 19, 20122:07 am

    Ahhh I feel the same way about my home right now. I like heritage buildings but the boyfriend likes shiny new. Our place is shiny new and I always get the now-unfulfilled “renovation itch” but it feels silly and wasteful to renovate something that is perfectly fine and new. Also- those cb2 pillows!! Love them!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    If we owned this apartment, I actually wouldn’t feel silly at all about renovating. I’d donate the bathroom sink to Habitat, for example…and paint the floors! Anything to give the space more of a feeling of being permanent and wearable and warm.

  5. VandegeeSep 19, 20129:39 am

    Haha, I feel the same way in departments stores, fancy stores or when we stay at a nice hotel…like I’m an imposter… a kid masquerading as an adult. I don’t know why.

    [Reply]

  6. KarolineSep 19, 201210:59 am

    “Imperfection is a sign of hope that things will improve. Imperfection is full of promise. Imperfection makes that which is beautiful look even more so by comparison.”

    What a lovely way to put it. That made my day :)

    [Reply]

  7. SherrySep 19, 201211:21 am

    Hearing you talk about imperfection in older homes is exactly how I feel. Also having something things (especially those which would be super costly or time consuming to fix) be imperfect helps to reign me from exhausting myself trying to achieve some ideal of perfection which is most likely impossible to begin with. I have family and friends who live in new builds and they seem so empty to me. Old floors and molding with 8 layers of paint make a home as far as I am concerned.

    Good to hear you are getting there though, and the peak you are giving us is so lovely and inviting. I am totally envious of your rug and your dishwasher for that matter. I would kidnap a baby seal for a dishwasher (not that anyones ever offered me such an exchange.)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    That seems like a pretty sweet deal to me, actually—assuming you also get to keep the seal. :)

  8. Amanda @ willful/joyfulSep 19, 201211:35 am

    You just put into words exactly what I’ve been feeling but couldn’t articulate. I grew up in a house built in 1918, with creaky floors and molding for miles. My last two homes have been 1980s and 90s builds or remodels, and I just haven’t felt the urge to help them because, just like you said, they haven’t “needed” me in the same way. Our current home was built in ’85 and other than new wood floors on the ground level, no improvements have been made. There are definitely things to work on, but the problems with this home still don’t call to me like an older home, but I’m starting to see the ways it needs me. I swear, my next house will be an old fixer-upper, because this newer house living just doesn’t feel right. You’re not weird — or at least not alone :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    It’s funny, though, because before we bought the house (6 1/2 years ago), I was kind of at a point where I was sick of renting these old, run-down apartments, and I swore that if I ever rented again, it would be a newly-renovated place. In fact, when we were initially looking at houses, we were only really interested in ones that had been totally renovated! We knew we’d never find one with paint, kitchens and bathrooms we liked, but we were so intimidated by the idea of REALLY working on a house (like beyond painting and simple cosmetic stuff) that we just didn’t even entertain the thought.

    But then we fell in love with the place we wound up buying, and we figured out how to do what needed to be done. The feeling of learning how to do something and then taking as long as you need to do it right is amazingly fulfilling. I can’t imaging ever living in a new house, even though there might be fewer headaches in the short term. ;)

    Amanda @ willful/joyful /

    I suppose it’s a bit similar to how you can’t really call yourself close friends with someone until you’ve helped one another through rough patches. If everything is all sweetness and light, you can’t really delve in and get close. I know I can’t truly relax around someone until I’ve shed some blood, sweat, and tears with them. Why wouldn’t I want a house that did more than just stand there and hold my things?

    Your new place sounds like that working mom who has everything totally handled while looking gorgeous while never ever asking for or accepting help. At some point her veneer is going to crack so you can see her humanity, but right now she’s too perfect and boring (though pretty) to get very close to.

    On the surface worrying about the look of my house seems so frivolous, but our homes are such important things. When they’re right they make us feel safe and provide sanctuary from the world. When they’re wrong, they’re simply shelter from the weather and storage for our stuff. Your words are really making me think about how I feel about THIS house right now and what I can do to improve my relationship with it. Thank you.

  9. SamanthaSep 19, 201212:45 pm

    “I guess the disconnect comes from the fact that this apartment doesn’t NEED me.” This is such a lovely way of putting it. In all the apartments I’ve ever lived in, I find I feel the most comfortable in the ones that don’t really need me. My husband and I are going to start searching for our first home in a few months, and in my preliminary internet searches, the ones that appeal the most are the ones we don’t need to do much work on. It’s so interesting to think of one’s home as a sort of two-way relationship. I wonder what my preference says about me!

    And for what it’s worth, I enjoy your blog no matter how often you post or what you post about. I realize it’s your blog and not, say, mine!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Your preference probably says that you are a sane, rational person who doesn’t want to be up at 3AM night after night lying on the bathroom floor crying because you mixed a batch of grout wrong and now it’s all crumbly and the tile cutter isn’t moving straight and are you EVER going to be able to take a shower again?

    I totally get your line of thinking, believe me. ;)

    Samantha /

    Ha, I was thinking “lazy,” but your interpretation makes me feel a little better, thank you! ;)

    PS I just read your post about blogging. I’d been saving it, since I’ve been blogging for about as long as you and apparently it’s a very important part of me now. I really liked reading about how your attitudes towards blogging have evolved. I have nothing constructive to say, just that I was nodding along in agreement/understanding the whole time.

  10. amyoliverSep 19, 20121:16 pm

    I find your perspective very interesting, thanks for sharing it. And the quality of your posts has not declined. I hope that doesn’t put you off keeping it up. And I love your pink dipped legs. Fancy!

    [Reply]

  11. WendySep 19, 20121:42 pm

    Love what you said about imperfection and sense the melancholy behind the words. I always get melancholy in the Autumn even though it’s my favorite time of year. I renovated a Victorian sans budget/contractors. It took 5 years and we still have the downstairs bathroom to do…Speaking of which, I was crying over grout as well because I mixed it by mistake instead of the thinset which is what I meant to mix but was in an identical-looking bag. Luckily I noticed before it got smeared under the floor tile!

    [Reply]

  12. LenaSep 19, 20122:05 pm

    Thank you so much for posting about your flat! So nice to see more, although I am waiting very unpatiently for a post that shows the whole apartment:-)

    [Reply]

  13. SerenitySep 19, 20124:36 pm

    Hi Anna, thanks for the peek inside the apartment!

    Have you posted about that rug before? I love it! I’m always drawn to striped black & white rugs and chevron black & white rugs, but I imagine I would become tired of them. Not this though.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I have posted about the rug, but it was almost five years ago. Unfortunately, IKEA stopped carrying that rug shortly thereafter. :( We actually wound up having to put the rug in storage for a long time because Bruno decided that all rugs were meant to be giant wee-wee pads, but we gave it another shot when we rented the new apartment and he was cool with it. Yay!

  14. eliaSep 19, 20126:09 pm

    Your apartment’s looking great, I think you’re definitely making it work and I love your house too. Definitely inspiring :)
    I live in a 7 year old house and I haven’t quite decided whether I like it over our previous Victorian one. I think the paintwork, fitting choices, etc could have been tons better but it’s not a rental so everything will change eventually. I’m just so slow at actually get stuff done and have to think hard about what is actually worth while spending money on.
    I came across the Ikea rug in an older catalogue yesterday, I wish I’d brought it, the price was great too. I’m not sure I fully trust my dog with expensive rugs yet. I recently got a Conran black and white striped rug on sale, so far it’s still perfect and my pup seems to like napping on it, so fingers crossed he’d like to keep it clean :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hey, it only took Bruno 9 years to stop peeing on rugs!

  15. LorieSep 19, 201211:19 pm

    I totally get it. As much as I grumble (and I grumble A LOT) about our old 1920’s house, there is a part of me that enjoys the challenge. It’s like when I go to shop for clothes I never buy the whole outfit. The one on the mannequin always looks good but that just seems too easy, ya know? It would be much easier to buy a shiny, new house but deep, deep down I would miss the challenge. And the chaos. And the leaky roof (and windows of which there are 27. I kid you not.) and the odd doorways and the scary, spider filled basement… Oops. There I go again…

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Did you just compare yourself to a leaky roof?? Hahaha

    Lorie /

    Well, I have had three kiddos… ;) Just kidding.

  16. VictoriaSep 20, 20124:24 am

    Hi Anna, I just wanted to say how much I have been enjoying all your recent posts. Whilst I don’t think it is really for me to comment uninvited on what I perceive to be the quality of your writing, I consider it, as always, top notch. I hope your apartment feels more and more like home (or, as Amanda says, above, like a sanctuary) – it is hard to spend time in a place where you don’t feel comfortable and able to relax and be easy in yourself. it sounds as though you really are getting there, though, and hurrah for that.

    Victoria

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks for the support, Victoria. And I’m definitely trying to love it here. :)

  17. Emily RSep 20, 20129:33 am

    Totally unrelated to your apartment, but related to your house!

    I read this blog weekly and really like it. This gentleman visits big old houses in the New York area. This week he featured a beautiful house in Newburgh. He also wrote about the interesting history of Newburgh. I thought you’d enjoy it.

    http://bigoldhouses.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-fine-survivor-in-gritty-town.html

    Emily

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Oh, that’s wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve seen the Crawford House from the outside, but never the inside. So beautiful (just like the rest of Newburgh). :)

  18. JorgeSep 20, 201211:08 am

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the peek at your apartment. Just one question; what is your current coffee table there?

    Enjoy your visit to Europe!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Hi Jorge! It’s actually just this tray from IKEA sitting on top of a little side table. :)

  19. ElizSep 21, 201210:29 pm

    This was really lovely to read, and it gave me a new appreciation for my really crummy but really cheap apartment here in Brooklyn. It can only get better, right??

    I’m a relatively new reader, but am enjoying these recent posts a lot. Good luck with making your new place “yours”; I’m eager to see how things progress!

    [Reply]

  20. TraceyOct 2, 201210:11 am

    I’m new(ish) to your blog and have been having the best time reading through your archives. I love your style, maybe because it’s slightly similar to mine? ha! Anyways, I recently purchased this pillow from a vendor at the renegade craft fair while I was in Chicago and thought you might like it too. http://www.etsy.com/listing/86056522/mountains-of-montana-black-and-natural

    [Reply]

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