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To the non-New Yorkers (non-Brooklynites, really) reading this, I apologize in advance. This is a location-specific lament and farewell that I don’t expect to resonate with you. I’m writing this for myself, and for my Brooklyn neighbors—past and present.

Yesterday, workers started dismantling the Kentile Floors sign that has risen eight stories above the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gowanus for the past 65 years. The demise of the Kentile company itself in the mid-’90s is its own story, and this isn’t about that. This is about that sign.

Seventeen years ago, I graduated from art school, got a job at a publishing company, and moved to Brooklyn. It was a love affair I tried to shake, but which was eventually rekindled. I love South Brooklyn, and for all the years I’ve lived here, the F has been my subway line—first in Cobble Hill, then in Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, then DUMBO…and then back to Cobble Hill. The F train, for all its problems, is great for me. It stops under my office building (literally—I don’t even have to go outside to get to my desk), and it’s a 7 minute walk from my apartment. It also makes stops in the West Village and on the Lower East Side! It’s my favorite train line.

Just past my stop in Brooklyn, the F train goes above ground as it approaches the Smith & 9th station, the highest point in the entire NYC transit system. It runs above the Gowanus Canal, and, if you stay on it long enough, you’ll eventually wind up in Coney Island. As someone with a tendency to fall asleep on any form of mass transit (except airplanes, annoyingly), being awakened by daylight suddenly flooding my subway car means one thing: I missed my stop. The upside of going a little too far is that I get to see the Kentile Floors sign, which is, if you pardon my many tangents, the subject of this post.

I’ve taken many, many photos of the Kentile sign (including the one at the top of this post) over the years, as has just about everyone else with a camera or phone who’s found themselves in its presence. As hyperbolic as this might sound, it’s a majestic sight. Brooklyn isn’t as tall as Manhattan (though it’s definitely getting taller), and when you look across the industrial landscape that is Gowanus, the Kentile sign lets you know you are in Brooklyn. You’re home! It’s a symbol of place. And yes, it’s beautiful—those huge slab serifs, that extended T, the steel support grid that looks like a line drawing against the sky…

The Kentile Floors sign is going away. The owner of the warehouse beneath the sign believes that doing the work necessary to ensure its stability isn’t worth the the cost, so he’s getting rid of it. The DOB issued a permit, and that was that. Fortunately, the owner has agreed to donate the sign to the Gowanus Alliance, who have pledged to find a new location for it. Fingers crossed that it’s visible from the F train.

There’s a been some talk out there over the past couple of weeks about how the upset over the demise of the Kentile sign is nothing more than some kind of forced, misguided nostalgia for a time when Brooklyn factories made asbestos tiles that killed people. You know what? That’s a bunch of nonsense. There is nostalgia involved, yes, but it’s not about the Kentile company or about a yearning for the past. It’s a very real sadness that an iconic part of the landscape of South Brooklyn is going away, and that our journeys home will never look the same. It’s an aesthetic sadness, too, as we say goodbye to more and more of these giant steel and neon beauties every year. It hurts… and the world becomes a little less beautiful. I love old signs, and I’ve been documenting them for a couple of decades now. They are everyday examples of how design relates to environment. Signage is an enormously important part of the industrial history of this country, yes, but also of the changing aesthetics of commercial design.

Later tonight, my friend Jill and I are heading over to the Smith & 9th station for one last Kentile hurrah. Creative agency Vanderbilt Republic is going to project video onto the sign (what remains of it, at least—could they really not have waited one more day?), making it appear to be illuminated one last time. They did the same thing in the spring, and Barry Yanowitz made this great video.

Goodbye, Kentile Floors sign. Thanks for welcoming me to Brooklyn so many times. I hope I get to see you again someday, even if I have to sleep through my stop to do it.

When I was out in San Francisco over the summer, I went to visit Makeshift Society, the clubhouse/coworking space for creative people that Rena (who I totally want to be when I grow up), Victoria and Suzanne opened up last year. It’s a really, really cool space, and it immediately made me feel envious of the people who get to hang out (and, you know, work) there. A large part of the reason why I prefer working in an office environment over being at home on my sofa is that for all my anti-social tendencies, I really do thrive in the company of other likeminded people.

At Makeshift Society SF, a really nice little coworking community has come together. Aside from desk space, there’s a kitchen, a private conference room, a book lending library, bikes…even a loft space for napping if the need arises, something I often wish for at my own job. They offer classes of all kinds, too! (Seriously, look at that schedule — I want to take them ALL.)

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Photo by Makeshift Society member Sarah Deragon

See what a nice place this is to sit and work? So nice. But also really, really far from Brooklyn. But guess what? MAKESHIFT SOCIETY IS COMING TO BROOKLYN! The Makeshift team has joined up with Bryan Boyer (who wears really nice shirts), and they’ve rented an amazing (and HUGE!) space in Williamsburg to call home. In addition to all of the great stuff that’s going on in San Francisco, the Brooklyn location will be expanded to include a lending library of all kinds of tools, from cameras to sewing machines to editing software.

And yes, there will be CLASSES! And a maker-in-residence program! It’s going to be great. Even though I work in an office, I’m really looking forward to becoming a part of Makeshift’s classes and events, and maybe even sneaking some evening freelance hours in there as well.

In order to get the whole operation up and running by early 2014, Makeshift is running a Kickstarter campaign to get things off the ground successfully. These folks know what they’re doing and how to make shi(f)t happen, but they need a helping hand. The AMAZING news is that they just crossed their funding goal (!!!), but you can absolutely still donate some bucks for the next 24 hours…even if you don’t live in Brooklyn.

Check out the plans for the space below, take a look at the details on the Kickstarter page, and watch the video at the top of this post. Then maybe go fork over a few clams! We’re down to the very last day of funding, so get in there while you can.

p.s. There are great incentive rewards being offered when you donate, like punchcards for classes or a really nice tote bag designed by Lisa Congdon. (Yeah, that’s what I chose — you know I’m all about tote bags.)

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My first apartment — rented when I moved off-campus after my sophomore year of college — was not in New York City. It was in Yonkers, a city often (wrongly) assumed to be part of NYC, probably because of Neil Simon. It is true that if I walked out of my apartment on McLean Avenue and crossed the street, I’d officially be in the Bronx, but my heart knew I was technically in Westchester County. It wasn’t until I finished school a couple of years later that I finally got myself to Brooklyn. My dad, who lived on the Upper East Side and on Staten Island when I was a kid, had moved back to Manhattan by then. Aside from Coney Island, Brooklyn was still mostly uncharted territory for me. A couple of my brothers were living in Cobble Hill, and I’d visited each of their apartments exactly once before deciding I wanted to live in the same neighborhood. If I’m being honest, there was one particular thing about the house on Henry Street I wound up moving into that really got me excited: It was a block and a half away from Cammareri Bros., the bakery for which Nicolas Cage and Danny Aiello’s characters in Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck (Ronny and Johnny Cammareri, of course) are named and in the basement oven-room of which Cher first meets her “wolf without a foot.”

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(“Now” photo via Google Earth)

Yes, Cammareri Bros. was a real bakery! It closed down soon after I moved to the neighborhood and later reopened in a different location, and the space (along with its next door neighbor, formerly the Little Chatter Box Beauty Salon) has since been occupied by a series of cafés, currently Maybelle’s, who, it’s worth mentioning, make a mean tofu scramble and an even meaner iced coffee. Both the interior and exterior are still pretty much the same as in the Cammareri days, and a portion of the old bakery sign is displayed inside. If you go, make sure you look at the floor when you first walk in — an inlay of the letters “NC” (for Nicolo Cammareri, who opened the bakery in 1921) remain in the old terrazzo floor.

EDIT: While checking on the spelling of his name, I came across Nicolo Cammareri’s 1940 US Census record. Pretty neat, right? 206 Sackett is the address of the side entrance, which leads to the apartments above. Also interesting that he had a daughter named Grace — there was an elderly Italian woman on my block named Grace. She used to sign for packages for me when I was at work, and she had a Frank Sinatra shrine in her apartment. She passed away around 2000. If she was born in 1915 like the census record indicates, that would have put her in her mid-80s when I lived there. I wonder if she was Nicolo Cammareri’s daughter! Further investigation needed…

The first time I saw Moonstruck was 25 years ago, with my mother, in a movie theater in Kingston. I was 12 years old. I remember loving it, naturally, but I mostly remember the specifics of the night because my mother’s car got a flat tire when we were driving back to Rhinebeck after the movie. Another thing that sticks in my mind from that first viewing is the breakfast Olympia Dukakis prepared:

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I had never seen anything like that before, but it looked so delicious. I asked my mother to recreate the dish at home, and up until I stopped eating eggs a few years ago, it remained a breakfast favorite for me. For all these years I’d assumed it was an Italian dish, but Googling tells me it’s usually either called “eggs in a hole” or “eggs in a basket,” and everyone everywhere knows what it is — except for Swedes and Jews, apparently, because I’m quite sure it would never have been a part of my life without that scene in Moonstruck. (As an aside, I see that V.K.Rees has come up with a recipe for vegan-friendly eggless eggs in a basket, which I will definitely have to try out ASAP.)

In the years since that first viewing, I’d guess I’ve seen Moonstruck at least 30 times in part or full. Beyond its Brooklyn-ness, it’s just a fantastic movie. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that, though, because pretty much every human alive has seen it. (And if for some crazy reason you haven’t, it’s on HBO GO right now. You can also rent it from Amazon Instant. It’s not on Netflix, of course, because nothing you want to watch is ever on Netflix.) Aside from Cher’s old face and Nicolas Cage’s old hairline, I’ve always had this fixation with the kitchen in the Castorini family house — which, if you ever want to take a Moonstruck walking tour, is located at 19 Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, about a mile from formerly-Cammareri’s. For years I’ve carried around a mental picture of its soft green hues, vintage subway tiles and the overall feeling of a family gathering place. Today I decided to watch the movie again specifically for the kitchen, and to finally take some screen captures.

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Two things I noticed for the first time when I was taking the screen captures were the painted-over cabinet hardware and the laminate countertops, neither of which are hallmarks of gorgeous vintage kitchens, but are indicative of the fact that this movie was filmed in an actual family home, and not on a set built for a movie. The same goes for that flocked vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table. I guess I just overlooked that stuff the first 29 times I watched the movie! Regardless, the kitchen is beautiful, and it’s full of life. And that tile!! Ahhh, the tile. It doesn’t come through in the captures, but it’s covered with cracks and crazing. 19 Cranberry was built in 1829 so it’s not original to the house (tiled kitchens didn’t become standard until the Victorian era), but it’s clearly very old. The house sold in 2008 for nearly $4 million, and thankfully the listing photos don’t show the kitchen — I don’t think I could bear to find out if it had been gutted.

(Or you know, to discover the whole thing was actually shot on a soundstage in Toronto. Shhhhhh.)

Meanwhile, back at Cammareri Bros.…

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In the movie, Ronny’s apartment is above the bakery. The entrance was on the Sackett Street side of the building, to the right of the stairs that led to the basement ovens. I’m almost positive that’s where the apartment interior was actually filmed. I have a distant memory of a friend who used to live in the neighborhood telling me so. Judging by the position of the windows and the color of the façades visible across the street, I’m guessing it’s on the second floor of the building, with the living room facing Henry Street. In any case, this is pretty much exactly what a classic pre-war Brooklyn apartment has always looked like in my mind. Ironically, the closest I’ve ever come to finding a rental apartment in this kind of vintage condition was my first place in Yonkers! I love the beadboard, the pressed-tin in the kitchen and the moldings on the walls. And that old refrigerator with its non-safety handle, just waiting to trap small children inside when it gets put out for trash…sigh. Also, I don’t know if this is intentional, but I love that the color of the Vespa (used for storing books!) is the same as the cabinets in the Castorini kitchen.

I wonder who lives in this apartment now, and if it still looks like this. I hope so. Yesterday I stood outside the entrance for a little while, waiting to see if anyone would come out. Not that I would’ve said anything to them, but you know…just to see. Now that I live in the neighborhood again, I can do all the Moonstruck-stalking I want.

Mary Meyer clothing

I’ve been on a perpetual hunt for summer-appropriate clothing for my entire adult life. I am forever the one wearing a cardigan, jeans and boots in 90° weather. I don’t have seasonal wardrobe changes — my only concessions to outdoor temperature are sandals in summer and heavier scarves in winter. I own “summer scarves.” I don’t like to show much skin, and I just don’t think I’m ever going to feel like myself in a dress or skirt (and believe me, I have tried). Wearing a regular t-shirt without anything over it is WAY too risqué for me. So. Many. Issues. I embrace them. Why fight your anxieties?

Enter Mary Meyer clothing, handmade in Brooklyn! I love, love, LOVE Mary’s stuff. So far I’ve only bought one dress, but her summer 2013 collection is so fantastic that I’m going to have to pick out a couple of things to add to my (tiny) wardrobe. I’m having a hard time narrowing down my wishlist, but my top contenders are the Beach Biggie, this Cap Dress and Sahara Pants (probably the closest I’ll ever get to wearing shorts). The dresses are actually the length I like my shirts to be, so I can pair them with skinny jeans and ankle boots, oxfords or sandals and feel totally comfortable. In the fall and winter, I can just put a cardigan on top! See? There’s no such thing as seasonal clothing in my world. Layers ahoy!

p.s. Yes, there are Mary Meyer clothes for boys, too! I’ll sneak a tee shirt for Evan into my order, too. I have a feeling he’d like this Black Ascent one.

Anna + Mary Meyer dress

And on a more personal (and highly tangential) note…

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, the only thing I could think about was that the Supreme Court was going to be ruling on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure. It’s no secret where I stand politically, socially and ethically when it comes to equal rights, and I wanted to dress for the occasion — one I hoped would be a celebration. And so, this Mary Meyer dress covered with pink triangles was IT! (This particular print isn’t available anymore, but it’s the “Biggie” style for fit reference.)

Kind of a funny segue from a post about clothing, I suppose, but that’s alright. Whatever gets you there.

It’s been two years since I wrote this post about the New York Senate legalizing gay marriage in my state, and it feels SO good to know that my friends in California are now afforded the same rights. The death of DOMA has set the stage for the remaining 31 37 states in the US to follow us down a path of greater humanity. Let’s do this.

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When I was in San Francisco, I visited the new Little Paper Planes storefront, run by my friend Kelly Lynn Jones. Kelly has such a good eye for art and design, and I’ve been a fan of her online shop for ages — it was so cool to see it all come to life in one beautifully curated space.

I must have touched/admired at least two dozen objects while I was in there, but the ones I was drawn to immediately were the pieces by Brooklyn-based Small Spells, created by ceramist Rachel Howe. I picked up a crescent moon cup as a thank you gift for a friend, and made a mental note to check out Small Spells online later in the day. I’m so glad I did, because Rachel’s work is really up my alley — that perfect combination of bold geometry and soft, organic shapes and muted (yet rich) colors. I want everything in her shop!

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These planters are so sweet. I’m a notoriously black-thumbed when it comes to indoor plants, but lately I’ve been trying to practice by caring for a few smaller plants at once instead of one giant, potted creature that’s basically like having a pet. These little pots are perfect for putting on a windowsill or a small ledge in the kitchen, and I’m going to need to get a hanging planter for our bathroom. I love that wee cactus peeking out of the top!

And finally, a few pictures from the Small Spells Instagram! The mudcloth-inspired cup on the top loft is from a new series Rachel is working on. I can’t wait to see more! I’m feeling a Small Spells collection coming on…

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Sorry to leave you with those yelling goats for so long! Friday was our big Brooklyn moving day. We said goodbye to DUMBO and hello (again) to Cobble Hill. The two neighborhoods are only a mile apart, but they have very different personalities. Even though we moved out of our first Cobble Hill apartment ten years ago, it still feels like home to both of us. So good to be back! The photo above is the view from our new kitchen. The sunrises are beautiful.

We won’t have internet access in the new place until Thursday (seems so ridiculous that in 2013 they still have to make an appointment to bring you a modem in person and “install” it for you!), so I’ve been using my time to clean, unpack, clean and clean some more. I’ve moved many times in my adult life, and I never feel comfortable in a new place until I’ve scrubbed every surface. This apartment is pretty huge, so it’s taking a while!

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The dogs are in HEAVEN. The new kitchen gets a ton of sunlight, so they basically spend their entire days now sleeping and moving slowly across the floor like hot dogs on a roller. It’s also very quiet in the new place, so their naps aren’t interrupted by barking patrol duties.

Isn’t that radiator crazy? There are two of them, and I’m told they’re some kind of old industrial model that’s supposed to be behind a wall. Whatever the story is, they’re very weird and a little scary looking and I love them.

Lots of photos to come once I have steady internet access!!

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It doesn’t snow much in the lower half of New York state anymore, so every time we do get an actual snowstorm here with a decent amount of accumulation it’s a cause for excitement! We got about a foot over the weekend, and it was beautiful in Brooklyn. Despite my never-ending bronchial unhappiness, I forced myself outside for a bit. To the dogs’ disappointment, I forced them to come along, too. Every year I somehow convince myself that Fritz and Bruno are real dogs and that they want to play in the snow just like all of the other happy dogs I see frolicking around in the stuff and having a blast.

Well, Fritz and Bruno are not real dogs, and they do not want to play in the snow. They don’t even want to walk on a wet sidewalk. After about 2 minutes, they were both wet and dirty and crying and shaking. Sigh. So, back inside…where they were both immediately subjected to baths, another thing they both hate. They spent the next 24 hours sleeping off the trauma, which is a whole hour longer than they usually sleep each day.

Meanwhile, Evan and I are packing up our apartment and getting ready to move to the new place on Friday! Evan found this company called Jugglebox that rents out reusable, stackable moving boxes. They delivered them (disinfected!) to our current apartment, and they’ll come pick them up from the new place in two weeks. Very cool. Quite a step up from our last move, which we (very stupidly) did entirely with IKEA bags and at the expense of Daniel’s youthful energy. Never again.

WE ARE SO EXCITED TO MOVE. Really. It’s going to be so good. I can’t wait to get in there and take pictures—it’s such a cool space with so much potential. In the mean time, I’ll be taking a million photos from the rooftop view we’re giving up!

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Winsome Brave Equilateral Nails

I’ve been meaning to blog about these gorgeous bronze Equilateral Nails for a while now, but now that I’ve finally gone ahead and ordered a box for myself, I have to mention them! They come from Winsome Brave, a Brooklyn-based design studio founded by Valerie Gnaedig and Annie Lenon. And they have triangular heads (the nails, not Valerie and Annie).

Winsome Brave Equilateral Nails

It probably goes without saying that these nails aren’t the kind you’d use for building furniture, but rather to use in place of a hook or pin to hang something on the wall in an extra-fancy way. I’m not sure what I’m going to use mine for, but I’m betting it’s going to involve a black wall and some necklaces! Right now my tiny collection of jewelry is just in a bowl in my bedside table, and I avoid wearing necklaces because I don’t feel like having to deal with detangling them.

Such pretty, special little things!

Atlantic Ave

Just about a year ago, Evan and I rented an apartment in DUMBO. It was the first time we’d lived in Brooklyn since we relocated to upstate New York nine years ago, and it felt so good to be back. I love Brooklyn. My first post-college apartment was in Cobble Hill, and South Brooklyn pretty much immediately felt like home to me. We did stints in Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, too, back when there wasn’t a Fairway or an IKEA (or much of anything in the way of conveniences, really!). And then we left, and I spent a bunch of years missing Brooklyn.

So, DUMBO. When we rented our little place there last year, it was kind of an experiment. Evan works in the neighborhood, and what could be better than having a commute that amounts to little more than walking across the street? As I’ve mentioned way too many times, I was never really sold on the idea of moving into a gut-renovated, brand new apartment, and no matter what I do with the place, it just doesn’t feel like our home. Now, we are extremely fortunate to also have a wonderful old house that feels more like our home than anywhere I’ve ever lived, so I know it’s a little silly to care so much about the apartment, too, but…

OK, let’s cut to the chase: We’re moving. To Cobble Hill. Yes, right back where I lived when Evan and first met, my favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn.

We hadn’t really been planning on moving, but right after our current lease came up for renewal, my brother and his wife bought an apartment…and, as a result, decided on a date to end the lease on the Cobble Hill rental apartment they’ve been living in for years. Guess what? That date just so happened to be exactly the same as the end of our lease! I know there’s no such thing as “fate,” but that’s a pretty happy coincidence. My brother’s apartment is in a great location, it’s at least double the size of our current place (!!), the landlord is friendly and kind, and it’s a lot cheaper, too. Cheaper is good. It’s also on high enough ground that it won’t flood during the next hurricane—in fact, it’s where we evacuated to when Sandy struck.

And did I mention how much I love Cobble Hill?

The apartment itself is a 4th-floor walkup in a converted attic, so the bottom half of it (meaning from mid-wall to the floor) is original to the building (which I’d guess was probably built around 1880-1890ish), and the top half is an addition that was put on to make the ceiling higher. I’m not sure what year the addition was put on, but it’s got to be at least 30 or 40 years old. The kitchen is new-ish, the bathroom is old-ish, and absolutely nothing is my style. Hah! That’s OK, though, because all of it has potential. I like potential. I like a challenge. I have a vision. I can see right past that tan bathtub and those unpainted moldings. Just you wait. This is a place I can see Evan and I holding onto for years.

The move is probably happening in mid-February, and I’m really excited. I’ve been dreaming about paint colors and sofas (we’re finally going to have room for something bigger than a loveseat!) and light fixtures and floor tiles. It’s going to be so good!!

Brooklyn work space

I realized last night (upon receiving lease renewal forms) that it’s already been 10 months since we rented “the new apartment” in Brooklyn. Whaaaat?! I don’t really understand how it’s been almost a year already, but geez—I guess I should take some more pictures of it. A little while back I showed you one side of the main room, now here’s another side. This room contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and office, all compressed into a surprisingly spacious-feeling 220 square feet.

When I was planning out this room, one thing I knew I wanted was a nice work surface. I don’t like compact desks. I considered a few possibilities, and eventually arrived at a combination of two VIKA LERBERG trestles ($10 each) and a VIKA FURUSKOG table top (regularly $60, but I found it for 50% off), both from IKEA. That’s a 60×30″ work surface for $50—not bad! The table is actually deep enough that Evan and I can both sit and work opposite each other at the same time if we need to.* Plus, if we slide the iMac to the end of the desk (or put it on the floor), the table is big enough to seat 4 people—really nice if we have friends over for dinner.**

*This has never happened. But it could!
**This has also never happened. I blame the lure of the roof deck.

Brooklyn work space

The IKEA PS cabinet holds everything…and then some. I was sad to have to give up the awesome fauxdenza from our old apartment (it’s since been relocated to a closet at the house—more about that in another post!) because of space, but this guy really does an amazing job of storing way more stuff than it seems like it would be able to. All of our office supplies, tools, dog stuff, papers, and other things are in there, with room to spare. Our PS cabinet has been with us since 2003—almost a decade now. It’s an IKEA classic at this point, and I really think it’s one of their all-time best products.

Funny how much the (not) “new” apartment is starting to look like the old one, isn’t it? I even hung all of the artwork in the exact same arrangement. I still don’t think this place has the same kind of friendliness the old apartment did, but I am warming up to it! We definitely have a lot more visitors in DUMBO than we did in Washington Heights, that’s for sure, and I do love being able to open my home to people from out of town. It’s not big enough for overnight guests, but for hanging out for hours on end petting dogs and drinking coffee, it’s perfect! Every time friends or family come over, it really does start to feel a little more like it’s ours.

Herman Miller Lifework blog

If you’d like to see a few more photos of this side of the apartment (as well as some new pictures of the office at the house!) and read a little interview with me about work spaces, head over to the Herman Miller blog. I’m so honored to have been asked to contribute to their Lifework blog! I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen any part of my house or apartment that I have a considerable number of Herman Miller products in my life, so this was a lot of fun to do. (Thanks for inviting me, Amy!)