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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

This week I’ve been hit with a bunch of work interviews in the city. Which is great – as it means I’m steps closer to finding solid work – but also involves a wardrobe meltdown.

Firstly, the only summer clothes I have that are suitable for NYC are maternity clothes. UK, and even Australian, summer threads just can’t hack it in the living rice steamer that is July and August in this city.

And then my body shape has changed since having a baby – bras too big, waistbands too small… you get the unglamorous picture. So most of my smart pre-pregnancy clothes don’t quite fit right either.

I’m fine with the creative industry interview. You know, cool printed trousers and a T-shirt, but the corporate-ish ones get me every time, and I end up wearing a weird white shirt that I bought once with a vague idea that I had to up-smart myself in order to get a promotion (I didn’t), and my black fat skirt. I felt like a nun on her first day of service before the bulk habit order has come through.

Shudder. It goes against every fashion-loving instinct in my body. I mean, to nail an interview, you have to be happy with what you look like, right?

To do NYC summer well you need loose clothing, made of light material. Trust me, when you are waiting on the subway platform in the devil’s sauna of 34th Street, UK-grade cotton is going to feel like a goat-hair vest. This is probably the only time you’ll be glad you’ve bought man-made fabric – no sweat patches (it’s too busy trickling into your knickers).

Normally I’d suggest Atterley Road as a go-to but in this weather, I’d stay well away from anything that isn’t NYC-made (or at least designed here). Tory Burch or Kate Spade would be obvious choices but who exactly wears a dress and heels to go to work in New York City, apart from Carrie Bradshaw? Plus, dresses are for garden parties, not interviews.

Although it isn’t NYC-based, ASOS is a more affordable bet, given their newfound fans of Jessica Alba and Michelle Obama – both who have to turn out fancy when the temp soars. I’m a fan of the skirt and top (apart from the novice nun ensemble, of course), and a massive, massive fan of culottes.

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clothes from ASOS

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Any working mums out there? I’m always totally punctual of course… Love this from findababysitter.com:

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Swimsuit Time

This week the UK is going to experience a heatwave.

Not a heatwave by New York standards, indeed the 17 degree temperature (about 62 in fahrenheit) probably wouldn’t even register on a New Yorker’s idea of hot weather.

Nonetheless, in the UK (a country, which in the five early-summer weeks I’ve been back has experienced snow, hail, high winds and torrential rain), you have to take what you can get.

Since my parents own a (little used but heated) swimming pool and my photographer friend Chloe is not away on some exotic location for once and wants to come around for a dip, I’ve ordered a new swimsuit.

Buying a swimsuit is not most people’s idea of a good time so buying your first one after the birth of a child you’d think would take the trauma one step further.

However, my new body-shape needs make the selection quite simple: just find me something that covers up the area between my shoulders and upper thigh. No more  trying to figure out what cut of bikini makes me look thin; agonizing over halternecks or bandeau in the cold light of the changing room mirror.

I just want something that is vaguely pretty, vaguely cool and shows off my best bits (carrying around a 20lb baby makes for toned arms, and my legs have always been pretty good), and covers up the rest. Not black, not ugly, has padded cups but doesn’t make me look like an atomic Jessica Rabbit.

I’ve bought this one from The White Company. Pretty, non?

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Mail Order Fashion

My quick, two-week visit back to the UK has turned into an entire month. Never trust a lawyer who says, yes go go go, your visa will be in next week and you can kill two birds with one stone by going to your home US Consulate.

Almost five weeks later and my visa will be FINALLY in my hot, sweaty (from stress and pulling out of hair) palms by Tuesday and I will – with any luck – be on a plane on Wednesday back to my home and husband.

Slider_Ilse_Jacobsen

The H1B’s patience is running out – but hardly surprising as this has been the longest we’ve been apart since we met, plus he hasn’t seen his 10-month-old daughter for a 10th of her life (that’s a long time in pre-toddler days).

Anyway, on the upside, all this being stuck in the depths of the Surrey woods has given me ample time to indulge in some decent UK shopping. And I don’t even have to worry about the rising cost of parking (my mother’s relentless gripe).

While everyone knows there has been a boom in internet shopping, what has quietly and successfully taken off in the UK is the mail order catalogue. I’m not talking about the 1990s JJ Bean variety, or those ones that sell post-menopausal women fleecy nighties.

ImageMy mum’s kitchen table is littered with catalogues from super-stylish companies (and generally v. expensive – as if ordering from a book somehow makes you forget the value of the pound… like when you went to France pre-Euro days and thought you were a millionaire).

Some of the good ones are The White Company, Wrap, Plumo, Pure and Baukjen. Of course, Boden has been doing this for years and has recently itself had a bit of an style upgrade. (Boden has made it over to the US quite successfully and I know they are looking at a rebrand so they can appeal to the US yummy mummies even more.)

Although, not to forget the web for one moment, another new discovery is Atterley Road, who I’m  more than a bit obsessed with. They have perfectly captured the market gap between ASOS (young, low-ish quality, very fashion driven) and Net-a-Porter ($$$, dresses that wouldn’t fare well with baby chuck-up). It’s full of curated pieces from Hobbs, Jigsaw, Whistles (basically, the best of the British high street if you are over 25), and a few less well-known brands like Danish Ilse Jacobsen and Peach Pink, who do nice, not-bonkers-expensive handbags.

And, ta-dah, they currently do free shipping to the US.

So I can feel doubly good about heading back to Brooklyn asap.

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It’s been quite a while since I posted but, you know, had a baby and they take up quite a lot of time. But now we have our head above water, have got into a bit of a regime with naps and my part-time-work-at-home work, my attention has turned back to our apartment.

My last post was about creating a nursery in the corner of our splendid bedroom, which is just the loveliest room; drenched in light that goes from sunny yellow to a spectacular palegold in the afternoon and evening. I loved to lie in bed and look at the clouds drifting across the open-shuttered 12ft windows, above the roof of the pretty Gothic Brooklyn church across the road.

That is, I used to love it, because that room now belongs to the baby. All 300 sq t (or whatever it is – bigger than many Manhattan studios I’m sure). It was easier for us to move out into the middle room and make what is now known as the ‘nursery’ for our little Rajah.

Anyway, more on that later.

My current obsession has been searching for a cocktail cabinet to go in between our kitchen surface and bathroom doors. I’ve been scouring Pintrest, Craigslist and other haunts to find something that will fit the small space (34″ wide and about 60″ absolute max). Our budget, as ever, is super tight. $300 would seem like a push and would have to be perfect. Goes without saying, have found lots that are out of budget but fab.

The spec is that it needs to have drawers to hold our napkins, shelves to hold bottles of booze, and a cupboard to hold glasses so I don’t keep shoving them into our kitchen cabinets and risk chipping/smashing them. If they had a display area so I can rummage through the Brooklyn Flea for some pretty cocktail glasses, so much the better.

Here are some that I’ve loved:

This pretty cabinet is called a Chimney Cabinet and was designed for small, narrow spaces in the days before fitted kitchens. I would strip this and paint some bright, solid colour, like yellow… It is within budget(ish) at $325 on Etsy.

Chimney Cabinet

Anything yellow, I love. This is are remake (I think – might be original) of a Hoosier Cabinet Bar and is $1,195, on eBay.

$795 from Ebay. It’s German, and very pretty.

Mega cool. From the 1940s. Found on Pintrest.

The winner (so far) is this little ‘dry sink’, which I stumbled upon when looking online for something else. It doesn’t look like much in the pictures but it fits the space perfectly and I LOVE the colour options. I’d like it in solid Tangerine or Yellow. $200.

Shown in Old Black with Beadboard door

The company, Sawdust City, based in Wisconsin (with good shipping rates), has some great storage solutions. If it wasn’t for the colour options, they could be a bit meh, but with the bright colours, I think it will look really good. You can put a sort of wiremesh on the doors, which looks good and a bit retro-industrial.

The bonus is the sinked top – as we could happily put all our bottles of booze up there without danger of a small person banging into it and knocking them off.

** Update: both the H1B and my stylist friend said, non, to the sinktop. And now I can see they were right. I lost my mind because I found something that would fit the space. Am now on a search for a cool bar cart a la this one from Etsy:

 

Arko Bar Cart

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Yesterday, the H1B and I caught the subway up to the Museum of New York City on East 103 street. Much of the place is under renovation but it does have a very good film, narrated by Stanley Tucci, about the history of New York from the first Dutch settlers to present day.

A visit to the museum is also worth the visit for a walk down through Central Park, where we haven’t returned to since our first stint here in the summer. (We lived on 66th and 1st in a oven-hot studio with an industrial scale air-con unit that froze one small strata of air and nothing else – I actually woke up one night with boiling hot legs and an ice cream headache because the slim icy jet was aimed at the pillows. The park became something of a front lounge and dining room for us as the apartment was too horrible to spend the evening in.)

After a brief stop for a drink at the always charming if not touristy Boathouse, we headed south and via the skating rink at Central Park

… ended up on a very Christmassy 5th Avenue and at the window displays of Bergdorf Goodman.

Now these are what I call a Christmas window display… magical.

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When we first moved into our grand but unfurnished Brownstone apartment we had to break down what to buy when.

First was the bed (although we are still waiting to order because of the delay in getting the H1B’s social security number – god bless whoever invented the Aerobed, which is currently a bargainous $58 on Amazon).

Next urgent priority was a table and chairs for the kitchen.

Other than our Aerobed, the only other seating we had in the house was a step ladder, which had been “borrowed” from the communal storage area and still hasn’t found its way back.

We had to take turns; and using it alongside the breakfast bar it was surprisingly ergonomic:

Eat your heart out Charles Eames

… but not a long-term solution, especially if we wanted to have people around for dinner, or actually speak to each other ever again.

There are many exquisite furniture stores in New York, not least the massive ABC Home on Broadway north of Union Square (opposite Fish Eddys, which is a brilliant bargain hunt of a store for crockery, cutlery and glassware).

But with a budget of around $1000 for table and chairs ABC Home was strictly for inspiration only and instead I went to West Elm and CB2, which is like a much cooler, better-made Ikea.

Unlike the bed, which I knew I wanted to be traditional, made of iron and high, I was open to different ideas about the kitchen table. Modern, glass or industrial metal, my only specification was that it had to be extendable as I’d like it to sit in the corner next to the fireplace and big windows and then extend it out when we have people around.

Ideally, I was looking for something that would fit four people (around 45″ square) but extend to fit six or eight.

Here were some choices that made the shortlist:

Dylan Table from CB2

West Elm Extendable Angle Leg Table

West Elm Extendable Paul Oebach Table

None were quite right – either they seemed not that well made (West Elm’s more economic options were veneer or a bit wobbly and the shop stock was very chipped and battered, which didn’t give me much confidence as to its longevity), or too big (I loved CB2’s fashionably distressed wood and industrial metal Dylan table, but it’s a 80″ long and $899).

Next I tried Film Biz Recycling, which is a not-for-profit set-up that hires or sell props and furniture from film sets. If I’d wanted a 1960s television, a fake Louis IV armchair  or a stuffed gazelle’s head I’d have been in business but unfortunately there were no suitable tables or chairs.

So onto the antique shops and I headed over to the strip of shops on Atlantic Avenue between Smith and Bond in Boerum Hill. This area has long been known for its furniture shops but in the last five years or so it’s become a haven of vintage cool too.

(Award-winning vintage fashion boutique Mafalda is worth checking out – if  I hadn’t been furniture shopping, an Arran sweater and black leather mini skirt would have been mine – as well as the kooky Dry Goods, which I blogged about previously, but hadn’t visited – it sells quaintly kitsch homewares and pet supplies. Rothschild is a good rest stop too – had very good sticky ribs and glass of super smooth Rioja.)

Horseman’s Antiques was my first furniture stop – four floors of tables, beds, chairs, wardrobes and sofas stacked together in a dusty commune. It’s well worth rummaging around (and you do need to rummage) but I found it crazy expensive and the shop assistants not that helpful by New York standards (there are no prices on the items but a code, which you have to take downstairs to the main desk so they can – reluctantly – look up the price). They also have an eBay site, which might be easier to browse.

Town & Country 352 on the opposite side of the road is smaller and has a more navigable layout and again specialises in mid-century designs.

I’d walked past Sterling Place a few times. It’s beautifully curated gifts, coffee table books and homewares made it look beyond our budget, but this is where I found our table and chairs. The owner Rob sources his furniture from estate auctions like most other antique shops but doesn’t put unrealistic mark-ups on his products, preferring a higher turn-over of goods I guess.

We bought a pretty and solid 1940s round Chestnut table, with two leaves, that fits the space perfectly for around $500 including tax and delivery. And a set of beautiful high-backed wood and wicker dining chairs from the 7th Avenue Park Slope store for a brilliant $408 including tax – and Rob had taken £100 off the chairs because he wanted to clear them out for the Holiday stock and delivered them for free because we’d paid for delivery of the table already.

Table non-extended

Nice pins

Sterling Place Park Slope

This Saturday we are going to check out the famous Hell’s Kitchen antique and flea market on West 25th street. Can’t wait.

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