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find me a home in nyc

New York Real Estate sucks.

It really does.
It has ruffled my feathers in such a way that I need to just let it out. You try to find an apartment by searching online. Inevitably, each apartment is tied to a realtor. But it’s not like Sydney or London where you look, say yes or no, and walk away. Once the realtor knows who you are, they get their claws stuck in. ‘Don’t like this one? I have several others that may suit! Come with me… (Lure lure).. I really want to find you the perfect home!’  Roughly translated as…’I want to find you any home…as quickly and intensely as possible, introduce you to the landlord… and pop around $7k in my pocket for doing so thank you very much’.

This, in NY, is called a ‘brokers fee’. Ultimately the most ridiculous transaction I have EVER heard of. Even if you don’t find the property through a broker, there is often a broker involved, and a fee attached. 15% of the annual rent. Yes, that’s right, FIFTEEN PERCENT OF THE ANNUAL RENT.
Once we made a loose relationship with a realtor (and we tried two, one of which was the worst you can imagine), it felt like apartment search boot camp for five days solid.  Running around the city with a crazed realtor, no food or water for several hours. At the end of these days, they then call us every 3 – 5 minutes until we just give in and agree to an apartment just so they will go away.
That’s it. They walk away. No agent service, or anyone to call on if things don’t work out. Take our $7k, and jog on.  To get rid of our realtor, hopefully forever, it cost us just this. Money well spent I say. Let’s hope the Brownstone duplex apartment we have rented lives up to its charm and we don’t find ourselves in another real estate nightmare too soon.
Now….. I can think. 
Despite the hustle and bustle of finding our feet in New York City, tackling an earthquake, a hurricane, and real estate agents – the latter being by far the most unnerving… I have still managed to sniff out a few favourite spots even within the first week.  So on a lighter note, I can introduce you to a few little corners of NY that I have already begun to adore. 
We have been staying in Williamsburg. Ultra hip, ultra cool. Sydney’s distant relative would be Surry Hills, London’s would be Shoreditch. So, typically, and temporarily, we are here.  And I’ve already found a few favourite venues between here and Manhattan to feed my various hungers for various things……
For jewellery, nothing too fancy, just a very cool collection. I love Meg store on 54th and North 6th in Williamsburg. 
For homewares, Brook Farm General Store, right under the Williamsburg Bridge, 75 South 6th Street, right opposite the Gretch building, (it nearly became our home, but not quite….).  
They have modelled this store on the original NY gereral stores, carrying a similar ethic and stocking vintage and new wares. (Above image courtesy Brook Farm General Store website). 
And for the most wonderful glass of wine, in a smooth a sultry space, I choose Tuffet, the cheese and meat bar on Graham Ave. When we first fell upon Tuffet, the staff were warm and welcoming despite us being NY aliens. 
They prepared us an $18 cheese and meat board and we enjoyed it slowly with delicious French wine. It seemed to take forever to make. The precision was well worth it though, amazingly presented, with love. The cheese was a divine room temperature, and the atmosphere extremely relaxed.
We have now been back to Tuffet three times since we have been in Williamsburg, and each time, I love it a little more. The vintage wall sconces and bar hooks, the deeply coloured wooden floors and soft-grey panelled walls, with a constant jazzy beat in the background. What a perfect and simple little bar. (Images all courtesy Tuffet website). 
However, we can’t hang around Williamsburg all day and night. We have realtors to chase around. Apartments to turn our noses up at and Manhattan to explore.
We had to rule out the East Village due to the severe lack of space in every 3 bedder they showed us…… 3 bedders for small children…. at a squeeze…… maybe mice? 
During all the jostling around the lower east side on a 28 degree day, I fell abruptly upon Dean and Deluca, Soho, and I snuck in a little break. As I drifted through the glass doors at the front of the store and breezed past the flower arrangements I felt momentarily as though I had died and gone to heaven. Dean and Deluca…. I kept muttering it to myself as I wondered past the cheese counter, with piles of delicious cheeses. Shelves of condiments and wonderfully colourful salad bars with gourmet sandwiches and coffee. Dean and Deluca, 560 Broadway, NYC.  The original and first store of it’s kind, has been there since 1977. A little piece of heaven. Stacks of counters all offering deluxe and luxury flavours. Truffle oils, chilli oils, the list goes on. As you get deeper into the vast space, finally, homewares… wonderful blue and white speckled tins and jars, wine glasses and giftware…..
At last, I breathe to myself. I’m home……..

Home /hōm/

1. A house, apartment or shelter, that is the usual residence of a person or family.
2. The place in which one’s domestic affections are centred.
3. A place or region where something is most native, familiar or common.

HOME.

A word that appears in my work on a daily basis. Homewares, Lifestyle and Home, Home design, Home Interiors and so the list goes on. What really makes a home a home?
My husband and I are still without a ‘home’. We are worlds away from the wonderful relaxation and retreat in Italy, and back into the ‘5 star’ treadmill of London.  Still working at the never-ending US visa process, which adds a layer of unease in our lives neither of us can quite understand. Two 5 star hotels in a week  – and not a single restful night.  How can this be? Surely we have paid enough money for a peaceful night in a calming room? I daren’t even mention the chain of hotels we are in, or question who the interior design might be down to. But one thing I am sure of, they got it wrong.  No amount of money can create the perfect rest.  I’ve been there.
Everything is wrong. The overdone gold staircase, coupled with heinous carpets, and the lack of storage in every room. The ludicrous idea that the door of the fridge opens at a 90 degree angle away from the wall but directly into another piece of furniture. We were never meant to have anything from the mini-bar, ever. The baby rat was an added bonus, (not to be boasted about, I have been assured by the concierge). But when residing in an old brewery conversion in central London – rats, are seemingly part of the furniture. You pay just a little extra for them. 
However, I  LOVE LONDON. It’s become one of my motto’s. The wonderful design shops of Upper St in Islington, Terence Conran’s hotels, the sumptuous amounts of flowers in the lobby of Claridges and Columbia Road alike.  

Not having a place to call my own has begun to take its toll. My rose tinted glasses are starting to fade. Instead of walking past all the gorgeously bustling bars in Shoreditch or the wonderfully aromatic smells in Brick Lane and simply drinking in the atmosphere – I’m walking past wondering how cosy all those people will be in their homes tonight. Tucked up in front of the telly with a cup of tea no doubt, I think, with a hazy green cloud of envy starting to form above my head. 
Last night I sat in a lovely bar in central London and had a much-earned glass of wine with a very old and dear friend. She explained something extremely poignant to me, it gave me goose bumps…”Em,” she said, “I’d love nothing more than to say to you, I’m going home to Northern Italy, or Barcelona, or to The Bahamas, but I can’t. It’s Northern Ireland. Cold, wet and slightly boring Northern Ireland. But it’s still my home and I can’t wait to get there”.  She touched a nerve.
Home is home. No matter how it’s been designed, where it is the world. What the climate is. It’s home.
Even though I’ve lived in Sydney for ten years. I’ve always in my mind, remained British. Home, I always thought.  

And here I am. Homeless and frightened in a five star hotel in Barbican. Juxtaposition at it’s most frustrating.
I can’t wait to get home. To New York. It’s never been home before.
But with four walls,  a few simple touches, it will begin to take shape. Husband, dog, favourite cushions, artworks, lamps and rugs.  

It’s not these material things or the bricks and mortar that create a sense of home. It’s family. Friends. Neighbours. Memories. Sights. Smells and Sounds.  And mostly, it’s love.
So come on London. This week. Put some love back in.  
Even though bricks and mortar and material items aren’t the most important thing, when someone else comes along and mindlessly destroys them. We are left speechless. 
A few images of the London I know and love. 

re·treat/riˈtrēt/ (part one)

1. The act or process of withdrawing, especially from something hazardous, formidable, or unpleasant.
2. A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.
A second blog post somehow seems SO much more difficult and definitive than the first. What I choose to write about here and now will begin to shape and mould this story going forward. And so the word ‘retreat’ springs to mind.
Retreat  – often a well – deserved rest, carefully planned and thought out right to the last detail. This forced break we are on – in an unpredictable situation, has become a retreat, thrown together, with no planning and very little thought.  During all my years in Sydney I often found myself searching the web and scouring newspapers trying to find the perfect mini – break. Here and now, I’ve found it.
Whilst camped out in this little corner of Italy,  ‘ a la campagna’ to be exact,  I think of what it takes to make you feel at home and comfortable whilst on retreat.  It doesn’t always need to be carefully planned or organised, as my current situation has taught me. The makeshift bedroom we have created in this un-renovated farmhouse on a plot of land dotted with olive trees, has become my husband’s favourite room ever in which to awake. It seems ironic – the years I’ve spent trying to create the perfect environment with light and space and here we have done it, simply, with a couple of mattresses, an old trunk, some scarves and a jam jar of flowers – mother nature has played a strong hand in this one.
Each day is filled with the earth’s simplicities, and offers us a richness we have never yet experienced. Until now.  We enjoy the almost clichéd sunsets, the local wines and foods, all readily available to us on the newly created terrace and set out in a haphazard arrangement of glasses and bowls.
Whilst sharing my shower with a grasshopper yesterday morning, I realised that perhaps there is a lot to be said for enjoying a place offering peace and quiet minus all the 5 star luxuries. Creatures yes, creature comforts, not a chance. Here, who needs them?
To add just a little more irony to our situation, last week we went off from this peaceful little farmhouse… to go on a ‘retreat’.  A rest from a rest…….
We headed further into Le Marche to a little ‘agriturismo’ named Casa Azzura. Yet another renovated farmhouse offering a space for yoga and meditation, and run by the warm and welcoming Elia.  With only eight rooms, and a cosy yet worthy of a Michelin star restaurant, boasting views over the Sibillini Mountains, Elia has adopted many elements of Feng Shui in his design.
Every room houses a freestanding claw-foot bath, perfectly placed, and silk Indian saris are draped from the windows, creating a feeling of utter calm. I was amazed to find such serenity within such simplicity. To think of the hours I’ve pored over plans and sketches, trying to arrange a space perfectly in order to create a certain feeling and comfort.  Here you have it, a bath, a sari and a window. Done.
Two rooms…. within two weeks. Perhaps the simplest rooms we have both ever stayed in. And yet the most relaxing. I will remember this valuable lesson when I embark on my next project. Keep it extremely simple.
If you are ever in the area of Le Marche and looking for a five star spa with all the trimmings, then Casa Azzura may not be for you. However, if you would like to visit one of the most relaxing spots on this earth, then look no further.
The room at the farmhouse, I can’t recommend to you as highly unfortunately. That, we are keeping, just for us.