My very first apartment was in a huge renovated warehouse on Horatio Street in the West Village. I had been offered a copywriting job at a big New York ad agency and given two weeks to relocate from Chicago. The rent for my studio was a stratospheric $1225/month, much more than I had any sense paying given my new salary, but I had promised my mother I would live in a doorman building and besides, everything else was right. The streets on that side of town were still paved with cobblestones, the historic meat market was across the street and I'd be able to see the sun sink over the Hudson River every night if I stuck my head really far out the window. What could be more perfect?
(My first New York apartment, 1989)
The only photo I still have shows a section of the wall that ran along one side of the apartment. Having zero decorating budget, I hung my mother's vintage zebra-print Abercrombie and Fitch raincoat on a hook -- instant art! -- and propped a print of the Mona Lisa on the ground (I taped some sunglasses to her eyes and felt awfully clever). The rest of the apartment hewed closely to "Bright Lights, Big City": a futon couch, a glass-topped trestle table, a Truffaut poster and two black steel-and-leather Wassily chairs that I had been coveting since high school. After paying the first month's rent, I was so low on funds that I survived on fried rice, frozen grapes and popcorn until my next paycheck, supplemented by nearby restaurants that offered free food during happy hour.
Although this apartment is not at all my aesthetic now, I still consider it an important marker in helping to shape my future personal style. For the first time ever, I was living completely on my own and had total rein to express myself. This space reflected exactly who I was at the time: a platinum-blonde with a closet full of black clothes and a passion for Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, The The and everything Bauhaus.
I didn't live there long. A few months later, I met some friendly girls down the hall with a 2,000 square foot loft and an empty bedroom for $800/month. I moved in, loved the feeling of having spare change in my pocket and over the next three years embarked on four more moves, always on a quest to keep lowering my rent. Along the way, my style kept metamorphosing. It wasn't until I ventured across the East River that I found the most space for the least price and met two people who would awaken in me the first sparks of a Bloomsbury life.
Up next: Beauty and Decay in Brooklyn