The comfort of home

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Our view of the Hudson River with its newly-opened bridge

 

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s hard for me to believe, but this June will mark the 29th. year I’ve lived in the same apartment, by far the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere.

Born in Vancouver, Canada, I lived in London ages two to five, in Toronto ages five to 30 (in 10 different homes, one for a few months, eight of them rented apartments.) Since then I’ve lived in:

Paris (8 months in student housing)

Montreal (stunning top-floor 2-bedoom rental apartment, 18 months — miss it still!)

New Hampshire (18 months in a farmhouse apartment) and…here.

Home is a suburban New York one-bedroom apartment, a co-op, top-floor (6th) with stunning and unchanged views northwest, atop a high hill, of the Hudson River and lots of trees. It’s about 1,000 square feet, plus a 72 square foot balcony which we can’t wait to use every summer and reluctantly leave in October or so.

 

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The ikat fabric covers our bedroom side tables

 

I bought it with my first husband, and it was then a stinking mess, literally — the floors were covered with dirty beige-wall-to-wall carpeting and cat urine had saturated it so badly even the nasty real estate agent stood outside on the balcony while we looked at it.

Nothing a little paint and renovation couldn’t fix!

I blogged here about transforming our kitchen to my design, as I also did with our one tiny (5 by 7 foot) bathroom.

 

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Those little mosaic tiles we bought in Paris and shipped home

 

Staying put in a small-ish space has allowed me, and now Jose, to meet other goals, like saving for retirement and traveling frequently for pleasure. (We have no children.)

The building itself is nothing special, a generic mid-60s red brick thing, but it’s part of a much older former estate, so it’s surrounded by lovely low stone walls, which, when snow-covered look like teeth. The land has many trees, from towering pines to my beloved red Japanese maple.  (And a pool!)

Our narrow, sidewalk-free street is both very hilly and very curvy, so we don’t have racing cars or noisy trucks.

 

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Our summer balcony banquette, (the fabric, a bedspread), covers an ugly glass divider; the bench beneath holds our tools and gardening equipment

But we’ve made it a lovely place, and one that welcomes guests — for a night or several, (on our comfy sofa) for meals, for tea — as often as we can afford. Few things make me happier than sharing our space and preparing good food for people we enjoy.

For me, staying so long in this home means many things:

assured physical comfort and safety; a lovely environment beyond our front doors (nature, silence); kind and quiet neighbors (many of them in their 70s and beyond.)

 

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We found this great Mideastern mirror in the antique shop in one of our favorite vacation spots, North Hatley, Quebec. The carved black horse is from an antique store in Port Hope, Ontario and the silver-plate teapot I bought there at auction. The black and white photo in the reflection of a table is an image of former First Lady Betty Ford standing on the Cabinet Room table. Our gallery wall is all photos by us or other photographers.

 

It’s also been a place of comfort and refuge during times of turmoil: a sudden divorce, the loss of several good jobs, friendships that have disappeared, family dramas.

It’s good to have a place you can just rely on.

Since I spent my years ages eight-13 in boarding school and ages eight-16 at summer camp, creating a place to our exact desires is huge for me — years of drab bedspreads and metal beds will do that! Our greatest splurges are often for our home: original art and photos, linens, custom-made pillows and curtains, antiques and pretty tableware.

 

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Our home also reflects our travels: our bed’s teal headboard fabric is from The Cloth Shop, an amazing find on London’s Portobello Road, (which sold many items to the Harry Potter films’ costume designers). Even some of the bathroom tile I found in Paris and had shipped to New York.

 

Where do you live?

Apartment, cabin,  cottage, house?

Rented or owned?

Why there?

What do you like most about it?

18 thoughts on “The comfort of home

  1. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, first let me say that I always love reading – and seeing pictures – of your lovely finds, many from flea markets, that grace your home. Unlike you, I have no training in home decorating, but it’s a subject near and dear to me, I think I’m fairly good at putting colors and objects together in a space. I currently have a large Victorian house that I bought 10 years ago with my late husband. There is only one place in my life where I lived longer – I was in a teeny apartment in Manhattan for 12 years. Anyhow, my current house has a large garden which I love despite the (oft-neglected) need for constant upkeep. The house is a little bit too close to my town’s public high school and downtown, which means there’s litter, occasionally kids in my yard, and a certain amount of noise. When we bought this house we realized that downside, and we knew that a similar house in a “better” neighborhood would be unaffordable to us – so we bought it, and I’m still here, widowed, with no regrets. The house has high ceilings and a lot of windows – the sunlight is so important to me. With my boyfriend’s help, I spend a lot of effort fixing it up, painting, getting furniture and lamps at estate sales, moving things around, etc. Since Nov 2016, I’ve sometimes wished I was less attached to my house, as I’ve toyed with leaving the country. That feeling has only gotten stronger but it’s unlikely I’ll ever leave. Fleeing to Scandinavia sounds appealing but the lack of sunlight much of the year, would kill me. So I’m dug in here. A few weeks ago I used Farrow & Ball paint for my living room and, even though it’s just an off-white, it is so beautiful, I really do see a difference that justifies the price. I’m a convert – and am already pondering which other rooms I’ll paint with Farrow & Ball. (Rooms that aren’t used daily don’t warrant the cost.) Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about home!

    1. Your house sounds great!

      I heard you on the compromises….I think everyone but the wealthy have to make some sort of compromise between their ideal and their budget.

      F & B is GREAT stuff! Every room in our apartment (5 rooms) is in F & B colors. I am such a nerd I even took a 3 hr day trip out to their Dorset factory last July and met their color consultant. It was amazing and I was thrilled.

      1. Jan Jasper

        I would happily make a trip to visit a Farrow & Ball factory and meet their color consultant. Nerds unite!

      2. Unfortunately, it’s not open to the public…But as journalist, I can get into some cool places. It worked out well as I needed to interview Charlie (female) Cosby later last fall and we had met that day.

  2. I live in a micro-apartment in a posh suburb between Paris and La Défense (the name is very well known – “Neuilly-sur-Seine est la ville la plus riche de France.”) Nicolas Sarkozy used to be mayor here before he became president. His mother, before she passed away last year, lived just up the road.

    I’ve been renting the place for nearly two decades. The rent is absurdly low (675 euros/month). My heat and electricity bill is 20 euros a month (collective gas radiator heating, very nice.) It’s a nondescript ordinary 1970s low-rise building of five floors.

    I have a shabby, tiny balcony that I’ve never used because it looks over the street. The noise from the street – especially in the summer – can sometimes be intolerable. I deeply envy anybody who has a garden or a large, quiet balcony.

    I do not own a car, don’t need one.

    Before my employer moved two years ago, I lived 3 minutes away from the office. Now my employer is at La Défense and I walk to work: 20 minutes door to door. It’s good exercise and I enjoy it.

    What I like most about living here is that it’s far from the madding crowd of Paris, yet totally accessible. In 10 minutes I’m on the Champs-Elysées via the bus or metro. The Seine river is at the foot of my street, as is the Bois de Boulogne. So nature is not far. There’s a horse stable in the Bois that I like to visit on the weekend; not to ride, just to pat the horses and feed them carrots. There’s also a good municipal library that I frequent on Saturdays as well as a ton of good shops (a Farrow and Ball paint store literally at the foot of my street).

    1. That rent is insane….SO jealous! We’re paying $2,000/month on mortgage and maintenance, which is a lot, although very little for where we live.

      I love that you have horses to visit!!

      And how great to have a low enough rent to save for retirement and much travel.

      Home is such a mix of things.

  3. Jan Jasper

    I would happily make a trip to visit a Farrow & Ball factory and meet their color consultant. Nerds unite!

    1. Jan Jasper

      Caitlin, Maybe someday you could do another blog post about decorating, and talk about how you chose the colors for your apartment. I’d love to hear which five Farrow & Ball colors you used – maybe mention how the colors affect your mood, and also how they seem to change throughout the day and evening. (Myself, I am tempted to try “Elephant’s Breath” or “Mouse’s Back” just for the chuckle.) I have long believed that color and light (of course, color is an aspect of light – these are not two separate subjects) have an enormous effect on our frame of mind, though not everyone is consciously aware of it.

      1. Sure thing and will do!

        The key is one of my favorite words — metamerism — the effect of light on color. Until or unless you’ve studied color (I got an A in my design color class, which was a difficult class!) it’s hard to know how colors relate to one another, and to understand subtleties of chroma, hue and shade. We had to mix colors from scratch, which really helps you to understand them better. F & B also explains extremely well WHY their whites, for example, are so different — because of underlying blue or black or red.

        Only by studying interior design seriously (at the New York School of Interior Design, where I now teach writing) did I truly grasp how challenging (and fun!) it can be to choose colors, especially those that relate well to one another.

        Our apartment has many open sight-lines, which means the colors I choose REALLY have to work well together or it could be a mess — and has been in the past. I’ve changed the colors in here several times: hallway 3x; (lemon yellow, coral, now F & B Gervase Yellow) bedroom 3x, (faux finished cobalt blue, robin’s egg blue, F & B a grey I can’t find). sitting room 3x (soft green, Sherwin Williams Modern Gray [GREAT color} and now Peignoir by F & B.

  4. I live in a rented, one-bedroom apartment. It’s close to work, not skeezy, and has its own laundry room, among other things, which is great for me. However, what I love most about it is that it’s MY space. I don’t have to share it with anyone else, which gives me plenty of room to do what I want, decorate how I want, cook what I want, etc. I’ve been here coming up on two years, and during that time, it’s become my happy place, and I’m so glad i live here. Eventually I would like to own a home or a condo, but for now, I’m happy where I’m at.

  5. such a beautiful place that you call home. i love your view and love your style. it sounds like the perfect place for you to spend your time and that supports the things that you most enjoy having and doing in life. bravo. as for me, i live in a small house, that i call the cottage, and love that i can walk downtown, just 1 mile away, enjoy the beautiful parks, and garden in my tiny yard. it is just right for me.

    1. I bet your home is lovely — and thanks! I’m glad I studied interior design as it really helped sharpen my eye. Your house sounds great — it’s a mix of the home and its surroundings that need to work together.

  6. I love seeing how you have decorated your place. We haven’t really because we have been so up in the air with moving in the last couple of years.

    We have a very comfortable rental in NWT and own a home in the Okanagan (we’ll be selling it for something more to our taste in a year or two as we bought it in a tight market when there was little to choose from). I agree that having your own space, no matter how small or whatever its condition, is wonderful. 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      Interesting about what you bought in a tight market — so is mine! There were literally only 2 apartments available in our town then in our price that would also allow us to have a dog and to own (!) 2 cars. This would never, in a million years, have been my choice (would much prefer pre-war style, but fewer of those out here in the burbs) but I love our view and the pool and our town.

  7. Lovely pictures and post. My home is a compact 2 bed apartment in a quiet lane which is also very accessible to everything I need. Less than 500m from the bustle of a busy street. I do have a tiny balcony which is pretty much where we spend our free time with the cats. We also enjoy having friends over and usually have guests most weekends.

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