Monday, September 5, 2011

Room with a Sky

“Room with a sky”

Last year, I closed the door of my “singlehood life” apartment for the last time.  I made closure to 12 years of living in a tiny 6 floor walk-up apartment in SoHo New York.  For the last time I heard the squeaking hinges and the faint “ding” of the bell when the door would close on the jamb. For the last time, I walked down the ironwork staircase that I had climbed up and down, often with bags of groceries, all these years.  The 3 rooms were cleared out and, except for the kitchen cabinets, fridge and stove, the apartment was empty. I left behind a decade of memories with friends, roommates and family; memories of glorious cooking in the tiny kitchen and of numerous sleepless nights wrapping up schoolwork. Even though, this tenement apartment was loaded with stories to tell from tenants of previous generations, I was grateful for the many memories it had brought to me. 

Nestled in lower Manhattan, the apartment had never really been renovated and the cracks on the walls and the ceilings betrayed the age of the one-hundred year old low-rise building. The whitewashed exposed bricks, original moldings, doors and electric wirings were reminiscent of an earlier era that belonged to New York history. Perched on the corner of Broom Street and 6th Avenue, and despite the persistent ongoing traffic, I had made it an oasis of calm and plenitude. Six floors up, I was sheltered, away from the bustle of the city’s streets. It was my home, my retreat, my hideaway. It felt safe here.

Potted flowers on the kitchen window sill were my pretend garden. Every spring I would choose different plants and color themes. The windows were facing south and throughout the day, the abundant sunshine would immerse the space in a soothing glow.  The sun would pierce from above the top of the buildings across the street, warming up the rooms instantly.  In the morning when sitting at the kitchen table, the sun would cast on the floor and I could feel the warm tiles under my feet.  At other times of the day, the linen fabric shades would filter the rays and create an effect of light and shadow. 

The pillows on the low slouchy sofa always invited me to curl up with a good book and unwind. The tactile textures of the contrasting soft silk velvets, slubbed linen and knitted wool teamed with soft hues would imbue the den with a casual and comforting atmosphere. With a limited almost monochrome palette, simple lighting and clean lines, the whole apartment was designed to be a calming haven. I made sure to keep it spare.  The three tiny rooms and no closets called for great organization and while everything had its place, no clutter was permitted. I had kept the décor humble so that the focus would fall on the restful hues of the furnishings. Wall to wall open shelves were only for cherished pieces and favorite books. The display of the scarce treasured possessions would change according to my moods and would turn the space into a dwelling where I could enjoy every moment. 

Living away from home, France, I would amass family photos and plop them across the apartment where they would liven up the walls and create a mini gallery giving a sense of culture and belonging.  

With its homely atmosphere for cooking and entertaining, the apartment did serve as a place to welcome friends. At night, the rooftop often became an extension of the flat. I would invite friends over and we would bring up lounge chairs, lean back and stare at the still yet very lively panoramic view of midtown Manhattan skyline. It provided the perfect backdrop for an evening brainstorming while sipping on a glass of wine or setting up an impromptu dining room for friends’ gatherings.  Occasionally we would bring up glasses and plates and arrange chairs, table, sofa, pillows and rugs. We would run extension cords and bring up floor lamps to light the improvised “room with a sky”. My singlehood life apartment would be whimsically recreated on the roof much the same way it was inside.  Dinner would be served and we all felt that life could not get better than that.


  1. I've always wondered what living in a non-renovated Manhattan apartment would be like, and now I have a pretty good idea! It's so great that you had a chance to effectively extend your apartment up onto the roof - something else I've always coveted, a top floor apartment, though a six-floor walkup is never fun. But now you have a backyard, and bees! Thanks for sharing~

  2. It must be hard to move from a place you have so many connections and memories in. I love how you described the apartment. You really gave a wonderful feeling of that small place of how you made it great for yourself.

  3. How nice to read about the life that you brought to the tenement apartment. Think how many different people have lived in those rooms over time.