APT: DUMBO + Life + Health

Weekend to-do.

The new apartment is really not feeling like a home at all yet, which is why I haven’t shared any photos. I like DUMBO and of course I love Brooklyn, but I have to admit to feeling pretty detached from the apartment itself. The building itself is from the late 1800s (that’s it on the right in the photo, and yes, it’s on the movie poster for Once Upon a Time in America, and yes, apparently it’s also used in the exterior shots of someone’s loft on Gossip Girl), but the interior is completely new. The entire building—formerly a cardboard factory—was totally renovated and converted into apartments last year.

With the exception of my college dorm room and a Brooklyn townhouse we rented briefly before moving upstate, I’ve never lived in a post-War structure. It’s very strange for me to not have the quirks and faults of an old home to fall back on. I’m someone who relies heavily on restriction and limitation in order to come up with solutions to problems, which is really the reason why it’s been so easy (conceptually, at least) to make the house feel like home. I’m used to depending on 120+ years of history to give my surroundings warmth and meaning and a sense of permanence.

I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel to suddenly be in a white box with absolutely no history, no mistakes, no damage. It’s funny how differently something like a plain pine board used as a shelf reads in an old house versus a new one—the meaning is totally different.

But really…I need to stop complaining. I know this. I have to just start doing what needs to be done in order to make this apartment not feel like a hotel room.


Assemble dressers for closet storage
✚ Spray-paint dresser knobs (too windy!)
Spray-paint sofa legs
Put two coats of matte poly on the desk top
HANG STUFF ON THE WALLS (some done, more to go…)
Assemble sideboard; organize contents
Figure out what needs to happen for closet storage
Mount swing-arm lamp in bedroom
✚ Buy drawer organizers for kitchen
✚ Think of ways to minimize the harsh bathroom lighting
Deep-clean the triangle rug and make the dogs promise to not pee on it anymore (bribery may be required)

That’s not so bad. Once this is all done, maybe I’ll feel like I can take a few photos. I hope so.

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  • Reply Arawa March 24, 2012 at 11:03 am

    OK, I am going to be the one to leave the stupid comment. You are now living in Dan Humphrie’s loft. Yes, I watch too much mindless television. I cannot wait to see pictures of what you do with the place. I love Brooklyn. I lived in Clinton-Washington for a short time.

    • Anna @ D16 March 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Is that the person from Gossip Girl? It’s just the outside, though, not the inside. I looked it up after 20 people (OK, two people) told me it’s on Gossip Girl, and apparently it’s supposed to be in Williamsburg on the show? I have no idea, but the interior is totally different.

    • abbey@sugalily.co.uk March 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      yes! i’m a geek too, dan is the token non upper east sider, have seen your apartment exterior lots, can’t wait to see what you do with it x

    • kelly March 25, 2012 at 12:07 am

      I was going to make the same comment. I recognized it right away. I thought maybe it was just a similar looking area, not the exact same building!

    • Anna @ D16 March 25, 2012 at 12:29 am

      Pssst…I actually said it in the first paragraph of the post. 😉

    • Arawa March 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Hey Anna:
      Here is the layout of the set they use for the loft that is supposed to be in your building – http://web.me.com/lorenweeks57/Loren_Weeks_Production_Design/Gossip_Girl/Pages/Dan_Humphreys_Brooklyn_Loft.html
      Just in case you were curious.

  • Reply liza March 24, 2012 at 11:08 am

    your previous apartment sounds, lovely. however, it sounds slightly luxurious and exciting to start from a clean slate. i can relate to making due with inherited design…it does bring out the engenuity.

  • Reply Lena March 24, 2012 at 11:09 am

    So excited to see what you do! maybe the solution is to include some older pieces to give it more history& warmth?

  • Reply planktonfisher March 24, 2012 at 11:15 am

    wow! this picture is stunning! i would love to live directly next to brooklyn bridge and to have this great view over manhattan!
    but i also know the difference between living in an old house and a freshly renovated one. i am now living in a 120 year old house, which has a soul. this is really important to me.
    i´m looking forward to see pictures from your new apartment, knowing that you will decorate it nicely and make it a home!

    • Anna @ D16 March 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

      That’s actually the Manhattan Bridge, but the Brooklyn Bridge is nearby as well. 🙂

    • planktonfisher March 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      ha! you see, few days in new york were not enough! i´ll definitely have to come back one day 🙂 !

  • Reply Rebecca March 24, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I’ve been in several apartments that didn’t feel like home and I agonized about it so much. When I finally hung stuff on the walls, it was all okay. So I definitely recommend doing that! For whatever reason, it makes your place feel like home quicker than anything else.

  • Reply Lori March 24, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I have been very patient. Please don’t wait too long for the photos!

  • Reply Anne March 24, 2012 at 11:31 am

    What a fun project to have! I think you’ll probably rely on things like textiles and interesting shapes to liven up the space (and secondary–not overhead–lighting). Interesting comment about the unfinished wood shelf….in a new space, it probably says “under construction/not quite done yet.”

  • Reply amberop March 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Oh woah! I walk here in the mornings and grab breakfast near the park. In the Spring and Fall I like to walk over the Manhattan bridge to work. You just get to be the first person to lay down roots there, so in 120 years someone else knows why their home has a soul 😉 Also, DUMBO gives great inspiration and I’m sure you’ll know just what to do soon!

  • Reply alice March 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    But you do have restrictions and limitations, just a totally different kind! Can’t wait to see what you will come up with 🙂

  • Reply Simone March 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    I think you will be fine, otherwise maybe see if you can find a few of those beautiful old radiators? Although that idea doesn’t entirely make sense to me now I think about it. Also hanging art changes a lot as well.
    I hope you have an elevator? Unlike Daniel who has to schlep himself up 5 floors or something like that (now with dog mind you). Maybe paint a wall fluoresent pink (thats a joke).

  • Reply Diana March 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I think you’re right, once you set your things up in the apartment it’ll feel more yours than before.
    Also, every time I read your posts I remember how much I miss Brooklyn and how much I want to move there, at least for a while.

  • Reply Brianna March 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    What an amazing view. All your instagram photos of it are breathtaking and somewhat eerie (only in the good way). Seems so alien with how large it is, almost War of the World like. I would never get sick of it!

  • Reply Grumble Girl March 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I’m so excited for you… and I can’t wait to see pics of the new digs!

    And yes – the hanging of the stuff on the walls has got to be the key. We’ve hardly re-hung a single frame since our huge house paint job over a year ago… because I’m not happy with the hallway colour… but, I should get to it. This weekend maybe. (Or next. Oy.)

  • Reply Weelittlebird March 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    When I moved from an 1890s townhouse into a 1930s cottage, I was shocked at how the scale and proportion of my furniture seemed drastically different (which, yes, is different from pre-war to brand new). I felt strange for a bit and had to edit and play around before I felt settled, but what an exciting challenge!

    You may find that bringing in pre-war antiques and furniture in combination with new, mid-century and vintage pieces gives you that feeling you are after. A spindle-y gate legged table, or something with a Gothic or Victorian feeling (dare I say Steampunk) may give you the right juxtaposition. It’s so funny how something changes depending on what it’s next to (like colors do!).

    Hope you feel at home soon.

  • Reply Carly March 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    I just made the opposite move, from a brand new building to an old building. I’m excited to decorate my (boarded up) fireplace, but there was something to be said about not having to arrange furniture around random poles and radiators.

  • Reply Jenn March 25, 2012 at 12:26 am

    another one looking forward to seeing what you do with the place! i stumbled upon your neighborhood while “exploring” NYC an afternoon last summer. there’s a taqueria near your house that we dived into when it started POURING down rain on our adventure… not sure what it’s called, but it was SO GOOD! i think on the north side of the manhattan bridge? looks like you are just on the south side.

    we live in a 100+ year old building that has NOT been renovated in jersey city, and though the “charm” of living in an old place can be nice, there are things like old electrical and old plumbing and plaster walls that i’m sure you don’t have to deal with!! which will be nice too…

    again, congrats on getting an AWESOME place, and looking foward to seeing what you do with it!!


    • Anna @ D16 March 25, 2012 at 12:35 am

      I think you’re talking about Pedro’s? Lacking for vegans, alas! All they really have for me is a pile of rice and beans in a tortilla, which is a drag. I don’t understand why they don’t have grilled vegetables or anything!

      We’ve been dealing with plenty of old electrical and old plumbing and plaster walls in our unrenovated (well, it was unrenovated when we bought it!) 120-year-old house in Newburgh for the past 6 years, and honestly…I love all of that stuff. I don’t trust new construction! My preference will always be old homes, particularly Victorian-era. 🙂

  • Reply Sophia March 25, 2012 at 1:59 am

    This picture you took is an absolute tease, especially for someone who has hopes of visiting NYC one day but hasen’t succeeded yet in doing so! Your surroundings are such an inspiration just by looking at and I hope they can make it up for the lack of old charm in your new new apartment!

  • Reply maddy March 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    My recommendation is to spend some time drinking a cocktail on your fabulous rooftop deck. You’ll feel better! 🙂

    I also love the feeling and architecture of old spaces. When I’m in a new space, I enjoy the amenities like working appliances, air conditioning and decent water pressure (hopefully you have all those things). Also, I do believe new spaces can be “old-ified” a bit by adding your own details and furnishing with an eye toward taking the blandness away. A new challenge…

  • Reply Maria @ All Things Luxurious March 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Hang in there — I know how it feels to move in somewhere and have it not feel like home. My husband and I were in the same place last year with our apartment; but little by little, the space began to feel warmer, and even though it is a work-in-progress, we have fallen in love. It takes time, but just know and be confident that it will happen. 🙂

  • Reply MomlovesMod March 26, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Hi! Anna! I just want to say that I completely relate to this experience. I am a teacher in Santa Clara, California who has always had to work with a 50 year old classrooms with weird windows and heating vents and all kinds of quirky things. Not to mention the history of every teacher who used that classroom before me, I felt honored to be in that space. I was living, teaching in Up The Down Staircase. The result, I absolutely fell in love with Mid Century designs, kind of had to. Recently, my room was modernized…I don’t know what to do. I am afraid to touch anything. And it doesn’t feel right. I am at a loss. I am kind of in mourning, and no one around me understands. Luckily, I have a great life partner, my husband, who didn’t question me when I announced we were renting a moving truck to bring home many bookcases and a shelf unit and the biggest, most awesome industrial flat file from the library. Now my home reflects my love for all things school house. Keep writing, it helps me to know, that I am not alone.

  • Reply Jennifer March 26, 2012 at 12:54 am

    I see this as a challenge to your design style. Both the apartment and house were very similar; something that’s completely different can allow you to buy/use stuff which wouldn’t feel right in the house.

  • Reply Ceci March 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

    WOW! That’s a great picture! Soon enough you will feel at home – I know the ‘hotel room’ feeling all too well. Now I’m in a great OLD, quirky apartment just outside DC. If anyone can make a space look great, it’s you. ☺

  • Reply Ronnie March 28, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Hey Anna,

    I think this is the second time I’ve stumbled across your blog (not sure why it took me so long) and my first time commenting. Just wanted to say that I can empathise – we just moved into an almost brand new place and I don’t think we slept for two months in our attempt to furnish it and set it up to make it feel like ‘home.’ History does help with warmth/character but judging by your blog, you seem to exude style so I’m quite confident you’re going to make it great.

    Will be back to check out your pictures when they do go up!


  • Reply amy April 4, 2012 at 2:29 am

    someone on my instagram just posted this shot and it baffled me. edroste’s photo http://instagr.am/p/I-nDo-TXi-/

    • Anna @ D16 April 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      It’s a public street! Hundreds of people take that same photo every day, believe me. 😉

  • Reply Celia April 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Hi! Congrats on your new place. I’m a sucker for pre-war apartments too, but I’m sure you’ll find ways to make your DUMBO loft your home. I had to say hello because I now see that view of the bridge every morning on my way to work! It’s a new job, so I’m getting to know the neighborhood, like you. Hooray for Brooklyn!

  • Reply Tracy April 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi. New reader, just arrived via instagram. Can’t wait to see what you do with your new place. I can relate to your feelings about old houses. I’ve been in my new-to-me home for almost two years and it’s still not done or feeling warm and cozy just yet.

  • Reply victoria April 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    wow! since I saw “Once Upon A Time” years and years ago, I´ve been wanting to go to this street, I don´t know why but it´s forever printed in my mind! Lucky you 😉

  • Reply lili April 25, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Hi Anna, i was just strolling through the photos of an article about the digitalization of the photos of the nyc department of records in the german newspaper Süddeutsche when i found this: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/reise/historische-bilder-aus-dem-stadtarchiv-es-war-einmal-in-new-york-1.1340397-8
    the photography is from june 1908 (New York City Municipal Archives, Department of Bridges/Plant & Structures, Eugene de Salignac/AP).
    So the photo from your new street came into my mind: is it the same street? it’s almost the same image section isn’t it? just wanted to share..

    • Anna @ D16 April 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      It is, yes! I posted it on Facebook last night…wonderful collection. 🙂

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