Today in the latest installment of The Street Where You Live you're meeting Amanda Lee, New York make-up artist turned countryside-dwelling skincare entrepreneur. Though she describes herself as nomadic by nature, Amanda has found a little slice of heaven and her forever home in the beautiful state of Vermont. And what a place it is, as Isaac and I learned this past year (after my interview with Amanda I spent two hours fantasy crawling Burlington real estate, and I have no doubt that she will cause a similar reaction in you). Truly, I'm so psyched that TSWIL gets to play host to this badass, soulful babe. Now scroll down and take a walk with Amanda down the truly stunning street where she lives.
On her adopted home of Charlotte, Vermont:
I live in Charlotte, VT (pronounced Shar LOT). I am originally from Delray Beach, FL. My husband Ben, whom I met in NYC, is originally from Vermont. From time to time we would come to visit his family and I grew to really love the area. It was always so refreshing to leave the city. After being together in the city for a couple years, we both felt a little burnt out, and decided it was time for a change. We knew we wanted a more relaxing environment. We both love the outdoors too. After a lot of thought, we settled on Vermont! It was the perfect combination. We would be near family, we would be in a relaxed environment where the quality of life would suit us well, and we would only be 5 hours from NYC to visit on weekends from time to time! The town of Charlotte is very quant. It has a tiny center with its primary store, The Old Brick Store. Although it is small, every single street is stunning. The beach here on Lake Champlain and the view of the Adirondack Mountains is unbeatable (there's nothing like bringing a cooler and some floats to the lake for the day). Although I live and work in Charlotte, I spend a good amount of time in downtown Burlington, which is about 20 minutes from my house. Church Street is a beautiful pedestrian street filled with shops and little restaurants. I may never have moved here if it weren’t for spending time in Burlington, it is such an excellent small city, filled with artists and students. A lot of people compare it to Portland, ME or Asheville, NC. It is the kind of place where you can easily become a regular, whether it’s at my favorite restaurant, The Farmhouse Tap & Grill or my favorite brewery, Zero Gravity, you are sure to run into a familiar face. I have quite a love affair with it.
On her beloved husband, Ben, who moonlights as house lumberjack (whatta man):
I live with my husband, Ben Lee. Ben is truly the most loving and caring individual I have had the honor of knowing. We got married this year. He is warm, kind and selfless. He is also a dream to live with, especially because I get coffee in bed EVERY morning! We met on a concert cruise called the “Rocks Off Concert Cruise" which is a boat that goes down the New York Harbor while bands play. That night I had gone with friends to see an old punk rock band called The Bronx (although they are originally from California.) Ben was also mutual friends with the people I went with and he met up with us. As they say, The rest is history! Ben is a really great roommate. We have a good flow of having our specific little duties to keep the house in order. I do a lot of the cleaning, but Ben makes sure to stack the wood (our house is primarily heated by wood stoves) take out the trash and keep our ice trays full! We are still riding the high of being newlyweds and are really enjoying these moments together.
On finding her home:
We live in an old farmhouse on 16 acres of land. We named the house The Northern Bayou. We are currently renting but have started looking to buy in the near future in the same area. When we decided to move from New York, we were constantly looking through Craigslist for just the right spot. We knew we wanted to be near Burlington, but not directly in the city. Ben found some good places to look at and came up one day to see them. Unfortunately, I had to work. When he found our house, he called me and said he was sure it was the one. I trusted him, although there was a little reservation of course, and we signed the lease. I didn't even see the house until we moved in! It was better than I could have ever imagined!
On her bucolic block:
My street looks like a scene from a postcard. Its a wide dirt road, lined with trees. It is a warm and loving street and is very welcoming, and it feels safe and cozy even on the coldest of nights. We are completely surrounded by nature. We can't even see our neighbors house from ours, just a big beautiful red barn across the street. In the summer, they host a theatre Summer camp in the barn, which I adore. At the end of our long, winding road there is a large horse farm and sheep. Indy and Graham, our two dachshunds, love those sheep! You are more likely to see horses walk down my street in the Summer time, than cars drive down it. Our neighbors are all over the age of 50, and they love having a young couple in the neighborhood! Regardless of their age though, they are very similar to us; they love the outdoors, are animal lovers, and are passionate about living in Vermont. It’s always a pleasure to run into a neighbor on a walk with the dogs. On the downside, though, because our house is a rather old farmhouse, the foundation is stone and it can be a bit drafty. That does allow for a great cool basement that we use as a wine/beer cellar but it makes it easier for various critters to come inside (eeep). After living in cities for 10 years, it took some time for me to get used to seeing a spider regularly. Now I realize it’s just a part of living in the country, but I would still say this is my least favorite part of the house! But my backyard more than makes up for it. Our home sits on 16 acres and we have a gorgeous apple orchard. In the fall, it looks like the trees are on fire and the apples are abundant. In the winter, we go snow shoeing right in our backyard. In the Spring, the flowers begin to bloom and our garden of produce begins to thrive. In the Summer, the grass is a lush green and there is nothing like laying in the hammock under the trees. Every season there is something to look forward to. You also can’t beat the stars out there. Because there is zero light pollution, on any clear night, you can see thousands and thousands of stars. It is really astounding.
On becoming entrepreneurs:
When we moved here, both Ben and I decided to start our own companies. Neither of us knew what would come of it and we were both working other jobs for income, of course, but we began the long and difficult process of seeing what would happen if we took a chance. Three years later, our two companies are my primary jobs. We co-own both and I could not love it any more! Our first company is called Northern Bayou Cold Brew. It's a cold brewed coffee company. We sell bottles to various stores throughout the Burlington area and we also take part in the Burlington Summer Farmers Market and various other pop-up shops pouring our coffee on tap. The response has been incredible and in just a short time we have already moved into a facility that has allowed us to increase our production. We also are officially FDA Approved, which allows us to ship out of state! The other company is called Northern Bayou Apothecary. We make small-batch handmade salves, oils, and aromatic products. The apothecary shop is primarily online, which allows us to sell products all over the country. It is so much fun to start thinking about what is in store for our future. I have never been someone who plans too far ahead, but for now we are staying deeply committed to our businesses. We do have plans to get ourselves a camper to start exploring our country's National Parks, networking along the way. No matter what we are doing, however, this will always be home.
On the inspiration behind her products, and her journey to found her company:
I attended the Art Institute of Boston and had a ton of interesting jobs over the years- I've always been more of a gypsy than an office type. I would say the craziest career change I have had is when I sold all of my belongings and moved to Barcelona to become a nanny/English Teacher. Then about six years ago I began to work as a makeup artist at Sephora in NYC. I loved doing it, but I found that all the chemicals and synthetic ingredients in the products were doing terrible things to my complexion. That was when I decided to start making my own products that were natural and soothing to my sensitive skin. I started reading books about natural health and researching constantly. When we decided to move, I knew we would have more time and space to begin experimenting and producing these products. That is when Northern Bayou Apothecary was born. As I was doing this, Ben began to startup the cold brew company. Now, both are up and running. And going strong!
On adjusting to the seasonal pace of Vermont:
Moving to Vermont was a major change for me. I grew up on beaches in South Florida! There were lots of changes I had to make. The most traumatizing thing was having to retake a driving test to renew my license. Not only did I have to take a driving test, which by the way, seemed so much easier when I was 16, but I also had to learn how to drive in snow! Trust me, you did not want to be driving behind me that first winter… I’m not sure I ever exceeded 20 mph! My beauty philosophy shifted hugely. I went from making sure my nails were pristine every day, to making sure the garden was tended to in the Summer and wood always burning in the wood stove in the winter. Looking polished became less and less a priority and getting my hands dirty became everything! Also, a huge misconception about Vermont is that people think there is nothing to do here. That couldn't be further from the truth. You just have to go out and find your own adventure! This is a "four season" state, which means there are a ton of activities to do every single season. Whether its swimming, kayaking or ice skating, you can use the lake all year, and whether its on foot, on a sled, skis or a snowboard, you can always be active. In a place like this you really have to embrace the outdoor lifestyle. As for apres-ski, Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state in the country.
On what home means to her:
Home to me is a lot of things. It is being surrounded by love. It is a wool blanket. It is maple trees. It is a hot cup of coffee or an ice cold beer. It is my husband and my dogs. It is sitting around a warm fire and having a place to hang up my jacket.
Describe your street in five words.:
A breath of fresh air.
When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
I feel genuine gratitude. It constantly reminds me of how lucky I am to live in such a majestic place and how lucky I am to be doing something I love and be living my life with someone I love. Moving here was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made and it truly feels like the place I belong.
On her perfect day off in her neighborhood:
I wake up around 9 AM and lay in bed for an hour to read the news and catch up on social networking. Ben always brings me coffee in bed. Then I get up and head downstairs to do some yoga and really get my day going. After yoga and a lonnnnnnnnggg warm shower, Ben and I take the dogs on a hike, either on our street or on one of the various hiking paths in the neighborhood. After this we head downtown for some lunch at The Farmhouse and do a little shopping on Church St. Now we head over to Healthy Living, our favorite grocery store. We are definitely going to cook up a storm tonight! We head home, I have a glass of Chardonnay and Ben has a beer as we begin cooking dinner. Lately we have been cooking a lot of interesting Asian dishes! After dinner, we get under ALL the wool blankets we own with the dogs, and lie on the couch and watch a movie before heading back upstairs to cuddle up in bed, safe and sound.
Photos by Travis Perrotte and Amanda. Ok, are we all ready to pack it all in and move to the country? Thanks sweet A for taking us on a tour of your beautiful part of the world and sharing the story of your home. You can follow Amanda on Instagram here. Also make sure to stop by The Northern Bayou Apothecary store for all your gifting needs this Christmas. Handmade by the beauty above.