The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Brooklyn

TGIF-20/05/16

TGIFAlexandra king1 Comment
waltz and burger

TGIF from a hot cheeseburger-munching Christopher Waltz staring moodily in your general direction. What are you up to this weekend? Tonight Isaac and I are having dinner with friends at one of my favorite restaurants in the city (seriously, this place is delicious).  Then tomorrow I'm planning on checking out the Manus x Machina show at the Met, followed by a stroll through Central Park. Perfection. Wishing you a beautiful one, friends. My usual roundup of favorites below.

A Cold Spring

13 Fucks You Stop Giving When You're A Grown Woman

Let's all run away for the summer to Villa Lena


What happens when you perform the Vagina Monologues in a male prison


Can't wait to see this


Beautiful illustrations by Brooklyn based illustrator Rose Wong


Camel tassles for your camel, obvs, or, in my case, for easy suitcase identification (the next best thing?)

Last week I treated myself to a new white silk shirt from Everlane, and, as ever, they are the best.

Centuries of peacocking in the city

I have not been able to stop thinking about this article


"I would say things like, “I’m sorry I was so grumpy this morning. I was really tired. I love you so much. We’re going to have a great day together.” I loved Joanna's advice to new mothers  

A truly beautiful and meaningful set of rings

A Tree Grew in Chinatown

Home and DesignAlexandra kingComment
Chinatown, Autumn, 2013

Chinatown, Autumn, 2013

One year go this past weekend, Isaac and I packed up our downtown apartment and headed due south, kitchen pans rattling in the U-Haul, across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. Four months earlier I'd taken the same drive, wearing a white silk dress and roses in my hair, to marry my husband across the water. The move, in many ways, felt similarly momentous.

Though we loved our Chinatown neighborhood (we would open a business right across the street from our old apartment, just eight months later, though we didn't know it then) our place was decrepit. A rent-stabilized one bedroom in an old 18th century building on Chrystie Street, it had been Isaac's bachelor pad of five years before I came on the scene. We faux-affectionately named it "The Tenement Museum", in honour of the tourist attraction a few blocks away that gives (very good, you must go) tours of a restored tenement house. But why go there when you could see the real thing, we said. In our building, the front door stayed open all night. Restaurant workers crouched in the hallway, chain smoking on upturned tomato cans. Doors would fling open at all hours, occasionally revealing corridors of neatly lined up shoes and rickety looking bunk beds for day and night-shift sleepers. Many residents stationed themselves, permanently, on the stairs, cooking thick-scented food on (!) open flames. The apartment's only windows looked out onto a filthy courtyard containing the following- a discarded bucket, a full metric tonne of pigeon shit and a large, stained clawfoot bathtub, which, anchored jauntily on a glassy outcrop, was somehow, miraculously, entirely in tact despite almost certainly having been dropped out of a window from a very great height. Stairwells, corridors and walls were coated in layers of cooking smoke and ancient unstoppable dirt. The building's pigeon infestation was so extreme, and the amount of nests so noisy and prodigal, that Isaac took to positioning himself by our living room window with a giant super soaker, squirting hapless birds with a mixture of water and Siriacha sauce. At night, before the horny pigeon couples launched into their 4am aubade atop our air conditioner, we were woken by the sounds of local bars pumping up their sound systems and buckets of dish water being chucked out of windows.

But despite it all, I so loved many aspects of living there. Being casually handed fat little cooing babies to carry up the stairs while their power-house Mamas lugged up bags of groceries, the hilarious and touching aerobics class for Chinese old ladies that took place in the park opposite the building, the fruit and veg stall on the corner always stocked with ripe avocados and giant 30 cent bunches of cilantro. Yellow canaries in cages that whistled me on my way to work. My many sweet neighbours, who I spoke to solely in big smiles and thumbs up/down motions. Chinatown, and its community, is truly special. But the apartment was a nightmare. I did my best of course, but nothing, not even my dependable three-step program of white paint, green plants and shelves of books could fully mask its low-lit shabbiness. In September 2014, after a month of sleepless nights, a discovery that some new residents had taken to sleeping on the roof and a summer roach infestation of truly Indiana Jones-movie-level proportions, enough was enough. I burst into tears and told Isaac we had to move. Right. This. Minute. And, miraculously, because finding any apartment within the five boroughs of New York City always feels so, our friends who had recently moved into a beautiful brownstone in the historic neighborhood of Park Slope, told us that the first floor apartment was suddenly available to rent. Are you interested?" they said. Fast forward to me, jumping on the F train and running to the Rite Aid ATM on 7th Avenue to grab that holding deposit faster than you can say "we need an exterminator IMMEDIATELY" in Cantonese, which trust me, is surprisingly easy to locate via Google but astonishingly difficult to execute.

The Brooklyn apartment was by no means in a good way when I first saw it, one cold November day. It had virtually no storage. A rail road layout. A weird old door to the hallway in the bedroom. And the previous residents hadn't loved on it that much, to say the least, decor wise. But it had good bones. South facing windows. High ceilings. Decent water pressure. And, the absolute clincher, an outdoor space, which admittedly one had to climb through a window to get to, but goddammit you could fit a table and chairs on that thing.

A couple of months back, my apartment was photographed and I was interviewed by the charming girls of Blonde magazine about my approach to design (you can see the photos and the full interview here- heads up, it's in German). I found myself saying out loud something I suddenly realized- that living in a series of shitty apartments is pretty much the best training you can have in terms of understanding how to create a beautiful home. I'm so thankful, in retrospect, for the shitty apartments, all of them- the damp drafty flat on Camden Road, the crumbling purple mews house in Chalk Farm, even the bloody Tenement Museum. They taught me the essential lesson that it's possible to patch things up with a little love and ingenuity. But most importantly, despite their faults, all of them were and in some ways still are, home.

When you move to a new flat or apartment or house, you don't just take on the previous resident's lackadaisical approach to cleaning behind the oven, or their rampant mouse problem, or their not yet forwarded magazine subscriptions or wedding invitations from long-forgotten aunts- you also dwell arm in arm with the energy left behind. The breakups and dinner parties and wild nights in after wild nights out. All homes you live in live on in you. And you in them. When I left our Chinatown apartment for the last time, I did so in the way I have left all the places I have ever lived in. I ran my hands along the newly naked walls, scarred by the picture frames we had hung, scuffed by our shoes, and I whispered, ever so softly, "thank you".





TGIF-26/06/15

TGIFAlexandra kingComment
brooklyn block alexandra king-lyles

TGIF! That one came around fast. What are you up to this weekend? I'll be basking in the golden light you see above, stretching on the rug and lunching with good friends.  And waving my pride flag of course. It's so beautiful living through  a new season in the neighborhood, watching my concrete garden (more on that in a post next week) grow and people watching from the stoop. Having said that, pray for me, because yesterday a mosquito flying down that beautiful block you see above bit me.  On the FACE. Next to my eye. Which is now hugely swollen and enflamed, leaving me looking like a forlorn recipient of a budget face transplant. As I write this, frozen peas are clasped to my cheek. Truly, I've never been sexier. Anyway. Cheers to a beautiful pride-ful weekend. Hope it's all the good things.

Cool monogrammed notecards for those all-important thank you notes 

Love these patchy and shaggy sheepskins for throwing over scuffed chairs and knees

I want this watch for my birthday (in my dreams)

Also I genuinely want a ham from here. Yes, for my birthday I want a watch and a ham. Bite me.

This looks like a beautiful place to chill

Last week me and my Dad got our auras read here. It was surprisngly accurate (mine was "intense and tired". Sadly true. 

Is this the world's best and most essential jumpsuit? Why yes, yes it is. 

The Running of the Interns. Yep, I remember that feeling.

A beautifully told love story 

Hold the pancakes. This is my breakfast of choice

A song I've always loved. Reimagined. So well.

Rad honeycomb ear rings. Buzzzz

In my head I'm always wearing this

"Snowmageddon" 2015

New York CityAlexandra kingComment
The view from the stoop

The view from the stoop

New York, the city that never sleeps, is officially having a much-needed nap. Last night public transport was shut down, all cars were banned after 11pm, and panicking Park Slopers ran to stockpile pitta chips and sancerre.

Heading home early yesterday after my office closed at noon, catching a lift with a colleague for a slow slippy crawl back to Brooklyn as snow pounded thick and horizontal into the unsuspecting faces of a million citizens lugging home candles and bottled water, I wondered if perhaps we were all just ever-so-slightly over-reacting.

And of course, we were. "Super Storm" Juno ploughed a kitteny purr through the night, scattering a paltry six inches (news casts had predicted as much as 36) of powdery soft snow, and we have woken up this morning, offices and shops closed, meetings cancelled, to a day off. What they call here a "snow day". Even my yoga class has been cancelled- there is no time for asanas when snow men are to be made and relatives are to be reassured in luxuriously lengthy skype calls that really everything is fine despite what CNN says.

As I write this, the radiators are hissing like fat little dragons, BBC Radio 4 is on (something about Russia) my sweet husband is dutifully arranging the book case and the evening will usher in whisky and spaghetti and binge watching our favourite new show (have you seen it? Oh Jeffrey Tambor my heart beats for you).

Thank you Juno, you naughty little storm in a tea cup, for getting us all worked up, if only for forcing us to put some good hard effort into sitting down, giving up on the distractions, and simply being cozy.