Seeking Storage, Finding Brooklyn


THE SITUATION IS DIRE: 11 cartons and 8 plastic bins, holding a lifetime’s worth of family photos, children’s artwork, published and unpublished writing, already pared down to what I consider essentials. Sitting out on the floor of my bedroom in piles, they do not attractive decor make.

And on the other side of the room…


Unless I get some kind of giant credenza, armoire, cabinet, or other closed storage piece –– and I have a 6-1/2-foot wide alcove just waiting to receive one — there’s no point even painting the walls (just as well, since I haven’t decided what color to paint them).


Here’s where I’ve looked:

  • IKEA, where I tried to get my head around the ultra-sleek cabinet, above, ultimately deciding to honor my vow not to buy anything made of particle board
  • Find, a Gowanus warehouse documented in a previous post, where I considered and decided against several rustic pieces imported from India, mainly because nothing was quite the right size for the space
  • Hip and Humble on Atlantic Avenue, which had an armoire approximately the right size and shape, but with cutesy floral carving I couldn’t abide
  • A just-opened and potentially fabulous resource, Film Biz Recycling on President Street near 4th Avenue, a repository for film-set leftovers that just re-located this week from Queens — but I wasn’t parked legally so I just ran in long enough to ascertain there weren’t any armoires in stock


Today, nearing my wit’s end, I checked out a place I’d read about somewhere: Trailer Park, on Sterling Place near 6th Avenue in Park Slope, above, which sells vintage furniture as well as custom pieces made of reclaimed barn wood. The place is so full of the very stuff I used to collect — ’50s lamps, vintage tablecloths, American art pottery — I couldn’t believe I’d never known about it. I brightly asked the fellow in the shop, “How long have you been here?” thinking surely he’d reply, “We just opened last month.” He said, “Oh, about thirteen years.” And I thought I knew Brooklyn!


I admired the 1970s German science posters ($150) and checked out the other offerings closely, but the pieces made of recycled barn lumber by Amish woodworkers, above, were too plain and stolid for me, and the large armoires more than I wanted to spend (about $1,600) — and they didn’t happen to have any vintage ones on hand.

So on I went to Re-Pop on Washington Avenue near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, first perusing their website and zeroing in on a couple of mid-20th century credenzas — not a style I was tending toward, I’m pretty done with that — although in my present circumstances, the main thing is to get something that fits, dammit, so I can start unpacking these boxes before my lease is up.


It was also my first-ever visit to Re-Pop, above, which has been in business about four years, and my first time in that area — Clinton Hill East? — in ages. So it was a revelation to see that the proximity of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is no longer a deal-breaker when it comes to luxury apartments. 275 Park Avenue, right under the BQE, is a converted 19th century chocolate factory, a distinguished brick building that now houses an organic market, Fresh Fanatic, below, and a Mexican restaurant, Mojito, on the ground floor. I can’t tell you how incongruous I find the gentrification of these blocks in the shadow of the BQE. I once considered them irredeemable — but I was wrong about that, too, apparently.


Re-Pop is stuffed with vintage modern furniture at good prices, chosen with a keen eye for mostly non-pedigreed but stylish designs. They have a load of kitschy ’50s lamps, all with original shades. I seriously considered two pieces, each under $600: a long, low credenza of good shape and size, but I didn’t love it as a piece of furniture, and an unusual blonde wood 9-drawer dresser, but I don’t need a 9-drawer dresser.

So I came away without that vital storage piece, but not empty-handed. See my new lamp, below. It works beautifully in the living room, and actually provides enough illumination for reading.


The NEW Carroll Gardens

img_0034_1I LOVE PLAYING TOURIST in my own neighborhood. Last Sunday, the first of true spring, my friend Nancy and I strolled down to the farthest reaches of Carroll Gardens, into what was, until recently, a sketchy wasteland of mostly marginal storefronts, perilously close to the BQE.

It was always obvious that the area would one day turn. There have been inroads, like the overdone but endearing Le Petit Cafe. But in the last few months, downturn or no, the area seems to have reached some new critical mass of chic.

Why, it’s almost a neighborhood unto itself, in need of a name, bounded roughly by Clinton and Smith, 4th Place and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. SoCaGa (South Carroll Gardens) sounds like choking. NoReHo (North Red Hook)? DUBQE (Down Under the BQE)?

We were headed to Buttermilk Channel for brunch, or so we thought. We walked south from Dean Street on Smith, which has been pretty much over for me since Uncle Pho closed in 2002 (French-Vietnamese restaurant with the BEST vintage wallpaper and watermelon martinis).

On the corner of Smith Street and Third Place, I noticed something I’d passed a thousand times and never saw: a 1920s auto body shop, below, whose 1920s upper story has a Mediterranean tile awning, disguised behind a coat of battleship gray.


We headed up to Court and found Buttermilk Channel a madhouse of families eating Easter lunch. We put our names on the list, then checked out Store 518, a vintage-style general store full of penny candy in old showcases, on the one hand, and an outpost for fashion designer Nadia Tarr of Butter on the other.

Decided to blow off the crowd scene and happened into Prime Meats, two photos below and top, whose glossy new storefront beckoned from the corner of Court Street and 4th Place.


To sit in a wooden booth under a tin ceiling, with sunlight streaming in and a glass of dry sparkling German wine, is a delightful way to pass part of a Sunday afternoon. But we decided against eating there because they don’t have eggs on the menu and we wanted eggs.

So we headed to the old standby, Cafe Luluc, where I had my usual eggs Florentine.

On the way, I spotted two adjoining buildings, below, on Carroll, with floral motifs etched into the brownstone (rare in these parts), and a pair of unusual cornices that totally say Eastlake.


Back on Smith, I pondered the nagging question: Why aren’t there any trees? Why must Smith Street be so barren, so willfully UGLY? Why doesn’t someone DO something (merchants’ association, e.g.)? Court is by far the more attractive, mainly because of the trees.

The final, serendipitous stop of the afternoon was the Invisible Dog gallery/thrift/design shop, below. We were lured in to the Bergen Street storefront by a wooden sign against a building that, once again, despite 30  years of residence nearby, I never noticed. Turns out it’s a former factory, where a popular novelty item — the ‘Invisible Dog’ leash (you remember those) — was made. Now it’s an art gallery as well as the future location of artists’ studios and a rooftop garden, and a temporary, weekend-only store selling utilitarian items like desks, clocks, and metal objects found in this very building — all masterminded by Lucien Zayan, recently arrived from Paris, and Muriel Guepin, a former financial analyst.


What an adventure! You could do worse than follow our itinerary this coming weekend. But make a reservation at Buttermilk Channel (parties of 5 or more).