The Insider: Apartment for One in Cobble Hill


MY NEW EVERY-THURSDAY SERIES for continues today in a new, easier-to-read format, with a garden floor-through in the heart of Cobble Hill by interior designer Julia Mack.

These are rented digs, colorful and cost-conscious, with lots of Brooklyn-based sources and interesting ideas.

Hie on over here to see many more photos and read all about it.

Color Quandary


OK, IT’S NOT A LIFE-ALTERING DECISION, but I’m surprisingly perplexed about what to do re the paint color for my bedroom walls. Me, the expert who successfully chose colors sight unseen for the living room and bathroom, below, when my landlords offered to paint any color I wanted before I moved into my new pied-a-terre, a brownstone garden floor-through in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, last month (that’s right, it’s not an apartment, it’s a pied-a-terre, and I’m gonna keep saying it.)


Benjamin Moore’s Dalila in the living room, above, and Ben Moore’s Tropicana Cabana in the bathroom, below


For the bedroom, I had been thinking red/orange, and I’ve now spent about $100 trying 9 samples from 4 different paint companies:

  • Benjamin Moore. I started out with 3 wimpy pale pinks that are definitely not me; moved on to Coral Gables, more assertive but still too pink; then tried Poppy, an overly aggressive red I couldn’t possibly live with on a daily basis.
  • Ralph Lauren. Hot Orange, way too dark; Mesa Sunrise, a maybe.
  • Farrow & Ball. Orangery, which is more like yellow ochre. No.
  • Pratt & Lambert. Pale Carnelian — love it for a chair, not a room.

All this has required several trips to Pintchick, one to deepest Brooklyn (Eastern Paint on Flatbush Avenue is the only Brooklyn store that carries the full line of Ralph Lauren paints), 2 trips into Manhattan (one to Saifee in the East Village which also carries RL, and another to London Paints in Chelsea for the Farrow & Ball).

See what I’m up against in the bedroom, below?


I’ve looked at my sample patches in every kind of natural light from dim to dark (it’s a north-facing bedroom under a deck, above), as well as artificial. Not one of my samples is calling out to me as the right color.

These are among the considerations:

  • I want something to brighten the room and make it less dreary
  • The paint mustn’t be too dark. Not only is the room already dark, it’s unfair to my landlords (as a landlord myself, I’m always pissed when I give people permission to paint whatever color they choose, and they choose deep purple)
  • It has to work with the sunflower yellow living room, as the door between the rooms is almost always open
  • It has to make me happy, lift my spirits, and envelop me with a sense of well-being, constantly

Tall order for a can of paint? Well, yes…hence the quandary.

My friend Debre thinks I should just keep going in this vein, use up all my samples for a kind of crazy quilt effect. No, my dear, I’m not doing that. Meanwhile, time’s a-fleeting. I’m already in the second month of a one-year lease (though I hope to stay much longer).

I’ve got to choose something, and soon. Maybe a nice blue or green?

Prospect Heights 1BR $2100/mo.

NOTE: This is NOT my new pied-a-terre, and the apartment is no longer available. This post is for voyeuristic and informational purposes only.


MY COUCH-SURFING DAYS WILL SOON BE OVER. I’m on the verge of signing a lease for a garden floor-through in Prospect Heights. As of November 1st, I’ll be able to say the words “pied-a-terre” even more often. I’m fantasizing how I’ll place my furniture, and my new landlords are being kind enough to allow me to choose paint colors. It’s premature to say any more.


I found my apartment-to-be on Craigslist (“by owner”), and though the pickings in Prospect Heights, my target neighborhood, are fairly slim, and there is a sad preponderance of bad renovations, there is one other listing I want to share with you. It was rented in a flash. I’m posting these pictures purely as an example of what’s available on the Brooklyn rental market for lovers of old houses who are prepared to do a diligent search.


It’s a top floor (long climb, bright) on Sterling Place, very near the Brooklyn Museum. The terracotta color of the building, top, and arched windows on the ground floor make me think Renaissance Revival, though most of the neighborhood dates from the 1890s, three decades past that style’s heyday. The apartment has TWO working fireplaces (one is rare enough — this is the outstanding feature, as far as I’m concerned) and the mantels and moldings are the original dark woodwork. Pity about the kitchen in the middle, but what can you do — it’s gotta go somewhere.


Pretty swell, don’t ya think? No wonder the landlord had people fighting over this one.


Moving Blues

THIS MOVING BUSINESS is starting to get to me. I’m doing two simultaneous moves from my 2BR Boerum Hill duplex: one to a 1BR garden floor-through a couple of blocks away, and one to a cottage in Springs, a few miles north of East Hampton, Long Island, which I had hoped to close on by the end of this month.

I’m living amidst piles — piles for State Street, piles for Springs, piles for the upstate storage locker, piles for each of my kids. Fortunately, the stoop sale pile is gone after a successful sale (OK, it was more of a giveaway) this past weekend.

The leftovers:


The weekend was sunny and warm and festive and fun and friendly.

The next-door neighbors who jumped on the stoop-sale bandwagon:


Come Monday, it’s raining, my cat has been sick, I’m eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner and living in utter chaos (piles of boxes = lots img_0048of places for a sick cat to hide), and I just found out from my mortgage broker that we’re “shooting for the week of May 10” for the Springs closing, which means I’ll have to get a storage unit on Long Island (where the hell is Centereach?) and a man with van for all the stuff I would have liked to move directly from Brooklyn, upon vacating this apartment April 30, to the cottage in Springs, which I don’t own yet.img_0054


(By the way, I got two quotes for my intra-Brooklyn move: a guaranteed price of $1,463 from Flatrate and a “probable cost” estimate from Big Apple of $922, with a guaranteed cap of $1,100. Guess which one I’m going with?)

The delay in the Springs closing is due to the seller’s having to take care of some ‘open permits’ discovered in the title search. They added a shed and a screened porch in 1965, with proper permits, but they’ve expired. Oh, dear. I have a feeling the offices of the Town of East Hampton are going to become familiar to me. You need permits for everything and you can’t just fly under the radar like you can in New York City.

The illegal porch:


On top of which, I spoke to two very dear friends last night, one an architect in East Hampton and one an antique dealer in Sag Harbor, both single women who own their homes and have lived out there full time for the past few years. Both are struggling financially and BOTH are putting their houses on the market just as I buy one, which is rather disappointing.

Daughter from Hawaii

Daughter from Hawaii

Well, watch me turn negatives into positives: I’ll have ten whole days to settle into my new State Street home without the distraction of a cottage in disrepair. I’ll have my daughter (who’s arriving from Hawaii May 5) to help me:-) The rain is good for the gardens. I took my elderly cat to the vet today and he’s perked up a bit. And maybe my friends will change their minds about selling, though they seem awfully determined. Maybe they won’t be able to sell in this market, and maybe, as one of them warned me, I won’t be able to rent.

Old Leo

Old Leo

But here’s my rationale. While all the ‘luxury’ homes with pools go begging, my cozy, low-key, tastefully decorated, beautifully landscaped, underpriced cottage will be snapped up by someone who never really like that competitive ‘Hamptons  lifestyle’ anyway.

Detaching from Dean Street


AT THE END OF APRIL, I’m downsizing from a grand, 1,800-square-foot garden/parlor duplex to a more sensible garden floor-through a few blocks away.



It’s been 2-1/2 years, which flew, and I’ve loved living here. I’ve realized that my identity is very wrapped up in where I live — and this place has been good for my self-esteem.

Where I’m going will be appropriate and cozy, if not as splendiferous.

Having signed a lease last night, I’m starting the process of detaching emotionally from this house where I’ve been so happy.

It helps to know I’ll always have my photos.