Photos of My New York City Apartment

For those who have read the story in Hanging Out of my fun decorating splurge in my apartment in Manhattan and for those of you who might be curious, I’ve taken some recent photos of the place as I get ready to sell it.

In about 1998 I got a big advance to write a new book, and though I’ve always tried to be careful with my money (because I never knew when it would stop showing up), I decided to lavish some on my poor old wreck of an apartment. It was always big by Manhattan standards and now it’s considered premium, but back in the mid ’70’s when I first moved in, it was in a bad neighborhood, had lots of cockroaches but was cheap enough for a single working mother with two small kids and no added support from anywhere.

Over time, I had gone from renter to owner, and I knew I wanted something special, something that would delight me. Instead of hiring an interior decorator, I enlisted the help of a couple of talented friends, one a playwright and set designer, the other a stylist (someone who sets up the ambiance in movie scenes and TV commercials). We scouted out flea markets on 6th Avenue on Sundays, did a little shopping at Macy’s and the Bombay Company and turned it into something gorgeous. There was no real restoration, but a lot of redecorating — with paint, and imagination.

When it was done, I invited my friends over for dinner, a tour and a very special surprise. After everyone had arrived and said our hellos, I led through the kitchen and then behind it to a carefully replicated Greek cottage (originally a maid’s room). with wonderful roughed-up walls and old furniture. They saw the cute pink cupboards, green tiles and Paisley wallpapered kitchen and then the luscious, rosy living room (with the fake vintage fireplace mantle against the wall). Then down the hall to my wonderfully romantic bedroom with the four-poster bed and into the unforgettably charming bathroom (perfect for setting up secret assignations) — with its peach-silk shower curtains and delicate peach-colored wallpaper. Then out of my room into the one-of-a-kind hall bathroom, also known as The Dante Toilet, with angels hanging from the Heavenly ceiling, grumbling garden gargoyles on the Inferno floor and an Elvis Presley clock in which the hips moved back and forth just on the sink level, as Purgatorio.

And then I got them ready for the big surprise. I led them down the hall to the back bedroom which I had turned into The Turkish Room, and I knocked on the door. They all waited, wondering what on earth was in store for them, and heard exotic music begin to flow out of the room. I opened the door and their eyes fell on the lovely room, shiny apple-green walls, buried in kilims and pillows for seating, and in the middle, my wonderful assistant Andrea, whose secret passion was belly-dancing, in her beautiful costume, dancing to the music. Oh what a hit that was!

Wallpapered hallway with grandfather clock, crystal chandelier and turkish carpetDark rose painted cabinets and open shelves, green ceramic tile counters, pale paisley wallpaper in the kitchen
Dining room with pale rose Victorian wooden fireplace front and faux fire of amber glass balls and thin tin spinnersThe Turkish room with its green walls, short tables, kilims
Dining room modeled after Mark Twain's library with rose walls, low bookcases, Tiffany lamp and overhead light
Two angels, replicas of those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas tree
Pastel dusty rose-silk covered chaise lounge on plush pale pink carpeting, wine floor to ceiling drapes, like the salon of a French country home

I went on to enjoy every room in that house, everything that my eyes fell upon, for many years. The surprise was how practical and usable the place had become. It wasn’t a movie set, good only for one event. It was a place of many special places, filled with lovely things to see, cozy places to sit and read or draw, and an affectionate warmth I’d never felt in an apartment before. I know the picture I’ve described might seem radical to some—certainly my few visitors said things that made me wonder, like, “You’re so brave!” But every detail turned out to be a wise, livable decorating decision. It never got boring.

But it did get cluttered. And as I’ve cleaned it out (my thanks to all of you who purchased CD sets in my clearance sale—you helped!), in preparation for selling it, it’s begun to feel incredible again. I’ve been asked to show these photos for a long time, and I’ve wanted to share them with you too, so here they are. I hope you enjoy them.

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23 thoughts on “Photos of My New York City Apartment

  1. I love the eclectic artistry of the apartment, and that you didn’t feel bound to someone else’s taste or what was trendy.
    I never owned a home until I moved to L.A. in the 1990’s. I grew up in small Queens, Brooklyn, and then Manhattan rent-controlled apartments where even changing the wall color was a no-no. When my husband and I bought our first house, I didn’t change a thing. I didn’t like it but making changes seemed somehow…..forbidden. I was miserable in that house (which was technically a very nice house.) I felt like an interloper. We sold it, rented for a while, bought a condo, then another condo. This was when I delved into remodeling. It was terrifying. I felt I had no taste at all. I would go to Lowe’s and Home Depot and stare at cabinets and faucets and wood floor choices, get depressed and go home without being able to make a decision. Finally, I took the plunge and just bought what I liked, and hired a contractor to put it all together. One room followed another and, with each new remodel, I became more confident about making decor decisions. And then I bought (not all at once) three large, antique carousel horses. The place is bright and colorful, varied and fun. It kind of works.

  2. What a wonderful description and a lovely appartment! I had to look up some of the words in the description and their translation, which made it even more fun to read because of the curiosity of what it would probably mean 🙂 So cool to see the pictures also, it looks really cozy and comforting, like a real home that’s been decorated with love and a whole lot of fantasy and inspiration.
    This hanging out post is a great inspiration to dare to do some great projects.

    I have had my battles with my appartement, giving up very often, and I’m so bad at building an image in my mind how it could look like. I have a feeling how it could be, but it’s hard to start and really set it up. I have a friend who is very talented at that and without her, it would be worse with the decoration. 🙂 Now I have new hope that I can do something with the appartments I’m living in or will be living in in the future.

    Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your creative rooms!

    • So glad you like them, Eva.

      I had a *lot* of help making it happen! 2 old friends (who were set designers for theater and for commercials) took me to find most of the furniture I chose, and someone else moved it in. They knew the best wallpaper people (and 20 years late there’s hardly a crack in any of the paper he put up). They found a set designer from the Metropolitan Opera (?) to paint the maid’s room so it looked like the inside of an old Greek cottage!

      It would have been impossible to do on my own. Don’t expect too much of yourself! (Maybe make friends with set designers and pay them by the hour. Real decorators are too expensive and usually their ideas aren’t as much fun.)

  3. With my writer’s hat on now, it’s most interesting to see the differences between these photos and what my imagination generated from reading your descriptions! Thank you for presenting it this way, so that we had the opportunity to exercise our imaginations envisioning it!

  4. What a great story! Putting all of your passions, pleasures and dreams into your home environment.

    I remember as a kid, I had the top bunk in my bedroom I shared with my brother. I had magazine and newspaper clippings of all the things I liked and dreamed of ,- sports stars, fancy cars, pictures of wildlife and places I wanted to see – all taped to my wall around my bed. When I climbed up into my bed it was like I entered MY dream. The felt sense was one of excitement, joy and peace.

    Its interesting how easily that dream can get lost. I am now in the process of rediscovering that dream. It feels like such a daunting challenge on where to begin. But good to know that the dream is still alive.

    Joe

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