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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38 thoughts on “Photos of My New York City Apartment

  1. I have followed you since the early 90s …. your soul freed my soul. I had the pleasure of attending a workshop you did for Public Television in Memphis, Tennessee many years ago, bringing a close friend with me. That was about 20 years ago and now I’m going back to reread your newsletters, etc. with total delight, in that, at 63 years of age, I finally GET IT. Well, I ‘got it’ THEN but seemed not to have the courage of my convictions. I guess I just really want to say to YOU, what you have said to so many others …. I LOVE YOU, BARBARA!

  2. Ohh I was so glad to see photos after reading your descriptions of things. I recognised some areas and your apartment seemed more spacious than I imagined. As in your detail was so filling. 🙂 I loved this story. Thanks for taking us inside your private world of love and scanner design.

  3. “I return to NY at least once a year, however, and I don’t know how I’ll manage that once this long-time home is gone.”

    Well, if you need a place to stay when you visit a great location, there’s always AirBnB. Jim Haynes (I read about him after hearing about him in one of Barbara’s other websites), the guy who knew everyone in the 60’s because they met through him, and has these fabulous parties every week in Paris, and is in his 80s, swears by AirBnB.

    He is an advocate of Fullering, which is the word for spending energy with joy instead of drudgery (from Buckminster Fuller, who never had a real job after he was about 25). Barbara Sher and Haynes both live in Europe, and have an identical philosophy in some ways.

    • Whenever he’s exploring the E.U., my son always goes to AirBnB’s because he really likes the way you get to know the owner – and the owner knows the town! If I were in the hotel business, I’d be a little big nervous about that. Getting concierges in the lobby to show you the town is such a different experience. They have brochures and maps, and they’re not usually local people originally. They can’t tell you about the best places to take your kids or your dog, or the small performing arts places that are having something special going on that weekend. (I guess they make it up in business travelers and volume. Just a different world, I guess.)

    • Ah, thank you, Henrietta. What a really nice thing to say.

      When I think of it, I realize that one of the joys of Hanging Out for me has been the chance to tell people about my favorite stuff. You know, that stuff you just find so interesting but don’t exactly get big responses about. I guess without being really conscious of it, you begin to realize that It’s not so easy to get interest (without some ‘eye-rolling’) in one’s daily life for the stuff you love and would like to share.

      I’ve gone off at a kitchen table on some enthused diatribes triggered by a couple of comments made by a few friends – “Oh, that’s just like the Hungarians, their language I mean, not related to *anything* for thousands of miles around, like a little island or a mountain top, think about it, they don’t even use the same system for talking about verbs, so where did these languages come from?! Well, it’s like Finnish! Or Basque! Or Welsh!! You know? It used to be *everywhere!* and now it really is at the tops of mountains mostly, gone from everywhere else…!!”

      and I’m galloping on, just *assuming* that would knock people off their chairs with delight, only to notice slowly the blank stares I was getting…until I slowed down so much nobody was saying anything at all.

      Well, (I think I’m doing it again! lol!) my point is that I get to do that a lot here and good people like you tell me I’m ‘sharing’ and not that I’m weird. 🙂 That’s why I do it. And I love it that so many of you also do that kind of sharing! So generous! So interesting!

      Well, you know what I mean. 🙂

      Welcome home, dear friends. 🙂

  4. Beautiful!! What a pleasure to finally get a walkthrough at this special place. Shows what imagination can do. Thank you, Barbara!

  5. Such a lovely place Barbara. For those of us who are not caught up with you, where are you going that you must sell this lovely space? I hope to someplace as inviting and comfy.
    All the best,

    • Hi Eva. I already live in a very lovely, mostly unknown (to outsiders) university town just across the French border into Germany, with my son and grandson. I return to NY at least once a year, however, and I don’t know how I’ll manage that once this long-time home is gone. I’ve lived in this neighborhood – a block one way or another – for over 40 years. My kids grew up here. Our history in this NYC ‘village’ is a treasure in itself.

  6. Very pleasant. It looks a lot like the poet Joseph Brodsky’s apartment (there is a photography book by Vladimir Nabokov’s daughter of the living spaces of nyc writers and other artists)

    • Thanks, Josephine, that’s good to know! We were all a bit curious to see how the reality of photos would impact everyone’s imagination after reading the more detailed description of the place (and the event) in Hanging Out.

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