It has always been a dream of designer to live in New York City. First, she had to get through years of grad school — for both her and her husband — and then moves overseas and to DC, Seattle and Chicago before she finally got her wish, an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The couple spent weeks condensing their belongings to fit into a New York-sized apartment, which involved carefully considering each possession that took up residence in the space. Although Rachel actually enjoyed the process of weeding out her belongings to only those things that mattered most, there were moments where she found it heart wrenching to part with some childhood mementos or something that had once been precious to her. She had to continually remind herself that she had moved on and that “it was ok to streamline, to let go, to make room for the new that was quickly happening around me.” After living in this space for just about a year, Rachel and her husband packed up to pursue a short-term opportunity in London. Now they’re back stateside, and Rachel is in the beginning stages of writing a book! I’m thrilled that they took the time to share their New York home with us before they left! Thanks, Rachel! And a big thank you to for the lovely photographs. — Amy Azzarito
Image above: As in many Manhattan apartments, our living room was also our dining room, our entry, my office, the TV room and my husbandʼs “dressing room” because his closet was tucked in this space, as well. Surprisingly it did function as a cohesive whole, but I still marvel at all we managed to accommodate in one room! It was a last-minute decision for which my husband thought I had maybe gone mad, but I decided to try hanging the shutters horizontally above the sofa because we had tall ceilings, and I didnʼt have anything quite big enough to proportionally fill the space. We had traipsed to the far corners of New Orleans to a salvage yard to find these after I had set my heart set on bringing home a piece of architectural history from a city we both love. In the end, we loved having these special mementos from a cross-country road trip as such a prominent feature in our apartment. The sofa came from — a great resource for sofas that I first learned of years ago from Country Living magazine. The blue bench came from in Washington DC — I hauled it and a load of other furniture in a U-haul back to college after living in DC one summer. The lamp is from Goodwill — one of my favorite longtime sources for great lamps — paired with a lamp shade from the Shade Store in Manhattan. The side table peeking out is an old typewriter table from my dadʼs first job in real estate in California. The framed prints are of scenes from London — a gift from my parents commemorating a special summer in high school when I did an exchange program in England. I seem to collect LL Bean boat and totes — and I think they may be one of the best bags ever designed, somehow casual and chic in the same breath. I use them for everything; this one here is corralling our dog Winstonʼs toys. His leashes and other pup things are in the vintage bankers box beneath. The Ironstone tureen on the bench and the grain sack pillow are from my first trip to the Brimfield antique market when I got to trail behind the magazine editor I worked with for an internship. It was a dream trip for me, and these are fun mementos from that summer.
Image above: I love being reminded of our tiny bedroom — it only had inches on each side of the bed! We loved it, though, as it felt like a cozy little cocoon and had full-height windows looking out over the low brownstone roofs and buildings of Manhattan. It was a magical view, and I pinched myself regularly at the gift of this little space! The headboard is from Ballard Designs. My husband is a clever handyman and introduced me to French cleat hangers to hang it on the wall when I wanted to give the illusion of height and more proportionally accommodate the euro sham pillows at the back. My talented sister generously made us the lumbar pillow using fabric from an extra sham I had picked up along with the others. The longhorn used to live above our fireplace in another apartment and somehow ended up above our bed here in New York. When we were first together, I wanted to make sure our home represented my husbandʼs story just as much as mine, even though I was the one with the interest in interiors and often the stronger aesthetic voice. As a result, since my husband had lived in Texas for a few years while growing up and it was a special season in his life, when we rambled the back roads of Texas driving cross-country before grad school, and we stumbled upon a rancher selling this guy out of the back of his truck, to my husbandʼs disbelief, I wanted to buy it. Iʼm not sure he believed me that I sincerely wanted to use it in the decor of our home! Iʼm sure we will have him long after the oft-debated trend of animal heads has passed because he is quite dear to us, holds wonderful memories of our travels and represents the state of Texas for my husband. I should also add that my same trusted handyman of a husband secured those horns to the wall before I was willing to sleep under it each night without fearing for our lives!
See more of Rachel’s New York City apartment after the jump . . .
Image above: This is a detail shot of the bookshelf in my office. The shelf is the white Parsons tower from , and it sat just to the left of our brown sofa shown in the previous image. I enjoyed creating an office nook using the shelf as both functional and necessary storage but also as a mood board of sorts filled with meaningful and inspiring mementos. The wooden box is a milk crate stamped with Oakland, California — it belonged to my dad from his own fatherʼs childhood and the days of milk delivery. I was delighted to discover it fits file folders perfectly. The white binders are from Office Depot, and I spruced them up with sticker labels from , one of my go-to stationery and wrapping supply spots. I love books — I use them again and again and feel inspired even just from the care and design that goes into the binding. The zinc “R” is old-school Anthropologie from my high school days. Early in our years of city living, I learned that ferns are fabulous for apartments because they put oxygen back into the air and make for a healthier living environment. I loved the idea of that, so I had ferns everywhere. I also feel that pops of green make a space feel alive and bring out the best in all the other colors used in an interior.
Image above: This is the other half of our living space: the dining room and entry that sit opposite the living room and office in the same rectangular room. I defined the dining area by grounding it with a faux light fixture. There was no wiring for a hanging fixture, and in a rental, the expense and permission to do so would be out of the question, so I decided to purchase an over-scale shade from The Shade Store and enlisted my husbandʼs former Eagle Scout training to hang it with a knotted rope that I picked up at the hardware store. I loved the effect and was so happy with the way it instantly elevated the feel and function of the space. The chairs were another road trip find from the warehouse in Texas. The Philippe Starck Ghost chair was a lovely surprise gift from a client and friend as a thank you when we wrapped up the design of her home. She knew I had my eye on this chair after we used them in her scheme, and it blessed me to no end when the huge box from came across my doorstep unexpectedly! My mom and Gram then gifted me with a second one that same year for my birthday, and the pair made a lovely final addition to our apartment. The pillow came from a great little shop, Yates & Kennedy, in Provincetown, MA, on Cape Cod; it is tea stained and hand silkscreened and displays beautiful craftsmanship. The table is California oak and pays homage to my family and California childhood. My parents bought it from a neighbor when they were first married, and we ate all of our meals at this table as a family. I love the heritage of having it in our apartment, especially now that the East Coast is home.
The library bookcase came from a junk shop in Chicago, a fun memory with a dear college friend trying to get it home! It is a really versatile piece — my husband used it for his books in grad school, and here it is home to our barware, and I have also used it for china and dishes. The lamp on top is one of a pair my mom had in our dining room growing up — my sister has the other one, which I love. It feels special to each have a piece of our childhood home and the memory of my mom gifting them to us when we each got married. The candlesticks came from a favorite Salvation Army store just outside of Washington, DC, and the pitcher and bowl were a first antique purchase with my mom during one of her East Coast trips to visit me in college. The second tall pitcher is special to my husband and I because his grandmother made it. I feel lucky that it somehow ended up in his college-bound housewares! The other two pitchers are random antique store finds, and I use them regularly for entertaining. The leaning print of an Italian architectural drawing was discovered in a field at a Chicago-area flea market. It had a terrible ’80s mat, but I needed a large-scale piece of art for over our sofa in another apartment, so I scooped it up for a song and simply had the mat replaced. I believe I was reading an interview by Albert Hadley when I learned of his penchant for hanging the larger of a pair of artworks above the smaller of the two to create an appealing and sophisticated energy in a room. I tried it out and have loved the effect ever since — an example of that here with another pair of prints from London.
Image above: Another shot of my office, which also shows the scale of the space next to the sofa. The window shade fabric is a much-loved Chelsea Editions check. The chair was a college find in Pennsylvania.
Image above: Props for the photo shoot . . . the Burberry trench coat was a commemorative gift from my husband after I finished my design dissertation while in school in London.
Image above: A close-up view of my desk. The trophy pencil holder came from the in Manhattan, a fabulous and endless source. The scissors came from a lovely shop in Seattle where I used to work years ago, . The vintage collapsing ruler is from a stall at Portobello Market in London. I love bringing home trip souvenirs that I actually use and love to look at! The pair of clocks came from Brimfield; one says Big Ben, the other says Little Ben, which I thought was charming. The lamp was another Goodwill score, this time from Seattle, paired with a black lampshade I picked up on the cheap in Atlanta.
Image above: This vignette feels for me like one of those self-portraits that tells a story rather than capturing a face. I love that it includes moments from our families’ and our lives together . . . a photo from our Sonoma wedding, the monogrammed jewelry box my sister gave me as her maid-of-honor . . . the pearls my husband gave me when we were first married. The mirror is from my parents and used to hang in their home, the little silver tea boxes are from a trip to our much-loved London, the wood caddy was found while antiquing with my mom, the white dresser was another find from my summer in Washington D.C. and the topiary looks wonderfully real but is “faux” and left over from the centerpieces at my sisterʼs beautiful garden wedding.
Image above: The painted doors were the only pop of color in our apartment, but I loved the “moment” of contrast. The doors are in high-gloss Dix Blue by Farrow and Ball! I also traded out the door hardware to update the space a bit. We had California Bay Leaf wreaths at our wedding, and I continue to love having them in our home as a fun reminder of that day. Williams Sonoma is my favorite source, and they last all year. The chair was my dadʼs, and I have always loved it. I borrowed it for my desk chair in high school, and it seems to have made its way around the US with me ever since. The vintage banker boxes hold a decade of ticket stubs and letters shared between my husband and I; they are probably what I would grab in a fire, as they tell our story in such a fun and special way. Tucked just out of sight of the hallway is a vintage framed map of London, a home we still miss, as well as a handwritten copy of our vows that I gave as a gift on our first wedding anniversary. The framed architectural prints I cut out of a vintage textbook.
Image above: The hall mirror was from the in Manhattan, a favorite weekend stop not far from our apartment on the upper west side. The portrait is from Miss Pixieʼs. Again the college summer in D.C., I fell in love with the colors of the painting and I was drawn to how it captures a moment when she isnʼt quite a girl but also not yet a woman — sort of how you feel at that stage of life, right? I think at the time my roommates named her Penelope . . .
Image above: This is our dear English Lab, Winston. He is such a sweet pup, and now that he weighs in at just over 100 pounds, I can hardly believe I got him to sit on that chair! Winston was a puppy in this apartment, so he was a wonderful and unique part of our time living in New York. He is a super happy and friendly pup, so we met a lot of wonderful people and neighbors with his help! He did great in our apartment, and the three of us loved the many hours of walks we enjoyed in Central Park.