I Miss My Old Apartment…

In the throes of organizing a new apartment, I realize I never showed you the old one, not much of it anyway. Remember? It was the one where I did not have to store my luggage in the shower. I miss it sometimes.

It’s all good at the new place, don’t get me wrong. I mean, at the rate I’m going, another four or five years and I’ll be there. Really.

Meanwhile, come on in to the way we were. It’s not that big so it doesn’t take long.

New York apartment entry. This marble-topped demi-lune is one of a pair I found at the Paris flea market. Candlesticks from General Home Store, East Hampton

It was a top-to-bottom renovation that took nearly a year. That is New York for you. In the beginning it was colorful with Eloise-ish red striped wallpaper and prints and what-all. There’s still a lot going on with art and furniture, but over the course of 12 years the color and pattern calmed down a bit, as life seemed to get more hectic. 

After numerous configurations of this multi-tasking living room, I settled on one that combined seating and dining areas and so was good for entertaining. 

Funny how that happens, but wonderful how our homes can be antidotes, and how they can change to support us wherever we are at that moment in time. I’d love to hear examples of how you may have changed your own homes, or maybe just a room or two, so they could better accommodate where you were in life. It can be a powerful thing.

New York Apt - living room

All the red and pink and green and leopard (I’ll show you another time) gradually gave way to Belgian linen, or similar.

New York Apt - sitting area in living room. The mixed-media painting is by Todd Murphy.

And what, I ask you, is a Manhattan apartment without a silly collection of Eiffel Towers? Don’t answer that. Btw the photo on the right is my mother with Elton John, in Tarboro. (NC, where I am from, for new readers) It’s kind of a funny story…

New York apartment Eiffel Tower collection
New York Apt - art and itaglia vignette

I have to say I do not miss the plaster walls because they are very nail-un-friendly. When you have a lot of art and change it as much as I do, drywall is your friend.

This isn’t styled worth a dern but you get the idea. Or ideer, as they say back home. And as Rod Stewart says, every picture tells a story. 

New York Apt - gallery wall, seating and dining area
Frances Schultz NY Apt-Living Room
New York apartment living room

Longtime readers may recall this portrait of Mama, where she told the artist “I do not care if it looks like me, I just want it to be young and thin.” So here is my 35-year-old-size-4 mother. It is remarkable that when it was painted, I was a 30-year-old-size-8. (Possibly a 10.)

I saw a greeting card the other day that said “I wish I was as thin as I was when I thought I was fat.”

Portrait of Ruth Clark, by Robert Bruce Williams
Portrait of Ruth Clark, by Robert Bruce Williams, and her gorgeous Hepplewhite sideboard.

This is the sitting room in its ‘tween stage. The TV is in the corner, so this is the hang-out room.

New York apartment sitting room, before.

But then I got a little taupe-fatigue, and the sectional in the sitting room off the kitchen had better places to be, like Hunt Slonem’s studio, where it is now very orange and very happy. My mother’s old red sofa took its place. The scale is better, and I love a little shot of red, baby. The pouf is now at Bee Cottage (though updated photo is not yet posted). Moved the lamps in from the living room, found the wool zebra rug online, and boom.

New York apartment sitting room. The lamps came from Target, and I had the shades made at Oriental Lamp in New York. Found the coffee table on 1st dibs, from Hampton Briggs Antiques in Bridgehampton.
New York Apt - trinkets from Africa

This shot of the kitchen looks through to the old sitting room. When I renovated I took out the wall and opened the two rooms to one another. It worked beautifully because I could visit with my company while I cooked. The metal grid on the wall was ample storage for pots and pans and then some.

Frances Schultz NY Apt-Kitchen
Frances Schultz NY Apt-Kitchen

I built the counters up higher than usual because I am tall. The higher counter also created extra drawer and cabinet space below. 

Since the sitting room looks into the kitchen, I wanted to hide the kitchen clutter. A curtain hung below the upper cabinets did the trick.

Frances Schultz NY Apt-Kitchen
New York apartment kitchen. A curtain hides all the appliances and mess.

One great thing about this apartment was that it had virtually no halls. All the space was livable. We cut double doors from the living room to the bedroom to correspond with the opposite opening from the living room to the sitting room. The original smaller door to the bath and bedroom was closed off to create a larger closet. Yes!

My friend Atlanta designer John Oetgen figured all this out by the way.

New York apartment, view from living room to bedroom.

Okay so one day John and I were cruising the D & D in New York, and I saw this red velvet at Dedar. I don’t know what came over me. In that one fleeting moment I thought I was Belle Watling. Who else would have a red velvet bed. 

The silk curtains and bed hangings used to be icy pale blue but had faded to a dull, shredding gray, which I convinced myself gave them a certain old world charm.

New York apartment, master bedroom. Dedar velvet upholstery on bed. Manuel Canovas stripe on shades. Leontine linens. Nina Campbell toile on bergere. Chris Spitzmiller lamps.

I loved the wallpaper on my office ceiling. That was John’s idea too. The room went from lime and turquoise to this olive and cream stripe. I had to man it up a little once my cowboy (now my husband)  came into the picture.

Not that I still didn’t get nervous when he sat in that little slipper chair.

New York Apt - guest room and office
New York apartment, guest room and office.

I saw this desk in the window at Guinevere on the King’s Road in London. I had to have it. I never do things like that, but there was something about that Provencal bureau plat that beckoned me. I should have lashed myself Ulysses-style to the boot of the black cab, but I didn’t.

New York apartment, guest room and office. Desk somewhat neater than normal.

I had this apartment just about exactly how I wanted it, and then I moved. There must be some profound philosophical significance in that that I have yet to plumb. It’s like how your hair always looks best right before you have to get it cut. If anyone has any insight on this I would be happy to hear it.

Oh, and in case you missed, the deadline for the beautiful wooden jigsaw Thanksgiving puzzle from Liberty Puzzles is Sunday, November 17. Go to the post and leave a comment to enter. I love to hear you gobble.

23 comments

  1. Hey Frances!

    The long-winded story of how I once changed a small house:

    My son and I lived alone, and one night had about ten people to dinner in our cramped dining room. After they left, I relaxed on the couch to watch the late news in our living room (we had no den), which was the room you walked into from the front door.

    As I lounged alone in a good-sized room, I realized we’d been living wrong in this house for about five years. We regularly had crowds in the small dining room, and daily just two or three sat in the bigger living room. What’s more, the living room was more likely to be a little messy with newspapers and toys, etc. It’s what people saw when they walked into the house.

    So I switched the dining room with the living room. It worked beautifully and felt like a whole new house. Guests walked into our house and were invited to sit at the sofa or table in the tidy, TV-less old living/new dining room. We enjoyed family time in the cozier, smaller old dining/new living room and especially liked having it next to the kitchen.

    French doors used to separate the living and dining rooms. I took those down after switching the room functions. That, too, was transforming.

    Love your blog. So glad you are happy! – d

    1. OMG Deona, first of all so good to hear from you and so glad YOU are happy. And second, thank you so much for this. It’s so smart and so sensible, and I’m sure beautiful. Like you, come to think of it. xx Frances

      1. Thank you, Frances! We live in a different house now, but we switched the living/dining spaces in this one, too!

  2. That portrait of my beloved Ruth brought back the loveliest memories of one of the world’s classiest acts! How can you possibly leave that wonderful apartment? Must be for even lovelier spaces to come. Have so enjoyed your postings! That wedding was surreal!

  3. Frances- You sound like me in that as soon as one house/room looks as you like it, you move! Some people have an urge, no, make that a need, to beautify the things and places which surround them. That is a trait you and I share. I just wish I had your talent and resources as well! Your rooms, whether they be the “before” or “after”, all look fabulous to me!

  4. I miss Ruth too — and HEY Chip! Frances, great to revisit your beautiful apartment — can’t wait to see the new one as it comes to life… – L

  5. Hi Frances,
    John Oetgen is remarkable but I bet he doesn’t have have a many Eifel towers as you and I do. I have a very large picture of one in my bathroom. I love it!!!
    Best to you,
    Harriet

  6. Frances, I love it !
    You said something that inspires me to do things at home today that I always think….”someday”.

    I have been through two major moves in the past 7 years, the last one a major downsize as an empty nester, it always seems that we have moved from our beloved houses just at their PEAK ! I always wait, wait, wait for a special occasion or holiday.

    Silly isn’t it?
    Betsy

  7. I love everything about your old apartment Frances! Can’t wait to see the new one. Your clever ideas and fabulous use of space have inspired me. My house, that is in a perpetual “tween” state, is ready for some fixin’ 🙂 xo Cynthia

  8. Our commutes between 14 & 11! The Limoges Eiffel tower was a present fom me. 🙂 Love your style, gracious entertaining, hospitality & you! See you in December. Yay! xxxx

  9. Wonderful memory — when we were on Kings Road and found your desk. I loved those visits!

    Beautiful pictures of your apartment!!

    Good luck organizing the new one. Can’t wait to see it !

  10. Love this post, Frances ! And being a life-long Bostonian and trying to maximize spaces, I can totally identify. It is better in the country where we can spread out a bit. Show us more pictures of your new apartment soon ! I know the views are spectacular, and that counts for a lot ! Loved your beautiful wedding. It was “just right.” Thank you for sharing such precious moments. xoxo

  11. Francis, The comfort and versatility of your former apt. reminded me of those same qualities of an apartment in Lyon, France let to us by Patrick Dunne of Lucullus in New Orleans . It felt totally self contained , not crowded and of course very French. We loved it and I`m sure we would have loved yours too!

  12. Could you please tell me where you found the chair next to window in living room?Shape is wonderful and comfortable looking.Thanks.Carol Post,Boston

    1. Hi Carol and thanks so much for writing. That chair is a one-off, I’m afraid. Probably early 19th-century, French. She bought it at auction and told us repeatedly and rather grandly that it came from the Booth Tarkington estate. My sister and I nodded appreciatively and had no idea who he was. I finally looked him up. He was a writer and novelist who wrote The Magnificent Ambersons, among other things. Cool, huh. Here he is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booth_Tarkington. Meanwhile – if I run across a similar chair I will holler at you. Best, Frances

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