Our ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of 6sqft’s friends, family and fellow New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to Ridgewood, Queens. Want your home to be featured here? Get in touch!
Few neighborhoods have gotten as much buzz in the past year as Ridgewood. Considered the next frontier for cool kids getting priced out of hip areas like Williamsburg and Bushwick, Ridgewood sits at the top of NYC’s list of ones to watch. But even with all the hoopla, how many of you actually know someone who lives off this stretch of the L?
In our latest installment of My sqft, we meet Sean and Liz, a couple of Greenpoint expats who’ve made their way into a beautiful, historic brick construction along a peaceful block in the heart of this up-and-comer. Living large in a very bright and airy 800-square-foot railroad apartment, these two really don’t face the same space challenges that plague the rest of us New Yorkers, and as such they’ve found the freedom to infuse their space with lots of personality (toy bunnies, illustrations of “nerd weapons” and quirky art from across the globe) and all the furniture they’ve collected over the last decade (lots of covetable mid-century modern pieces and antiques). Jump ahead to meet this perky pair and see how they’ve created that perfect old-meets-new-meets-endearing balance that we all strive for but pretty much have no clue how to make happen in our own homes.
What do you both do for a living?
Liz: I’m the studio and traffic manager for the branding department at a shoe and lifestyle company. I basically just try to keep projects moving and the design, production and marketing teams happy.
I’m also really excited about starting my jewelry company called Hardin Mar. The pieces are inspired by dreamy natural forms and grounded in simple materials like brass and leather. I think you can see some of that in our living space: we’ve collected things with small details or flourishes that make them unique, but everything feels honest and not overly precious. I like to think that my pieces are things you could find in the sand: little treasures that just washed up on the shore. I’m wearing my favorite necklace, earrings and bracelet from the collection.
Sean is an Art Director for a small art and design studio that traditionally works on privately commissioned projects, and now does work for corporations as well.
How did you two meet?
Liz: We met in college through a mutual friend. We actually knew each other and were friends for about two years before we started dating. We’ve been together for over 10 years—kind of crazy! I would describe Sean as the most thoughtful, selfless, kind, funny, smart person I have ever met. I’m not going to get sappy here, basically he’s like a pretty good guy I guess.
Sean: And Liz is pretty good, too. It works out.
The center coffee table in the top photo is one of the first pieces of furniture they owned. It came from a guy renting a room above Liz’s parents’ garage. Many of the other pieces are antiques or from Ikea
Where in NYC have you lived before? Why did you choose to move to Ridgewood?
Liz: When we first moved to NY we lived at 252nd street in Riverdale, in the Bronx. We were there for about two years. Our building was full of characters, a lot of them elderly—we were the youngest occupants by far! There was a woman who used to wander the stairwell in a white nightgown like Miss Havisham or something. Then we moved to Greenpoint, where we lived for about six years. We loved it there; we lived right by McGolrick Park and a couple of minutes to the G. We saw the neighborhood change a lot during our time there, and we basically got priced out.
Ridgewood was the affordable North Brooklyn-friendly alternative to Bushwick. Ridgewood is full of beautiful well-taken-care-of houses and neighborhood-y tree-lined streets—and it’s still less expensive than most of Brooklyn and other parts of Queens. Although, probably not for long!
Sean: I think we both identified with North Brooklyn to some degree and wanted to stay in the area—and, like everyone else in New York, we were on a budget and in a hurry. We’d been hearing a lot about Ridgewood. Plus, the amount and quality of space we could get here was pretty incredible. It’s hard to go and look at a tiny studio after you’ve seen a giant one bedroom for half the price.
Framed tears from a magazine that caught Liz’s eye, while the little boat above was won by Sean as a kid playing ski-ball (left); The geometric sculpture was found in an art gallery in Marin County, while the framed photo of the High Line is a print from Adrian Tomine (right).
There’s a lot of hype around the neighborhood right now, have you seen things change over the two years you’ve been here?
Liz: Yes! We’re seeing a lot more young creative people out in the neighborhood and a lot of great new bars and restaurants have opened up in the time we’ve been here.
Sean: It’s still fundamentally the same neighborhood, but we’ve definitely seen an influx of new people since we moved here. There are some new things opening up. I think most of the “buzz” stuff is centered around the L. We’re a little further out.
What are your favorite things about the apartment?
Liz: The light! The space! The tin ceilings! I love that when I open the window in the living room, it feels almost like we have our own backyard.
Sean: The light and the space for sure. Natural light is such a huge improvement to quality of life. We used to be on the first floor next to a bus stop, so we almost never had the windows open. Moving in here, it was like, “Well, first thing we do, let’s get some plants.”
The illustration of the dogs on the salon wall was given to Liz by a friend for her 30th birthday; there’s one cat in the mix because Liz had a black cat as a kid. Below the same friend made Sean an illustration of what he calls “nerd weapons”
Where do you draw the inspiration for your interiors? It’s an eclectic mix of things but it all melds well together.
Liz: I’m inspired by a lot of things and am always moving things around and changing things up. I will say that I can be quite sentimental and like to surround myself with mementos of people and places. Comfort is one of the most important things. I want to feel good and relaxed when I get home and I want friends to feel welcomed and comfortable when they come over too.
Sean: I think we both like to have a place that looks nice but is totally lived in. I really admire those hyper-curated interiors, but I always wonder what they look like when the party’s over and the laundry comes out. I love a tidy space that’s functional. We’ve also lived together for a long time, so we’ve been able to accumulate things jointly: we didn’t have to do that thing where we had to combine our stuff and sell half of it on Craigslist. I think that’s played a big part in the look of things.
The bureau (left) and shelf (right) are gifts from Liz’s great aunt Eva and great uncle Bubba. The little bunny atop the shelf came from a kids’ toy shop in Paris
You definitely own more furniture than the average New Yorker, where did you get some of the pieces? Which are your favorite?
Liz: It’s a mixture, and the quantity of furniture is partly a result of pretty consistently living in pretty big spaces for your average New Yorker. Originally all of our furniture was almost entirely second hand or hand-me-downs, with other assorted pieces from Ikea. We’ve been trying to replace that Ikea furniture with antique/vintage. We found those pieces mostly in flea markets and vintage stores in Philadelphia where my parents live. My favorite pieces of furniture are from my family—from my Great Aunt Eva and Great Uncle Bubba. Our beautiful mid-century desk and chair were gifts from my parents when I turned 30.
There are flags above the couch and bed because the pair weren’t sure about the studs behind the drywall. A failed attempt leading to a hole behind their bedroom door was enough to keep them from experimenting from hanging too many things on their walls
Liz gave Sean a stuffed marmot when they finished college and were back to living in their parents’ homes long distance. “I told him to look at it when he missed me. It’s stuck around ever since.”
Sean: When I think about it, a lot of my favorite things are either gifts or else have some little story behind them. Liz’s family heirloom stuff, this antique lamp we bought in upstate New York, framed art that Liz gave me for my birthday, stuff like that. That goes back to having had time to accumulate things together. It’s all been collected relatively slowly and jointly.
What are you favorite places to go in the neighborhood?
Liz: For dinner, Houdini! The food is delicious and they just opened their outdoor space and it’s really great. For coffee and a tasty treat, Rudy’s Pastry Shop. For coffee and atmosphere, Topos Bookstore Cafe. Gottscheer Hall, Queens Tavern and The Monk or Old Stanley’s for a drink. We went to Oktoberfest at Gotscheer Hall and it was so fun. We drank German beers and over-ate awesome German food like schnitzel and spaetzle.
Art Cove for arts and crafts. We’ve gotten all our plants from a store on Myrtle called—and this is really the name—Ring Ring Home Shopping Center. It’s like a magical green haven and the loveliest woman runs it.
My FAVORITE store, the Save-a-thon, closed down sadly, that place was the best. They had fabric, leather remnants, crafty supplies and just generally weird home stuff like a small octagonal mirror that now lives in our bathroom.
One of Sean’s favorite items of clothing are a pair of jeans from Left Field. They’re right up the street.
What’s the best thing about Ridgewood? Is there anything you wish was different?
Liz: I love the neighborhood vibe! Our neighbors are such nice people and they take such meticulous care of their homes and yards. There are always beautiful plants and blooming flowers in the spring and summer and fun seasonal decorations in the fall and winter. I love that it feels secluded, calm and safe.
I’m not crazy about the car culture, that it seems like most people have a car and they’re not always cautious about pedestrians. Transportation is a general issue as it’s pretty far out—including if we take a cab from anywhere else—and the M train becomes a shuttle at night and on weekends. I’d also warn people about moving here who do have a car unless you can find a permanent space because the few times we have had a car, parking has been really difficult.
Sean: As Liz said, transportation can be an issue. Most people have cars, and the assumption is that cars have the right of way at all times. If you’re walking, you really have to be not just aware, but pro-actively aware. But I really like the genuine diversity of the neighborhood. It’s not all one thing or another, and for the most part everyone gets along. A lot of families have been here for decades and there’s a real sense of that. At the same time, there are new people moving here from all over the world. There are all kinds of people here.
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Neighborhoods : ridgewood