When a Millenial goes Colonial: Apartment Living in a 300 Year old Newport Home

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This past summer, in between working on stories about people and places in Newport for Puddingstone Post, I had the chance to photograph my own apartment for an article written by editor¬†Meg O’Neill.¬†Although my¬†attempt to remain an objective photographer for this one failed spectacularly, the project evolved into a¬†loving¬†documentation of the place that has been at the center of my¬†life for most of my 20s, so I thought I’d share¬†some photos if you’d like to see.

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Aesthetically, my apartment,¬†which occupies the upper¬†floors¬†of a 300 year old colonial house in the Point neighborhood of Newport, is a steady experiment that will never really be finished.¬†Every¬†corner¬†has fallen together slowly – many a morning coffee was had¬†while contemplating¬†the light and the feel of each¬†room.¬†Over many years, I got to know the house and my own routine within it, buying or changing things only when I felt I¬†knew what the house truly needed.¬†I mixed family heirlooms with pieces gleaned from travels abroad, or my neighbor’s trash pile¬†dressed with a¬†fresh coat of paint.¬†Ever conscious that I was working in a very traditional space, I opted for white on the walls,¬†and¬†a few choice¬†modern pieces, to keep things from looking too frozen in time.¬†

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Psychologically, my relationship to¬†this space is¬†not so easy to describe. In all seriousness,¬†I’m turning¬†3o¬†next week and¬†I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the last decade of my life.¬†I don’t think I would have¬†grown into the person I am¬†without¬†the steadfast, welcoming walls of this dwelling place. It has been my anchor and my creative bubble, it has been light-filled and cheerful even when I have not, it has stood by¬†patiently when¬†I have left it¬†to explore the world, and it has held me through raging hurricanes, tearful breakups and the mind-boggling pain of chronic illness. Yet, despite the years that I have filled the house with¬†friends, roommates, lovers¬†and pets, our time together is no more than a blip on its long history.¬†

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I recently heard¬†something intriguing on NPR (I wish I could remember what story it was a part of, please tell me if you know!): ¬†we frequently talk¬†of¬†the ephemerality of objects. Yet, if you consider that good design and well-made structures have the¬†tendency¬†to persist beyond our lifetimes, then in¬†a¬†sense, we¬†are the ephemeral ones.¬†We barrel into¬†the quiet lives of these houses¬†and¬†these things, and then¬†one day we leave them sitting and¬†waiting for their next occupants or possessors. I rather love this idea. Here I’ve been thinking that this space was mine these past 7 years, when really, I have¬†been¬†its guest all along.

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If I can share¬†one piece of homemaking advice, which I read somewhere once, to anyone¬†kind¬†enough to have made it¬†this far, it is¬†to¬†take the time to truly know your space before you¬†do anything.¬†There¬†is a¬†bottomless rabbit hole¬†in space-making today: pinterest, home decor stores, magazines, and blogs (this¬†one¬†included),¬†offer a limitless¬†blue sky for the imagination to ponder,¬†but you¬†shouldn’t¬†lose sight of the space that you actually have. For example,¬†drooling over sparely furnished¬†Swedish apartments with soaring, 20-foot ceilings is something of a pastime for me, but what works in those spaces¬†does¬†not necessarily translate to the more intimate proportions of a New England colonial. Embrace ¬†your reality and its inherent parameters, such as budget, regional¬†history, sustainability, and the quirks of your home: they will help you wade through endless¬†possibility and hone in on a design¬†that makes sense for your life, while honoring the space¬†in which you are, for a time,¬†a guest.

Ms. Duke Will Not Be Home for Christmas: December at Rough Point

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2016 has been a year of many exciting projects and collaborations, most of which I am very behind in sharing, but among my favorite images are the ones I was able to take for the¬†Newport Restoration Foundation this Christmas. Rough Point, the seaside estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, has been¬†curated for the holidays the way it would have actually looked during Ms. Duke’s lifetime: shuttered for the winter, as Doris spent¬†Christmas¬†at Shangri La, her house in Hawaii. Rough Point’s¬†sole occupants would have been her staff, thus the staff wing¬†has been decorated to reflect their own holiday celebration. I found the interior spaces, draped with white sheets, rather eerily inspiring, and thought I’d share.

There’s still time to check out this exhibit, entitled “Undecked Halls,” which will be open for the last viewing on December 27th, 2016.

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Apartment Tour: in my kitchen

I found this mid-century sideboard in my family’s storage unit and immediately grabbed it! ¬†It makes for easy stowage of my Dansk enamel cookware, antique stoneware mixing bowls and cast iron pans, all of which get near daily use and need to be accessible. ¬†I try to keep the top clear, but it invariably becomes a work/storage/serving surface as needed. ¬†Right now it’s home to my mom’s old 3-band Panasonic radio, which she used in her days as a rock and roll DJ to monitor her broadcast, and still works like a charm! ¬†It stays tuned to the classical station while I write. ¬†On days when I’m working late, I reach that point in the night when the station goes off air and the music is suddenly replaced with a soft crackle, and I know that the world has gone to bed and it’s time for me to go, too.

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The candlesticks came from Salvation Army, but I believe you can get them at Michael’s; I painted them to match the windsor chair at my kitchen table, which I fished out of a dumpster in Providence. ¬†I get the natural beeswax candles from my friends on Block Island at Littlefield Bee Farm, and they smell so lovely that I’ll never go back to paraffin again. ¬†One of them had a little accident (I knocked it over), but I was able to melt it back together and give it a little bit of drippy, messy charm. ¬†That’s how precious they are!

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On the walls, I hang ornaments and momentos of friends and travel, a tradition that my friend¬†Monique¬†inspired, and Greek Orthodox icons to remind me of my time on Paros and the island’s incredible spirituality.

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