Second Floor Flat – An American Expat in London

Second Floor Flat follows an American expat and magazine writer living in London. Expect travel, fashion, design, lifestyle, and photography.

Here In My Car

The thing about life in the big city is that you don't need a car.

Unless you're in L.A. or another car-centric city, public transportation is usually abundant enough that cars just aren't necessary.

That was great for a while – in my big city life, I loved the freedom of not needing a car or car insurance. Oil changes and gas stations never crossed my mind. 

But when our last few weeks in London turned into an endless loop of moving from flat to flat by cab and on foot, I began to get excited about having a car again.

"Imagine if we had a car," we'd say to ourselves as we lugged trash bags of personal belongings from front door to cab to front door, then up a few staircases. All we'd have to do is wheel our luggage out to the car, put the luggage in said car, and drive away.

Suddenly being able to choose when you walked and when you drove felt like freedom to me. Life on the open road, or at least a road that will take you home from the grocery store with your gallons of milk stowed safely in the backseat rather than slowly leaking throw the tote bag you've been carrying for the last half mile. 

Yes, life on the open road. The luxury of it all is almost too much to handle.

But now that we've reached the point where we're almost ready to get a car (and shout out to my mom for letting us borrow her car in the meantime) we've reached a pretty big question:

What kind of car to get? The last time I drove a car that was my own, I was in Atlanta and 22. I was about to move to New York, say goodbye to my car, and say hello to the world of subways and walking. 

The question of what kind of car to get now seems very big. Since it's been so long since I've had one, it seems like the car I get will now represent who I am.

Am I a black Prius person, or an old Volvo person? Honda Civic? Corolla? Cream MINI Convertible? (Yes please.) Old school truck with wooden side paneling? 

These are the questions. And P.S. – the answer is probably a Civic or something equally responsible. But I'd still like to keep my options open, just for now.

What kind of car do you have? Any terrible experiences you'd be willing to share, or things I should know about? This will be my first adult car purchase, so help is appreciated.

And for the record, I still love walking and the freedom that living in a big city affords. I'll continue to walk now as much as I can, and I'm learning to embrace the world of bikes. Small cities were made for them, it seems.

But a car? A car is a different type of freedom.

Hello, open road. 

Good Reads: 24 July 2015

I hopped over to L.A. for a couple of days this week with Clementine Daily. It was a really quick trip – I was there for basically a day – but it was enough for me to see the super swanky side of L.A. (read: Beverly Hills) and the part of L.A. where I felt at home (read: Silver Lake). 

It was my first time there and one of my first times ever on the West Coast and I really, really loved it! (Like, loved it.) Not sure if I'm ready for that whole "Best Coast" thing just yet, but I definitely get the obsession with California.

While doing the L.A. thing, I met up with one of my dearest pals for veggie burgers under the sun, which felt very cliche L.A. in the best way, then spent some time driving around the city. It wasn't a bad way to spend a few days mid-week, I'll say that, and I'm now itching to make another trip happen as soon as possible.

A few favorite links are below – semi-light this week (I was traveling, ok?) – as well as some new additions to the Indie Designer Directory. Have a great weekend, gang!

the awesome gals at dear kate have launched a podcast! listen/download here

current outfit inspiration.

thanks for having me, nice package! (and if you need help with promotion or events in the ny area, this is your gal.)

this gorgeous furniture site is killing me. a few of their pieces are definitely on the list at some point, once we're settled.

looking forward to trying out this place and soon.

picked up this great basic in an effort to re-southify my summer wardrobe. (aka the last time i bought summer clothes was 2012 / my taste has changed / i need clothes for july-in-the-south weather.)

now this is a cool project.

finally got to try moon juice this week and am literally and figuratively drinking the kool aid. i'm pretty into eating mindfully as it is, and i'm here to tell you that these products are genuinely as delicious as they are wholesome. this bar boggled my mind with its yumminess. rose geranium? sold, sold, sold.


favorite finds of the week: reform schoollu / wiltenkle designs / inka london / mixed business / akron street / in bed / reid miller / mazama wares / the market at fifth avenue (via amelia) / erbaviva / son of a sailor (which i've been a fan of for a while but can't believe i haven't added to the directory until now. sorry, guys!)

Someware's Lace-Up Sandals

Sometimes it's the small, everyday things that make all the difference.

Case in point: sandals. 

I'm a hot weather gal to the core, so I'm happy as a clam to be back in the South's humid-as-can-be late July weather. Admittedly, part of my love for hot weather is wardrobe-related. Summer clothes and shoes are my absolute favorite, so I'm taking every opportunity to do the sundress and sandal thing during the remaining summer months. (Sorry, London. No offence whatsoever, but my love for sandals and slides has me very happy with some warmer, dryer weather.)

Needless to say, with my recently revived sandal obsession I was thrilled to discover these new lace-up sandals from SOMEWARE. You may remember that I'm a big fan of SOMEWARE – the L.A.-based e-boutique that celebrates "culture through objects". (The copywriter in me so wishes she had come up with that phrase.) Stocking handmade pieces from artisans around the globe, SOMEWARE is not only a beautiful destination for thoughtful, inspired online shopping, but also a place to capture the stories behind the pieces – which owner Giselle does beautifully in the Journal

The lace-up sandals are all handmade by artisans in La Guajira, Colombia. The upper portion of the sandals are hand crocheted, and the quality shows – these shoes are outstanding in their simplicity, and they're currently sitting atop my wishlist. (Though actually, this might count as a slow shopping purchase that just needs to happen. We'll see.)

Take a look for yourself:

Someware's Lace-Up Sandals | Second Floor Flat

All four sandal styles are available for purchase and pre-order here. Enjoy!

Life As An Expat: Working Through A Move

Life in the self employed or freelance lane can sure be difficult.

Aside from the stress that comes with running your own business (whether it's a personal business or managing work as a freelancer) there's the occasional whole outsider notion that you don't really "do" anything. As someone who has worked from home or on a flexible schedule for the last two years, I relate to this idea hugely. I work just as hard, if not sometimes harder, even if I am occassionally in my pajamas. Not only do I work with clients on writing, copywriting, and marketing work, but I also have a myriad of side projects. 

This blog is one of them. Another I'll be eager to share with you soon. Not to mention anything else that comes up that I can squeeze in on evenings and weekends. The truth is, I probably work more hours than I did at most of my full-time jobs, and sometimes with more stress.

But we already know the "woe is me" self-employment tale. Going it on your own is tough, that's no surprise.

But what about managing financials? That's challenging when you're self employed or employed by many as a contractor, but go through a big life change and it can get even more difficult.

My friend Jess brought this up on Instagram last week, and I was glad to read her post which spoke about financial worries. First of all, hurray for transparent conversations about money! It's not easy navigating the world as a contractor or a freelancer, and much less when actual life gets involved. 

See, Jess has had a difficult pregnancy that forced her to stop working with her freelance design clients earlier than expected. A problem, since she obviously won't have any sort of maternity leave once she has her baby. (This always shocked my friends in the U.K. – the fact that the U.S. lacks mandated maternity leave for women who are employed full time. Own a business? Work as a freelancer? Fuhgettaboutit. There's no safety net except for the one you've built for yourself.)

Jess's transparency inspired me to be honest about some of the stresses we've had surrounding our move, specifically surrounding work and finance. Here's a rundown:

As you likely know, my husband and I just moved from London to North Carolina after a long immigration process. (He's South African, so it's his first time living in the U.S. Cue paperwork.) During this process, he worked his full-time job in London while I worked freelance full time. I can (luckily!) do my job from anywhere, and so I've been able to continue my work with DesignGoodClementine Daily, and others in the process. This is something I'm endlessly thankful for, and it proved to be hugely helpful as we lived in limbo for over a year during the immigration process.

But the downside of flexible, remote work means that there's never any official time away from it. You can work anywhere, so why wouldn't you? What this means is that I've put in a full day's work almost every single day during our move. One day I was working per usual at our second floor flat, then I was working from a couch at an AirBnB, then a North London coffee shop, then my dad's dining room table, and now my mom's kitchen – boxes and suitcases surrounding me in each location.

This is my decision of course, as I could've taken more time off or even a small period of leave to focus on getting everything done that we needed to do. Aside from the fact that I love my work and didn't want to abandon it for a few weeks, we also – quite frankly – needed the money.

Living in London was expensive.

Living in an AirBnB for two weeks was expensive.

Our plane tickets were expensive.

The immigration process was expensive.

Our car insurance after living abroad is going to be expensive.

And now buying all of the things we need to get settled is expensive.

I want to keep working, and D is starting work as soon as possible. We want to maintain and contribute to our savings during this process, even if it means jumping in quickly and potentially losing some sanity in the meantime.

This is just a season in the life of a pricey, expat relationship. It's ours, and there are so many others out there like it. Because we met while living in two different countries and began an international long distance relationship, we've been paying for plane tickets and visa fees from the get-go.

Sometimes I find myself jealous of other expats who are moving for a job or a spouse's job, and therefore most likely have financial assistance from an employer. I know that comes with its downsides and that the grass is always greener, so I'm in no way implying that that is somehow an easier life. I'm just saying that the DIY version of working and moving abroad is expensive as heck.

So, how have we done this? Me, a freelance writer and digital marketing type, and my husband, the IT guy? We've been lucky enough to receive support from family, and otherwise are smart and tight with our money. That's meant slow shopping, cutting corners, and scrimping and saving for several months now. It's worked fine.

I see this changing as we get settled and learn to live in a more affordable place – and that's something that me and the grey hairs on my head are really looking forward to. When it comes to work, I've put passion over profit in many places – including this blog, which I receive no compensation for. I'm open to sponsored content but above all I want this blog to remain as genuine as possible which means that I can't ever see this becoming a place that pays my bills.

I'd like to show off our new home and do a big home tour, design blogger style, but unfortunately that won't happen right now. We're staying with family and are saving everything that we can until we can get a place of our own. No modern sofas or tips on shopping for a new space for this gal just yet. That'll all come in the future, but for now we just don't have the money.

Jess's confession about financial worry was refreshing, and hopefully this post about working through a move will feel the same. It's not easy, and it isn't for any of us regardless of where you live or how you're employed.

If you're a business owner, freelancer, or even work full time, I want to know about your experiences with working through a big life change and managing the financials of it all. How have you done it? Do you have as many grey hairs as I do?  Let me know either here on Instagram. I'd love to hear!

Bridge & Burn Summer Lookbook

Bridge & Burn released their latest summer lookbook last week and the images are unsurprisingly gorgeous.

Shot along the Oregon coast by photographer Ryan Plett, the lookbook showcases the latest pieces from Bridge & Burn's summer collection. Don't you just love them? This dress has to be my favorite.

You can see the rest of the lookbook (and shop the collection) here.


Bridge & Burn Summer 2015 Lookbook | Second Floor Flat

Good Reads: 17 July 2015

This week: We bought some furniture, caught up on The Bachelorette, awaited the arrival of our shipping crate of personal belongings from the U.K., bought a lot of random items that we needed in the post-move storm, worked, and got used to our surroundings.

This weekend: I'm really, really, really looking forward to exploring more of the city after last week's walking tour from my dear sis. We're going to a baseball game (hurray for small town sports!), maybe checking out a river, trying the farmer's market and of course, going to places like Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond. I'm middle aged at heart, so I really love these types of weekends. And if any local Durham folk have recommendations, I'd love to hear them!

Looking forward to sharing more of our adventure with you guys both here and on Instagram. In the meantime, what are you up to this weekend?

Flora and Form painting

received this beautiful gift from a talented friend. see more of her work here

hey carolina folk! patchwork market is looking for vendors.

poor harper lee. (agree? disagree?)

amy schumer's profile in arts & leisure.

gave kombucha another go this week and i think it just might stick the second time around. (the first time i tried it i was 21 and my taste buds were used to, shall we say, slightly different tastes.) anyone here into kombucha? what should i try?

yogurt (may) have a positive impact on mental health. thanks, fage!

more on this topic: stop apologizing.

of course i signed up for lenny.

haven't finished this yet but it's definitely a good read because paul rudd.

thanks to stationery trends for having me in their magazine this month! i'm a sucker for good stationery, aren't you?

trying these immediately. (and thank god, bc im still so paranoid after that vice article.)

can't we just like, get over it? (via sadie)


favorite finds of the week + new additions to the independent maker directorygeo-fleur (via angloyankophile) / oen / peace towel (also via tradlands) / say hola / susan connor new yorkconnie & jack / lo & behold / undone / desert vintage / c'est ethica / family tree / kye + hardy / r. riveter / natural fig

Behind The Scenes With Kristen Saksa Juen

I've said it once and I'll say it a million times more, but my favorite thing about being a "blogger" (worst word) is the people I've head the pleasure of meeting through my blog. I've made "internet friends" and formed relationships, and overall have had an incredibly positive experience by sharing bits of my life online. (If you're looking for more on the positivity that can exist in the online community, check this out.)


Speaking of people that I'm glad to have met via the online world, enter Kristen Saksa Juen – a ceramic artist and designer based out of the always-awesome Austin. Kristen's work came across my radar during a Good Reads Favorite Finds in May. She reached out afterwards, and today we're going Behind The Scenes and taking a closer look at her beautiful work:

Tell me about your background. How did you get to be a ceramicist and a small business owner?

I have always had an urge to be creative. I’m also naturally drawn to the beauty of nature and the outdoors. These passions combined when I started creating in clay – I simply loved it and couldn’t stop. When I moved to Austin, the transition felt like a good time too take the leap into my own small business.


Forgive my ignorance, but what's the difference between ceramics and pottery? 

Good question! My understanding is that ceramics and pottery are both the products of clay hardened by high temperature. Pottery is a type of ceramics, referring primarily to the vessels and utilitarian items you typically see made from clay (such as bowls and cups). Ceramics is a somewhat broader term, which also includes industrial ceramic building materials. I suppose I refer to my wares as ceramics because of this slightly more encompassing feel, since I create both functional and sculptural hand built wares.

Behind The Scenes With Kristen Saksa Juen | Second Floor Flat

You live in Austin – an amazingly creative city that’s grown a good amount over the last few years. Are you from Austin originally? If not, what brought you there and how has the city’s growth affected you creatively (if at all)?

I am not from Austin originally, but I feel fortunate to have been brought here by way of my husband’s career. My move to Austin marked my decision to officially start my own small business, so Austin definitely had a big impact! Meeting like-minded friendly creatives here in Austin has definitely encouraged and supported me toward my creative goals.


What’s your favorite thing about being a designer and business owner? Least favorite thing? 

My favorite thing AND my least favorite thing about being a small business owner is being in charge of myself. I am a hard working gal and it feels so great to put all my energy toward my own goals, which I love. Although, sometimes it also hard to be the only one making all the decisions. So far I love it, I just have to remember to also ask for help when I need it.

What’s something about your job that people would be surprised to hear? 

Some of the random tools I keep at my studio include a rice paddle, a fork, and a toothbrush.


Your work is often inspired by nature and a love for the outdoors. Can you tell us a little more about your inspirations, and the role they play in your work? 

I really began to find my creative voice when I was working in Hawaii as a natural resource management field technician. When I headed out to field sites, I used to dream up ideas for ceramics forms.  The more I embraced organic inspired forms back in my studio, the more expressive and exciting my work became.

Behind The Scenes With Kristen Saksa Juen | Second Floor Flat

I love your use color – it feels very subtle and intentional. Can you talk about color in your work, and tell us about where and how you come up with your patterns and color choices? 

I love embracing the clay itself as a color choice. I work with both light and dark clay, often using the raw color in my designs. I also experiment regularly when it comes to selecting glaze colors. I test new combinations paying close attention to subtle variations to generate new ideas.


If you could collaborate with any person or brand, who would it be?

I love colorful, earthy, plant inspired designs that make a space feel both unique and at home. I would love to collaborate further on these ideas with Justina Blakeney and her inspiring design sense.


What’s the one thing you’d want people to walk away knowing about your pieces?

When people see and hold my wares, I hope they can sense my sincere joy and passion for creating handmade ceramics.

Behind The Scenes With Kristen Saksa Juen | Second Floor Flat

Just for fun:

What’s one book everyone should read? One movie?

How about a podcast instead? It’s great to listen to while creating. I love to stay curious about our world with a few episodes of RadioLab. [Editor's Note: Me too! More podcast ideas here.]


If you weren’t living in Austin, where would you live?

Colorado or Hawaii


Who do you think is killing it right now?

Lindsey of Foxwares Ceramics brings so much positive energy and enthusiasm to her beautiful work. No question, she is killing it. 


Thank you, Kristen! Learn more about Kristen's work here, shop her pieces here, and follow her here, here, and here.