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.

Currently: August + September 2015

I know we're all head over heels for fall at this point, but there are still days in North Carolina that feel downright summery. Were I back in London, I would've been wrapped in long sleeves for months now. But here, in The Old North State? We're only now getting to the point where you need a little something extra for warmth in the mornings. Afternoons are still firmly reserved for bare legs, short sleeves, and light layers.

We've been taking advantage of what the late summer has to offer (last weekend's hurricane weather definitely not included) and spending as much time outdoors as possible. That includes a late August beach trip, and a return to the beach this weekend. Because really – if you haven't been to the beach in autumn, you need to make a point to go. There's just something about being at the beach when there's a slight chill in the air and that shocking, crisp light that only happens at this time of year that's pretty breathtaking. It's also just 2.5 hours away by car, so who can complain?

That's where I'll be if you need me over the next couple of days. In the meantime, here's a look at what we've been up to currently – loving, doing, experiencing, and the rest – in our little pocket of North Carolina:

looking for a quieter mind via meditation and accupuncture, which i'm trying for the first time tonight. all of your wonderful recommendations for meditation have led me on the hunt for a teacher or studio in the raleigh-durham area. i've done some cold research, but if anyone has a recommendation please let me know here. thank you!

loving stowaway's genius tiny makeup which, thanks to its size, means that you'll never keep your mascara or blush for longer than you really should. (hello, bacteria.) bonus: this eyeliner is legitimately the best i've tried in a while.

embracing the very great and very easy life hack of putting smoothie ingredients in the blender the night before. not exactly a game changer, but definitely a time saver.

(finally) jumping on the mindy kaling bandwagon and loving every second of it. after reading "why not me?" for a virtual bookclub with one of my london girlfriends, i began watching "the mindy project" and am now about to start "is everyone hanging out without me?" and genuinely lol-ing across the board.  now, i just want to be friends with her. 

finetuning my copywriting skills and loving it. my background is in magazines and lifestyle journalism, but over the last year i've been doing more copywriting work and found it to be pretty great.

adding turmeric to my warm drink routine and feeling the benefits, especially when used sparingly and paired with raw honey. yum.

smelling pretty good, and working to calm my settling-in-a-new-area anxieties with help from woodlot's lavender + bergamot refreshing mist (love a good mist!) and little barn apothecary's lemongrass + mint body oil.

appreciating the support we've received for monday monday! this is a small side project i've been working on for the last couple of months and it's been so nice to finally share it with others. and if you'd like to buy those lovely striped shirts you see in the picture above, you can do see here.

trying my hand at gardening and almost failing. i recently brought a zebra plant, four succulents, and a sturdy leafy green tropical plant with a name i've already forgotten to our room. embracing bright light, misting, and prayers for their survival. 

enjoying seeing the south, my home region, through the eyes of someone brand new to the area. makes you give things you'd normally pass a second glance, and a deeper look.

obsessing over california, still, and hoping to plan a trip back to l.a. this winter to satisfy my cali-crush. (people who live there: is it as cool as it looks?)

hanging out with beloved family (both here, and visiting from south africa) and feeling grateful. also, feeling thankful for technology (whats up, whatsapp) for connecting me with the ones i love who are far away.

wearing my sailor pants, the product of some serious slow shopping, and my someware lace-up sandals. the two together, paired with long sleeves as needed, are making my north carolina warm fall wardrobe something special.

meeting lots of lovely people in the raleigh-durham area and thanking my stars yet again for the beauty of instagram and the blogging world. my 'network' is ever expanding thanks to this blog and social media and i'm so appreciative of it.


what are you up to, currently? anything you're particularly loving, eating, drinking, thinking about, obsessing over lately? even the most mundane things are welcome – i'd love to hear!

The Ring Lariat Necklace by Kari Breitigam on Monday Monday


Just a little note to let you know that there's a new piece on Monday Monday today. (Which, by the way, is a new side project of mine. Learn more here!)

Today we launched the Ring Lariat necklace, which is the most gorgeous handmade piece by Texas gal and awesome designer/artist Kari Breitigam. I discovered Kari's work earlier this year and have been obsessed ever since – her aesthetic is beautiful and breathtakingly simple.

I have a major crush on her studio as well – isn't it gorgeous? Learn more about Kari and shop the Ring Lariat here.

Good Reads: 2 October 2015

Well, we've got lots and lots (and lots) of rain and wind headed our way this weekend thanks to a certain hurriance that's currently dancing around the Atlantic. Welcome back to the East Coast, you know?

The curmudgeonly old man in me thinks the weather people work in cohoots with retailers – give people a scare and get them to buy a little more. But the other side of me looks outside and sees buckets of rain falling from the sky so, you know.

In other news, it's October! I'm so looking forward to a proper fall season full of mountain visiting, apple picking, fall foliage, and (duh) state fairs – once everything dries out, mind you. Any recommendations are appreciated!

Depending on the weather, we're planning to watch the Rugby World Cup, maybe visit Charlotte, and maybe try acupuncture. In reality, I'll probably be stuck on the couch binge watching The Mindy Project, which I just started this week and am currently so obsessed with. And you uknow what? That would be just fine.

Have a good one, guys!

thanks for all of your support for monday monday! head here to check it out, and grab a nice 10% off with LAUNCHOFF10.

how to write a memoir, from a woman who knows.

received the most amazing piece in the mail this week from fellow north carolinians, appalatch. more coming from these guys soon!

incredible MS paint illustrations.

my heart breaks for oregon. yet again, this rings painfully true.

i'd like all of my furniture going forward to come from here, please. 

and speaking of furniture – 5 new upstart furniture companies. look out, future home.

love me some ellen page.

remember this post? i caved and bought that jesse kamm sailor pant that's everywhere right now and i'm in love with them. this is the most expensive clothing item i've ever purchased and it was a purchase worth every penny. moral of the story: buy less, but buy what you want.

aminatou sow was on a few things this week to discuss the "girls vs. women" debate – when it's ok and not ok to say "girls" and "women" and "you guys".  great convo overall, but a moment i loved was this: "...'girls' is a cheeky nod to solidarity...we know we're women". listen to episode 19  here.

moving, powerful, grounding.


favorite indie designer/retailer finds of the week + additions to the directory:

res ipsa / the drive new york / trollhagen & co. / datura (via joanna) / brother vellies / elizabeth benottithe ardorist (via flora + form)

me elsewhere: perfecting your pitch / how to decorate with intention / a guide to charlotte, north carolina / mastering social media

Introducing Monday Monday

For a little while now, I've been teasing a new side project of mine. Today, it officially launches.

The project is called Monday Monday and the deal is this: It's a mini online shop selling the work of independent designers. On special Mondays, we launch a new sale with an emerging designer. The collections sold will always be small – the belief behind that being that unique, beautiful products deserve a spotlight. Most times, but not always, the products will be Monday Monday exclusives.

While you're shopping, you'll also learn about the designer, their story, and their process. Pretty cool, right?

Today we're launching with one of my favorite products from one of my favorite deisgners – The Modern striped t-shirt from KULE.

the modern striped shirt via monday mondaybookes boswell hat, marais sandals

Be sure to follow us here, here, here, and here, and sign up to our email list to learn when a new sale launches.

Thanks guys! Your support, as always, is incredibly appreciated.

Finding Your Family-Friends

There’s a part in the new Mindy Kaling book where she writes about the changes that happen in friendships. 

Specifically, she writes about the period in her late twenties when all of her friends began to move apart, and the difficulty that comes not right away when friends start to move apart, but later when you realize how permanent the moves were, and how much they change the course of the relationships.

This big moving period happened around the same time for me and my friends. In my mid-late twenties, I decided to move away as several of my friends had before me. We'd all left home and gone to college, then left college and gone to New York, or maybe moved around New York and in some cases, left the city and returned. No big deal, right? 

But in the book, Mindy writes about the experience she had later upon realizing what these moves really meant:

"...I realized [that] this long expanse of free time to rekindle friendships is not real. We will never come home to each other again and we will never again have each other's undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over forever."

Stings, doesn't it?

Like many other ladies of a certain age, I completely relate to this and the pain I felt after moving from my girlfriends in New York. See, I had a strong, serious girl squad going in Brooklyn. We were roommates and neighbors and friends, and it was great. Me and D were doing the long distance thing at the time, and since he was in London I somehow had the best (and worst) of both worlds: endless time with my girlfriends, with the comfort of knowing my serious, steady boyfriend was a sleepy Skype call or an exotic plane ride away. Pretty great, right?

But of course it wasn't.

It got to a point where long distance wasn't a realistic option for us and besides, managing it all was difficult. And so I moved to London, thinking that what happened to me when I moved to New York was the same thing that would happen each time I moved for the rest of my life. I'd show up and within months join a group of friends that would truly and deeply 'get' me. Family-friends, as I like to call them.

Of course that's not true either. Each move, and the community you encounter on the other end of that move, will be different.

I've written a lot about my time in London, that's for sure, but one of the biggest shocks I had when I left my New York life was suddenly finding myself without a strong group of those family-friend girlfriends. I built amazing one-on-one friendships in London, and I now miss those women dearly every single day. But in those early London days, when I'd just moved from my family-friends in New York, it felt like overnight I had abandoned one part of my life and woken up, jet lagged and wearing yesterday's clothes, in another.

A couple of months after my move, I was visited by a best friend who was living somewhere between New York and L.A. Because I was still such a newbie to the world of post-female live-in friendships, I was overjoyed at her visit because it made me realize how much I missed her and my other family-friends.

Though I was thrilled with my new life in London, though I loved the decision I had made, though I (and I hope this goes without saying) was beyond happy to have left behind the late night sleepy Skype calls that long distance relationships are made of and instead have the person I loved right next to me, it was still hard to not have my family-friends there with me. Ultimately, the realization that my New York life and my new life in London couldn't and wouldn't exist together because of countries and visas and jobs and all the rest was the hardest thing to accept.

It was all too raw. For a few years I couldn't watch Girls because it reminded me too much of my former Greenpoint life. And when I returned to New York last month for the first time since I left, that feeling of rawness came over me again and for a few days, it felt like the wound had reopened.

Now that I'm in a new city and building female friendships one by one (thank you, Instagram, for introducing me to kindred spirits I never would've met otherwise) I've come to terms with the fact that this will probably be my world of friends going forward. We all have our groups of friends that exist in our hometowns or former home cities, and now we all take on new friends one by one. But rebuilding that old group of family-friends? It won't happen again. That period in your life where your friends were your everyday family? It looks different now than it did before.

These days, I focus on finding ways to stay in touch with my family-friends, mainly by incorporating them in every aspect of my day – through texts and talks of plans for visits. Now, it's a case of quality over quantity. We don't sit around quite as much in our pajamas on Tuesday nights, so instead we talk more and plot and plan for future celebrations.

It is hard, though. Staying in touch with friends lies somewhere between the world of the constant marathon phone calls of a long distance relationship and the scheduled Sunday Skypes used with far away family. More often than not, in that between world, the plans have a tendency to fall apart.

And so you work harder at it because family-friends are worth it. They're rare, hard to find, and must be clung to regardless of distance and time and change in circumstance.

And you know what? We may never come home to each other again, as Mindy said, but seeing each other on weekend visits brings me back to myself in a way that only family-friends can, and that's more than I could ask for. 

I think Mindy would agree.

Behind The Scenes With Anchal Project

The mission of nonprofit Anchal Project is simple: to provide alternative career options to commercial sex workers in India. The women employed by Anchal Project are educated and trained as artisans and granted sustainable employment opportunities in textile design and production. The fruits of their wares are then available for sale in the form of scarves, quilts, pillows, and more.

And the cycle continues. 

Sound familiar? There are similar models used by many ethical brands these days, but Anchal was one of the originals in the fair trade fashion business. They've been around for a while and were one of the first fashion brands providing sustainable work opportunities I'd ever heard of.

In honor of the launch of the kantha-stitch bananda (and the upcoming release of their new collection), I spoke with Anchal co-founder Colleen Clines about building a socially conscious fashion brand.

Below, Colleen breaks it down and takes us behind the scenes:

Nice to meet you, Colleen! Tell me about the background of Anchal Project. How did it get started?

I started Anchal Project with some of my fellow graduate students while I was at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) for Landscape Architecture. Anchal started out as a small project for a “Design for Development” seminar, and it was through a class trip to India that the desire to help people through design became a tangible thing we could accomplish.

We met women in the commercial sex trade while we were there, and learned about some of the local textiles being made in West Bengal. When we got back to Providence, we used the profits generated from a small notebook/notecard sale to fund the textile training for the first group of women. 


The work that you do is so important, and I can imagine that would add an extra layer of complication in setting up the business. What were the early stages of Anchal like?

I would describe them as chaotic, inspiring, and idealistic. We had so much energy behind accomplishing this mission, and when you're just starting out you learn everything as you go. Everything was an experiment. We still have that to a certain extent, but in the beginning we just went for it. It was more of a 'look before you leap' mentality.


Tell me about the creative process from start to finish. How are Anchal’s pieces designed? Is it a collaboration between yourself and the artisans?

When new women are hired, they go through training with other artisans – usually ones that have been a part of Anchal for a while. They are taught basic design principals like color theory and composition. We have some guidelines established to make things a bit more predictable for the people buying the finished products, but leave as much of the decision-making and design up to them as we can.

Anchal is there to empower the women, many of whom haven't had much control over their own lives up to now, and we've found that giving them creative freedom gives them more confidence overall. Start-to-finish, everything is hand stitched, and some will soon be hand-dyed as well. (We're rolling that out in the collection coming out in October!).

Why do you think doing this type of work is so important?

Ethical home goods and fashion are the next wave of the 'socially conscious living' revolution. Awareness surrounding where your everyday items come from is the first step to influencing change in some of the most abusive industries. As a designer, I am driven by the power design has to positively change lives and the environment.

For me personally, I get to witness Anchal artisans improving not just their own lives, but also the lives of their children. Many of our artisans have now been able to purchase their own homes after joining the program, and all of the women have vowed to keep their daughters away from a potential future in the commercial sex trade. Now their children – boys and girls – have seen their mothers, sisters, and grandmothers empowered, as well as have the chance at higher education. The impact we are having is very real and life changing!


Tell me more about the Didi Connection – what an inspiring program!

In India, women affectionately call each other didi, which means 'sister' in Hindi. We were inspired by the strength of community between the Anchal artisans, and wanted to find a way to expand that connection to a global sisterhood. The Didi Connection is a collection of scarves and totes that support education workshops, health care, scholarship funding for children, and vocational training through their sales. Being a part of the Didi Connection means you are raising your fellow sister out of the sex trade.


What’s the one thing you’d want people to walk away knowing about Anchal, your products, and your mission?

One of the coolest things about an Anchal product is that each piece is not only made from vintage saris, but it's also 100% one-of-a-kind. Each artisan stitches their signature onto the quilts, scarves, and pillows, so you have a direct connection to the woman you are supporting with your purchase.  

And just for fun:


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

"Creative Confidence" by Tom and David Kelley

"The True Cost" – it's a documentary that really drives home the importance socially conscious design, particularly in the fashion industry.


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

I love to travel so I dream of sharing my time in several of my favorite cities with my favorite people in Louisville, New York, Providence, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. 


Is there anyone out there who’s work you really admire?

Ultimately the Anchal women in India inspire me the most. The abuse and pain they have endured is devastating. And yet these brave women show up to the workshop space with joyful smiles and willingness to learn. It is truly incredible what they have overcome, I don't know how they do it!


Thank you, Colleen! Follow Anchal Project here, here, here, and here, shop their products here and keep in mind that the latest collection launches October 5th. While you're at it, check out my interview with the lovely gals of Anchal here!

Good Reads: 18 September 2015

We've had family in town all week from South Africa and it's been so nice showing them around The Old North State and eating our faces off.  

Last night we took them to this incredible barbeque place in Durham that has things like hard apple cider cocktails and barbequed tofu. Take my my word when I say that barbequed tofu that's definitely been grilled and maybe also been fried is about the best thing in the world. 

In other news, I made plans for my upcoming 30th birthday (big deal, blah blah) and also booked a quick weekend trip back to the North Carolina coast. (Because really, I'm still not over the color palette of small Carolina beach town.)

This weekend I'm doing a little work for a new project I'm looking forward to sharing super soon and otherwise staying pretty low key. What are you guys up to? I'd love to hear!


crushing hard on cienne ny, and the gals behind the line, after receiving the most beautiful package (that branding!) in the mail this week for an upcoming collaboration. 


not choosing a side, but i do have lots of thoughts on copyrighting in the fashion industry.

thinking that this will be a very enjoyable alternative to coffee or tea as the days begin to cool.

street style looks you might actually wear.

if you missed biden on colbert last week, you should watch the interview. then you should read this

i just really love jen gotch.

did an interview with the incredibly sweet gals at anchal project.

filling my current gal pal void by starting a virtual book club with one of my friends in london. (get this - me and my friend met in the comments section on cup of jo. how nerdy is that?)

embracing the anti-hustle.

the best paper plates you ever did see. (via the of a kind gals)

"into" learning more about this mag. (see what i did there?)

found this via joanna + already spent far too much time scrolling through.

flipping through this for an upcoming piece i'm writing, and guess what? it's just as lovely as all the other bloggers and instagrammers say.

congrats to california tailor on the launch of their (lovely!) fall collection!

spruce up that fall table, gal! (and guy, thank you.)


favorite finds of the week + additions to the independent designer directory

fine life co / root science / the lulu bird / jonesy / kleur / where i was from / nanushka / rami kimholder goods & crafts (coming soon!)