Second Floor Flat

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

Losing Your Cool: What Happens When You Leave The Big City Behind

Ready for the dumbest, most unimportant worry you'll hear all day?

I've recently began worrying that soon I'm going to lose my cool and won't be interesting anymore. Hear me out – 

Right now, we can say that I'm interesting because I'm an expat, or because I live in the big, shiny city of London. Before that, I was interesting because I lived in New York and had a cool job, and if that wasn't enough for you, well, I was also in a long distance relationship with a South African dude in London. Suckas.

But after over five years in New York plus a few years spent interning, and over two years in London, what happens when I make my way to a quieter, more normalish part of the world and become someone whose basic credentials aren't as noteworthy?

Dumb, right? So self centered. I know. 

As I've vaguely mentioned here before, my husband and I are planning on making our way to the States in the next several months – me at the end of the year to get us settled in North Carolina, him to follow a few months later.

We'll still be ourselves in every way, but we won't be able to say that we're both expats. We'll basically be just like you. (Unless you're a cool person, in which case we will no longer be like you.)

The thing is I'm not worried that I won't be interesting – I'll have the same thoughts, feelings, and insecurities (I think they're called quirks these days) but it's more about the places that I'm associated with. If I'm honest, until about a year ago I wouldn't have been able to deal with not living in a big international city. It was something that I always wanted to do and so I did it, and did it in two different countries. Somewhere along the way it became a part of who I was.

"Welp, back to New York," the broke girl said as she boarded the plane. "I'm just so busy up there, it's so cool and interesting."

One thing I will miss is that feeling of telling someone where you live and getting that instant, Instagram-esque boost to the ego. People are always impressed or at least interested, and quite frankly it makes you feel like a badass.

But I got over all of that this year because my husband and I realized the things that we really want (house, space, dog, affordable life, also Target) just don't exist in big, fat, sparkly cities – at least not for us. And that far outweighs any cool points I get from telling a stranger where I live. It plays no part in my actual, real happiness.

But that ego boost, is something that I'll miss, and I think a lot of city folk and expats know the feeling I'm talking about. Not being different anymore, and not being immediately impressive to the cashier at the drugstore.

But you know what? Who cares. I'll still be me, Derrick will still be Derrick, and we'll be much happier in a lot of ways. And guess what: That's much cooler than anything else.


Shopping List: 9 Items For The Home

Over the past 10 years, I've lived in 7 apartments in 3 cities and 2 countries, and let me tell you – all of this moving around really forces you to assess the items that you have in your home.

Earlier this year I began a quest for a more minimalistic life and am now left with much fewer items in my home and in my closet than I started out with. I'm proud to say that everything that remains is something important or special to me in some way. Don't get me wrong – I still like buying and collecting things for my home and haven't stopped that, but I want every single item in my home to tell a story, whether it's something I picked up on my travels, or something I discovered online from an amazing maker with an interesting story and talent to boot.

This desire to support talented artisans, designers, and makers is one of the reasons I started my Great.ly shop. And this week, I've paired up with Great.ly to present some of my absolute favorite home items. As an extra special perk, Great.ly is offering free shipping on my entire "For The Home" collection through Tuesday, September 23rd. Cool right?

Here are 9 of my favorite home items: 

tribal inspired print in black by toni point ($38)

natural leather tray by natalie davis ($42)

petite wood bud vase by melanie abrantes ($50)

eclipse vessel in charcoal by takeawei studio ($45)

wood tillandsia planter by c.c. boyce ($35)

handmade suede leather bowls by kathleen turner ($20)

serving bowl by keith kreeger ($68

leather + copper air plant holder by kathleen turner ($35)

handmade cotton napkins by alisa curiel ($12)

 

After you're done here, don't forget to head over to Great.ly to check out my entire "For The Home" collection. Mention my name and they'll give you a free lollipop – not really, but definitely free shipping. 

Happy shopping, folks!


3 Places To Eat In Paris

A few weeks back, I shared some photos from our recent weekend in Paris

Though we were only there for a long weekend, we packed in a lot (LOT). We saw all of the main touristy bits that everyone knows, and also explored and ate at some lesser known places that I now firmly call favorites.

If you're heading over to gay Paris anytime soon, be sure to check out a few of these:

FOR SNACKING:

Meert is a well-known Parisian bakery that has a few locations sprinkled around the city. Luckily, one of those locations was right down the street from our AirBnB in Le Marais. Their vanilla waffles were recommended to me when I visited last year so naturally we stopped by...twice. Do yourself a favor and try these vanilla waffles if you ever get the chance to – they are seriously incredible. (My apologies for the lack of actual waffle photo. There was just no way I could wait long enough to take a photo before eating.)

 

FOR A QUICK BITE:

L'As du Fallafel in Le Marais makes the perfect takeaway fallafels. We spent our last night in Paris just walking through the city and ended up grabbing these for a late dinner on the way home. The line is long, but trust me when I say that it's worth the wait. This shit is good. (Also no photo of actual fallafel: see reason above re: photo taking too long.)

 

FOR DRINKING/HANGING:

Le Comptoir General might be my favorite place in Paris. This bar/gallery/second hand shop/music space/restaurant describes itself as a "ghetto museum" that celebrates the creativity that springs up from marginalized places around the world. Le Comptoir General is actually located at the back of a (not scary) alley, so if you visit and find yourself walking down a path that feels wrong, just keep going and soon you'll see this:

Photo by D Watterson III

One more tip: Cafe du Flore in St. Germain is definitely a touristy spot (and the prices prove it), but if you're nearby I'd suggest you stop by for a coffee. We spent a late Sunday morning sipping coffee and eating chocolate eclairs and it was magical.

Until next time, Paris!


Sunday Objects | 7

When it comes to personal style, I waiver between ultra minimalist and pattern junky in wild and crazy ways.

I admire and strive for the cool, understated qualities of classic minimalism and, like every other girl, could easily live my life in an under-decorated Parisian apartment with a simple bathroom, simple boy haircut, and simple sunglasses a la Breathless (sorry, I watched it last night).

But the other side of me wants to freak out and cover everything in bright pinks and cobalt blues and tribal patterns and textiles. Also with some added stripes and gingham, for good measure.

I'm forever trying to combine the two, and lately have been really inspired by magazines like Golly and the new issue of The Gentlewoman and things like this pouch and this dress. My point here is that all of this played a part in today's Sunday Objects, which features some important patterns and pieces that have caught my eye this week: 

  • Ladybird Books: One for me (US), one for my husband (Africa). I didn't grow up reading these books, but D did. Spotted them at a Broadway Market stall and bought them after we got over the cool factor that the only countries they had were our home countries. Now they sit front and center in our living room. (Spoiler alert: The actual text is from the 50s and super outdated and kind of uncomfortable to read. But they look nice if you don't open them!)
  • Dudes in frame: I wish I could tell you where this image was from, but all I know is that I cut it out of a magazine at the age of 18 and have brought it with me from Atlanta to New York to London. The frame is second hand, and was used to hold a table number at my sister's wedding a few years ago, so while both pieces are unrelated they are both extra special to me in completely different ways.
  • Shell: Picked up on a wonderful family weekend in Wilmington Beach, NC a few years ago. Can't wait until we can make that trip every weekend.
  • Geometric necklace: Bought this pup at a thrift store in Greenpoint for under $10 and have been wearing it ever since. It's gotten a lot of wear lately, and I just love it.

Have a wonderful, relaxing Sunday!

Good Reads | 12 September 2014

Oh guys. What are y'all up to this weekend? We're thinking of heading over to the Barbican. It's a museum/conference center/creative space in London that's surrounded by some really amazing architecture – it's hard to explain, really, so best to just wait for the photos.

Otherwise, I suggested to D that we watch a documentary and make worksheets for each other so that we could fill them out and discuss our thoughts afterwards, but he wasn't into it. Alas.

Whatever you're up to, I hope you have a great weekend!

Slim Aarons. Endlessly Slim Aarons.

The perfect game to plan while waiting for a table at a restaurant. (Love this post.)

dog's view.

Per usual, I'm obsessing over KULE's new FW14 collection. (More on this later.)

Life lessons from Andre3000.

A perfect weekday bag. (I feel more organized just looking at it.)

Excellent advice on how to not get overwhelmed.

Illustrator Naomi Elliott just redesigned her site, and the result is gorgeous.

A lovely little everyday necklace.

Why we should get rid of job titles

More collection obsession: Apiece Apart's SS15 collection

This Chicago loft  is, I mean, PERFECT.

Cambridge classicist, hero for women, whitty Twitterer: Meet Mary Beard.

And one more point for the ladies: These dolls are made to represent real-life female role models. Amazing. Plus the name just kills me.


Shopping List: Fall Wants

Between visa costs (we've gone through two visa processes this year, plus one citizenship) and the fact that we're slowly – oh so slowly – starting to save to buy our first home, it seems that all of my money lately is going towards very adult, need-based purchases rather than want-based items. (With the exception of travel, of course.)

If I'm honest, I've barely bought anything this year in the shoe or clothing department. This is partly due to my desire to minimize the number of items in my wardrobe, but also because I've made the decision to be as smart with my money as possible until some of these external costs come down.

But oh, do I want to buy things. So many things. Four Pin boards worth of things, actually. In the meantime, I'll be admiring from afar – particularly with these 16 oh-so-lovely items for fall:

mamuye leather tote by FashionABLE ($178)

sunburst skirt in stripe by J.Crew ($118)

marled wool ankle socks by Madewell ($10.50)

berlin lounge pants by Atelier Delphine via Of A Kind ($138)

folkestone boot by Gorman ($329 AUD)

handmade mugs by Haand ($23.50)

basic sweat in navy by rennes ($96)

brass bent crest earrings by Connected Goods ($120)

wood kimono overcoat by Just Female via Need Supply Co. ($190)

tortoise sunglasses via Mollusk Surf Shop

bandana sashiko by kiriko ($68)

rosemary & salt lotion by Earth Tu Face via beklina ($40)

floral trapeze dress by Band of Outsiders via La Garconne ($495)

natural wool slipper by Armor Lux via Westerlind ($85)

nude contrast chiffon blouse via SheInside ($23)

swiss cross sling bag by Zana ($32)


Dealing With Change

There are a million cliche things you could say about change. 

You could say that it's necessary in life. You could say that without change you have no growth, that it's hard but ultimately rewarding, etc.

But when confronted with real change – whether it's small or something that will cause a big disruption in your everyday life – change can be extraordinarily difficult, and something that's a lot easier said than done.

I've often found that deciding that you want to make a change is the hardest part. It requires addressing feelings and emotions and then deciding to actively do something about those feelings. And whether you're aware of it or not, a good amount of strength and bravery is needed to even decide to make a change in life. And all of that's before you actually do anything.

Once I've decided that I want to make a change the worst part is generally over with. From there, it just comes down to making plans and putting those plans into action – something I like doing. That doesn't mean the process of change is over, but at least for me, the worst part is over.

Though I embrace change in my own life, I'm also the type of person who wants it done as soon as it starts. While I enjoy the planning and 'making it happen' aspect, I'm easily frustrated by delays or challenges that might interfere with the process. It's like making the decision was hard enough, so once it's done with and decided on, I want the change over, and pretty quickly at that.

Perhaps needless to say, that's usually out of my control and I know that. It's something I'm working on improving, one panic attack at a time. Rolling with the punches, taking one day at a time, accepting a relative loss of control. Letting one door close, allowing another to open. 

Several friends of mine have gone through life-altering changes in the past few months: moves, break-ups, leaving jobs, starting companies. New cities, new towns, new lives. All of them have struggled at points – they'd be inhuman not to – but I'm impressed with how each of them have handled these changes. 

You can go through your life avoiding change, but in that you're also avoiding living. Experience comes from change, happiness can come from change, and of course growth in all its cliched glory comes from change.

Maybe the real point here is that change happens to all of us it at some point, whether we want it to or not. It's learning to accept the change, deal with it fully and with our best selves, and welcome the experience and growth that comes with open arms. (Or at least with fewer panic attacks.)

 

When have you had to deal with change in your life, and what was the hardest part? Anything surprise you about the experience? Let's chat! I'd love to hear about your experience.