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.


Like most things, I only have the internet to thank for this.

Not long ago, lovely Atlanta blogger Her New Tribe published a post about San Francisco's LISA SAYS GAH. I checked them out, included them in favorite finds for that Friday, and that was that.

Ever since I've been full-on obsessed with LISA SAYS GAH – with their journal (I've pinned basically every single image), their interviews (with awesome designers, writers, and all around babes), their Instagram feed, and everything about the brand. They stock designers like PICHULIK, Charlotte Stone, DUSEN DUSEN, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Nu Swim and more more more – the list goes on. 

Basically, LISA SAYS GAH is inspiring in a way that feels really relevant. It's modern, simple, comfortable, old, new, aspirational, and attainable at the same time. It's total perfection in that slightly off-kilter way that it seems like a lot of us are striving for these days.

I love these guys + am pretty sure you will, too. Get ready to #saygah:

Shop LISA SAYS GAH here, and follow them here, here, here, and here 

Good Reads: 22 May 2015

It's the very rare combination of both a long weekend in the UK and the US which means that I'm going to more or less, semi-ish, take a three-day weekend!

Freelancers and self-employed folks will feel me. You never really get a full day off unless you force yourself to take one. I rarely do this which is my own damn fault, but this weekend I just might. 

In other news, thank you for all of your lovely comments and support on my piece about surrender. It's an ongoing process, that's for sure, but I was glad to hear that so many of you related in so many ways. Man, this community sure is a great one.

Whether you're headed away or just headed for Netflix or for a new book, I hope you guys have a great weekend! See you on the flip side.

rings by jukserei via fy and catbird, ring dish by el aich designs, ceramic bangle by academy via cacto shop, silk good luck bracelet by jukserei

officially on the "when i'm back in the us" wishlist: the amos top....

...and on the "when i'm in nc" to do list: check out this and this.

this is a true gem. 

more thoughts on simplifying and shopping consciously.

appalachia, updated. 

on genuine blogging. (jaime nails this one). 

question: i'm thinking about doing a random, every month-ish post that just shows what we've been up to, lists some favorite things, activities, whatever. would that be really boring or interesting to you?

andrea's beautiful words on being alone.

this documentary.

tomboy tees from california tailor launched this week and they're awesome. more on that soon.

"canada in a thong" (thanks for introducing me to this story, clementine!)

still really loving this new podcast


favorite finds this week: oru / mira mira / giejo / royal caballito + nadinoo (both via calivintage) / the good hippie / bibelot & token (via her new tribe) / duzen (via design love fest) / funsize ceramics / roxy marj (via @juneletters) / tom pigeon (via angloyankophile) / pilgrim (via tomboy style) / nannie inez (via colore grace) / pesh towels / anvil handcrafted / the podolls / m. grace

How To Surrender To A Process

Since we've had some slight movement on the visa and our move, the official, final countdown can now really begin. Trouble is, we don't know when it will end.

Our personal items may be on their way across the ocean (we went ahead and moved them last week), but we're still here – waiting – without a concrete timeline. 

Throughout the course of this yearlong process, it's felt like we've been living in a temporary world on artificial time, though it's time that keeps passing regardless. It seems like whenever I look out my second floor flat window, the season has changed – people are moving, buying houses, doing things, and we're here. Waiting.

I used to drive myself crazy with this. I'd look at calendars and count weeks and do the math on how long it would take to get me to that next milestone.

But now, I've stopped. 

Our move has been pending for so long, and plans have changed so many times that I've stopped paying attention to the date and the calendar, or to the temperatures at home (trust me – they're warmer than London). I don't want to know how long this process has taken or how long it could be until it's finally done. I just need to know that at some point, I will be home, with my husband, living an American dream.

Because we've been in this temporary, in-between world for so long, I've now learned the value of giving yourself over to a process.  I've learned that when people tell you that you can't plan, and dish out cliches of the "life happens when you're busy making plans" variety, they're mostly right.

That doesn't stop me from planning, because generally I believe that things don't happen without structured plans and goals. Time passes, dreams slip by, and the years go on and on. You wake up and ten years have passed – that sort of thing.

But I have now been able to compartmentalize my thoughts into two sides: the planning side, and the knowing-that-no-one-can-really-plan-for-anything side.

Whether you're living in a transitional state, like we are, or you just want to break from your chain of planning, here's how to let go – at least a little – and surrender to a process:


Don't do the math.

I'm a time checker. Whether it's the time of the day, day of the week, week of the month, month of the year, or year of my life, I'm guilty of obsessing over timelines and arbitrary deadlines. If we don't leave the house by this time, we won't get home until this time. If I haven't saved this amount by this month, we won't be able to reach this goal. If we haven't had a kid by the time I'm this old, I'll be a terrible parent who can never do anything fun and will probably be miserable and full of regret for the rest of my life. And we'll be poor. That sort of thing.

No more. I now understand that setting dates and arbitrary deadlines does little more than drive a sane person crazy with anxiety. Does this mean you shouldn't set timelines? Of course not. But it does mean that you should allow for flexibility and know that, inevitably, things will happen and your timeline may have to shift. That's ok.


Learn to escape yourself.

The next time you feel a "planic" (sorry) setting in, straight up walk away from it. You've heard this advice before, but this time you should take it. Go for a run, call a friend or family member, walk to the grocery store. The goal here is to take your mind off the process that's causing you stress, and to remind you that there is an entire world that exists outside of your problems. A world that will keep spinning regardless of how much you obsess over plans. Just walk away, Renee. And while you're at it, trust me on this one.


Find a healthy distraction – and fast.

This blog began when I moved to London and found myself living a much quieter life than the one I had previously lived. I was learning the quietness and flexibility that comes with working from home, all while living in a foreign city where my closest friends were suddenly out of both walking and driving distance. It was harder than I ever would have imagined.

I set up the blog to serve as a creative outlet to me busy and it's worked wonders. In addition to my work, I now use my blog and social media accounts as healthy distractions whenever I feel a planic coming on. It's reassuring to know that this distraction is here and waiting when I need it most.


This is what's worked for me so far, and though I am by no means without stress, learning to give in to this process rather than trying to constantly control it has left me at peace. I'm lighter because I can almost – almost – see the end of our process now, and I know that there's nothing I can do to make it come any quicker.

Whatever your plans may be – a move, a new job, new business, dinner out, running a marathon – know that they can change at the drop of the hat, and they probably will. No amount of worrying or anxiety will do anything to precent that.

You just have to learn to trust the process and give in. Even if you do it kicking and screaming as you go.

C. Keller SS15

If Colleen Keller's name sounds familiar, that's because you may already be familiar with her work. Until recently, Colleen was the gal behind beautiful womenswear line Babe New York.

About a month ago Colleen reintroduced her line as C. Keller, and it's as gorgeous as you might expect. The vibe is somewhat similar to Babe New York in the fact that it feels quietly, simply subdued in a really beautiful way (or as Colleen calls it, "relaxed modernism".)

The first C. Keller collection represents the kind of clothing I would wear if I was working in an office, or was just living a slightly nicer lifestyle than I am right now (read: not living out of a suitcase, mid-move). 

Here are a few favorites from C. Keller's stunning Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Don't the pieces have the perfect, slightest,1960's feel?


Find C. Keller stockists here, and follow the brand here, here, and here

Good Reads: 15 May 2015

Man, it's been a week.

I feel like I say that almost every week now, but it's just how it is.

We had some slight movement on the visa, which is the best, and we've shipped all of our belongings to the U.S. Once we get the visa, we're out of here.

I'm feeling much better now that the bulk of our stuff is gone. Of course, this all relates to the minimalist mindset and power of simplifying, but sheesh – the emotional weight that plain old stuff can carry is amazing. I feel so much lighter as I sit in a near-empty room, bright with morning light, writing this. There's so much more room (literally, figuratively) to breathe.

This weekend is about cleaning, trying to glean some cash from old electronics, and of course – looking for some good ol' London sunshine. As always, my list of favorite maker and retailer finds of the week is down at the bottom of this post.

Have a great one!

wonderful bobbie sent me a card for #happymailhappyhour and it made my entire week. you know when you're feeling blue and sorry for yourself, and then something shows up that changes you entire outlook? that was this. thank you, bobbie!

loving laurel hill's new anu collection. 

this new podcast by two gals i wish i was friends with.

true, and still true even if you just replace the word "mom" with the word "women".

vintage beauty.

looking forward to buying one of these prints when we're settled. (found via miss moss)

"she seemed acutely aware that the life she was curating online was distinctly different from the one she was actually living. Yet she could not apply that same logic when she looked at the projected lives of others." – an important story about mental illness, our need to normalize discussions surrounding mental illness, and the masks we wear on social media

yes ma'am.

getting this, just as soon as i get a bike, and just as soon as we get to the states. so at some point, i will get this bag.

finding some great indie titles lately. i mentioned woven last week, and this week i found lone wolf, got a girl crush, and ardent

a beautiful print.


favorite finds of the week:

 american nomad / the-commons (via the american edit) / att pynta / kate albee / almanac for june (found via tradlands) / vruwink / the horse (via flora and form) / nelson project / kristen saksa juan / mullein & sparrow / tracksmith / minor goods / miranda bennett / alyson fox / tarin thomas / kiki koyote / rebecca gladstone / ecru collection / fox & castle / palomarie / hartland brooklyn / dear hearts + gather (neither are new finds, but they are both new submissions to the indie maker directory that i can't believe i had previously left out. looking forward to shopping both of these places when we get to durham!)

Hunter The Label

 Hunter The Label is Sara Wurcker's line of "timeless clothes for the modern girl". It's an absolutely stunning collection of separates, with an equally beautiful lookbook.

This line was first brought to my attention last week and there's just something about the colors, lookbook, and styling that feels so right, right now. It's all exactly what I want to be wearing all through the summer. (Isn't it wonderful when a designer gets it just exactly right?)

All Hunter pieces are made to order in Braddon, Australia with high-quality fabrics. The idea here is to evoke a feeling of "unassuming elegance" and well, I'd say that's been achieved. 

Here are a few favorites:

Shop Hunter here, and follow the brand here, here, here, and here

Becoming Minimalist: The Case for Shopping Slow

It happens almost every week. 

I come across an item that I feel like I can't live without, and I'll obsess over it to a ridiculous degree. Maybe it's a pair of shoes or a new bag, or a dress. Whatever it is, the item of the week will dominate my thoughts in a pointless but addictive way, as only the desire for material items can.

(Good job, modern world. Nicely done, self.)

In a former life, I would shop quickly, without giving my purchases much thought. Assuming the item of the week was something fashion related (it always is), I would imagine myself wearing it a few different ways, then grab it and bag it.

Purchase complete.

But now, my shopping habits look a bit different. If you've been following this blog, then you'll know that after multiple, dusty moves throughout my 20s, I made a commitment to focus on the "fewer, but better" mindset that's become so on-trend these days. Quality over quantity, less is best, etc.

Perhaps the most prominent  aspect of my new preference for minimalism is my approach towards shopping. Rather than shopping the way I once did – thoughtfully, but quickly – I now shop slow. Very slow. Slow to the point that I analyze every purchase and give it a lot of thought before I spend my money.

It can be overwhelming to embrace the concept of shopping slow, but I assure you that it can be done. And once you begin, you might be surprised at how easy it is to change those overpowering, quick-to-buy habits of yours. This is how it's done:


1. Shop online only

Shopping in a brick and mortar store can be a better experience for a lot of reasons – especially if we're talking about an amazingly curated local boutique. But if the item you're longing for can easily be purchased almost anywhere – like, let's say, Tevas, my item of obsession this week – then you should make your purchase online. Shopping online allows you to take your time and think about a purchase rather than making a rushed, impulse decision in a store.

Furthermore, consider shopping at local, independent boutiques. Aside from the fact that you'll support a small business owner, you're also far less likely to encounter the overpowering marketing strategies, not to mention crazy loud Rihanna soundtrack and fluorescent lighting, that you might find at a chain store. A chain store's overstimulating atmosphere can make it hard to think straight – much less to think thoughtfully. 


2. Wait a week before you buy (or at least a few days)

Before you commit to a purchase, set a self-imposed waiting limit of three days. If you can do a week, then that's even better. Chances are that no matter how much you want something, you might change your mind a few days later when an unexpected bill comes up – or when you see something you want even more.


3. Review your wardrobe

I know – sorry. This one sucks, because it's all about facing reality aka not fun. This step is usually where shopping dreams come to die. But listen here: Before you make a purchase, look hard at what you already own. If you want to buy a new pair of black sandals but already have three pairs, consider how often you will realistically wear the new pair. Don't ignore reality and try to justify your purchase. Instead, imagine your new shoes in your closet and think about when you would actually wear them. 

The Pursuits of Happiness necklace, ACADEMY bangle, jujumade earrings

Shopping slow ain't for everyone, that's for sure, and there are downsides to shopping this way.

Giving a lot of thought to every purchase can lead to guilt for having spent money once you do finally make a purchase, and OCD-level obsessions about even the tiniest of product details.

No matter. In the end, your bank account and your closet will thank you for it. And aside from all of that very but mommm!-esque information, the good news is this: When you shop slow, everything you buy feels like a treasure.

And before you know it, everything in your closet will be something you truly love and are glad you purchased. Case closed.