Second Floor Flat

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

Good Reads: 29 August 2014

Oh, it's been hard to be back from Paris this week.

Sure, we were only there for a weekend but what a weekend it was. We walked the city from morning to night (my toenail polish literally chipped completely off twice) and enjoyed absolutely perfect weather paired with lots and lots of vanilla waffles

There are so many photos to come (D took 2500 in our 2.5-day trip), but until then I'll leave you with one of my favorite shots and a look at some lovely things on the internet.

Dreaming of this Paris scene. This is what I would look like if I was a cafe. 

This PBS documentary by Marty Scorsese traces the origins of blues from Mississippi to Africa, and it's absolutely amazing. 

Dying for this boot

And this tunic. Actually Madewell's fall arrivals alone are enough to make me look forward to cooler weather.

This book, which is taking me longer to read than I'd like due to my lack of commute (commuting time = reading time), but I'm enjoying each and every line of Marlene Van Niekirk's beautiful writing. 

This song, which has been in my head for over a week. (HELP)

Discovered A Standard of Living this week and can't wait to get all up in there. 

Also Golly Magazine. Yes please!

This podcast on radical change. 

Should you catcall her?

I'd like this dreamy candle, for rainy mornings spent writing. 

Miranda July made an app, and it's very Miranda July (not a bad thing). 

This short film

One of these days I'm going to walk straight into the kitchen and whip up something like this (or this). 

This lovely scarf alternative for not-yet-freezing fall days. 

Actually over the moon to have won this giveaway from one of my favorite brands, Tradlands. (Thank you!)


And a few things from me:

A London restaurant guide

A guide to funding for creative startups

9 socially-conscious jewelry designers

Why I'm Glad To Be (Almost) Out Of My 20s

Aside from the excitement of embarking on your first job, few serious commitments, and endless enthusiasm and energy, what's so great about being in your early 20s?


I can safely say that now as a 28-year-old who feels far more comfortable than I ever did at 23. And that feeling is only growing each day.

In my case, my early 20s were (was?) one of the most exciting times of my life. Who knows, maybe it will turn out to be the most exciting time of my life. But if it was and if that time has passed, I don't mourn it at all. I can appreciate and love that time for what it was but also go forward knowing that the days ahead will be a lot more steady, with a lot more genuine happiness rather than fleeting, ecstatic moments paired with lots and lots of insecurity.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2010

I moved to New York a week after graduating from SCAD, settled into a killer West Village apartment that I was able to live in thanks to my professor-turned-mentor and her daughter-turned-my friend.

I split my time between working at Conde Nast, going out to dirty bars in the East Village and wine bars in the West Village, and watching Netflix in bed.

I ate a lot of Five Guys, felt bad about myself, felt way too good about myself, and generally had that thing that's so specific to people in their 20s: an incredibly positive outlook on life paired with a sense of not having any clue about what happens next. I think they call that fear.

Like so many in their early 20s, I suffered from serious fear of missing out (FOMO, to you youngsters). Even if I was tired and felt like staying in to read, I'd always go out just because I didn't want to miss a night of going out. It felt like anything could happen at any moment – an exciting feeling, but also an unsettling one.

Williamsburg Bridge, New York in 2010

I still like going out, but now I prefer staying home to watch a good documentary and drink white organic wine like the sweatpanted yuppie that I am. I'd rather get a good night's sleep and embark on a daytime adventure than spend the night trolling from bar to bar, cold, wanting pizza, and needing to go to the bathroom.

Those adventures aside, the greatest part about entering into your late 20s has to do with all of  cliche things you read about – how you suddenly discover who you are and realize what's important to you.

All of that happened to me, and if it hasn't happened to you yet I can say that it very likely will. It was like I woke up one morning and suddenly was able to block out the background noise and just breathe.

The wonderful Ann Friedman put it best in a recent NY Mag piece when she said, "It was around age 29 that the number of fucks I gave about other people's opinions dropped to critically low levels." So much yes.

Edinburgh, Scotland in 2011

I realize this isn't the case for everyone – I was beyond fortunate to have a family that supported me endlessly which meant that I didn't have to worry seriously about a lot of things when I was 24. That's not the case for many, and I'm so grateful for what I was given. 

I also realize that this feeling of sudden clarity doesn't necessarily happen to everyone in their late 20s. Maybe the late 20s is more like a mindset that could happen at any age – the Oprah 'aha' moment for your life, let's say.

Paris, France in 2014

Either way, I'm honestly grateful for reaching the point that I have – almost gushing, really. I wish there was someone I could thank for this sudden peaceful feeling of comfort and self-realization. 

If you're 25 and under, hear this: enjoy it, revel in it, make the most of it. But also know that as much fun as you're having now, you're going to have more fun later.

It may not be as exciting with a capital E!, but it's better. And if it's not? Well, you'll just give way fewer fucks.


P.S. – Just want to be clear to everyone that I'm not trying to hurry through any age and am truly appreciating each and every day one at a time, and reflect positively on those that have passed. This post is just thinking back on where I've been, where I am now, and where I'm going.

All photos by D Watterson III


One of my favorite things about my job is scouting for independent artists and designers. I try to buy from small businesses as much as I can, not to mention include them in my writing.

This was one of the reasons I was so happy to discover – a platform for independent designers to showcase their work and for "tastemakers" to curate that work into online boutiques. Think Etsy meets KEEP meets Pinterest.

I spent some time a few weekends back working on my boutique, and I'm pleased as punch to show off a few of my favorite finds with you lovely folks today:

It's important to note that while all of the pieces are sold by independent designers, many (if not all) are also completely handmade, making them that much more unique and special. Now the only trick is to stop myself from buying everything in my own boutique.

I'm In Paris!

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to be a little on the quieter side until early/mid-next week. You see, I'm headed to Paris for a long weekend away and plan on staying offline as much as possible.

After 14 years (!) of living in London my husband is making his way to Paris for the first time and I couldn't be more excited for us to stroll the Parisian streets and have picnics on the Seine.

I'll be posting-a-plenty on Instagram, so follow me there to see Paris in all it's late-summer glory. In the meantime, you can see some of my past posts on France here and here.

Until next week...!

Writing Process Blog Tour

I've been tagged in the Writing Process Blog Tour by North Carolina's Bookends – a new blog started by two writers who "haven't been writing much lately for the reasons most writers don't write – lack of time and too much Netflix."

Oof, haven't we all been there.

So today, I'm part of this Blog Tour which specifically focuses on process. In this case, my writing process. It works like this: I've been tagged, so I now write a post about my process. Next week, my fellow bloggers angloyankophile (fellow American in London, writer) and June Letters (incredibly talented and lovely San Francisco-based designer) will write similar posts telling us about their creative processes. Here it goes: 

What are you working on?

My work focus lately has been on two main projects: DesignGood and DesignGood Studio, an Austin-based, internationally-focused community that designs for and highlights the work of creative businesses of any kind who are out to do good.

On Second Floor Flat, I've begun writing more personal pieces about confidence, issues I've struggled with, my experiences as an expat, etc. I've received positive feedback about those pieces and am really looking forward to continuing them. 

I also recently started at shop and am desperately trying not buy everything.


How does your work differ from others of its genre?

You often hear successful bloggers talk about being yourself and creating content that's unique to your talents. I struggled with how to put that into practice for a while, but now am embracing it. What makes my work differ from others is my honesty and willing to be who I am despite any internal reservations, and I hope that shows in my work.


Why do you write what you do?

Honestly, it makes me feel good. There's so much bouncing around in my head at any given time, so much excitement/anxiety/insecurity, that it feels good to just put it out there. If it's out there, then it's a Thing that can be dealt with rather than something that's just knocking around in my head. In short, I write to connect.


How does your writing process work?

I prefer writing first thing in the morning when my brain seems to be working clearly. I sit at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and then just go for it. I'm a big fan of writing a long, rambling draft, and refining several times over. Either that or sometimes I'll grab my laptop post-shower and do the damn thing.

You're it, Jaime + Jess!

Working Towards Confidence

After I published a post last week on the importance of asking for what you want, I heard from a lot of you about your own experiences in the workplace. I heard from ladies in London, Paris, Bucharest, and Australia who told me about things that they wanted but didn't know how to ask for, or maybe were afraid to ask for. 

It got me thinking about confidence and how it relates to your professional life. From the post I wrote last week, it might seem like I have a lot of it. Spoiler alert: I don't at all.

When it comes to work, I'm very confident in certain areas. I know when I've written a witty, spot-on line for a fashion mag, and I know when I send a good e-mail. (I give good e-mail, I think.)

But I'm incredibly self-conscious in other areas. One big one thing that I've never really told anyone until I said it outloud to my husband last week is the way that I speak: I'm really self-conscious about it. I don't have an impediment or anything like that, and if you've ever heard me talk before you might be surprised to hear me say this because I try to give off a confident vibe.

KULE Preston Cashmere Sweater | Thrifted Necklace

I'm a jittery type who loves coffee, so my brain moves way faster than my mouth. I'm constantly concerned that I don't speak 'professionally' enough, that my vocabulary isn't big enough, or that I'm too bubbly in professional environments and won't be taken seriously.

This is one of the reasons I like writing, because I know I express myself much more clearly when I write than when I speak. In-person brain storming sessions are a nightmare for me because my mind goes blank. But give me a quiet room, a cup of coffee, and a blank Google Drive page and I'm your girl. 

That's my sore spot professionally. No matter what impression others might have, I can never get over how insecure I feel speaking out loud.

Now, back to you guys: I heard a lot from women looking to take next steps in their career, either in a different industry or just for a job that they've wanted but been afraid to ask for. I spoke to a fellow blogger who had concerns about leaving the startup and freelance world and going back into corporate world – she was afraid that her skills might not transfer from one environment to the other but in the end decided to apply for the job she was right for, not the one that she was overqualified for.

I guess my point is that we all feel this way. You hear the statistics: women only apply for jobs they feel 100% qualified for, while men apply if they feel 60% qualified. While we may never fully get over our insecurities, we need to throw caution to the wind and learn how to at least live our lives with them. It's become obvious that if you don't go after what you want – and quickly – someone else will. 

I've already heard from some of you, but I'd love to hear more. What confidence issues do you face at work? Are you worried that you don't speak professionally enough? Or that you're not doing a good job? Afraid to ask for a raise, or to negotiate? Let me hear it, via e-mail or on social media. Let's talk this out.

Lower photo by D Watterson III

Saturday At The Farmers' Market

There's a little farmers' market around the corner from our flat that runs every Saturday. We try to get there as much as we can to pick up veggies (for green smoothies), but mostly we focus on important things like coffee, pastries, and potato bread.

There's also a little stand that serves a full English, also known as a full English Breakast – that's generally eggs, tomatoes, bacon, black pudding, beans, and toast. People gather there on Saturday mornings to eat their breakfasts, drink coffee, and read the paper – it's just lovely.

Here I am, casually drinking coffee and wearing an outfit that I just really love. Should you be so inclined, it consists of:

Bracelet | Shoes (They're Marais Gladiators which are now gone, but this style is similar) 

This dress is an old Liz Claiborne number that I picked up at a clothing swap, and the bag is leftover from my high school days. Neither are available in stores anymore, as far as I know, but here are a few similar dress options from Steven Alan, Madewell, or ASOS, and bag options from fashionABLE, Zady, or Toino Abel.

London sky | Second Floor Flat

All photos by D Watterson III