Second Floor Flat

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

Weekend Getaway: Colehayes Park in Devon, England

This past weekend, we went to a really good wedding. And if you've been lucky enough to attend a really good wedding recently, you know how magical they can be. 

Mix friends and family with food, drink, dancing, and put them all together in a beautiful setting and you have the type of thing that just makes you feel better about life in general. Faith in humanity = restored.

The wedding took place in the English countryside. To be specific to people who know something about England, it was at Colehayes Park and Field Study, which is in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. And my, was it lovely. 

The Georgian mansion dates back to 1540 and was as beautiful in the day and creepy in the night as they come.

Imagine 20-something bedroom mansion situated on the edge of a national park. Add a swimming pond, plenty of sheep, and you have something worthy of royalty. (No really – Prince William and Prince Harry once stayed in our room.)

Here are a few photos from our weekend:

We stayed at Colehayes for about four days, and spent our time dining outdoors on barbeque and woodfire pizzas, reading, napping, and explore the nearby grounds: 

And then we enjoyed the most perfect wedding, set in an English garden with the sheep providing the soundtrack. There were balloons, bubbles, and plenty of Pimm's and sunshine. 

Dress from ZARA, sandals by Marais USA

Congrats, guys! Let's do it again soon. 

A Weekend Away

And we're off! To Devon, that is, on the southwest coast of England, for the lovely wedding of dear friends.

The wedding is at a park field study that dates back to 1540 (WOAH), so aside from history and hiding from ghosts, it shall be a weekend full of food, lovely friends, hopefully sheep, and hopefully not ghosts.

We spent a weekend in Devon last year, in late summer, where we found plenty of sheep and no ghosts. This should give you an idea of the area:

I'll be Instagramming the hell out of the place, so feel free to follow along.

Have a great weekend, folks!


Photos by D Watterson III

How To Lose Control

My sister had a baby a few weeks ago. Her name is Eleanor Elise, and I'm in love. 

As a new parent, like any and all, I'd say one of the biggest things my sister is struggling with is that her life is now…different. Different in a beautiful, positive way, but she's struggling to cope with the lack of the structure of a full-time job and an active social life – not to mention adequate rest. 

We spoke about it the other day – just before she jumped off the phone to clean while the baby was sleeping – and said she was struggling to maintain some sense of control. (There's the word.)

I suggested she make lists to help her feel more organized, and she assured me that she was doing just that as well as keeping a planner on the kitchen table so she could plan anything she could, since babies don't allow you to plan much.

Control. Learning how to give up control. Learning that you can't plan everything. It's awful and painful, isn't it?

As a modern lady, what with my working life and personal life, I absolutely struggle with control "issues" – and I know I'm not alone in this.

If we're lucky, work is something we can more or less control. But when it comes to personal life, that's usually when shit hits the fan. When people and therefore emotions come into play, our ability to control everything is compromised.

I come from a line of planners and by golly, we are proud of it. Actually, I'm sitting here now typing this next to not one but two notebooks full of lists. I'm also feeling super smug about the fact that I'm the first one up in my house, getting shit done. 

But what I'm learning is that while it's always good to organize, and it's great to plan, having control of your life and what happens in it is not something that you can always, well, control.

I started to see all of this first-hand when I moved to London two years ago. Prior to that, I'd been living with one of my best friends in Brooklyn for a few years. 

Then, I got married, and moved into a flat with two dudes in another country (one of them was my husband – I'm not completely insane), and experienced the rainiest, chilliest summer I've ever seen. 

In hindsight, I spent the first few months – if I'm honest – completely panicking. Dusting everything in site, rearranging my husband's (now our), bedroom, checking for added sugar content on labels, literally taking everything off of his walls and re-arranging it into collages by color palette.

And why did I do this? Aside from my background in design and general obsession with all things visual, I needed things to be in an order that I recognized.

I'd (willingly and excitingly) left my job and the city I loved to live with the person I love in a country I was excited to try out, but everything was different and there was nothing I could do about it.

In the world of foreign-born spouses, expat experiences and visas, I've learned that you can't always be in control. And if living in another country isn't a lesson in giving up control, then I don't know what it is. 

For now, my sister and I are both coping with our situations. She's learning that being a brand new mother means that your child is in control, and I'm learning the patience needed to deal with the slew of paperwork that's required when you live abroad.

It's a growing experience for both of us, and while I can't pretend that we'll come out  less controlling on the other side, I know that we are both gaining a lot from our experiences and learning more patience.

If nothing else, I guess at the end of the day we can always compare lists.

Photos by D Watterson III and me

Pinterest In The Morning | 3

Maybe it's the summertime weather, or inspiration I've pulled from designers like Hackwith Design House, ace & jig, and Darling Dexter, but something about natural textures and patterns has felt really right lately.

These textures feel natural and modern at the same time and I love it. Naturally I've been Pinning the crap out of them, particularly in shades of blue, white, and cream:

Here are a few of my favorites:

via Nightwood 

Via here

Via Plumo

via flickr

Good Reads

Oh, happy weekend

We'll mainly be gearing up to head a very good friend's wedding next weekend in Devon! The wedding will (hopefully) be outdoor with the sheep, but if the weather misbehaves it will be inside a lovely, very old castle-ish building. Plenty but plenty of photos will be posted on Instagram.

In addition to making a recipe Ashley sent me for nutella milk, I'm also aiming to make guacamole for the World Cup final on Sunday which I am super duper pumped about. Again, this is totally out of character. Have a great one, ya'll!

Perhaps the most incredible story I've ever heard. Can't wait to get the book!

Would really like to try this salad, though I know it would be so much better if Sprout & Pea made it.

Men's-style shirting for women. 

Exaggerated soccer injuries in real life. 

The Imagined Desks of Historical Women – a super-awesome desk calendar by Dear Hancock and available at Amelia Presents

"Organic Moonshine Roots Music" from Valerie June. I'm super in. 

Love this gorgeous home

And speaking of homes, this kitchen is my jam

Becoming Minimalist: What Happened When I Got Rid of One Thing, Every Day

It's been just over a month since I wrote about my plan to "become minimalist" by getting rid of one thing, every day, for 30 days.

It sounded like a lofty goal at the time, but once I started on my minimalist mission, something interesting happened.

I couldn't stop getting rid of things. Once I took a hard look at what I owned, I was shocked at just how many things I didn't really, truly want.  Here's how I did it:


1. Start With Clothing

Maybe you're already the type of person who keeps a close watch on their wardrobe. If so, congrats! You're better than the rest of us.

For everyone else: Take a good, hard look at your wardrobe and get rid of everything that you don't really wear, don't really enjoy wearing, and that doesn't fit properly. If it doesn't fit and doesn't make you feel confident and amazing, it's gone  – no exceptions. This will be easier than you think.


2. Move On To Footwear

Follow the same rules as listed above. Any shoes that don't fit properly, hurt your feet, or that you just don't wear are out. No questions. Continue this same step with jewelry for women, and accessories for men. You'll be shocked at the sheer number of things you have that you don't completely like.


3. Books

This is a tough one. I'm happiest in a home that's filed with books – real ones, not electronic ones. But I noticed that I had a lot of books lying around that didn't hold a significant place in my life. There were plenty of books that I'd read, liked ok, and kept just to have. If you didn't love the book, don't plan on re-reading it, and don't have an emotional connection to it, why are you keeping it?

Becoming Minimalist: What Happened When I Got Rid of One Thing, Every Day | Second Floor Flat


4. Everything Else

It's time for both the hardest part, and the part that's the most fun. After I'd already given away all of my polyester el-cheapo pieces (I donated one shirt with a material that was so cheap it made my skin crawl. Why did I buy that?), I took a good, hard look at everything left around me. Quite literally, I'd start and end my day just standing in a room in our flat, looking at everything. After a few minutes, something that I didn't want would almost always pop out at me.


5. The Snowball Effect

When you're looking for things to give away, you'll discover that oftentimes once you find one piece, you'll find another…and maybe even another. Before you know it, you'll have a mini-pile of things ready to be donated. This is The Snowball Effect.


6. Sleep On It

Not sure about that shirt, or that book? Put it aside and go about your daily life. After a few days of looking at it and realizing how much you don't (or do) use it, you'll make a decision once and for all.

During my little month-long experiment, I donated at least one large garbage bag of items every single week. And my god, did it feel good.

It felt good to make a decision about something I had and realized I no longer needed. It felt good to drop off a bag at my local thrift store (charity shop), and it feels good now to be able to look through the clothes in my wardrobe and dresser, see what I have, and know that I really want them.

But the best part of this experiment – aside from the fact that it's opened me up, mentally – is that it's made me a much smarter consumer. I think about every single thing I buy now. If it's going to end up in another garbage bag on its way to a charity shop, why even do it?

So: now it's your turn. I totally, completely, definitely challenge you guys to get rid of one thing every day, for 30 days. Do it! And let me know how it goes.

Lindsay Ryden's Celebrity Zombies

How talented is my friend Lindsay Ryden?

We went to the Savannah College of Art and Design together, and while we were friendly friends at school, we've reconnected over the past few months thanks to a shared admiration of each other's Instagram accounts. The internet can be really great sometimes.

David Sedaris

David Sedaris

Aside from her gorgeous paintings and portraits, Lindsay has a series called "Celebrity Zombies" which consists of incredible depictions of well, celebrities as zombies. 

Above is my favorite – a celebrity zombie portrait of David Sedaris.

Fun side note: Lindsay recently gave David a copy of this very illustration at a book signing for "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls", and David Sedaris himself sent her a handwritten thank you postcard. Now if that isn't a reason to take up illustrating, I don't know what is.

Here are a few more of my favorites:

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Paula Deen

Paula Deen

Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

Amazing, right?

You can see all of Lindsay's work on her web site, and follow along with her Celebrity Zombies series on Instagram (@celebrityzombies).