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.

Good Reads: 27 August 2015

Good Reads is coming to you a day early because this weekend (drumroll) we are headed for the beach!

It's been far too long since I've been to a (warm) beach and worn a swimsuit, so I'm pretty excited as you might imagine. After all, it doesn't get much better than a late summer weekend at the beach. Agree?

Thanks for all of your warm thoughts, well-wishes, and relatable stories on my post about the heartbreak of having your loved ones scattered all over. It's definitely not easy (I'm missing my girlfriends something fierce), but knowing that so many of you can relate helps to make it feel a little easier.

A few highlights from the last few week are below as well as my favorite finds and new additions to the Independent Designer Directory. Have a GREAT weekend, and following along here for beach shots.

currently drenching myself in oil thanks to the good folks at little barn apothecary. the scent is lemongrass + mint, and it's even more amazing than it sounds.

attention: i discovered a natural deodorant THAT WORKS. and it's diy. swear to god – three days in and going strong. thank you for this, into the gloss and may lindstrom. thank you.

did you know this nuts fact about flowers? (third paragraph, if you're short on time)

feeling inspired by le dessein – an l.a.-based fashion line that empowers girls in developing countries by supporting their access to education.

on making friends as an adult.

ugandan cinema is nothing short of awesome.

would very much like one of these sweatshirts for fall, please.

dying over these tiny ceramic vases.

a different take on minimalism – and one that i, despite my love for decluttering, happen to appreciate.

even more stories like this, please.


favorite finds of the week: minna / eunbi / formerly yes / hellochiqui / heidi anderson ceramics / arc / modern citizen (thanks, bobbie!) / rebecca mir grady / cortney heimerl / individual medley / the tote project / mw textile designs / reifhaus (via calivintage)

and my dear, talented friend flora + form launched her online shop! congrats!

A Forever Homesickness

Sometimes I feel like I've been crying since I was 19.

Out of love, fullness, gratitude, and mainly the woes of location, location, location.

19 was the age I began semi-living in New York. I went to school in Atlanta, near family, but thanks to my college's quarter system scheduling, I was able to spend small chunks of the year interning in New York.

It was then that I got my first taste of homesickness, which could be muffled by my love for the city. This carried on for years. I'd miss my family more and more each time I left them at the airport, but I'd then arrive in the city and get straight back into the groove. Have some wine with my roommate, see our cats, and all would be well.

Then I met my would-be husband in New York and, as luck would have it, he lived in London. We spent three years in an international long distance relationship, and each month and year got harder than the one before.

Eventually I moved to London. My husband and I were (finally!) together and Europe was at our fingertips, but friends and family were far for both of us. We were, and still are, spread over three continents and many more cities. During that time, the tears seemed to flow endlessly.

And now, we're in Durham. I'm closer to my entire family than I've ever been before, and after a long immigration process I've got my husband here with me. I'm happy as a clam, and feel at "home" being back in the South.

But after a weekend in New York, my heart is crying out for my friends and the big piece of my identity that's tied to that clingy ex-boyfriend of a city. New York also feels like home, and the older I get, the more I realize my friends are home to me as well.

This was the first time I'd been back in New York since I moved to London over three years ago. I was nervous to return because I knew it would hit me hard, but it was still a harder, more solid hit than I expected. While I was there, I saw some of those same friends, my cats, and ate the same dinner at the same table with the people who know me so well it almost aches. And when I left, that ache set in.

This is the heartbreak of having those you love scattered across cities and countries. I feel incredibly grateful and lucky knowing that we have so many loved ones all over the world, but it's hard to live with the sting of knowing that everyone won't be in the same place, ever.

So it's out of the incredible joy and appreciation and fullness and the forever homesickness that I've cried over these years. The confusion and cruelty of knowing that, in some way, the ones you love are both with you and forever elsewhere. That's why I cry.

Brookes Boswell Fall Winter 15

Are you a hat person?

I absolutely love them and while they have had a bit of a resurgence these last few years, I still wish they were more commonly worn today. You know, like back in the day when leaving the house meant wearing a hat. Sort of like this, or this.

Designers like Brookes Boswell are working to bring that back, and I sure am thankful for it. You already know Brookes from her summer collection (which was everywhere this year), and her Fall 2015 collection does not disappoint. I've already snagged the Boro and am looking forward to wearing it through the rest of the warmer months, as well as into fall and winter.

So: Are you a hat person and, if so, which piece from the new Brookes Boswell collection is your favorite?

Dealing With Perfectionism

Since I've been talking about overwhelm lately (herehere), I wanted to address one of the big causes or sources of overwhelm. 

It's something I know a lot of us deal with (especially us gals – women more likely than men). And when you write it out, it almost sounds like a disease. In a way, I guess it is.

It's perfectionism. (Of course it is.) 

The desire to be perfect, or to be the very best. Or, if you can't be the best, you should at least meet and then exceed the expectations of everyone around.

On the surface, I'm not really a perfectionist at all. I'm the type who puts a large amount of work and effort into a project, then suddenly tires of it, stops, and sweeps the scraps and crumbs under the rug rather than cleaning up.

Just ask my professors at SCAD. When it came to tasks I really loved and enjoyed – mastering that artist's statement, pulling inspiration and references for a mood board, creating concepts for a new collection – I was great and worked tirelessly. But when it came to my craftsmanship – finishing a seam properly, sewing a clean buttonhole – I was the worst. Patience is lost pretty quickly when it comes to tasks (like buttonholes) that don't completely interest me. My tasks were done, and isn't that supposed to be better than perfect anyway?

But that perfectionism does a damn good job of manifesting itself in other ways.

It used to show up for me with my weight, and played a big role in my feelings about myself and my body for way too long. That started around age 9, ebbed and flowed throughout those weird tween years, caused problems in my teens, and stuck with me in my early 20s. Only in the more recent years have I realized that no matter what I do or eat, within reason, my weight will stay roughly the same. Yoga has also been huge for me in the acceptance of my body. I now love the feeling of having some muscle and seeing results when I practice regularly, all thanks to yoga.

So, body image – we can mark that off the list. What else is there? What's another big thing in our lives that many of us judge our worth by? Our relationships with our friends or family? How we treat animals, or those less fortunate than us?

Nah. That stuff is important, but when it comes to our self worth, many of us (so unfortunately) give our work more weight than the way we treat others. How we achieve or overachieve seems to be the way that many of us determine our self worth. And while I don't expect that balance to ever be perfect, I for one would love to have a healthier relationship with work and the role that it plays in my self worth. What about the ability to reach satisfaction, or a saturation point? That would be nice to find.

I find myself on a daily treadmill obsessing over my career, and almost fretting anytime I step away from the desk. Should I respond quicker to my emails? Improve my writing? Better my personal brand? Have a better Instagram strategy? Tweet more? Do more? Be more? 

Perfectionism can be positive in many ways. It's a driving force, and one that pushes us forward into new careers and projects. But what about when it turns into an ugly form of The Good Girl (or boy) Syndrome? That's when it causes a problem, and that's what I deal with. And I know I'm not alone.

How many of you out there would call yourself perfectionists, and how do you deal with it? Do you even deal with it?

Despite all of this, I'm determined to make mindful decisions and focus on my mental health and the way I view myself and my work. To not let work determine my self worth, and to stop these constant strides for perfectionism that tend to so easily and often overwhelm me.

 So far, the strides I've taken to improve my mentality about work and myself haven't been perfect.

But then again, maybe that's ok.

Outfits 02

Now this – this is a top I thought about buying for months, making it the perfect example of slow shopping and an argument for intentional, well thought-out purchases. 

And man, I'm glad I got this one. It feels like a tank, has the structure of a shell and a modern fit which makes it the perfect summer top and what I've been wearing almost nonstop. My favorite outfit of the moment is this top paired with my tried and true maroon skirt that I thrifted in Greenpoint years ago – 

top from bon george / thrifted skirt / bangle from academy / slides from need supply co. 

Good Reads: 14 August 2015

This week I wrote a post on Instagram about feeling overwhelmed. I have a tendency to say yes to everything, take on too much at once, then move a mile a minute in order to get everything done. Ten tabs open, several projects going at once, three things to work on at a time. It's the way I've always been, but it certainly gets exhausting sometimes.

I received so many great tips in the post comments that I'd suggest anyone who's been feeling a little bit of the same to head here and take a look.

Meditation was recommended a few times – from private in-home practices to attending Buddhists centers to apps and working with meditation teachers. I've been wanting to try it for a while and I think now might be the time. I'd like to work with a teacher to start, and since I now live in a liberal university town, something tells me I won't have too much trouble finding one. 

Outside the world of overwhelm and meditation, we've got a few fun plans this weekend including a quick trip to Chapel Hill to explore and check out the area. If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them!

Whatever you do, I hope you have a great one and as always, thank you for reading and following along!

"why waste time and energy on insecurity? I have no doubt that when I’m 80 I’ll look at pictures of myself when I was 60 and think how young I was then, how filled with joy and beauty." – loved this piece.

affordable furniture that looks good...

...and a microwave for minimalists to go with it.

ate here last night and had the biggest, most delicious meal ever. (also, three cheers for a bbq place with multiple veggie options!)

artisanal water.

a pretty dreamy home.

a very worthy kickstarter.

ok with this kind of trolling.

don't you just love these dainty earrings?

a few reminders for perfectionists.

these shoes are everywhere and i can't get enough of them. they're definitely a so-ugly-it's-good type of shoe. what do you guys think?

loving the #GETLIT series, which was introduced to me by awesome melissa at ethica. what a great idea!


new additions to the independent designer directory:

bomisch / edge of urge / wknd la / studio bazardarling distraction / apprvl / fable / j.m. generals / yes california vintage / / gemma holt / momosan shop / loup charmant / topazthe vintage vogue (via almost makes perfect)

more here!

Barcelona, Spain

Hey, remember that time we went to Barcelona?

It was only in April but it feels like a lifetime ago. A whole country ago, if you will. 

Needless to say, having film developed wasn't at the top of our list when we first got to the States. (Getting cell phone numbers and re-learning how to drive were.) 

You see, D is a big fan of photography.  This is lucky for me because he documents everything we do which means I don't have to. We struggled to find anywhere that would develop film in Durham at first...and then we found the holy grail of a real, genuine camera store in nearby Carrboro. We now go just about every week to get film developed, and on a recent trip we picked up the shots from our trip to Barcelona.


It was an incredible city and one I'm dying to visit again, though I knew that would be my reaction before even visiting. I said this at the time, but the best way I could think to describe it was like a tropical Paris: The incredible, romantic architecture, that feeling of history and standing in a place where things, big things, once happened, combined with its location right along the Balearic Sea, along with the desert climate made it feel like paradise. 

Here are a few of my favorite shots from our trip – many, many more can can be found here.

All photos by D Watterson III