Barbican Centre, London

Whenever I'm asked about my favorite place to visit in London – hidden gems, must-visits, that sort of thing – my answer is always the same. It's funny, because my favorite "hidden gem" in my former town is actually right out in the open. It's a museum, gallery, theatre, event space, and a place most Londoners have at least passed by on a bus, if not visited.

My favorite place in all of London is the Barbican – that giant cement block of greatness in East London.

We paid a visit earlier this summer before leaving for the States and it was perfect. See, aside from all of thoes things I mentioned above, the Barbican is also a public park designed in the Brutalist style. I posted a few photos of it here, but had to share a few more – it's just too good: 

Any favorite "hidden gems" in your city? Favorite place in London, or otherwise? I'd love to hear!

Photos by D Watterson III


March

I started crying on Saturday morning when I was getting dressed.

Not in the heartbreaking way, so don't feel bad for me. It was a whiny cry – not so different from that of a toddler who's stayed too long at the supermarket.

I was frustrated with the feeling of having it "up to here" for so many months. I'm tired of it being 50 degrees and slightly grey, tired of wearing my same clothes and coats, tired of waiting to start on the next phase of my life. Tired of waiting on our move. 

People talk about how difficult February can be, and it makes sense. After all, there is a cruelness in the fact that one of the worst winter months happens towards the end of winter, after you've already put up with three or four months of cold weather.

But March has always frustrated me far more. It's a difficult month because everything is so close – sunshine, warm weather, holidays – but also so far away. You get a taste of a nice day, and then the clouds roll in a few hours later. It's neverending.

For us, it feels our move has been coming up forever. Friends ask how long it will be before we go, and why is it taking so long? 

But there's no satisfying answer. We're playing the same waiting game with our move as everyone else is with the weather. Something will happen, and the end begins to feel nigh, and then you're back to waiting, trying to be patient amongst the grey.

It'll all be over soon – both the waiting and greyness. The layers and paperwork. 

March will be over soon.

In the meantime, I just put my head down and work, clean up and organize, read good books, try to relax.

There's a book kicking around right now called "Essentialism" which seems to be very worth reading. Anyway, I heard a quote from the book that encourages the reader to live in the present by asking themselves the following question:

What's important now?

Maybe for you, what's important now is planning and acting on your plans. Maybe it's organizing, or maybe it's letting the plans play out themselves.

Or maybe it's just enjoying your present company; focusing on finding some sunshine and getting through the grey days. 

Reminding yourself that it has to be March for it to be May or – can you even imagine? –June. Sundresses, warmth, fresh air. Flowers, open windows, and optimism.

Blue skies. Surely they'll come at some point, won't they?

But they will – they have to. 

We're almost there. After all, March is almost over.

 

Photo by D Watterson III


Behind The Scenes With California Tailor SS15

California Tailor makes me feel dirty. Like, physically unclean.

This is a line of button downs started by a Londoner in Los Angeles who somehow found a way to marry crisp, tailored London with sunny, bright Los Angeles. 

It's beautiful, well made, lovely. And it all just feels so clean in the best way. I mean that as the highest compliment – I don't know about you guys, but I forever feel disheveled and covered in lint. All of my coffee mugs seem to have that little drip running down the side. So when I find a brand, like California Tailor, that's lint free and exudes freshness? That's my be-all and end-all.

In honor of last night's launch of the Spring 2015 collection, owner Gill McLean takes us Behind The Scenes for a look at the new collection, her sunny California studio – and offers a very special, very big discount below: 

Behind The Scenes: California Tailor | Second Floor Flat

California Tailor's spring collection is its second ever. After all, the line just launched last year – a decision inspired by Gill's move from the UK to the wild west that is California:

"When I moved things just started to fall into place. I knew if I could take everything I was experiencing here in Los Angeles and combine it with everything I love about London, I could create something special."

And she did.

The woven shirts and dresses are classic, American, California in their easy-ness. But they do have that air of sophistication. Something that says polished, clean, tailored – London.

"California Tailor brings the traditions of London tailoring then adds some California sunshine to create the perfect laid-back button down."

Not to overstate, but California Tailor shirts really are special in their fit and fabrication. This was part of Gill's master plan when she launched the brand, and she spent some real time sourcing the fabrics and focusing on fit:

"I tracked down small fabric mills around the world that have the right machinery that allow us to achieve the loose weaves and special finishes that make California Tailor fabrics unique. Many of the machines are only found in certain parts of the world making the fabric unique to that region and a million miles from the mass manufactured fabrics used by so many high street brands.

I knew that fit was so important. I wanted to make sure I created that tailor inspired, laid-back fit that would set us apart and create the foundation of California Tailor. It took over a year and many, many prototypes to finally create the perfect fit for Shirt No. 1.

This was the starting point. Quality, craftsmanship, and the perfect fit."

On the design process:

"The amazing thing with making clothes is how many people are involved in the process. Everyone has to have a clear understanding of what you want and what the vision is to ensure the process runs smoothly. The starting point is so important because your initial inspiration and vision will run through the whole process. Once the designs are complete a whole army of pattern cutters, sample makers, sample coordinators, wash specialists, and fabric specialists make it all come together."

On her love for London and LA: 

"London and Los Angeles have to be my two favorite cities. They are so different but when you bring whatʼs great about each city together, it works. I feel so lucky to have both cities in my life and I constantly draw inspiration from my London and Los Angeles experiences and adventures. "

Just for fun:

Perfect days in both LA and London?

"In Los Angeles I might wake up early and hit the historic flower market followed by a cup of coffee at Blacktop, in the arts district. Then, I'd hit a few stores in West Hollywood – I love Nickey Kehoe on Beverly Boulevard. Then, finish up with a late lunch at Little Flower bakery, which is just at the end of my street!

In London I would have to start with a walk around Liberty. This is absolutely my favorite store in the world. Lunch at Polpetto then maybe a stroll through Soho down to Somerset House." 

 

What's one book everyone should read?

"I love the Jane and Serge book that came out this year. It's a collection of photos taken by Jane's brother during the sixties and seventies picturing the everyday life of Jane Birkin, Serge Gainsbourg, and their family. I'm a huge Jane fan (who isn't!) and would have just loved to be around during that time.

Music is also a huge part of my life. Iʼm a huge fan of BANKS and I've just discovered the London-based singer and songwriter Rosie Lowe. You have to check out her Soundcloud page." 

THE GOOD STUFF:

Gill has offered Second Floor Flat followers and fan girls 

40% off all California Tailor when you use code LONDONCALLING

through  Friday, Feb. 20th at 11:59 PM London time (figure out what time that is for you here)

 

Follow California Tailor here, here, here, here

 

Product was gifted from California Tailor in exchange for this post – and for some Cadbury. However California Tailor is a business I truly believe in and plan to support on my own time, thankyouverymuch.

Thank you for supporting the businesses that support Second Floor Flat. Have questions? Don't like this? Let me know!


Becoming Minimalist: Moving Tips

In case you're out of the loop, this dude and I are in the process of moving from London to the U.S.. And lord, is it a process.

I made the first leg of our move over the break – I'm currently in North Carolina, albeit temporarily since half of my life is still in London – and will be going back to finish everything up before we both settle, finally, this summer in Durham.

If you've ever lived between two countries then you're well-aware of the many difficulties involved. Like dealing with phone contracts, insurance plans, and carting paperwork across the ocean.

Since we'll be shipping most of our stuff over to North Carolina in the spring, when I came over last month for the holidays I brought little with me. Like, very little. Like one suitcase little. 

Last year I embraced a more minimalistic lifestyle which has helped me to no end in this move. When I was packing up just before the holidays, I found that the easiest part of my move rather than what once would've been the hardest was choosing what clothes and shoes to bring with me. Suddenly, putting "outfits" together seemed like the least important thing largely due to some prep work I'd done ahead of time.

Whether you're planning a move or are heading out on a long-haul holiday, here are a few minimalist moving tips to get you started on your packing:

1. Review each item individually

This is the first step in the process of packing like a minimalist. I'll be honest – this step is a lot of work, but it's also worth your time. To start, look at each item you plan to bring with you on your move. Taking the time to give each piece the attention that it deserves will help you to determine how much you like it or use it. If we're talking clothes, take every single item out of your closet – one by one. Think about the last time you wore the item, think about whether it's comfortable, and think about if you really want to wear it. Make sure you do the same thing with paperwork, old birthday cards, photos you printed at CVS in 2007, etc.

When I was working on this step, my mouth actually dropped open a few times. I can't even tell you how many magazine tear outs I brought along on my Brooklyn to London move in 2012. I also apparently took the time and, essentially, spent the money to move these tear outs throughout London without knowing I even had them in the first place.

Trust me – you won't believe some of the stuff you're holding on to. 

 

2. Give yourself some space

After you've gone through everything you plan to bring with you on your move, give yourself some time to let it all sink in. A month is ideal but if time doesn't allow, review all of your items again a few weeks or even days later. The idea here is to perform multiple edits, as there will be many items you don't want that you won't catch the first time around. 

'Scuse the wrinkles and fuzz!

3. Set a limit and stick to it

Because I made the unwise decision to fly an American airline when coming to North Carolina last month, I was limited to one piece of luggage in which to pack my temporary life. My winter-appropriate clothes and shoes, toiletries, paperwork, and Christmas gifts all had to fit in one measly bag. In the end, this limit helped me to pack in a much smarter, more conscious way.

And while I don't recommend flying the carrier I chose(I'm looking at you, United), I do recommend setting bag and box limits for your move. Once your set number of bags or boxes is filled, you're done. It sounds harsh but will help you become a better editor in the end.

 

4. Imagine yourself in your new environment

Remember: At some level, every single thing that you move will cost. Think long and hard about this before you pack those ZARA pants that don't really fit, the sneakers that rub your ankles, and those Christmas cards you got from your co-workers years ago. 

Imagine yourself on the other side of your move, when you open a box or piece of luggage and find these items. Do they really have a place in your new home? Will unpacking them bring you joy? If the answer is no, get rid of them before your move and save yourself some money, time, space, and – sometimes most importantly – mental clutter.

A few more thoughts on my experience with minimalism and moving:

It's almost as if in the mere act of getting rid of things, I found what I was really looking for.

All of those clothes, all that shopping, all that money, space, and time. I don't know what I was trying to fill by buying so much but I know that by slowing those actions I found whatever I was missing before, and found what I was looking for. 

 

Want more minimalism? Check out these posts: 

Why I'm Getting Rid Of One Thing, Every Day

What Happened When I Got Rid Of One Thing, Every Day

Thoughts On Mindful Shopping




Around London: September

Because everyone else was doing it, I recently gave into peer pressure and signed-up for Steller.

If you're not familiar with Steller, it's a beautiful storytelling app that allows users to create simple stories using photography and text in a perfectly templated micro-blogging format. 

Honestly, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm going to give Steller a try. I plan to share some of my photos around London and otherwise, as well as a few from the cutting room floor. 

I recently shared a few photos from last month in my cleverly-named September story. Here's a sneak peek, and the whole mini-story is available over on Steller.

All photos by D Watterson III


Good Reads | 26 September 2014

Kicking off Friday with a quote I found yesterday that I absolutely love. The quote is from a video series created by Lena Dunham as part of her promotion for Not That Kind of Girl.

Now: I have a lot of feelings about feminism and fashion, which I wrote about for Bustle earlier this year, but she sums it all up perfectly with this: 

"A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself." 

Yes. So clear, right? So on point.

Now: Moving on to a few other finds from the week:

The fall light in London is gorgeous. Sometimes it's foggy and makes everything look like it's covered in an Instagram filter, like in the photo above taken earlier this week, and sometimes it's clear and golden. Straight-up heaven.

Speaking of: David Sedaris on the importance of low lighting. 

DIY I would actually do.

Love these tissue paper bathing suits.

Would almost quite literally live in this snuggly coat.

Can't wait to see this movie. I so love this age (now that I'm not in it). 

A few favorite looks from the SS15 shows.

The ways of the French

A perfect top for fall. 

Spent some real time drooling over this California home tour this week.

An interview that I really loved. (And this one from last week left me laughing out loud.)

Love this soap. What a great little gift this would make!

Say it ain't so, Robert Redford! (Or should I call you Bob? Or is that even your real name?)

Did a lot of obsessing over clogs this week. I almost ordered this pair from Gorman, but can't wait to share the pair I settled on when they arrive next week. Hint: They're from Portugal!

Another thing to note: I'm attending my first ever Alt For Everyone conference this weekend and will be Tweeting my learnings at both @reetzrobin and @designgoodnow. Come say hi!

 

Have a great weekend and let me know what you're up to!


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.