The rent in New York City is astronomical. As a resident of the city since my high school graduation in 1994, I’ve had to make do in my dorm at the 92nd Street Y, my Grandmother’s one bedroom in Queens (during which I slept with her in said one bed) on couches, in sublets and in some really cool apartments that have housed all of the material things I work to make money for. It’s the price some pay for city living.
After spending six years living in Los Angeles, in equally cool bungalows and apartments, sublets and friend’s charitable couches, I made my way back to New York City. An unsuccessful go at winning the $100K prize of Top Celebrity Stylist on a VH-1 reality competition show had left me penniless and back in my hometown. And not just the city that I love, but my true blue hometown: Farmingville, New York. In the house I grew up in. With my parents. At 32 years old.
Which led me to the question: Can you always go home again? The answer is no. Sure, your parents make you breakfast, lunch and dinner. And you get all of the cable stations. But the thing is, you have to watch television with your parents. And more often then not, my Mom did make my meals but she also scolded me when I ate too much. And forget about bringing someone home for a late night booty call. Sex in the kitchen, or even in any of the bedrooms, is physically and emotionally impossible. Calgon, take me away!
Rent in NYC can be daunting, but after this molestation of my adulthood, I was determined to make it work and find an urban spot to call my home – and possibly my office. As a freelance Jess of All Trades, my headquarters would have to double as a work space and be in an area that potential clients could easily get to. An easy way to fake a fabulous front is to be in an area that people find “cool” or “classy”. If you live an hour deep into Queens, make sure all meetings you call are at a chic little coffee or juice shop in Soho or Tribeca or Union Square. Find a spot with easy access to all transportation and funky neighborhoods where big things happen. You can casually throw in that you just “ran downstairs” to meet.
A good backstory is key to faking your space. My first task in finding a proper home was to reach out via friends to see what was available. Social networking is not just for job hunting. If friend of The Gloss, Lawrence Lewittin shows us anything, it’s that comprehensive lists exist on social networking sites to offer you a perfectly affordable and friend-recommended space.
In my case, my coolest friends had space available that was a dream. A five floor walk up loft space in Tribeca with hardwood floors, twenty sky lights, an ‘effin roof garden space and a sauna. No joke. Granted it used to double as a brothel and there was a huge plexiglass floor in my bedroom to stare down at my supermodel neighbors and I would die a small death with each walk up the staircase but it wasn’t bad at all. It was perfect for what it was.
Going back a few lines, you’ll remember that I mentioned I was penniless? I immediately kicked the faking it skills into high gear and picked up a gig at a Soho boutique as a shop girl. It was my first 9 – 5 after working steadily on television for six years. Sure, it was a bit of a hit to my ego, but the loft was worth it. I’d make the totally affordable friend-rate monthly rent or die trying. Make sure to know what you are willing to do to put the money away in the piggy bank. This portion of the NYC living plan can be a real drag and test your persistence.
A year into living in luxe Tribeca, our pimp / madame owner came through to throw us out. I was back home to the folks. Eeek! Luckily, I worked hard during the year at the boutique, networked my bum off and opened up a self titled Consult service offering Social Media Marketing, Production and Celebrity Styling to luxury lifestyle brands. I weathered the few weeks with the ‘rents and found my next home/office.
While people may poo-poo Craigslist, I’ve always had luck on it. Use it to find out where open houses will be held. You can also include Village Voice in this or whatever neighborhood magazine offers online classifieds. Make sure to only browse listings with photos and call before you go to see if the guy or gal on the other end is a crazy. Know your rights as a renter and don’t let them strangle you with fees because you may be a rental newbie.
My lifelong friend and roommate to be found a 1200 square foot duplex – converted warehouse space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With our combined incomes, it was less than I have paid for rent in years. And it included an incredible office space to where I am writing this now. If you are able to afford a second space, which may be shared with other commercial businesses, go for it! It gets the self-employed out of the house and out of their heads. If not, and you need to fake your home office, make sure to have a desk space free of clutter, some great light for good energy be it a desk lamp or an open, sunny window and a bookcase to organize your work things. You can link up your calendar and social schedule online or, if you’re an office Luddite like me, keep your Kate Spade organizer with you at all times for important dates, times and updates. Make sure you add a home phone for landline conference and important calls (nothing like losing a new client to the cement walls of my warehouse space).
If you are calling a meeting but can’t get out of the “office” and it is too far for someone to travel, a new media Skype meeting is the perfect way to go. And make sure to have a vase of fresh flowers behind you for said Skype to spruce the space up a bit. You’re worth it and your clients and accounts will reap the rewards of someone so responsible, cool and Master of their own domain.