I haven’t lived in a house since I was a little kid. I’m a city girl and I am used to apartment living. I can even say I love it.
I have lived in some fabulous, and even legendary apartments in my life and have always loved the communal feel of knowing your neighbors. I spent nearly a decade as a resident of New Yorks infamous Chelsea Hotel where my most well known and famous neighbors during my tenure included Ethan Hawke, Peter O’toole (for a short time after 9/11 when he was in NY to visit his son who was studying at NYU – I invited him to a BBQ at my apartment but sadly he never showed) and Dee Dee Ramone (from the Ramones – who my dog is also partially named after. Dee Dee lived next door for a while and was a really nice guy. He came to a party I threw at my apartment and I used to sit and chat with him and his wife Barbara in the lobby before he died. There were so many, many others who were not world-famous but who are the stars of my memories. It was an amazing place to live where neighbors helped each other out – where everyone had your back. It was like a club in a way – an exclusive club of misfits and artists. It was wonderful.
My first apartment after I left NY for Milan I affectionately refered to as the ‘Frat House’. I had decided to stay in Italy after what was intended to be a 2 month ‘life cleanse’ traveling solo mostly in the South, however having met my future husband (the handsome diplomat) at language school in Sorrento, had no intention of leaving until he was mine, so I moved to Milan and into a friends share house with 2 guys – one of whom was a semi famous Italian rapper. There was always a thick cloud of smoke and a party going on at The Frat House – sometimes I would join in but more often I would camp out alone in my tiny-tiny room which was literally wall to wall bed and was painted fairy floss pink – all designed and constructed by an architecture teacher that had previously occupied my room. It wasn’t long before I moved out, but it was fun while it lasted.
I briefly had my own place before moving in to the Diplomatic residence with Tim. Now that was an amazing pad. It was a 600 Sq meter modernist palace on the 5th floor of a 1960’s building. Tim had lived there for a few years before I moved in and had restored it to it’s original glory. He used to call it the ‘flexi house’ because all the walls were doors and you could just open the whole place up. It was a real shift from the past apartments I had lived in but I settled in quite nicely indeed.
After that we moved into what may be my most favorite of all of the cool places I have lived. It was also in Milan but after Tim had left the government and went back to private sector. I spent months looking for the perfect apartment and I knew from the second I set foot in this one that it was the place for us. It was owned by a couple who had moved out in such haste 6 years prior that it was literally like a nuclear test site when I saw it for the first time. There was a layer of dust 2 cm thick covering the place, clothing on the floor and in the washing machine – even food in the oven. It was as if the owners had left in a great hurry, but the reality was that despite how much they loved it, their families needs had outgrown it and they had moved out so slowly they eventually didn’t go back for the rest of their things. Decades past and it was my totally adoration of the property that convinced them to let us move in. It may not sound appealing by the I have just described it, but beyond the dust and petrified roast was a magnificently designed 1980’s open plan apartment with original designer light fittings, boldly painted walls and more style then I can describe in a blog post of this length.
When we moved to Melbourne from Milan 4 years ago to be close to Tim’s kids we moved in a great apartment in an area that reminded me of New York – Collingwood. I didn’t know anything about the area or the reputation it still had at that time. I only new that I liked the Lower East Side/ DUMBO feel it had and I liked all the converted factories and warehouses that filled its streets. Most of all I liked that it was so close to the city.
My dream as a city girl is the same one all city girls dream – to buy an old warehouse and convert it into a fabulous home. That is still my dream, but I have found that as of late I am also dreaming of something I never thought I would want – a charming little house on a tree lined street with a white fence and a back yard. The beauty of this majestic town of Melbourne is that it is so varied and diverse. Tim and I just got back from walking Dee Dee a little while ago and in our short 4 block walk to the park we pass free standing houses flanked by old factories flanked by warehouses flanked by houses. It is such a wacky hodge-podge of properties but I love them all. I am privileged to be able to see inside so many properties daily for my work and as much as I love apartment living the fact that in this town I can live in a free standing house in the city or on the city fringe is pretty cool. Cool enough for me to embrace my inner ‘suburban’ self and to confess my new found desire for a slice double fronted Victorian cake. City fringe of course.
What a journey it has been thus far – from Chelsea to Milan to Melbourne, my life and where I have laid my head has been a great adventure. They say that home is where the heart is, and to me that means wherever I find my handsome diplomat.