Hello friend. I can’t seem to get my new house to feel like home. I’ve done everything I can think of: filled it with sentimental objects and soft surfaces, stayed in routines, cooked, played my favorite music. Candles are usually a trick I can rely on to make even the stalest of hotel rooms feel settled. Here, stacks of my old matchbooks light those candles, whose noble job is to lilt the same familiar fragrances. They melt down into a waxy stew until I puff them out, singed wicks dutifully revealing the same tiny pillar of smoke. But it just doesn’t hit.
Usually, making a house a home is one of my most natural knacks. I get settled quickly, make my bed, have a few dinner guests, and voila! That feeling apparates. So what is it about this place? There shouldn’t be any issues. It’s a spacious loft (I’ve dubbed it “the soft loft”) in a 1940’s-era factory with unbelievable cantilever iron windows and a killer location. It’s polished but edgy, I love it, it suits me! I should be taking to it like a fish in the water. So why can’t I shake the feeling that I’m a transient hotel guest?
A few things are helping me acclimate, albeit slowly — movies being chief among them. The comforting ones I go to when I’m feeling anxious, stressed, or sad — where privileged, charming characters penned by Woody Allen and Norah Ephron speak to each other in witty quips and educated cultural references.
Tom Hanks longs to send Meg Ryan a bouquet of freshly-sharpened number two pencils. Meryl Streep makes lavender ice cream in her perfectly-appointed Nancy Meyers kitchen. Diane Keaton writes a hit play while “La Vie en Rose” wafts through her Hamptons Beach house. Timothée Chalamet channels Holden Caulfield and drowns his broken ego in gin at Bemelman’s.
In these movies, the setting is always a character in itself, cast in the most romantic of lights. New York City streets never betray the viewer with subway rats or heaping piles of smelly summer sidewalk garbage. The homes are filled with crystal vases of bodega roses and grocery bags from Zabar’s.
And I absolutely eat it up. Every single time.
What is it about these movies that feel like sinking into a warm hug? Is it that I know there’s a happy ending, so the anxious buzz of anticipation is gone? I don’t know. But watching them has been the thing that helps the most. More than house guests or table lamps or even the tippy tap of my dog Maggie’s little feet on the floors.
I’ve been laying in bed at night replaying these movies while my boyfriend Kevin snores to the left of me, Maggie on the floor to my right. I’m envious of how soundly they both sleep, so unbothered. Kevin loves this place. He freely uncorks red wine and sings along to a blasting Strokes album. I wonder if Maggie feels my anxiety at all, or if home to her is simply where her doughnut-shaped bed is.
Maybe it’s only time that will do the trick. I’ll fully connect with this place eventually. And when I figure out how, I’ll let you know. But in this week’s list, I wanted to tell you about a few things that have contributed in small but meaningful ways — things Nancy Myers did not direct, but I think might approve of.
to go >> One of the best things about my new place is its proximity to two great Farmer’s Markets — a small mid-week evening market, and a large weekend morning one. Both are within walking distance, which makes the whole experience so damn downright pleasant I’d go so far as to use the word bucolic. And it’s a great excuse to hoard tote bags. Shopping totes are trophies, small but meaningful flexes — like a bumper sticker for your shoulder. Mementos boasting favorite charities, publications, alma maters, museum gift shops, brands, and travels, signal to others you’re *cultured*. (If I ever see another ATL Apolis bag, it will be too soon.) I carry a sturdy New York Times Food Baggu, museum gift shop totes from the Virgil Abloh and Calder-Picasso exhibits, and an old Outdoor Voices tote that I accidentally sliced with a box cutter and lazily mended with hot pink duct tape. I also really like this waterproof one for rainy summer days. Seeing my collection stuffed onto the loop in my entry closet makes the place feel right. Where is your favorite tote from?
to write >> Stationery with my new address was one of the first things I went about doing. I love a thank-you note and I really love stationery. I went on Etsy and opted for simple blind-embossed note cards with my monogram. They have charcoal grey envelope liners that remind me of my favorite Farrow & Ball color, Down Pipe. Then I found these great personalized envelope seals that look like hot wax, but are really just easy little stickers. The whole rig sits on my desk next to a cup of black Le Pens, my forever favorite writing tool.
to cozy up >> I no longer put my sweaters up in the summer. I keep my home about one degree above meat locker, because I have an old dog with a heavy coat who overheats easily. My favorites are the ones I can throw on like a jacket. I recently came across this one by Gogo Sweaters and went all heart eyes.
to buy >> I don’t know if the tension in my neck is due to the stress of moving or the horrible mattress I bought and have to return (I do NOT recommend WinkBeds, for the record) but I feel like there’s a rubber band behind my ear that’s latched to something in my lower back, and when I move just so, the whole thing yanks. I really didn’t want to like the Theragun, because goddamn it, it’s expensive and what I took for gimmicky, but the thing works. I feel it break up old knots in my shoulder blades in seconds and even use it very lightly to relieve my jaw after clenching. I bought the little handheld one because it’s cuter and less cumbersome. My Mom used it when she came to visit and ordered one on the spot. We are believers.
to cook >> If there’s a trendy internet kitchen brand, I’ve tried it and have an opinion. For example, Great Jones: great sheet pans, lousy Dutch Ovens that crack and rust. The ubiquitous Always Pan that hounds you on Instagram: actually a pretty great pan, and goes through the dishwasher like a champ. GreenPans: great non-stick, but don’t bother with any color but the black, that cute powder pink set Gwyneth Paltrow sells is doomed to quickly stain. Staub: excellent cookware and by far the sexiest, except they’re so heavy. Le Creuset: still the best coated cast iron in the game. But also, heavy. Calphalon stainless: nothing gives me more even heat, but kind of a bitch to clean. My most-used pan these days is by Caraway Home. Their under $150 nonstick ceramic satué pan simply rocks. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, wide and deep enough to handle a slew of different jobs, good-looking, non-toxic, gives me great, even heat, takes a thorough beating, and still comes out of the dishwasher looking brand new. I have the sage.
As a parting note, this week’s newsletter is named after one of my most popular years-old Spotify playlists, In Nancy Meyers’ Kitchen. If you’re the kind of cook who splashes a little white wine in the pan and drinks the rest yourself, it’s a great kitchen soundtrack with music pulled from a lot of those very comforting movies I mentioned: french melodies, easy Bossa Nova, and crackling classics by Louis Armstrong. Listen here, and see you next week.
P.S., if you’re new here…
So happy to discover this love list for reading! I too love Nancy Meyers movies and that “ at home and cozy” vibe you get like visiting an old friend each time you rewatch. Happy housewarming to you…