One-bedroom Garden Apartment in Turn-of-the-Century House


Location Greenwich Village

Rent $2300/mo. (market)

Square feet 360

Occupant Simon Lince (creative director, Sterling Group)

I like your statue of Napoleon, German psalmbook sculpture, and beekeeper’s hat. We’re in your new garden apartment having tea and Irish bread and listening to the soundtrack from The Singing Detective. Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians are singing “The backbone’s connected to the hipbone.” You said it’s like a little seaside cottage here and it is! It’s the scale of everything, nothing’s grand. I used to live right by the sea in Norfolk, England—very rural, very flat, very peaceful. We lived over a little hairdressing salon. My mother was a hairdresser. My brother and I used to just sit up in the bedroom on Saturday morning and watch out the window at all the old ladies coming in all gray and scraggy and going out all purple and puffed up. We could smell the perm lotion. I studied in Norfolk at a little art school, lived in London 11 years. Having done everything workwise, I came to New York about four years ago and stayed at first at the Carlton Arms. Every room was decorated by a different artist. My favorite was a kind of little hunting lodge cabin. There was a rhinoceros head coming out of the wall and a dummy of the queen mother in the closet. The nice thing was it had a gramophone in the bedroom and I’d put on great scratchy records and invite friends over for cheese and wine. The interesting bit was the scary night-security guard. I’d dart up the stairs to avoid bumping into him. I stayed so long that I ended up asking him for clean towels and, well, then he’d offer me tea and I’d sit and have tea with him and then he’d offer me supper and I’d sit and have supper with him.

Your Eloise phase. Who? I’ve never heard of her. Later I stayed in this potter’s place in Tribeca for a couple of weeks. It was like sleeping in this little enchanted ceramic forest. Then I was in a very glamorous apartment in Soho belonging to Lance Fung, the art dealer. I went back to the Carlton again. Robert, the security guard, was moving to South America to some remote jungle and he asked me if I’d like his apartment in Williamsburg and as soon as I saw it I knew this was it. There was something really magical about that little space in a red brick factory building, a little door to a private roof. I turned it into a beautiful English garden with apple trees. I was breeding butterflies. I met several people who lived there, all artists, musicians. About 20 people shared two big bathrooms. I never experienced that in England. I’d always had a very stable kind of lifestyle. I quite enjoyed that it was a lot less structured. I was paying about $500 a month.

You had to flee in the night. It was the week before last Christmas and I came home at nine and there was an order to vacate on everybody’s door from the Department of Buildings. They said the building was a fire hazard, and we had to be moved out by 9 a.m. We spent all night packing, salvaging our most important things. I left half my stuff in the building. It was very extreme. Some people were in shock. The city gave us an option, a Red Cross emergency shelter, but I don’t think anybody actually moved into the shelter. I went to England, then stayed with friends in the Bronx, New Jersey. Then I had to work with brokers. It was hard to describe what I was looking for, but I wanted to discover what was possible.

You are a magical realist in your approach to living, so Gabriel Márquez. Just about every broker gave up on me except for one. She just persisted.

Did she have flowers for eyes and seashells for ears? Actually, she had hair like candy floss, the happiest hair I’ve ever seen.