Rent $1000/mo. (rent-stabilized)
Square feet 2400
Occupants Carmen Einfinger (painter); Scott Saunders (independent feature filmmaker)
Your humongous loft is near that antique store on Houston with the eyeballs in jars. You had quite a spatial shift when you moved here two years ago. You used to live on Avenue C with only 400 square feet, pretty little for two. For some people, living in a small space can be about denial. “I won’t have a dinner party because there won’t be room for the empanadas.” A small space is like living with a tyrant. You two took a different approach, like a person with one leg who becomes an Olympic runner. Scott, you turned your old bedroom into a film production office and had four people working in there. Carmen, you made the living room your studio and painted bigger than ever. Even though the two of you had to sleep in the closet, there you were. It brings to mind what happened in the local grocery when someone bought two pieces of bubble gum for 10 cents and apologized for the size of the purchase. The man behind the counter said, Ah, little can be very big. He was reading the Koran or something. Then he said, Pennies make quarters. Anyway, one day you got a reward for your toil. Scott’s former Lewis and Clark College roommate heard about this loft in an artist-filled former factory/flophouse converted in the ’70s that you said is owned by a trust—the best deals are always through connections—and though you have to share it with a third person, you get to live in a space that looks like the kind that are always in movies about New York. [Carmen] Scott made his latest movie, This Close to Nothing, right here.
Really! [We watch it on video. A man has an Internet relationship. He stands before Scott and Carmen’s refrigerator, with all their refrigerator magnets, and drinks too much chilled vodka.] Scott, you grew up in a stucco house in Pasadena, but Carmen grew up in Brazil and her parents were Dutch and Yugoslavian and she speaks Portuguese. Since Carmen’s life was more exotic, let’s talk about her. Why did your parents move to Brazil? The answer is the reason I became Scott’s girlfriend. My parents met in London. My father was a painter and European bohemian and he wanted to go to Brazil and catch butterflies in the Amazon. Scott loved that part of the story. But then my mother left my father when I was four. I had to go live in a boarding school in a suburb of São Paulo sponsored by wealthy Germans for kids from broken homes. At that time in Brazil, if you were a single mother, it was the worst thing.
Then you moved to Toronto—Brown and RISD came later—lived in a windowless basement, became a glamorous model, and got into primal scream therapy. I don’t do that anymore. Now I have a home with Scott. You know, every time somebody comes here and says, You’re so lucky, the loft is so beautiful, it really makes me nervous, makes me think I have to appreciate it every day or it will go away.
Do you think living in a bigger space makes people feel bigger, more successful? Yes. [Scott] I don’t know if I feel the direct correlation. But my tension level is so much lower now. I don’t feel like a rat stuffed into a hole in the subway. We do have more big dinner parties. We start everybody off with this sugarcane drink. I get everybody good and loose. Then Carmen makes feijoada, a black bean and sausage stew. [Carmen] You have to put that in, it’s my signature dish. [Scott] It’s an incredible sensual experience. [Carmen] It cooks for eight hours. [Scott] Two weeks ago, everybody had the drinks, the food. Then everybody was yelling.