Studio Apartment in 1930s Co-Op


Location Fort Greene

Rent $725 (sublet)

Square feet 650

Occupant Mary Edwards (songwriter, singer, That Kind of Woman; editor, Visual Arts Press; graduate student, Goddard College)

Drink this.

I hope it’s not a Mickey. You’re standing at the door with this glass on a tray.
It’s iced tea. If you don’t mind taking off your shoes—I ask people to remove their shoes. There’s something about tracking in dirt from the streets. You wouldn’t walk barefoot on a subway platform. In winter, I keep a barrel of flip-flops near the door. The reason I don’t have rugs is that they are one more thing between me and the floor.

Being barefoot does connect one more quickly to the environment, more intimately.
I want my life in this apartment to be very peaceful. My weekends here are about studying, playing music, cooking with my sweetheart. I like friends to come over. I like preparing things, like apples soaked in red wine. Have one.

I will. Oh, this apple is so relaxing. We’re listening to, what was that?
Dionne Warwick. I love ’60s, ’70s music. I’m a Burt Bacharach-phile. Music is very important to me.

The only things in this white room, except for black pillows and two paintings with shades of gold and brown, are a keyboard and your CDs.
My house is 99 percent tchotchke-free. It’s easier to relax. You can let whatever music is playing build up a momentum as opposed to your decor doing that. The music transports you.

Music is physically invisible. It’s this transparent object that moves through the house. It jumps around the room. Maybe it’s the apple talking.
I want a house that adapts to people instead of a house that people have to adapt to. My mother loved Early American furniture, Ethan Allen. Though the way she kept our house, it was never cluttered, wall hangings were symmetrical. I had a very solid, peaceful upbringing. I wanted to carry that over into my adult living environment. Because you can’t go back; we’re all grown up now. It’s a way of taking the good memories with me and manifesting them in my own space.

The street you live on looks like it’s made of modeling clay—there are so many brownstones on the block. This building has griffins on it. I read that a griffin is either a coarse-haired terrier-like dog or a fabulous creature with an eagle’s wings and a lion’s body.
Given the population of this building, it leans toward the fabulous. It’s very artistic, diverse, friendly. It was built in the 1930s. There’s no 13th floor, which shows how old it is. It went co-op in the ’80s. But more and more people are moving out—my neighbor down the hall, her rent more than doubled. In ’98 I heard a one-bedroom cost $110,000. Now one was offered for $300,000. I rent my studio from an architect, a friend of my brother’s. I used to apartment-sit for him in my teens. He’s not at all greedy about the rent. I’ve been here eight years. I just signed another two-year lease. Come here, look out the window, you can see all of Brooklyn. Stand back—it looks like Montana, just the sky. See, over there’s the clock on the Williamsburgh Bank building. I’ve lived in several different apartments in Brooklyn and they all had a view of the clock. I’ve lived with either psychotic roommates or great roommates with psychotic landlords. I’ve never lived with a partner. I grew up in Staten Island, north shore. People who don’t know Staten Island think it’s a garbage dump leading to New Jersey. But it has expansive green hills, fabulous modern architecture. As a child, it was very magical, full of energy. As I got older, the commute started to wear me out, and I was too far from the hipness contingent. Staten Island was more progressive in the ’70s—or the climate of the times made it seem that way—but it kind of came to a standstill when I approached my late teens. When we drove into Manhattan, it was like going to Oz.