I’ve been mentally rearranging my focus over the last few days of vacation (especially during yesterday’s 17-hour embroidery festival), determining what I’ll be devoting my time and interest to in the coming months. I’ve had design on the brain for the last two years — I just can’t stop exploring the creative process at work, and admiring the results of honest labor.  But I’ve let mild interest and my bizarre desire to know “as much as possible, everything there is to know” about previously unexplored elements trap me into studying things I don’t find all that interesting.

Case in point: Over the last two years I’ve explored all sorts of minimalist and contemporary design elements and histories, read three dozen books about small-space living, streamlining, refinishing and restoring and whatnot, and I’ve learned two very important things.

  • “Mid-century Modern,” which is the staunchly guarded Keep of the 50 most popular/oft-quoted design blogs/publications, reminds me of nothing so much as elementary school furniture and decor, no matter how big the designer’s name (or price tag). The visual is one sensory memory away from the smell of 22 sets of parkas, moon boots, and mittens dripping snow melt onto kid-friendly carpet all day, every day, from Thanksgiving through April Fools Day. Ew.
  • Minimalist often equals sparse, another word for “empty.”  Empty rooms look gorgeous in photographs and paintings, full of artistic light, with dreams and possibilities abounding just outside the frame.  But empty rooms are boring as hell in person. I don’t do boring in anything.

I’m letting go of the design obsession, which I don’t even really *like* all that much. And letting in something new.  Well, not new exactly, but recently brought back to focus.

I am a big fan of the Steampunk aesthetic — for years, I called it “old-fashioned, fantasy library style.” Example (beware the geekiness beyond this parenthetical note): one of the things that should have survived all of my trimming and purging of useless belongings is a set of blueprints I drew up as a young adolescent, blueprints for my dream home. It’s essentially a steampunky wizard’s cottage, complete with astronomy observation deck, rooftop herb garden, walls of rotating bookshelves with mechanical library ladders, a gas lighting system, and a circular fireplace with a chimney running straight up through the building to provide ambient heat and cooling to the whole structure.  If I can find the plans, I’d like to have them framed — they’d look awesome above a shelf with my brass hourglass, lapis  globe, and a carved wooden cigar box (filled with old snapshots from the 40s and 50s, of my grandparents and their shipmates).

I have a number of steampunky novels to rip through in the next couple of weeks. I’ve a couple of “I could make that” projects brewing in the back of my mind. I’m looking forward to building a new living space full of nooks and crannies, filled with tucked-away gems to inspire a well-lived, creativity-focused life.

Here’s to 2009 — out with the commonplace, in with the geek.

I’ve decided to sign on with a Real Estate agency for apartment hunting. Finding an apartment in NYC is a full-time job; I can either pay someone else to take that on for me, or I can take on that work on top of everything else. It’s an expensive investment, but one that makes a lot of sense for me considering all the other work that goes into moving and the office workload that never seems to diminish (i.e. the reason I’m moving in the first place).

I’ve selected Corcoran as I’ve met several of their agents, love their website, am impressed with the variety and quality of the rental properties they have listed (and the obvious specialization of their agents), and have heard great things from other happy customers. Since I’m not interested in moving between apartments once I get to the city, it’s really important that I get this right the first time.

Now I just need to decide between Manhattan and Brooklyn. I know, I was all excited about living in a tiny downtown studio—then it got cold and I started spending all of my time indoors, and I started looking at available properties, and rental costs per square foot based on location. Interior size, very specific neighborhood elements, and access to outdoor space are far more important now that I thought they were four months ago. So, I’m torn. Tips?

Woke up this morning to a voicemail from the landlord of the flat I expressed interest in; she’s pulling together a detailed response to all of my questions and a selection of photos, and will email them to me by tonight.

She’s also clearly a pet person: “I’ve had cats in this space, and have generally found them to be comfortable; there are two big windows with a wide ledge beneath them that look out on trees. There are always birds flitting about or squirrels running back and forth, so lots of cat-friendly entertainment.”

That also answers my question as to what side of the building the flat is on, and the description of the view makes the human potential-occupant just as happy as the kitties! Though as Marc Gunn would certainly attest, a cat-friendly environment is requisite for harmonious living situations!

I’m not planning to move until April, but every so often (every three days or so) I pop onto the newyork.craigslist/org apartment listings in manhattan, and poke around the neighborhoods I like.  It’s alway s”just to look,” to get a feel for what’s going on where.

Which explains how I’m now in the predicament of having sent my first official query out to a rental agent about a flat. A “large, quiet studio” in Chelsea, about 8 blocks from my office, on the West side, with easy access to many of the things I already love about my new city. What got me to send the query is the price (yay!), the address (a part of Chelsea I quite like, actually, in spite of my general discomfort in July), and the fact that it’s listed as ” Available for lease beginning February 1st 2009…lease is for one year with option to renew.”

We’ll see what will happen; I asked for photos, some square footage information, and the opportunity to apply in absentia, as I can’t plan a trip into the city until Sunday, at the earliest.

I’m a little freaked out by “February 1,” as that’s significantly earlier than I’ve been planning for, but it’s a bridge I can cross later. First steps are first steps, and from what I hear, I’m 99.9% likely to get a “no” response from the landlord. We shall see.