Welcome old readers and new, re-charged and inspired after my annual break, I’m back with an abundance of design inspiration for you, starting with our glorious trip this summer to Brooklyn.
In April, a serendipitous Facebook status and a spontaneous spirit started the wheels in motion for a house-swap in New York. I’ll spare you the logistics but earlier this month we returned from an amazing few weeks living like locals in a burgeoning Brooklyn neighbourhood called Greenpoint.
Located on the northernmost point in Brooklyn (bordering Williamsburg) and with a history rich in farmland and industry, Greenpoint offers old school charm with beer halls, vintage boutiques and quaint book shops nestled between impressive warehouses and magnificent waterfront views of Manhattan. We’ve spent a lot of time in Manhattan in the past, so it was a welcome change to hunker down in this low-key family friendly neighbourhood with fairly limited transport links – nice if you like the hipster experience without the hipster crowd. Plus ambling your way down to the pier to catch a sleepy ferry across the East River is quite lovely.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The first thing we did on arrival was hunt down our go-to coffee spot Ovenly – a charming neighbourhood bakery with some incredible original treats. The bakery’s point of difference is mixing the sweet and savoury – our favourites were the ‘Everything Bagel Croissant’ , ‘Blueberry Cornflake Muffins’, ‘Sticky Donut Cake’ and Aarya loved the Peanut Butter and Jam ‘After School Special‘. Can you tell we spent a lot of time there?
The next thing we did was locate Flying Squirrel a children’s swap shop in the neighbourhood which I had read about online. We wanted to bag Aarya a scooter so she felt at home and could enjoy exploring in her own way. We found one straight away and it was well-worth the small investment as we used it every day and made life so much easier. We sold it back to the store at the end of our trip for shop credit and came home with some cute Brooklyn threads for Aarya!
McCarren Park became our central point in the neighbourhood where we met up if we happened to separate. The 35 acre park is a hive of activity – perfect for people watching, lazing and for us cooling off in the kids fountains and stunning public swimming pool. Aarya and Dave hung out at the pool some mornings whilst I explored the neighbourhood. Impressively the pool also provides a wholesome and free government funded lunch for children every day during the summer – simple sandwiches, salad, fruit and milk.
The corner points of the park are peppered with some of Greenpoint’s coolest brunch spots. Most lazy mornings we found ourselves at the popular Five Leaves on Bedford Avenue – always full, and always bustling namely for it’s signature ricotta pancakes and chic weathered interiors (research for this post led me to discover this spot was a burgeoning venture of the late Heath Ledger’s). Another great brunch spot that we only discovered on our last day was Enid’s on Manhattan Avenue – get an outside spot if you can and try their delicious beans and rice bowl (beans on red rice, warm corn tortilla, poached eggs, sautéed greens, pico de gallo avocado, crema and cotija cheese!).
Onto the shopping! Quickly becoming the new home-design capital of Brooklyn, Franklin Avenue in Greenpoint and the streets surrounding are the go-to cruising spots for homeware goodness, housing achingly stylish shops like; Home of The Brave (good for minimal and crafted ceramics and accessories by independent local brands) Adaptations NY (vintage furniture and decor with a West Coast vibe) Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics studio (check the opening hours as its a working studio) Aelfie (colour pop vintage and contemporary rugs), Feng Sway (an incredible space housing a jungle of plants and retro homeware) and Re-Pop (a long established mid-century furniture in a waterfront warehouse). If you want a museum style space theres also ADO a sleek multidisciplinary venue that doubles as a cafe, design shop, gallery and co-working space.
After building up an appetite with a long morning of swimming and mooching, lunch spots in the neighbourhood are plentiful. Spritzenhaus is a sprawling warehouse with wall to wall dining benches. Gigantic factory windows open up to the park and the venue boasts over fifty craft beers and hearty Euro-American fare like bratwurst topped with chorizo chilli, served with Belgian fries and chipotle aioli. Aarya kept herself occupied with the stack of Jenga handily provided for customers and small people!
For a completely different vibe, Le Gamin – a French Bistro spot known for its crepes is seemingly sprung from a Woody Allen / Nancy Meyers film. Charming and verdant in moss green walls and woven bistro seating – we feasted on garlic drenched mussels, fries and croque monsieurs.
A nice stop after lunch at Le Gamin is WORD a tiny but well-stocked neighbourhood bookstore with a perfect edit of bestsellers, topical reads, local books and a great kids section. The knowledgable staff of fun young women were also a pleasure to chat books with and frankly I wanted to be in their cool Brooklyn gang!
If you fancy whiling an hour or two away with your newly bought books like I did, then a few blocks away is the popular haunt of design bloggers – Swedish cafe – Bakeri. A fairytale interior resplendent with vintage details and rustic furniture – the nook with the Nathalie Lethe botanical wallpaper has become one of the most Instagrammed spots. We got caught in the rain here for a few hours and it was no bad thing!
One block down from our apartment, the end of Greenpoint Avenue opens out into a jaw-dropping watery view of Manhattan. If there wasn’t so much to explore I could have spent every evening whiling away the hours on this block.
You know when there is that one perfect day which resonates from your holiday? Ours actually started out as a semi-terrible day spent in Manhattan at The Natural History Museum. Aarya had a huge tantrum in the museum cafe (something about ketchup) and all three of us were totally fed up of each other by the time it ended and almost abandoned ship. We salvaged the day and walked through Central Park but our phones dropped signal and we walked lost for what seemed like forever. We finally made it home in an Uber and Aarya fell asleep just as we got dropped off at Greenpoint Avenue.
By the water, with the sun setting the neighbourhood felt sort of ancient and still… but also thrumming with energy. I imagined the sun setting on this very spot for centuries and the river looking the same way.
We stopped for a breather at the top of the street at Ovenly before its closing to grab some discounted end of day treats, then walked a few doors down to 21 Greenpoint (a new eatery from Bill Murray’s son!). We had an early dinner surrounded by exquisite Anthropologie-esque interiors whilst Aarya slept in her pram. Finally relaxed, we surrendered to delicious cocktails and feasted on ceviche and Octopus ink spaghetti tossed in chilli and garlic.
Aarya woke her charming-self after we had finished dinner and to her delight also slurped down black spaghetti! We left the restaurant merry and fuzzy and made our way to Transmitter Park at the end of the street to gaze at Manhattan and watch the sunset as we ate our pastries. All was right with the world again.
If you’d like to know more about my tips for Brooklyn take a look at my post Red Hook Days and Bushwick Nights and keep your ear to the ground for my upcoming feature on our Catskills trip!
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org