My first apartment was a loft in an old warehouse, with leaking lead-paned windows and incredibly high ceilings. It was vast and bare, with concrete floors, white walls and a heavy supporting column with pealing paint that went right through the middle of the room. My roommate and I filled it with antique furniture, including a long English monastery table and French thrones upholstered in deep purple. We installed full-length red velvet curtains over the windows.
The apartment was our studio, our backdrop, and we were prone to rearranging it completely in fits of unrest. A mural we painted to serve as the background of the Birth of Venus was left hanging behind my desk. We once almost knocked out the windows trying to move a free-standing hammock into the space. We couldn’t cook fish because the smell would permeate the sheets. We lived mostly by candlelight. When a tornado came through we had to take cover in the bath. I once spent two weeks snowed-in alone.
I only lived in the apartment for a year, but it proved to be one of the most formative spaces I would ever occupy. Its bare potential served as a powerful impetus to creativity. Its sturdy structure kept it from ever being too precious, and we were happy to paint over its floors and drive nails into its walls without risk. The airy emptiness of the space imposed no arrangement or order. At times it was starkly modern, at others it was decorated like a gothic manor house. In Fall we hung thousands of leaves from the ceiling so that moving through the room felt like wandering through an autumnal wood. In winter we did the same with snowflakes. We took our morning tea sprawled over cushions on the floor, and supper seated in our thrones at opposite ends of the long table, illuminated by the light of a single candelabrum. Our musical preference wavered between Bob Dylan and medieval chants.
We built forts, held dinner parties, fought for weeks over washing the dishes, and produced some of the most inspired writing and photography of our lives. The place served as the impetus for projects that even now, five years later, are still being realized. We used to imagine it as a ship with its deck and long view. When we left we wanted nothing more than to bring the apartment with us.