Q & A, Part One: Let’s Get Personal

Thank you to everybody who submitted questions in the comments of the post I wrote last week! Y’all did not disappoint with providing many, many things for me to chew over.

I got a lot of questions, so I’ve decided to approach things a little differently this time around. Rather than put together one massive post, I thought it might be better to break up the questions by theme, and then do a post everyday this week surrounding each theme. That way, the posts will be more manageable and easier to swallow. It will also allow me to talk about myself for five whole days instead of one! Narcissism is my favorite game, so let’s get started!

I’ve re-worded and composited certain questions, so if you don’t see your question verbatim, it’s not because I don’t love you. It was just easier.

1. How do you like living in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn?

For those who just jumped on the exciting bandwagon that is this blog, it’s true: I do not live in Manhattan. I am a fraud. I did live in Manhattan from May 2010-June 2011, when I started this blog, and then I took the leap and moved to Brooklyn, which is a whole different borough. The neighborhood I live in is called Boerum Hill, which is close to Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn Heights (my neighborhood is small, and many New Yorkers don’t know where it is!).

I love Brooklyn. Things are different here. The shopping is better, the people are nicer, everything’s less expensive, and there are more dogs. The apartments are better, too. And cheaper. With absent-er landlords. Win-win-win, unless you need stuff fixed all the time.

Boerum Hill is a great neighborhood. It’s safe without being boring, and there are great restaurants, bars, and shops either in the neighborhood or close by.  And the transportation—excuse me a moment, I get teary-eyed—is fantastic. There are so many trains around, which makes getting all over Brooklyn and all over New York that easier and more enticing. And the people are so friendly. I know so many of my neighbors, and I really feel like I’m part of a community here.

2. In the future, would you consider moving out of NY? And if so, where?

Max and I both came to New York for school, and I don’t think either of us started with aspirations of staying forever once we graduated. I was actually incredibly apprehensive about moving here and worried constantly that I would hate it. But that didn’t happen, and now I don’t ever want to move away. There are other cities I could see living in though, I guess. Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, some future colony on the moon?

But I love New York. Please don’t make me leave.

3. How do you make money/support yourself? How do you find the money to do all of this? 

Max and I are both full-time students (I’m an undergrad, Max is in a graduate program at Parsons), we both work part-time jobs, and, yes, we both have parents who help support us. While we live comfortably, I don’t think we live extravagantly.

Money is always tight, which is mostly why I try so hard to find low-cost solutions when dealing with home projects. Thrifting and DIY-ing almost everything you own is a good start. While we definitely do certain things just for pretty’s sake, most of what I’m doing to my apartment is really motivated by functional concerns. I love our apartment, but it’s got its fair share of challenges—almost no storage and a really lousy kitchen, along with a whole laundry list of broken stuff/things in total disrepair when I moved in, a few of which remain. Most of my work here has really been addressing that stuff, so in that sense I’m not sure I do a whole lot more than the average person does. I think the difference might be in the permanence. I love this apartment and intend to live in it for a long time, so part of saving money in the long-term here is doing things right the first time. I am not a fan of stopgap measures, and never have been. It’s part of why I didn’t have a coffee table for about 4 months until I thrifted the right one, or why my mattress was on the floor until I could figure out how to make the bed I wanted, or why my kitchen re-do is dragging out for months. We plan and we budget and we save in order to do the things we want to do, the way we want to do them.  A little at a time is the name of the game.

4. How long were you and Max together before moving in? What tips do you have for couples about to shack up?

Max and I met in February of 2011 and he officially moved in (as in, brought all his stuff and started paying rent) in August—less than 6 months after we initially introduced ourselves. And looking at an apartment in May was definitely informed by the notion that we’d both end up living in it. I’m no relationship expert, but I recognize that’s pretty quick. What can I say? He’s obsessed with me.

I think it’s important to just do what feels right. Nobody knows and understands your relationship except you, and every couple is different. For us, it wasn’t a very hard decision. We had a sense that it would make us happy, and it has. Plus, we were spending all of our time together anyway, and after a while it just didn’t make sense for Max to keep his own apartment—it was just added stress for him, and that meant added stress for both of us. But it was nice to have a period where we could try it out and test the waters, and we realized that we were really good roommates, aside from the couple stuff. He’s a good picker-upper, I’m a good cleaner. He stays on top of our bills and isn’t totally terrified of calling our landlord on occasion, and I’m good at fixing things and keeping us fed. For the most part, it’s pretty easy. We both try to communicate as clearly and honestly as we can, and I think that’s hugely important. But we’re not the perfect couple or the perfect pair of roommates—we have our little moments, just like everyone else.

5. What are you studying in school? What do you want to do when you finish school? 

I go to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, which is a strange little place where we formulate our own “concentrations” rather than fulfill a traditional major. While I’m still working on totally nailing down exactly what I’m doing, I’m essentially studying a mix of creative writing and design. I’m interested in how materiality (scaling from objects to homes to cities and beyond) both reflects and affects who people are, and how that can be reflected through narrative. I’ve tried to look at design through a fairly broad lens, placing various forms of design (city planning, architecture, objects, technologies) within historical socio-economic and political contexts, and tried to incorporate that understanding in my creative written work. I recognize that this alone does not qualify me for many jobs.

As a college undergrad, I’m trying to be okay with the fact that I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life.  And while I love design, I think I’m a better writer than I am a designer. Part of the fun of this blog is that I get to combine two things that I love in a super casual, fun, and interpersonal way. The blog stays pretty narrowly focused on my apartment, and I like the challenge of trying to write about mundane home-improvement tasks in an engaging way. And it seems like some of you think I do an okay job, and that’s been pretty amazing. Having such a kind, generous audience for this creative outlet o’ mine has been incredible—knowing that anybody wants to read what I write (even if, in this case, I’m usually talking about stuff like furniture and white paint) still both confounds and tickles me, and has been great encouragement to keep writing and trying to make a real go of it. I’ve worked up a little portfolio over the last couple of years, and I’d really like to start trying to get some pieces published. Ideally, then I want to write until my fingers fall off. Then I will die. That’s basically the extent of my life plan.

6. Are you planning on making this design stuff a career? Do you do interior design consultations? I am completely overwhelmed and could use you!

I don’t know how design will end up figuring into my life in the super-long-term (isn’t my generation supposed to have like 12 different careers, anyway?), but I’m sure it will in some way!

I don’t currently do any consulting, but I want to start soon! I think it sounds like a  great time helping people out with their spaces in a more direct way than I do through this blog alone, so I’m working on getting my ducks in a row to start taking on a some clients soon! Maybe you want some of my finicky taste and craziness rolling into your life and fancying up your house? Shoot me an email. Maybe you know someone who wants that? Shoot them an email, then tell them to shoot me an email. I’d like to start in late May.


**OKAY, keep those gorgeous eyes peeled for another round of questions tomorrow! The fun never stops.**

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 4.3.12
    hannah said:

    so i live in london, and sadly don’t have the budget for flying in a design consultant from new york to sort out my little house, buuuut do you think you might do some sort of online/email based long distance consulting thing? that would be amazing.

    also, congrats on the 2 year anniversary! i am a proud reader of 18 months and this is my all time favourite blog so thank you!!

    • 4.3.12
      Daniel said:

      Yes! Ideally I will work with a mix of local NY folks and non-local people online!

      Thanks so much for the kind comment, aww :-)

  2. 4.3.12
    Katerina said:

    To elaborate on point 6 in this first Q & A installment: will you be open to the idea of providing interior design consultations to clients based abroad? (but not in Paris, let me warn you upfront) :):):)

  3. 4.3.12
    susan said:

    I think you are a marvelous writer. It is testament to your writing prowness that I will occasionally make my husband sit down while I read him something you’ve written or make him read the whole post. It is even MORE of a testament that he enjoys it! He’s even quoted you on occasion!

    • 4.3.12
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Susan!

  4. 4.3.12
    Katie said:

    Daniel! You should write for Apt Therapy NYC for a job.

  5. 4.3.12
    Gaby said:

    I´ve been always curious about your career plans, and always thought you shoud be a writer. Maybe it was obvious, but I´m so, so glad to read you are moving in that direction. (Ok, this is weird but now I feel like an older sister speaking to his little brother- haha).
    I´m looking forward to read everything you write, seriously. Many of us enjoy your posts and love the way you tell stories, even if they are not stories at all. Go Daniel!

    • 4.3.12
      Daniel said:

      Well, shucks, thank you! I’ll do my best to give you lots to read.

  6. 4.3.12
    Cynthia said:

    You are such a wonderful and engaging writer–thank you for posting this and I’m excited to read more questions that you answer. I am 22 and moving into my first apartment in May and you have inspired me to get crafty and thrifty…and maybe even rent a power tool!


  7. 4.3.12
    Jill said:

    I am toooootally emailing you. I think we could make beautiful music together.

  8. 4.3.12
    jbhat said:

    Happy 2nd Anniversary. I love that you are taking this opportunity to indulge your narcissism. I think it’s wonderful! Hey, I too moved in with my partner very soon after meeting him. We met on the last day of May, and started living together in August. That was in 1992….holy cow, we are about to come up on 20 years of togetherness! Sheesh, time flies. Perhaps it will fly for you and Max.


  9. 4.3.12
    jeannette said:

    interested in how materiality (scaling from objects to homes to cities and beyond) both reflects and affects who people are, and how that can be reflected through narrative

    could you give those of us who love this a good reading list?

    here’s one reference from the fabulous kate davies, whom i call the intelligent craftafarian [http://katedaviesdesigns.com/]:


    so touching. so moving. so marxist. so anti-marxist. hotttttttttt.

    • 4.3.12
      Daniel said:

      I’m actually working on developing a “book list” right now, which is part of my concentration requirements! Maybe I’ll post it when I have it put together? Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll check it out!!

    • 4.7.12
      jeannette said:

      i look fwd to hearing from you.

  10. 4.3.12
    JJ said:

    Daniel, I love the way you write. I became addicted when I read the following:

    ” Max thought this fabric was “too manly” anyway (“but we are men, Sugar Tits!”), so what followed was weeks of bickering over which pillows. Max would threaten me with some semi-contemporary trellis pattern thing and I’d get all weepy about the vintage kilim pillow he made me donate to Goodwill (gone, but not forgotten) and that would go on for a while until we’d realize we were actually fighting about throw pillows and then we’d explode into a pile of rainbows and glitter paint.”

    I have loved you ever since :)

  11. 4.3.12
    Tanya said:

    To echo the consensus, I have to say that your writing is absolutely stellar. I easily imagine you working for the Art&Design section of the Times. The publication could use your help. On a tangent, I’ve started looking for places in Brooklyn. Prospect Heights is looking pretty good. We’ll be neighbors! Give Mekko a kiss on the head for me please.

  12. 4.3.12
    Vorpaks said:

    If you publish it, I will buy it. Promise. Even if it is in hardcover! *grin*

    I think your major sounds fascinating and also that it must take a ton of work and dedication and motivation to stay focused and create your own path. Having a mom moment here, I hope you are as proud of yourself as I know your family and friends must be. I hope someday my own son has the confidence to create his own space and do what really makes him happy.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share in this blog. As readers we have the easy job. Just look and enjoy. Thank you so much for giving us that!

    For me personally, it has provided many hours of grinning giddiness and true inspiration. And a little bit of courage. I recently bought a big nasty pot to boil my painted-to-hell-and-back 100 yr old door hardware in. Eep. I printed out your post and am keeping it in my kitchen for courage… although I may also add some liquid courage into the mix. Me, fire, boiling water, alcohol, and Manhattan Nest. What could go wrong? Wish me luck!

    And thank you again. :)

    • 4.3.12
      Daniel said:

      Aww, shucks, thank you! Such a nice comment. Good luck with the hardware!!

      (I find that a little alcohol is generally a good thing where home improvement is concerned. Pro tip!)

  13. 4.3.12
    Margot said:

    I’m sure you’ll make an excellent consultant. I spent all of last year thinking of leaving a comment that boiled down to “come uptown and help me fix this awful apartment!” (Obviously I did not, since this is my first comment here, despite a long history of lurking/admiring your DIY skills.)

  14. 4.3.12
    Keren V. said:

    I heard my own voice in your answers. I am a Manhattanite living with my boyfriend in Chelsea (used to be Harlem, then UWS, and we are now considering Ft. Greene…). I am so lost as to what to actually “do” withy my blog – what accounts for my “actual” career as opposed to my hobby, and so forth. I have a Master from Columbia and I literally STILL do not know what my niche is. I am glad to see someone I look up to (and someone whose blog and artistic voice I respect) feeling this exact same indecision and ennui.

    Coffee over our woes sometime? ha. – KV

  15. 4.3.12
    Samantha said:

    I feel as though all my questions (and even more) have been answered. This is awesome!

  16. 4.4.12
    bliss said:

    you are an awesome writer, i’m glad to read that it’s kinda sorta your focus… fiction? non? whatever, i’ll read it

    • 4.4.12
      Daniel said:

      Mostly creative non-fiction/autobiography/memoir!

  17. 4.4.12
    Lelly said:

    I’ve been reading your blog for past 1.5 year and enjoy your writing so very much. You had me at…dressing up as Marcel the Shell. Your writing is already at a professional level (IMHO) and your voice is strong and consistent.

    Once your design consultation biz is up and running – I hope you’ll consider a consultation in the Seattle area on one of your next PDX visits! I have tons of vintage (mixed eras of 40s, 50s, and 60s) to work with but editing is my weakness. It’s also been a pleasure to watch you go from single kid to a giddy happy family man!

  18. 4.4.12
    Jenn said:

    None of this wonderfulness surprises me one bit. I knew she’d be a great dog and you’d be great parents. Our dogs are allowed on every piece of furniture as well. Most of it white! That’s what my overpriced Dyson is for. Funny you made the chihuahua/pit bull comment. Our pit mix hasn’t an aggressive bone in her body. Our chihuahua? Loves us but HATES everyone else and has no problem showing you that side of her charming chihuahua-ness.

  19. 4.4.12
    Sara said:

    I am SO inspired by your blog and your AMAZING design ideas. On such a small budget, you create and design such beautifu things.
    I also love living vicariously through your adventures around Brooklyn and NYC.
    SIGH… one day I will be able to move to New York and do the same

  20. 4.5.12

    Congrats on your first 2 years of blogging! Like so many others have said, you are so inspiring, motivating and awesome AND your writing is always entertaining and hilarious.

    I know you’ve inspired me to do a lot of things with my own house, including getting that paint off my old door knobs.

    Thank you for sharing so much with us!!

  21. 4.5.12
    Amy said:

    Hi Dan,

    (Sorry if this posts twice. Tried earlier but didn’t appear to post). Very excited to hear you’re a fellow Gallatin student and a creative writer to boot! I graduated from Gallatin in 2010 and it’s a disappointment that we never crossed paths. I pompously called my degree “Creating Character” but these days I call it “Creative Writing & Editing” in a facile attempt at provoking someone to hire me (hasn’t worked…. yet!).

    I moved to San Francisco this year and miss New York tremendously. Your blog has been a constant source of inspiration (and frequent pick-me-up) with the new-apartment new-city blues. Hit me up if you want any professor/class recommendations, I’ve got loads of them.


  22. 4.6.12
    Magpie said:

    for every post you write, I like you even more. Not only is the conent inspiring, the way you write is witty, funny and interesting. I’m convinced that you can make a living out of your words! And I really liked reading a bit more about you, not only the apartment! You seem like such a great guy!

  23. 4.7.12

    I’m just another fan in the pile, but I needed to actually say, again, that you’re a wonderful writer, and I, too, would be pleased/proud/excited to buy (and read, duh) whatever you write. And, as a member of a, uhem, different generation, I can tell you that career changes happen to us all (I’ve lost count of what career number I’m on). Let your intuition guide you, never stop doing what you’re passionate about (even as that changes), and always, always trust yourself to know what you need (my husband and I moved in together, in Brooklyn, after 6 months and we just passed our 11 year anniversary). Thank you for sharing yourself with us! And congratulations on your blog-iversary. Well done. xoxo

  24. 4.20.12
    E said:

    Don’t know how I’m just now finding your blog (well, yeah I do; your apartment was on Apartment Therapy, so that’s how), but I love it.
    And hey, let me just say, I don’t know how old you are, but when I was a college undergrad (from the ages of 18-22), I had no fucking idea what I wanted to do, and god only knows what kind of mess I’d have been in the playground that is New York. Kudos to you for being so mature and well-grounded, even if you don’t know what you want to do in life.
    And, for that matter, forget the major; the older I get, the less important the actual degree is, and the more important that I just seem to have it and be a little educated. I have a BA and an MFA, and damn it all, I’m doing something completely unrelated to either degree!
    So go out there and give ’em hell.
    I’m moving into Park Slope soon, and we love Brooklyn, so perhaps my little blind pug and I will come upon you and Mekko as we wander the borough.