The Global Financial Crisis hit New York about six weeks after I moved to SoHo in 2008. It was just in time to come AFTER I'd signed a 12-month lease on my apartment, effectively locking me into a year in a dodgy, six-floor walk-up with mice and bed-bugs, for a price that could have rented me a doorman building and an internal laundry, if only I'd waited. The crisis also hit the Australian dollar hard, which was particularly tough since I was in the US on a Foreign Correspondent visa so all my income was Australian. Suddenly, I lost 40 percent of everything I earned in the exchange, and that came after tax. The meagre savings I took with me on the move that should have paid for new furniture and everyday household goods that you take for granted (like dinnerware and cutlery and pillows and clocks), was almost completely swallowed up by currency exchange. There was just enough left to cover my broker's fee.
So, like so many people before me, I started my new life in New York by furnishing my apartment with an odd assortment of hand-me-downs, thrifted finds and found objects. A dubious futon sofa-bed, left behind by the previous tenant. A desk that a client of my friend's cleaner was giving away. An unbelievably-heavy metal shelving unit, left on the third-floor landing of my building.
These three bottles were among the very few luxuries on which I splashed out during that time. They are hand-blown, and graced the window of a homewares store on Thompson Street a block or so up from where I lived. I thought they were just beautiful. The play of the three colours. The way the light flowed through some surfaces and bounced off others. How smooth and heavy they felt in my hands. I carried the bottles home and sat them the window sill overlooking my fire-escape where the sun, even during darkest winter, could do them justice.
There wasn't much I took home with me when I returned to Australia, but these bottles were among the first I packed. Carefully, tenderly, in reams of tissue paper and bubble wrap. And despite five Interstate moves in the 18 months that followed, this little glass trio has graced a table-top, a window-sill or a mantle-piece in every house I've lived since.
Our newly renovated home is still very much a blank canvas. You won't see many pictures on walls or cushions on couches or other little pieces to give it character. That's why I haven't featured before-and-after photographs or stories on this blog yet (that, and because by the time I've cleaned and tidied the house to a degree to which I'd be happy to photograph it for you, there's no time left to actually take the photographs). But my three New York bottles sit proudly above the hearth in our dining room, still gleaming like jewels after all that time and all those moves.
Until I came to Melbourne, I really hadn't felt at home since leaving New York. In each place we lived, these three bottles were my pretty little homesick tonic. Something both constant and lovely.
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"Little Things" is a new, occasional series about the stories behind some of the little things you'll find around my home. One day, I promise to share the big stories about our home renovation. Are there stories behind the little things in your home? I'd love you to tell me about them! Or if you'd like to join in and write a post like this of your own, don't forget to share a link to it so I can read it.
ps. Can you help? I'd love to know more about the artist who made these bottles. I bought them from a shop called Clio on Thompson Street in SoHo (between Prince and Spring) which has since closed down. The owner told me the artist was from Brooklyn, but that's all I know.