Her choice: love, or rent in her beloved studio. It took some thought.
It was a strange apartment, and the people who fell in love with it fell hard for it. Lauren Wood was one of them.
With its arched entrance, the long, narrow Williamsburg Studio was a carriageway. There were pieces of history everywhere — a tin roof, an original door handle — and a gravel backyard with bright green ivy climbing the wall. “The backyard was the reason I was there,” Ms. Wood said. “It was crazy.”
When she saw the apartment in the summer of 2021, she knew she wanted to live there, but it was outside her budget. However, she was determined to make it work, she had fallen in love after all.
The family that owned the three-story building with four units had just moved upstate and was looking for help with some household chores. So Mrs. Wood blew leaves in the fall, took out the trash twice a week and signed packages whenever she asked. In return, she received a $200 monthly rent deduction for the perfect apartment.
“It was cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and had enough space to store my books,” she said.
Even the flaws somehow felt right. The radiators hissed nicely and didn’t disturb her sleep, and the creaking wooden stairs in the building reminded her of the old home she shared with college friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She even found a way to make peace with a wayward backyard cat, especially as he kept rodents away. “I wouldn’t go near him because he would hiss, but I left him the candy and we respected each other,” she said.
It was the backyard that deepened her sense of connection to the place. On Sunday evenings, she would hear live jazz music coming from the Ammazzacaffè restaurant, which was located in the dining nook of her secluded space. When a friend showed her an online review of the restaurant, she pointed out a fact that surprised Ms. Wood: Betty Smith, the author of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” grew up in the apartment above the restaurant.
“I first read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in elementary school, and I felt connected to the main character, Francie, in a way I still struggle to explain,” she said. “I always felt like she took the ideas straight out of my head and put them on the page.”
Throughout her life, Ms. Wood noted many common connections with Francie’s character — an early love of the library, similar family dynamics, and even attendance at the University of Michigan.
And suddenly there was a very immediate connection by way of her backyard: “In the book, Francie describes sitting on her fire escape, looking out into the backyards, often describing the pebbled backyard with horses. This must have been inspired by the backyard.” that came with my apartment.Suddenly I felt re-reading the book with my neighborhood in mind, the streets of the novel lining up perfectly with my daily walks.Somehow, the attraction I felt towards the apartment made sense.
However, it wasn’t the only apartment she fell in love with. Also there was Derek Brown, her boyfriend of six years.
To his credit, Mr. Brown came first. “We met in 2016, working as pages on Saturday Night Live,” he recalls. “We worked side by side 70 hours a week, so we got to know each other really well.”
Ms Wood said it was helpful, from the start, “to know how to deal with each other in moments of great stress”.
They enjoyed a two-year friendship, then began dating in 2018. Mr. Brown watched Ms. Wood settle into her studio. “It was very intentional in this space,” he said. “It was about creating a home, creating an oasis for herself, and she found that. Every piece of the apartment had an interesting story and meaning to her.
$4200 | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Lauren Wood, 29
works: Advertising video producer
In close friends: Ms. Wood initially moved to Williamsburg during the COVID pandemic, when she and several friends considered the benefits of living close together. “We wanted to be able to walk into each other’s apartments,” she said. “We realized how important everyday life, stopping by someone’s house or going for a walk can be to us.”
When landing the new apartment: After viewing six apartments in one day, Mrs. Wood knew the moment she walked into the last one that it was right for her and Mr. Brown. “To get the place, I had to cut out the middleman at an open house and wire transfer a month’s rent,” she said. “Everyone wastes time testing the water pressure, and I thought I’d already gotten my deposit.”
Earlier this year Mr Brown had raised, with a mixture of great hope and trepidation, the possibility of moving in together, just as their leases were about to be renewed.
“It was a very difficult decision for me to make because I loved the space I was in so much,” Ms. Wood said. “Romantic decisions that seem like they should be based on emotions and feelings, such as deciding to move in with someone, often boil down to ‘When is the lease up?’
When she considered whether or not to leave the apartment, she realized that she had found herself there in many ways.
“I took a month to think about it,” she said. “It had to be a very individual decision. It was voluntarily giving up a part of myself. I asked myself: What kind of person do I want to be in this decision-making process? I decided that I wanted to be the kind of person who makes decisions that lead to action, not inaction.
So, in July, Ms. Wood moved into a two-bedroom apartment with Mr. Brown. “It’s time for us to live together,” she said, smiling.
Their apartment, which was a church rectory, is a short walk from her old home. The streets still look familiar, and there’s still the chance to pass Ammazzacaffè and Betty Smith’s old apartment.
They find the feeling of a new place together and, for the first time, enjoy the luxury of a home office and dishwasher.
“Lauren loves to make an apartment feel like a home, so we are trying to emulate that in our new apartment,” Mr. Brown said. “I just want to make sure she feels happy and doesn’t feel like she’s leaving behind an apartment she loved but is excited about the new home we’re building together.”
Once again, Mrs. Wood’s thoughts turn to her favorite novel – especially the ending.
“Francie is moving away and we don’t know exactly where she will end up or what will happen to her,” she said. “It’s part of the story that I’ve always struggled with. I feel like a lot of people in your 20s ask the question: ‘Is this where I’m supposed to be?’ Is this what I’m supposed to do? But now I know I’m in the right place.” “