10 Things... My New York Shopping Hotspots
Arguably the shopping capital of the world, New York is renowned for its ginormous department stores (too generic for my liking), high end boutiques (too fancy) and the flagship stores for popular brands like Abercrombie and Apple (can’t we just buy that stuff at home?!).
As you may be able to tell from my parentheses shade, these aren’t the places I rushed to when I spent a summer in New York. By veering off the beaten path, I’ve always found stores selling pieces we might not necessarily be able to find in Ireland. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the names and addresses of some of the cool spots I stumbled upon in Williamsburg, Park Slope and Downtown Manhattan. Had I foreseen this blog post, I would’ve taken notes.
However, the good news is that I’ve also found larger chain stores whose fine wares have managed to weigh down my suitcase and make their way all the way to my Dublin home. As you can probably tell, homeware’s my jam. My idea of shopping is perusing the aisles of kitchenware departments, sifting through baskets of antique doorknobs and finding the perfect piece of haberdashery to use for hypothetical crafting projects. Even when I shop for clothes, the main thrill for me is checking out the visual merchandising and displays.
So if you’re looking for the most visually pleasing spots to find interior inspiration, homeware and some good coffee to fuel your spree, here are my top ten* suggestions.
(* There are technically a lot more than ten mentioned. My bad.)
(The main image used above isn't great quality, I know. It's a snap I took for Instagram last Novemeber after a trip to the US during which I visited most of the places mentioned below. So in case you're wondering what a Paper & Moon shopping haul is like, there's your answer!)
Anthropologie is pretty much my happy place. I love it so much, I actually have a degree in Anthropology (true story). Not only is Anthro a great place to pick up homeware, it's an inspiring place to find ideas for crafts, colour schemes and ways to display your favourite pieces. The company is renowned for its whimsical visual merchandising that you kind of have to see to fully understand. Under the same Urban Outfitters umbrella is bridal store BHLDN and home and garden supplies haven, Terrain. Look for an Anthro with one of their concessions in store. Another sister brand whose bricks and mortar stores are so worth visiting; floaty, bohemian clothing shop Free People.
Not for the faint-hearted, Junk is exactly what it says on the tin. Truth be told, I don't think I've ever visited a shop so lacking in hygiene and so full of people who make me rush home to Wikipedia LSD. But... this place is AWESOME! I bought dozens of pieces of mismatched cutlery here that I use (having sanitized them thoroughly) everyday. Another nearby spot I love is Brooklyn Reclamation.
Butler is pretty much an all-round perfect cafe for me. The food is great, the staff are lovely (And hot. Baristas always are.). The bathrooms are wallpapered in a Rifle Paper Co. design and on top of the cistern was an amber glass bottle of "atmosphere mist", which I assume is Williamsburg for "air freshener". The industrial, yet minimal, yet comfortable interior was of course what drew me to the cafe in the first place. Given how creative the other patrons (who I imagine to all be photographers or furniture designers) always seem to be, I assume this is what lead them, MacBooks in hand, there too.
Madewell feels like the kind of clothing store everybody could appreciate. Some of their stuff is quite simple and tailored, but other pieces look like what a prairie-dwelling lumberjack would wear (which happens to be a look I dig). It's a great go-to spot for classic all-American autumn essentials. Oh, a few doors down from the 5th Ave. branch, pop into Sephora, grab a tester perfume bottle and douse yourself in Elizabeth and James' Nirvana White. It's stunning.
To non-Americans, Pottery Barn is the place that caused the apothecary table scandal between Ross, Rachel and Phoebe in Friends. But most Americans will know it as the go-to spot for fancy suburban ladies to buy throw pillows and rustic decor for their patios. As showcased in Friends, it carries a really lovely range of antique-replica furniture designed with modern living in mind. Unfortunately I've had to contain my shopping to what will fit in my suitcase; so cheeseboards, trinket boxes and last Christmas, some of their Sabyasachi Mukherjee Indian tree decorations.
Because I'm trying to pass this off as a list of "ten" places to visit, I'm going to sneak a couple of my other all-times faves in here as they're two of the many sister-brands of Pottery Barn. West Elm for younger, streamlined pieces and kitchenware store Williams-Sonoma because it's a cook's idea of heaven.
Momofuku Milk Bar
Momofuku Milk Bar is famous for their sprinkletastic birthday cake (that, according to Taylor Swift, Jay Z is a fan of). I've never tried their beloved recipe because well, it was never my birthday in New York and buying a $275 cake for yourself when it's not your birthday is a level of weirdness even I haven't reached yet. What I have had, however, are their birthday cake truffles, and some of their cookies and can confirm they are a thing of glory. Some of the cookies I tried were Klossies, a collaborative effort between Karlie Kloss and FEED that supplies meals to public schools and contributes to various philanthropic organisations around the city.
While the adormentioned Williams-Sonoma is somewhere I'd recommend foodies visit, the much more desheveled Whisk has a "know-their-shit cooks shop here" vibe about it. Along with having everything one would need to kit out their kitchen, Whisk is also a great spot to find unusual cocktail ingredients, like lavender spice bitters.
If you only take on board one suggestion from this list, let it be a visit to Chelsea Market. The former filming location of the Food Network, this factory building-turned-shopping mall is a quaint, old world space filled with cafes, homeware stores, kitchen suppliers and specialty food shops. There's also an Anthropologie (with a Terrain section) here, which cements its status as my favourite spot in the city.
Fun fact: This is the building that Oreo cookies were invented. Not so fun fact: This is also where I was on election day 2016 when I found out Donald Trump was wining the presidential race.
One of my favourite things to do in a foreign city is hit up its grocery stores. Money-saving practicalities aside, buying your snacks or lunch in a grocery shop means temporary immersing yourself with the locals, and seeing how they actually eat, live and consume (I told you I had a degree in Anthropology...!). Standard American grocery aisles tend to be stocked with over-processed, over-packaged foods, so try to visit one that's on the more healthy and responsible side. Whole Foods and Dean and DeLuca are amazing, but pretty expensive.
Trader Joe’s is a more affordable option for finding healthy foods you might not find here in Ireland. Another budget-friendly option is Foodtown of Williamsburg. When I went there last November, I bought myself some J.R. Watkins lemon non-toxic dish soap because it came in nice packaging. It's now refilled and sitting happily beside my kitchen sink. I feel zero shame about this, but also recognise that this is possibly also the reason why people don't want to go shopping with me.
So much more than just the "American Tesco" (as I shamefully once thought) Target is my idea of a day out. Clothes? Beauty? Electronics? It has 'em all! But let's be honest, I rarely go near those sections. My budget is well and truly blown in the homeware and stationery aisles. The Threshold and Nate Berkus range are my favourites for industrial, boho, tribal-inspired home decor. On my last visit, I picked up some really cool mix-and-match bar tools with copper, geode, marble and wooden handles. I intend to host many the house party just so I can show them off.