Brooklyn-dweller Audrey Gelman talks about her New York digs as a haven, a home and a hot spot
As press secretary for Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, it’s surprising that Audrey Gelman has any time to enjoy her apartment. Thankfully, Gelman was home long enough to let us in to have a look around.
THE AESTHETE: This is the perfect Brooklyn Heights apartment: small but charming and overlooking a garden. How did you discover it?
AUDREY GELMAN: Before I moved in, this place belonged to my best friend, Lena Dunham. She is the director of the new HBO television series Girls. When you are friends with Lena, you eventually make your way into one of her plot lines – I appear in two Girls episodes, playing the new girlfriend of one of the main characters’ ex-boyfriends. Lena lived here for four months and then had to go to Los Angeles to do post-production on her series. At the time I had to move out of my old apartment and she suggested that I sublet this place. That was ten months ago. Lena has since moved back to New York into another apartment nearby.
TA: Are those tiny stickers everywhere?
AG: When Lena moved in, we were sitting around the empty apartment and talking about how she could decorate. I read a story on the Internet about the artist Payton Cosell Turner, a girl in her 20s, like us, who creates elaborate sticker installations. I became obsessed. I told Lena, “You have to call her.” Payton came over and asked Lena about her interests. She incorporated some of those things in the two sticker panels she created for the living room. If you look closely, you can see a film reel, books, French fries, popcorn, and banjos. In the bedroom the walls appear to be covered with stickers but it’s wallpaper: Payton’s Too Much Stuff design.
TA: Did you change anything when you moved in?
AG: I kept the general decorative scheme of the apartment, including Lena’s colors, even though they are brighter than I would have chosen. I still have some of her furniture. I did move in a lot of old books, heirlooms, and wooden crates – I like things that are older, more worn and loved.
TA: What’s with all the political memorabilia?
AG: I collect everything from Eisenhower matches to pins for New York mayoral campaigns for Abe Beame, John Lindsay and David Dinkins. I’m a political junkie. I work as the press secretary for the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. It’s always been my dream to work for an elected official. As a kid, I watched Meet the Press and The West Wing. When I was 20, I worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
TA: Seven closets are impressive for a 500-square-foot apartment.
AG: Storage was important to me. The acquisition of clothing is definitely a hobby of mine. I love labels like Ann Demeulemeester, Opening Ceremony, Acne, and Isabel Marant. I have a lot of shoes: Walter Steiger flats and Tod’s driving shoes, my favorite practical option.
TA: You’ve been a bit homebound lately?
AG: Yes. I recently broke my toe. I tripped on a chair at the office. So I’m spending a lot of time on my laptop in bed with my cat Lyle, a Persian mix. She’s usually much fluffier but I had her shaved, lion-style. My boyfriend gave me this beautiful bedding for Christmas – a Hermès blanket and a set of sheets from the Bowery Hotel. I’ve had the Raggedy Ann doll since I was a kid. There’s an Andy, too. He’s in Thailand at the moment with my sister.
TA: Tell me about your art collection.
AG: I mostly collect art by friends. I have a yarn drawing over the fireplace by Samantha Dylan Mitchell. There is a pen and ink sketch by the cartoonist Joana Avillez: it shows designs for acrylic fingernails, which she actually produces.
TA: Do you cook or entertain at home?
AG: When I moved in, the gas for the stove had never even been turned on. Lena told me she just got takeout. It works now but I don’t cook a lot. For me, my apartment is a sanctuary. There is a place for everything. It’s my home base.