Motherhood Mondays: Brooklyn Househunting

The other day, Alex and I saw the raddest apartment in Brooklyn…

Right now, we live in a teeny apartment in Manhattan. We’re comfy in our home, but our apartment is a third-floor walk-up, gets mice every now and again, and a piece of the kitchen wall literally fell off the other day. It’s the kind of shabby shoebox apartment you love when you’re young…but do you raise kids there?

Plus, our friends in Manhattan are leaving in droves. Some have moved to New Jersey or Westchester or Connecticut; others to California or Portland. But we’re thinking Brooklyn might be best for us. That way, we can still be part of our beloved city and close to the action, but we can retreat to our tree-lined street and have a garden for Toby (and, fingers crossed, another little one soon). Plus, it’s so safe, apparently people forget to lock their doors! We’re starting to poke around and consider moving.

The fun part is looking at real-estate listings! Our friend Porter is an agent, so she emails us with beautiful homes she finds. This LOVELY Brooklyn Heights brownstone apartment, below, would be at the tippy top of our budget, but how gorgeous is the ENORMOUS living/dining room? Plus, there are two fireplaces to keep you cozy in the winter. And wouldn’t you love to wake up in that sunlit bedroom? The dealbreaker, though, is that the second bedroom is the size of a walk-in closet, so it wouldn’t work to squeeze two kids in there. Bummer. Otherwise, isn’t it a lovely place?

Where would you want to raise a child? Do you live in Brooklyn? Do you live in Manhattan with kids? Where did you grow up? Did you share a room with a sibling? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

(Top photo by the Brooklyn Home Company; home photos by Corcoran)

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  5. Brooklyn is the best – I promise that after a week here, you’ll wonder how you ever lived in Manhattan (I was there for 7 years before making the move – what?!).

    I prefer slightly more out-of-the-way neighborhoods like Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Heights, and Sunset Park – you should check them out if you’re not wedded to your chosen locations (which are lovely too, of course) – you can get a lot of space for not much money, are super close to a big park (Prospect or Sunset), and they’re wonderfully diverse – lots immigrants, Brooklyn old-timers, and transplants.

    Good luck!

  6. never lived in brooklyn but on my list im from the bronx up town area so this would be nice to have a family here or queens i love queens. i cant live nyc unless i live very close like edgewater nj.

  7. tunie says...

    Stick with one special well-loved child. Problem solved!

  8. My fiancé and I moved from a Venice Beach bungalow, i.e. shack, that we shared with two others all the way to Atlanta, where we enjoy (all to ourselves!) a three bedroom cottage with a GIANT backyard. And guess what? We pay less, in fact, a lot less.

    Although there are things we miss out Cali, we will never miss having to live on top of strangers and scrambling to find rent money…

    P.S. I love nothing more than stalking red fin and trulia late, late at night even though I’m happily situated. Thanks for sharing your future prospects with us voyeur types!

  9. Don’t know if anyone else has mentioned it, but Jordan Ferney, of Oh, Happy Day converted a closet into a bedroom for her two boys. Closet-sized bedroom: totally doable.
    Besides, with all that open space around the house, surely you could carve out some actual room for kids to play!

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  11. I grew up in Manhattan and loved it! I think it’s a great place to raise kids and I will do the same. I currently live in East Village on St Marks with my husband. When it’s time for kids (in a couple years) we will most likely live in Astoria or LIC or Cobble Hill or Park Slope because a 5story walk up is not family friendly! Good luck on house hunting!

  12. I just got back from a week stay in Brooklyn Heights. It’s my favorite neighborhood in NYC and perfect for families! Cobble Hill is adorable, too. Especially the little cafe, Ted & Honey :)

  13. Joanna!

    My husband and I are in the midst of looking for an apartment in Brooklyn too. We need more space for our two children and us. Plus I am tired of the incessant noise and traffic when I walk my children to and from school. I cannot even hear what they say when they try and talk to me. (we live south of Tribeca).
    I want trees and birds in trees and a cool neighborhood feeling, a sense of community even. Several friends did the move from Manhattan to Brooklyn and do not regret it.

    We are looking to rent a 3 bedroom but our children will still share a room – they love being (fighting with each tother) together.

    Good luck on your house hunting! Where in Brooklyn are you looking first?
    In the meantime, do you have any website or agent you could recommend for rentals?

    Thank you!

  14. My goodness – that’s a pricey (and beautiful) co-op! Wowza!

  15. Freckle Face says...

    I have lived up in Central New York, in between Albany and Syracuse, my whole entire life. I have moved to various places within my current location and am currently engaged. My fiance and I can’t wait to move down to Brooklyn actually. We are both city people and think that not by this summer but next summer, we should be down in NYC :)

  16. I grew up in a relatively small town in Brazil and now I’m living in Rio de Janeiro. I’m getting married in november and thinking about raising children in this city frightens me a bit. How do you do it in New York? I really admire you for doing that! :)
    I love your blog, by the way!

  17. Hi Jo! First time commenter – I love your blog, you’re like the big sister I never had. I am a DCer and moved to Arlington, VA right across the Potomac River when my (now) husband and I moved in together 3 years ago. I am nostalgic for city living but there is something nice about front porches, counter space, outdoor showers (my dream!) and backyards. If you can find this within easy drive/public transport to a city – I say go for it! I know we’ll raise our kids in Arlington and I am excited for that day.

  18. hehe…I had to laugh at the idea of all of Brooklyn being safe enough to keep doors unlocked. We are in Bushwick, which is very “up and coming” but lacks the bucolic tree-lined streets of Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights. And we would never dream of leaving our doors unlocked or our window gate open! :) That said, I do love Brooklyn as a whole and if we could afford Brooklyn Heights, we would probably move there in an instant. Good luck with your search!

  19. OMG. That apartment is beautiful.

    It’s so funny that you say people are moving to Portland. I love it! I remember when I moved there in 2003, I had friends commenting how I had chosen to live in the “country.” These friends are from Los Angeles…
    Portland is a gem of a small city.

  20. Look in Prospect Heights…it’s the best mix of whats great about Brooklyn, and so close to prospect park!

  21. calitobklyn says...

    Brooklyn is fabulous! I think you guys would love it here. I teach preschool in Park Slope, but live in Boerum Hill (a neighborhood I definitely recommend!) If you need tips on the preschool hunt in the next couple years, (or babysitting :) I’d be honored to help!

  22. Anonymous says...

    I LOVE Brooklyn. I lived in Manhattan for 10 yrs before crossing over 8 yrs ago and haven’t looked back. BK really saved me from the suburbs. It’s like living in a great small city within the big city. We live in Park Slope and it’s been a wonderful place to live and raise my daughter. And Prospect Park is fantastic and a godsend when you need a place to let your child just run. We have access to 4 great playgrounds in walking distance (3 of them in the park). The schools are great here too which should be your top priority. Find the schools you like and find an apartment in that zone. No matter how wonderful the space, if you are unhappy with your child’s school, you won’t be happy. Good Luck!

  23. I would die with jealousy if you moved there. I just moved away from Brooklyn Heights out to the country. I LOVED LOVED LOVED it there… but I did lock my door!

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  25. Anonymous says...

    We moved to Brooklyn Heights for that very reason, but now that w have a kiddo we never get out to see th city… But we’re still paying insane rates for mortgage, groceries, and more. We’re thinking of moving back to my hometown, Cleveland, which I swore i’d never do, but i can’t see it nattering much for the next 10 years or so.

  26. Anonymous says...

    We live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the past year their has been a baby boom of 25-35yr old first time parents. You can’t walk down the street without passing a stroller. Mommy happy hrs at bars on Mondays. A huge pool is opening in a week in MacCarren Park. Waterfront, Good food. It’s getting really expensive so many are retreating as all the Manhattan folk invade :). I love to hate it. We have a 14month old son and it’s great, but at times it’s almost too much. We are thinking of moving to Jersey actually. I think one is doable but not two in Brooklyn unless you have a lot of money. Best of Luck on expanding your family! I adore your little family.

  27. Anonymous says...

    i am a huge fan of your blog — but i think this post made me realize that i am nowhere close to having a life like yours, nor will i ever be. my husband and i can’t afford to buy in the HOOD of the the same city that you love. right now, we rent in astoria. again, not trying to be a hater — but i think i just need to realize that reading your blog is just like reading a magazine or seeing some movie that makes me want a life i will never have.

  28. Last year I moved from the West Coast to NY with my two boys (both in elementary school). I think I ended up mostly stressed about the school they would be going to and the safety of the neighborhood. I know people love Brooklyn, but I love Forest Hills. My dream is to one day afford a place of our own in The Gardens – honestly, it’s like they took some old English town and transported it to NY – tudor houses, shrub lined yards and all.

  29. Are you sure you can’t take that fabulous place? Jordan at Oh Happy Day made a lovely bedroom for her two boys in a closet and they looked happy as pie and cozy to boot.

  30. I grew up on the West Coast and lived in an airy, windowed house in the hills of Eugene, OR. Now I have three daughters (4,6,7) and live at the base of a mountain between Saratoga Springs and Lake George. We’ve constructed a tree fort for the girls and have a garden w/broccoli, cukes, tomatoes, beans and herbs that the girls pick for me. They alternate between living “orphan style” (their term, not mine. They love Annie) with three beds and having their own rooms.

    All that said, they are rhapsodic about NYC. I think the gift in any home is that it gives you a place to love as well as places far away to appreciate.

    Good luck on the home and womb front ;)

  31. I bought an apartment in Brooklyn last June and I love it! It’s in Fort Greene and if you have not looked here yet, you really should. The location is perfect: it has proximity to subways, beautiful park, and tons of delicious restaurants.

  32. Oh my, I’d move into that bedroom in a heartbeat! My family moved all the time, and I often shared a room with my little sister. There were times I loved it and times I didn’t, as siblings will be. :)

  33. Anonymous says...

    Love the thought of another Jo-Alex baby! Brooklyn sounds great!

  34. We moved to Pelham, NY. Great town- right over the border of the Bronx in Westchester County, 25 minute train ride to Grand Central, Lots of interesting people, warm community. And I said I’d NEVER leave the city. . .

  35. My parents moved to LA from England in the 80’s and when my sister and I were in their future vision, they moved to Portland, OR. It was the best place to grow up. Back then, it was still dumpy and we had some land. Now it’s more bustling and I still love it.

    I would love to live in Brooklyn!! Next year, my boyfriend’s job may take us to New Jersey but he said he would consider moving to Brooklyn and accept a bit more of a commute!

  36. Wilkie says...

    Nth-ing downtown Jersey City! I live down by the Hudson waterfront, a few blocks from the Grove Street and Exchange Place PATH stations, and can easily get to say Union Square Greenmarket in about 20-25 minutes from my front door. Not that I usually need to, since there are five different farmers markets a week within a couple blocks of my house. Lots of gorgeous (and roomy, for farrrrr less $ than BK) brownstones with yards, a huge arts community, young progressive families, parks & activities for kids (we just took our six-year-old to a fantastic local children’s theater that also runs a summer writing & acting camp) … etc! etc! anyway! So yeah, I get excited, and really love the neighborhood. Best of luck with the search!

  37. I know you get TONS of comments on here and I’m not sure you ever get to read them all, but my boyfriend and I moved to Astoria for the reason that most people leave Manhattan: space and money. I know Queens is not as “cool” as Brooklyn, but the amount of space you get for the rent prices is unheard of, and half the cost of Brooklyn. We’re just as close to Manhattan (if not closer to midtown), the neighborhoods are just as safe, if not safer, than Brooklyn, and a good friend of mine rents an entire free-standing 2 story HOUSE (complete with a backyard that includes a fig tree and a peach tree and concord grape vines!) for $2500 a month. Central Park is a 10 minute subway ride away and the entire neighborhood is incredibly family friendly. If you’ve never considered it, I highly recommend it! I’d never live in any other neighborhood (and… our building is FULL of kids). Happy hunting!

  38. Living vicariously through you, Joanna. :) Oh to live in a little brownstone in Brooklyn and have the city across the bridge!!!

  39. I grew up in a small college town in Illinois, but have always felt so at home in Brooklyn. My fiancee and I are actually in the process of closing on an apt in Sunnyside, Queens now. Just last night, I was home here in the Gowanus feeling majorly melancholy about leaving our neighborhood. We’ve come to know our neighbors and have a really awesome life here. However, buying in our beloved neighborhood is out of the question.

    So, I’m treating myself to a little bit of sad time, but then focusing on all the positives to come: elevator!, washing machines!, views of the city!, 2 real bedrooms!…it is taking some adjusting, but at least I’ll still be in my lovely city (and a train ride away from the “home I grew up in” within New York.) Also watching some Woody Allen and reminding myself everything is as it should be :)

    Best of luck in your search! It really is quite fun.

  40. We’re about to move out of Berlin for work reasons, but I think it’s a GREAT place to raise kids! Really kid-friendly, but at the same time very urban. The only real downside is that it is so sprawling that it takes forever to get anywhere.

    We’re going to the North German coast now, and I’m pretty excited to raise my kid by the sea.

  41. househunting is fun but the actual process of selling/buying/moving = hugely stressful. sounds like you might end up doing the whole thing while preggo. we did that, i was 8.5 month pregnant when we finally moved in and we had a lovely home birth surrounded by boxes of our belongings. why do people always move house, undertake massive building works or buy a big dog when they’re expecting?!?

    we live in brighton on the south coast of england in a skinny victorian terrace. it’s a fab town for bringing up kids EXCEPT i have had to accept that our boys may end up with southern accents – gulp.

    good luck with the hunt. x

  42. I just love househunting posts (that appartment is amazing)! So, I’ll be super happy if you decide to share your househunting process with us readers. :)

    I’m from Finland, but I currently live in Italy with my italian husban-to-be and two dogs. We lived in Milan for few years, but moved to a smaller city a year ago for many reasons; one of them being to be able to start thinking about starting a family.. In a small city life is less expensive, and more safe.

    Sure there are plenty of pro’s living in the city too (lot’s of things to do and see, schools to choose from, etc.), but for me it’s very important that our future children will have a little garden where they can play and taste self grown strawberries.. ;)

  43. Anonymous says...

    I live in Ditmas area (Flatbush) Brooklyn. We lucked into a wreck of a single family Victorian. My house rocks, but I would love to be back on the Upper West Side or out of the city altogether. The school issues really suck and are of serious concern. Oh, and we have 2.5 year old with 2.0 on the way.

  44. I grew up in CT so I was always close to NYC. I’m moving to VA in August and had to search for an apartment and lease without being to look at it (10 hour drive wasn’t justifiable) so I’m more nervous than anything.

  45. Kathleen says...

    I was born in San Jose, CA, but moved to a ranch in rural San Luis Obispo County when I was five. I have 5 brothers and 1 sister. my sister and i shared a room until she went away to college for one semester (she missed home so much) and then moved back and got married a few months later. i really missed her! she was so comforting when I was scared at night. even though we had twin beds if i was scared she would let me get in bed with her. we’ve lived in small towns ever since. my husband built out current house and we’ve lived here for 27 years and raised our 4 children here. i want to live here the rest of my life. i love the apartment!!!

  46. man, big time decisions. Funny thing is that I was under the impression that you already lived in Brooklyn! hahaha. So I think it would be fitting for you and your fambam.
    I was born and raised in LA, but at the same time I don’t know if I would raise my kids here or could even afford raising a family in this city (deciding on public schools in LA can be a nightmare and private schools are very $$$). It’s such a different story when you factor kids into the equation…
    You’re always shelling out awesome posts, simple yet though provoking!
    Good luck on the move!!!

  47. Hi Joanna,

    I moved to Denver about 8 years ago 8 months pregnant with my second child after living 4 years in a one bedroom walk-up on the upper West side. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted my kids to have a big yard and a house they could grow up in. I so miss my favorite NYC, but gave it up for my kids, boo. We love it here though!

  48. Anonymous says...

    We lived in a tiny apt in midtown west when we got married and till our son was 9 months… Then we moved to Austin and we love it here! Good luck to you and your adorable family!

  49. Anonymous says...

    I’d love to know the square footage of your current apartment. My husband and I live in a teeny tiny “2 bedroom” cottage in Los Angeles (under 600 sq ft I believe) and are thinking about expanding our family. Curious what you are working with.

  50. Carol says...

    That apartment is beautiful!

    I didn’t grow up in Brooklyn or Manhattan – I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. It’s nothing at all like New York and while it can feel a bit sleepy when you’re in your 20’s, it’s a great city. It’s so clean and the weather is amazing.

    I grew up in an old 4 bedroom house as the youngest of 4 siblings. I shared a room with my brother when I was younger, but got my own room when I was about 8 or 9. We had a big playroom and a HUGE backyard, with trees to climb, a trampoline, a pool and a big dog. And it was awesome.

    I don’t know where I’ll end up when the time comes for kids (I’m just about to move to the UK). But I’ve always thought that I would never raise kids in an apartment, I would want a place with a big yard and plenty of space.

  51. Anonymous says...

    Move to BK! You won’t regret it. The culture, the people, the diversity, the FOOD, the fun is all amazing. I’m a Manhattan girl who moved to BK two years ago, and I would never move back to Manhattan after all the glorious sites I’ve seen in Brooklyn. Highly encourage this!

  52. I live in a teeny tiny town in northern Wisconsin and the other night (after celebrating my fiancé’s birthday at the bar) we forgot to even SHUT the front door. Wide open all night. Who needs locks when the door doesn’t shut!
    We’re moving into our first place of our own on Sunday, the day after our wedding – can’t wait!

  53. How exciting! On all counts.
    I shared with my sister for years (until I was 15, actually) and I am so glad I did. I learned tolerance for having people in my space, which helped when I went off to college so much! I’m pro-room sharing.
    Best of luck.

  54. We lived in NYC with our 2 year old son (in the Theatre Disctrict). We went from a studio to a one bedroom in the same building.

    But as my son began to approach school age, we decided to leave NYC and move to Toronto, Canada. Instead of making a move to Brooklyn or NJ, like most of our friends, we took a big leap and left the U.S.

    I am from Toronto, but my husband is a New Yorker. He applied for immigration status, received a job transfer to a Toronto office with his NYC company, and we started anew north of the border.

    At first we lived in a condo in an area called Harbourfront, along the lake, in downtown Toronto. It happens to be my favourite neighbourhood in the city (here are a few photos

    But soon, we wanted a little more space for my son, a garden, and an ideal school. So, we recently moved to an area called North Toronto (still downtown, but filled with families and tree-lined streets, very Park Slope).

    Despite the fact that moving was he best thing for our family, I still miss NYC. My American husband loves living in Toronto and has no interest in moving back to the U.S. I, on the other hand, have a few other ideas for the future :)

  55. Anonymous says...

    We live in Ditmas Park, which is a super lovely neighborhood full of old victorian houses. It’s the best of Brooklyn and the burbs all rolled into one! You should check it out.

  56. I grew up in Manhattan and shared a room with my brother. My parents might have decided to stay in a tiny two bedroom if we were both girls – I have friends who shared a bedroom (and one bathroom!) until college!

    I live in Brooklyn now and LOVE it. Come on over to the other side! It is much quieter and calmer here but there is still LOTS going on, delicious food, parks, bars, museums, music – and great bike riding!

  57. I grew up in Brooklyn during a different time…and not in a neighborhood that is at all trendy, even today. I shared a room with my sister. I really loved my childhood there. We moved to the ‘burbs (long island) when I was 8. I always kind of wondered what life would be like if we hadn’t left…

  58. I know you’re both pretty avid New Yorkers, but have you considered Hoboken? Yes its New Jersey but its beautiful and you’d get crazy amount of space both inside and (gasp!) outdoor space. I live here and have a back deck and a grill. You might even have enough room for a puppy … The path makes it so easy to jump back in the city. Just a thought!

  59. If we had jobs that would bring us back to NY, we would live in Brooklyn in a heart beat. At this point in our lives, I think we would prefer Brooklyn to Manhattan. There just seems to be a more welcome family vibe out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting and playing in the city, but I also like to retreat back to a ‘homey’ home.

    Best of luck in the decisions!

  60. That dining room red gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.

  61. this is so exciting! apartment hunting in nyc is one of the most daunting tasks i’ve ever undertaken, but oh gosh is it fun to look–and find :)

    i was just in brooklyn heights yesterday and it really is a beautiful, quaint neighborhood. i’m 24 and single, so these thoughts are a few years away for me, but i’d love to raise a family in/around nyc. it’s a world away from my small town southern upbringing–which is wonderful in its own way!