Brooklyn Apartment Hunt

We’ve been thinking about moving to Brooklyn for a while, and…

…our search is gearing up! It’s exciting. Last weekend, we saw five places with our friend Porter, who recently became a realtor. Of the five apartments we saw, we fell in love with one, but sadly it was over our budget. Going to see places is incredibly helpful, though, since we learn so much about what we’re looking for.

Our list includes: A two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens. On a low floor since I hate elevators. A garden would be amazing!

I’m curious: Do you think it’s key to have the kitchen and living room close together or even combined? Some apartments have the living room and kitchen on opposite ends, but would that mean that your family would be split up a lot of the time?

Overall, I’ve been surprised by how emotional the process is. We’ll see a place, and I’ll immediately envision children running around and Alex making brunch and having relatives come for Thanskgiving. So when we realize that we can’t quite afford it or there’s a dealbreaker, then it’s weirdly emotional. I didn’t anticipate that at all. It’s almost like dating.

Of course now I can’t stop watching the show House Hunters and pinning home photos:)

Where do you live? Do you like your home? Anything you’d recommend looking out for while searching? We’d be so grateful for any advice! xoxo

(Bedding photo by Imogen Heath)

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  2. I can totally understand why house-hunting can be emotional, especially when you have a family to consider. The house that you eventually pick to turn into your home becomes part of your family. It protects your loved ones and your most valuable possessions. That’s why you should never settle for the first inexpensive place you happen upon.

    Nannie Toller

  3. I lived in brooklyn for a while and loved all of those areas. I would also recommend looking in park slope… such a lovely are with cute little boutiques, restaurants, close to the park and just over the bridge =) can you tell I lived there? -jb.

  4. We live in Carroll Gardens and while there is no patter of teeny tiny toes in our apartment just yet (besides the pup), we do love the wide streets, the huge gardens, the parks, the people, the dining and the bars. It’s an unbelievably wonderful neighborhood! Best wishes in your search.

  5. We live in Carroll Gardens and while there is no patter of teeny tiny toes in our apartment just yet (besides the pup), we do love the wide streets, the huge gardens, the parks, the people, the dining and the bars. It’s an unbelievably wonderful neighborhood! Best wishes in your search.

  6. Within a couple weeks of getting married, my husband had to come start his new job and find us an apartment in Germany – by himself! When I arrived a month later, I was stunned at how amazing our place is. It’s my favorite place I’ve ever lived. 12-ft ceilings with ornate molding, hardwood floors, three bedrooms, lots of light… all things we didn’t have – and frankly couldn’t afford – in the SF Bay area. Sure, our stairs feel like they might fall in every time we come up to our apartment and our bathroom floor is actually sinking after a bad leak a few months back, but it just feels like home.

    Since space is a hot commodity where you’re looking, I’d say lots of light/an outdoor space would be the best thing in apartments. Even if your place it small, having a bit of the outdoors can make all the difference. Best of luck with your search!

  7. I looove going house/apartment hunting. I like to look at all the options you can get and most of the time my favorites are out of my price range as well.. *Le Sigh* I think I prefer to have the kitchen and dining room combo. I love to cook and being cooped up all by my lonesome would feel like I was getting a time out. But, what I really DON’T like is when the living room, dining room AND kitchen are all combined. Just looks like a huge jumble of furniture to me. Oh well, I hope you find something you love!

    This Silly Girl’s Life

  8. it’s horribly emotional.
    I’m happy that my boyfried moved to my town one and a half years ago but now we want to move together and even in a middlebig german town it’s not that easy finding a nice and comfortable appartment with a limited (middle)low budget. I started searching around November last year and we tightened our efforts 3-4 months ago. Every appartment we visited yet was sadly smal, in a sad condition or in a sad neighbourhood. Discouraging.
    Unless we viewed an appartment this morning. One room less than we expected but the whole appartment even bigger than we expected. It’s big and generous, very bright, 4th floor and very quiet, directly at the river with a wonderful view (over a big garden that belongs to the house)… we love it and now I have to sleep two more nights before I can ask for it… I wonder how this should work and I would be very disappointed if we do not get it…
    You are right, it is very empotional, scary and exiting.
    I want it so deeply… I already see myself on the balcony facing the river, watching the rowers, enjoying the evening sun…

    Good luck for your search!
    ina (o:

  9. Brooklyn is great and you will love it! Check school districts and zones to help narrow your search (try Moving is such a big process, you don’t want to be forced to move when Toby is ready for school. The areas you are looking at have great public schools but the zone lines can be funky (our neighbors across the street are zoned for a different school then we are!) Best of luck and if your neighborhoods don’t work out, try Windsor Terrace, but shhh. We like to keep it quiet how amazing it is over here and let people think it is Park Slope’s poor cousin.

  10. Live in Carroll Gardens and can unequivocally recommend the neighborhood, though most of the families I know own the whole brownstone and at most rent out the garden apartment. Everyone has their kitchen separated from the family room. That way the kitchen tends to become the hangout spot and the family room is really the TV room. I’ve noticed less TV watching and more homework help while mom or dad are cooking.

  11. Hello from Australia, Newcastle to be precise. I LOVE your blog and stumbled randomly onto it. We are about to start looking for houses too. We have 2 little ones and a dog so need a little grass. I am completely torn between being further out with some greenery and land or closer in the city and closer to cafes, culture, restaurants etc. Ahhhh. It is nervewrecking. I am also throwing in the conundrum of suburb due to school choice. I would like to be in our next place for 5 -10 years and my eldest, Isadora, will be due to start school. I would like her to go to a public school for primary school so need to be in good zoning. Love love love your blog and have been reading for a while. Thanks xx

  12. I live and work out of my Brownstone in Carroll Gardens, running PeekBrooklyn(.)Com! Its the best of both worlds! We have a giant duplex with a Garden, the kitchen has become our second living room!
    This neighborhood is great for kids, a park every few blocks and enough places to get ice cream you are sure a melt down every block. Hope to run into you for a coffee in the hood.

  13. I can’t even imagine how you find time to read all these comments but for what its worth my hubby and I bought our first home last year and the kitchen and living room are situated across the foyer from each other. At first I was a bit concerned about it but it has been a positive for us. Meal time is therefore about sitting at the table as a family and play/tv time is separate. And remember you probably won’t live there forever so you can’t always get everything you are looking for in your first purchase. A garden, 3 bedrooms and a bath were by far more important to us. Good luck. x

  14. We live in Prospect Heights and really love it. Home prices are still affordable – far, far less then in the closer-to-Manhattan zones – and you get so much more for your money. The neighborhood is beautiful, relaxed, family-friendly (also younger and less stuffy than nearby Park Slope), and full of good places for dinner, coffee, bagels, ice cream… Just a couple blocks away are (in my opinion) some of the very best places in Brooklyn: the main branch of Brooklyn Public Library, Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Brooklyn Museum. Farmers’ markets and food truck rallies take place at Grand Army Plaza on the weekends. Transportation to the city is easy – 2,3, B, Q, all within a few blocks. Vanderbilt Ave is booming, possibly because we’re just close enough to the much-protested Barclay’s Center to get residual development (and hopefully no ill-effects). In terms of making an investment in property, I think Prospect Heights is a great choice in the long term. I highly recommend this neighborhood!

  15. I just moved in w/ my boyfriend to a beautiful apartment in Park Slope (we were in Willamsburg/Greenpoint before). It was the first place we looked at, at was over our budget, but was just too good to pass up. It’s only a one bedroom, but has pretty much everything else that you could ask for in a Brooklyn apartment…a private deck and backyard access, a laundry room in the apartment, huge windows and gorgeous details. Ultimately we decided that spending the extra money was worth it, and that we would do our best to pinch pennies in other areas, like trying to cook at home more.

    Good luck in your search! I’m sure you’ll be happy in Brooklyn!!

  16. I can definitely understand the emotions you’re feeling! Desperation and a feeling of helplessness lead me to chose my last apartment, which turned out to awful and turned into feeling even more helpless.

    With that being said- my current apartment is like a dream come true! The minute my fiance and I saw it we knew it was the one! It was everything we hoped for and more AND it was within budget! A wave of relief came over me. We’ve been there a year this past Saturday and do not plan on moving anytime soon.

    We nabbed a HUGE 1 bedroom apartment in Queens’ Forest Hills Gardens neighborhood. (it’s a fabulous neighborhood, you should check it out.) It’s in the most adorable Tudor-style townhouse and has 3 (yes 3!) walk-in closets! Not to mention the brand new kitchen and skylights! Love love love!

  17. i looooove brooklyn! i went to new york for the first time everrrr last month, and i must say that brooklyn is beautiful! good luck!

    xx, kara

  18. Oooh we lived in Brooklyn Heights for years and just loved it. My dad’s advice was – if you can find a place that you can afford in Bk Heights – TAKE IT.

  19. We live in DUMBO and absolutely love it! We do love spending time in BH, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens etc as well. Could never go back to living in Manhattan. It such a luxury to be able to stroll down at the water, take a quiet walk through Brooklyn Heights, enjoy a cozy movie in Cobble Hill while still being a 2-3 stop subway ride from our favorite bustling restaurants in downtown Manhattan. Good luck in your search!

  20. Hi Joanna – we just moved to Carroll Gardens from the EV and we love it. We doubled our space and got a deck and a dishwasher for roughly the same rent. I love coming home in the evening – Brooklyn is close but a world away from Manhattan at the same time. I love to entertain and for me, having the kitchen and living room close together or even in the same space was key when we were searching for apartments. It can be a bit harder to find given the typical brownstone layout but they are out there! Good luck to you.

  21. what if you have more babies, wont you need more bedrooms?! and i live in Thousand Oaks, Ca in a 2 bedroom condo that we’re renting from a friend from HS. we want to buy but 3 bedroom houses around here go from $400k-$800+k aka sure dont have anywhere near that now!

  22. You can change the house (within reason, of course), but you can’t change the neighborhood!

    That said, I wish I had stuck firm to my absolute wish list. I love a lot of things about the house we bought four years ago, but really, REALLY still long for a fireplace …

  23. Our bungalow is from the 1940s, so all the rooms are pretty well established and sectioned off from each other. It does make the kitchen seem small and closed off, and while it’s a quick walk, I can’t just look over and spy on my 2 year old while I’m cooking and she’s alone in the living room. If something is nagging at you now, I would listen to it because it will only intensify as you live there over the years!

  24. what an exciting and emotional experience! best of luck on your hunt!

  25. I live in Cobble Hill with my husband in a brownstone apartment! We just moved there in March and instantly fell in LOVE! I’ve never seen more children under 5 living in one neighborhood before in my life. It’s a great place for a family :). And so many delicious restaurants! Let me know if you need tips!

  26. I truly don’t care for combined living rooms with kitchens. The clatter from pots and pants, the mess, the smells that transfer from room to room would be enough to make me go mad!

    We live in a 1920s midrise and I love the separated living spaces.

  27. how exciting! I’ve only been to NY one time (crazy I know), but my favorite place we went to was Brooklyn! such a great area. good luck with your apartment search…I’m sure you’ll find something fabulous.

  28. My husband and I moved back to NYC in June, after 4 years in Providence, RI. We had less than two weeks to find a place (we had hoped to move back, then a job opened up at my old law firm, and I jumped!), so with the help of an awesome broker, we found our apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn. The Kensington/Ditmas Park area has been absolutely awesome. It’s a very family-friendly neighborhood, and there are tons of things for our almost 1-year-old – and us – to do. Great little restaurants and shops along Cortelyou Road (with Church Ave. getting new businesses as well), plus we’re a 10 minute bus or bike ride to Prospect Park and Vanderbilt Playground. And I can be in my midtown office building in less than an hour door-to-door.

    In terms of the kitchen/living room issue, we cook A LOT, so I really feel like they need to be together. Our kitchen is right off the living room, with our dining table occupying the space between the two. We have a baby gate set up so Julian can’t actually get into the kitchen, but he can hang out right nearby and watch me while I’m making dinner :)

  29. Oh goodness, it is such an emotional process. My boyfriend and I bought a place in Fort Greene this year and it was a long, tear-filled process (with a happy ending, though, of course). I’m a lot like you: Each place we saw I pictured our future, where we’d be cooking dinner together, where we would be cuddle up with a bottle of wine, and I’d be heart broken when a place didn’t pan out.

    We did something super helpful, though: We each made a list of “Must haves” and “Would be nice to haves,” to keep ourselves grounded when going through so many listings/open houses. It really helps. And just keep in mind that wherever you end up, you’ll be with your husband and rad little Toby so it will feel like home no matter what.

    Best of luck, Joanna!


  30. With two boys that go through clothing quite quickly, the deal breaker for me has become the laundry… I can’t imagine schlepping multiple tubs of laundry down the road to a laundry mat in NY winters every week.

    Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford adding a doorman to my deal breaker list. :)

  31. Good luck on your search! If you want to widen your options given a restricted budget I’d have to recommend Bay Ridge. Diamond in the rough. ;)

  32. Close kitchen living room = needy desire to sit around the campfire, that scares away monsters, while sipping hot chocolate toddies (stove)with a chunk of rum raisin fudge within reach (living room). If you have that, then you’ll know the place is for you and your family.

  33. I complete agree with your comment on how it’s emotional! My husband and I own a townhome in the burbs and are looking to move to a house in the city. The prices are overwhelming for these old, small, rundown houses and the taxes are even worse! It definitely makes me sad house hunting: either there’s nothing out there worth buying or my husband and I can’t agree. Defintely not the funnest process I’ve been through. :) Good luck!

  34. Good luck on the house hunt Joanna! It can be so incredibly stressful! My husband and I own a home in Murrieta, which is a suburb about 45 minutes north of San Diego, CA. I love our home,but it took us 2 years of looking in San Diego of falling in love with houses and then being outbid, before we decided to move a little farther away where the houses were cheaper.

    My one piece of advice is try not to get too attached and also don’t focus on cosmetic details that can easily be fixed. We ended up putting in all new floors, hardware in the bathrooms and kitchen, painting all the bathrooms and kitchen cabinets and installing new counters. I love our house and the bargain price we bought it at, but sadly only 2 years later we will be on the house hunt again due to my new job.

    Best of luck to you both, and when you find that right place you will just know and it will come together =)

  35. I can also recommend Boerum Hill! We’re on the border of Boerum/Cobble Hill just off Smith and Bergen. The neighborhood is great, you are next to tons of places to eat, right next to the F/G and you can easily walk to the 6, R, 2,3, etc. Also exciting – we’re like an 8 minute walk from Trader Joes which is like super important :)

  36. I have never consciously looked for kitchens right by living rooms; it’s always just kind of made sense to me that way. My apartment kitchen and living room are connected into one big open space, and every house I’ve grown up in has been basically the same way.

    I think it’s a smart thing to think about, especially with small kids. While you’re throwing together some scrambled eggs in the kitchen, they’ll probably be waking up to seseme street or lounging with their favorite book. I think back to my time before full-time school, and summers up to adulthood, and my mornings were almost always spent between the living room and kitchen.

  37. I have a love/(mostly) hate relationship with my Los Angeles condo. I can’t imagine trying to raise a child in it, as it barely fits me and boyfriend right now. I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for the perfect upgrade (hopefully a house). My wishlist includes an ocean view, large kitchen and a fireplace. Sometimes I see the most beautiful homes which I can’t afford and I weep. Finding a home that’s just right for a person’s unique life is very emotional – it should be! I’m wishing you the very best of luck!!!

  38. Oh, this sounds exciting …

    We (hudsband&toddler son&I) live in a two-bedroom appartment. I would love to have another (bed)room. :)
    We have kitchen and living room close together and I love it!

    Good Luck!! :)

  39. Now that we have our own place and have lived there 10 years, these are the (boringly practical) things that I now pay attention to when house hunting:

    ~ How far away is the closest grocery store/mini mart? Not usually a problem in the city areas but where we moved, this was a big thing.
    ~ How far is the closest train station/metro/bus pickup?
    How much of the area is southward facing? Where does the natural light come from, esp in the winter?
    ~ How much of the parking area/sidewalk is covered in shadow? (this means more snow shoveling and ice in winter)
    If you have a sidewalk, where will you put the shovels or remover?
    ~ Think about floods and other weather: Are there trees? Is it in a low lying area (esp important if you want a bottom floor place)? Will the power go out often (we used to be on the same grid as the hospital so we never lost power but then that changed 2 yrs ago and we always lose it now in a storm)
    ~ You probably already know this but look past the superficial decorating or required basic repairs in a place. Those are easy to fix yourself and are good negotiation points. (we were able to get considerably less for our place b/c it looked run down but really it was just superficial wallpaper and bad shag carpets.)
    ~ If possible, get the washing machine/dryer. Once you have those, you’ll never want to use the laudromat again. If you dont get a place with them, where is the closest laundromat?
    ~ What kind of heat is it(oil, elec, gas)? How old is the heat pump? We had an ancient one and it was so inefficient. We waited 9 yrs to get a new one and now I wish we hadn’t. I would have been much warmer and paid less overall.
    ~ How old are the windows? That will determine how drafty/inefficient they are.

    Good luck! It can be nerve wracking but you’ll find a great place and make it your own soon!

  40. My boyfriend and I bought in Clinton Hill last fall…while its hardly a secret, I found the listing on Street Easy. The sight is also good for comparing prices. Some of the things that I like about our new apartment, that I now think I can’t live without, are close proximity to the subway, light, amenities nearby and an open concept kitchen (we tore down a wall to make this happen!)
    Good luck!

  41. A quick question:

    Why is your realtor showing you homes that can’t afford?

  42. My family currently lives in Paris and in an old apartment. Back in the day the riches purposely put the kitchen away from the living areas and hired servants. I will never again live where the kitchen and living areas are not combined or at least adjacent to each other. It really does separate us and entertaining isn’t as much fun.

  43. My husband and I live in Bed-Stuy—the southwest part that is closer to Clinton Hill. We love it for how diverse it is, how many historical brownstones there are and its proximity to transportation (Nostrand A/C, Bedford Nostrand G, various buslines…) The neighborhood is definitely changing (as long time residents always tell me) but I see lots of small, locally owned businesses opening up and seeming to thrive. It’s great! That being said, once we start having kids, we’ve talked about DUMBO, Clinton Hill, Greenpoint. As an educator, my husband’s biggest concern is school districts. I’m sure that is also a factor for you as you search. Best of luck!

  44. My boyfriends condo, of which I have recently become a resident, has a giant wall between the kitchen and the living room. You cant even really hear people talking in the other room if you are in the kitchen. I find that when we are entertaining and I am working in the kitchen, it feels like I am the naughty child who has been sent to her room. It is the one think that I hate about the place. I would not recommend having the two rooms on opposite ends of the house.

  45. We looked for our house for about a year before we found it. What helped us was making a list of “deal breakers” – so it is kind of like dating! We wanted a 2-car garage, at least 2 bedrooms, and gas heat instead of electric. Other than that, we tried to keep an open mind!

    What was funny to me was after awhile, we could tell why someone was moving. House seems a little empty? Divorce. Tiny hangers in the closet? New baby. It was fun guessing the current homeowners’ situation!

    Good luck!

  46. I raccomand a lot of light trought the windows. I live on the Adriatic sea, and every day I feel happy looking the sunrise….

  47. Good luck!! I live on a trendy little tree-lined street in Luzern Switzerland. our little 2 bedroom flat was my dream when we moved in (restored chevron flooring!). However, over time, we are finding the downfalls – so, the one thing that I crave is quietness. The street is so so loud with cars, some shops (their doors ringing), a bar on the corner, etc. I didn’t think of that when moving in but we are (now that we are expecting any day now!) looking at an apt that is in another area but much quieter! Maybe I’m getting too old to be in the trendy part, haha!

  48. Hi Joanna!

    A big hello from Singapore! I love reading your blog, haha sometimes I wish I could just fly right to NYC. I guess when house-hunting, my mom (she was a realtor) has always advised to be mindful of what kind of light your apartment is going to get. The best option is a place which gets morning light, as afternoon light can be a bit too strong and make your house unbelievably warm in the summer.

    I’ve always liked the idea of having the living room near the kitchen! Some of my best childhood memories are catching a whiff of mom’s cooking from the living room. It’s a nice, homey feeling! (:

  49. Hello from Greece!
    Having a kitchen combined with the living room used to be “the thing” here for the last 20 years, we all thought it was convenient and good for socialising, as many have said. Well, now we all figured it was only convenient for the construction companies who were gaining from the combined space.. Being on rent and having a kitchen combined with the living room myself, I have to say that it is pretty awful. You can’t cook anything without filling with smelly air all the apartment. I never fry anything, because on the two times I fried chips or fish, I could smell them all over my apartment for 3 days! Let alone the fact that whenever you are entertaining friends, your kitchen needs to be perfect. That means when you are finished with cooking you also have to leave time for washing the dishes, pans , pots before your friends arrive, so everything can be perfect. Consequently, if you have a choice, I would recommend to avoid the combined space.

  50. Hi Joanna!

    Firstly, I love your blog! I wish I’d known about it when I was living in the USA as I would have made full use of all the great articles that you write….hopefully we’ll return to America one day :)

    With regards to the house hunt – are you still considering a dog? If so, I would say a garden (sorry, yard!) is imperative. We became the proud parents of a beagle puppy whilst in the USA and trying to house train him whilst living on the 32 floor was not easy. Especially when you throw into the mix a very harsh winter!!!

    Just s’thing to think about if a dog is still on the agenda.

    Good luck with your search!


  51. It’s been a while sins my last visit in here, but it’s nice! Good luck finding a new place. /Elina

  52. In our apartment our living, dining room and kitchen are all one. Only seperated by a supporting beam and peninsula in the kitchen. I love having that big open space for us all to hang out, especially since our place isn’t that big as it is. The two bedrooms are right across the hall from each other. I like being that close to my daughter’s room. The ONLY thing I don’t like – we only have one bathroom. This has posed to be a problem. If I want to shower and my husband has just… done a business, I don’t like to go in there. Or if two people have to use the toilet at the same time (which has happened WAY more then I thought it would!) its always a fight. Or, if you have to do a # when guests are over, I am always self conscious. It would be nice to have an en suite. Anyway, I hope that helps!

  53. I live on a tiny island in the Mediterranean so our problems (eg-proximity to main roads, heat during summer, whether the place is on a hill and therefore safe during floods) are very different from those in NY but I agree living room and kitchen should be close because the kids are going to be there most of the day and somehow the kitchen is where I always end up. Also, The direction the place faces is very important in terms of how much light/heat/cold you get.mgood luck!

  54. My husband and I just bought our first home and I would highly recommend that the living room and kitchen be close together, especially with kids. Our last apartment had a huge gourmet kitchen but it was down the hall from the living room and I always felt isolated when I was cooking. It got to the point where I hated cooking dinner. Our new place has an open concept and I can happily make dinner while chatting with the husband and listening to the TV. Just my two cents! :)

  55. Thank you for posting this! My boyfriend and I are currently apartment hunting as well in Portland, Oregon and the process is extremely emotional! I totally sympathize with falling in love with a potential home that is just a bit out of your reach. I start to think about fun things to do in the neighborhood, envisioning our furniture in the house-this table would be perfect here/this is the perfect sized room for our bed, and even daydreaming about us doing things, like writing, reading, cooking, around the apartment. it’s crazy, it’s madness, it’s a little, or a lot, heart-wrenching!

    Nice to not feel alone in the search. I agree going to places is very helpful, we saw an awful place today and have clearer standards of what we want to shoot for and what we definitely won’t trade down for.

  56. Every apt that I’ve ever lived in has been special and great for different reasons. One thing that I can say is that the first time I walked in to each of these places that later became home was that they just “felt right” – I don’t mean to sound trite but it’s so true.

    The thing that is most important to me is great light. There’s nothing better than walking into your home and seeing that lovely flood of natural light. Now that we have a baby about Toby’s age I love that our living areas and bedrooms are far from each other. I mean, we live in a NYC apt so it’s not like we have a palace but our two bedrooms are on the opposite side of our apt so we feel like we can really enjoy our place together as a family and then when she goes to sleep we can hang out in the living room and kitchen and not worry that we’re going to wake her bc we’re right outside of her room. We still have a white noise machine in her room just in case but she hasn’t ever woken up bc we were too loud and we also have friends over all the time.

    Another thing that we have now that we never had pre-baby is two bathrooms. It’s a small luxury (in Manhattan) but makes a huge difference.

    You will LOVE Brooklyn. Our first place together was in Bkln Hts (my husband when to Bklyn Law School) and we go back to the neighborhood all the time and even though it was tiny it is to date my favorite place we ever lived…such a magical neighborhood. Plus now with Bklyn Bridge Park it’s even better than it was before for families.

  57. Apartment hunting sure can be exhausting!

    I found it helpful to decompress about everything I looked at that day at a nice cafe or restaurant in that neighborhood. When I did this, I really could picture myself living there, and it felt really comforting.

    You could check out (if you haven’t already) The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (it looks like you might have already come across it), Iris Cafe, Colonie, and Van Horn Sandwich Shop if in the Brooklyn Heights/Bordering on Cobble Hill.
    BookCourt is also an awesome bookstore.
    And Carroll Gardens always has a lot of great Italian options :)

    Best of luck!

  58. You should look in Fort Greene. THe neighborhoods look like they are fresh out of Sesame Street, Fort Greene park is great, and there are tons of families. You are 2 train stops from Brooklyn Heights, and a quick jaunt to DUMBO. Much more affordable, and much hipper than somewhat stodgy Brooklyn Heights.

  59. I live in SE Portland with my husband. We were lucky to find an amazing bungalow built in 1939. The curved archways and picture rails in the living room are lovely. The bedrooms are nice size and we have a yard with a covered patio. Perfect for Indan Summer barbecues and rose wine. I can live with the one teeny bathroom (for now) and we have a roomy basement, just ripe for remodeling.

  60. as someone with a toddler, having the kitchen far from the living space stinks. we’ve been doing it since graham was born and it’s tough. doable, but tough.

  61. Your question about the kitchen and living room is funny because my partner always says, “I don’t want my kitchen in my living room”. I always struggle to understand what he means by that. But it is nice having them close to one another so you can hang out with the cook. But if the kitchen is a good size, I don’t think it really matters because you can just hang out in there, kids can colour or play lego at the table and what not. Good luck with the apartment hunting!

  62. When we were looking for our first home, my best friend told me I would just know when it was the right house because I would hear the Hallelujah Chorus in my head as I walked through it. Silly? Yup. True for me? Totally.

  63. I live in Ditmas Park and LOVE IT! It doesn’t really feel like the city, but it’s only 27 minutes into Union Square on the Q train, and something similar in a car (the train runs above ground for a while out here too, which might help with your claustrophobia issues. It’s mostly free-standing Victorian houses with back (and front!) yards, which is really wonderful for kids–and general lovely-ness! A lot of people own whole houses/mansions (expensive!), but some of them are split into apartments, and in that case rent isn’t too bad. Good luck no matter what you do!

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  65. My boyfriend and I have lived on the border of Cobble Hill/ Carroll Gardens for 2 years now and we love it. Lots of elevator-less buildings for you. Millions of young families around and endless bars and restaurants on Smith and Court. I definitely recommend moving here!

  66. Getting a new place is so emotional! We bought a house in midtown where everyone else wants to be. It was so hard looking at homes and then picturing us being there. I had my heart set on one particular one and getting it was hell!! BUT after a lot of tears and stress we got it! I love living here and when I think of the crazy process it was to get the house it makes me appreciate it even more.

  67. consider Jackson Height Queens – you can get a 2-3 bedroom with a fireplace, 15 – 20 mins to magazine offices in midtown and a fraction of the cost of Brooklyn. Seriously – save the $$$ for your kid’s future. Enjoy NY and space at the same time

  68. You should look into Fort Greene as well! I’ve been in this neighborhood for 3 years now, it’s very similar to Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens but a little more diverse! It’s super safe, amazing restaurants, filled with young families and it’s beautiful :)

  69. We live in Carroll Gardens and love it. Great parks, restaurants, and lots of growing families. You and Alex will have to come over for coffee. We have chickens that Toby will love!

  70. I live in California in a 2 story victorian 1910 home. I fell in love instantly, and with my parents help, bought it. It’s a project home tho because it’s so old and the previous owners werent kiind, almost everything needs to be redone. I just stay optimistic because I know in the end, this home will reflect who We are as a family (me, hubs, 2 boys) but it is a pain. I recommend something with minimal renovations needed..something you can just move into and start decorating But don’t be afraid of a lil fixer upper just be realistic about ur budget and time.

  71. my advice is to figure out your goal neighborhood and your practical wish list and wait. I knew which neighborhood I wanted to live in, what my price range was, and what I really wanted in a house (mine was A/C, good bones, garage/parking, and room to grow). I looked at pretty much every house that came on the market in the neighborhood I wanted. find an agent you trust, make sure they know your specifics and recognize that it might be a long process (unless there is a rush?).

    I was fine renting and didn’t want my first home purchase to be something I wasn’t in love with. after 2 years of looking (and a baby), I finally found the right house and moved in just after my daughter turned one. it is funny driving around our neighborhood, because I have been in most of the houses–some of them were quite nice, they just weren’t me.

  72. I’ve bought 2 homes and renovated one. I know it’s hard not to get emotional about some of them. The biggest thing I’d say is don’t be afraid to negotiate and come in low on a property you really like that’s out of reach. It’s still a buyer’s market. Remember, all they can do is say no. It’s worth taking a risk. My husband and I just did this with a house we loved that was out of reach and we negotiated it down to what we budgeted. This is key especially when the house has been on the market for awhile. Also, if you can find out how eager the sellers are to move on, that can help you negotiate.

    If there’s no family room and the living room will serve as one, it is nice to have it open to the kitchen, if that’s possible.

    Now that I have 2 kids (and one on the way), I’d also tell you to try to envision an area (corner or room) where most of their toys/stuff will go — otherwise it’ll take over your home.

    Good luck and I hope you find what you’re looking for!

  73. I hear ya on the emotional part of apartment/house hunting. We’ll be in the same boat when we sell our home. I think making a list of the most desired amenities in your dream home (and why shouldn’t it be dreamy!) helps a lot. From there you can list the different neighborhoods in order of affordability. But my rule is location, location, location. Sacrifice the least important things (like a walk-in closet) for a great neighborhood.

  74. We live in an apt. with the kitchen at one end and the living room at the other, down a ~60 ft hallway. We are looking to buy and definitely want the living and kitchen areas to be open to each other. We find ourselves yelling down the hall to each other, not understanding…repeat. I do most of the cooking, and it would be so nice to have a conversation with my husband while he is doing his own thing in the living room. Just not possible with our current place. It can get a little frustrating, and also a little comical. Just our experience, hope that helps!

  75. I live in a wonderful two bedroom apartment in Detroit, the corktown neighborhood. Beyond the beautiful wood floors and high ceilings I really love how invested and meticulous my landlady is in not only maintaining her apartments but also the lawn and garden around the house the apartments are in. Knowing that I’m renting from someone that doesn’t cut corners or maintain cheaply is something that I’ve come to really appreciate.

  76. it is true, i had never thought of it before, but it really does seem analogous to dating! oh dear!
    good luck though. i find apartment hunting much more fascinating, and less stressful as the emotional part is more detached!

  77. I know exactly what you mean. Our agent suggested writing letters to the sellers. Ultimately, this is what won us our home since I told the seller that this home would be our one-year anniversary gift and they ended up going with us because they also moved in on their one-year anniversary :)

  78. Hee hee I totally thought of House Hunters International too after reading this post. But yes it sees the open concept is really big now in home design. But so many apartments in Brooklyn are prewar and “open concept” was not really a trend then.

  79. Hi Joanna,

    I love your blog. I feel for you in this house hunting search. I would say truly think about the layout and light, plus something you can grow into (if you can), obviously the location too. (Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights) you can not go wrong. You can change anything in your apartment, but not those things.

    We were going through the same process not so long ago our little family of 3 was leaving the West Village moving to Hong Kong. We sold our apartment and are now renters. Which was hard to adjust to, because we really made the apartment our home in the west village. House hunting here is tough, equal to NYC. Our approach was to find something that had been on the market for a while and make some changes. Even for a rental it was a great strategy.

    Oh one last thing. Before I left I bumped into your son and baby sitter on Greenwich Street. Toby is so adorable, I was with my daughter Julia . It made our day!

  80. I live in a basement studio apartment. This was my first time having to search for an apartment, even though I’m 27. I always thought I would be so logical and rational throughout the whole process as I am with every other aspect in my life…but no. I was completely emotional. In the end, I ended up choosing the perfect place. I gave up a lot of things (storage, closeness to town), but I, surpringsly, am okay with it…Good luck with your search. Enjoy it!

  81. In 21 years I’ve lived in 11 different houses. (We’ve moved a lot). And, I’d probably say, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that, realistically, you’re not going to find ‘the perfect house’. There’s going to be some thing(s) that you’re not going to like. You’re going to have to compromise on a couple of things. And don’t forget about the simple wonders that buying paint or pictures on the wall can do. And it’s going probably not going to feel like home right away, that’s going to take a little time, too. As well, keep in mind what furniture you have, how it has to fit. Rooms do look smaller without things in them, and you have to invision your things over top of the things that are already there.

    Hope some of that helps and good luck!

  82. I’m just curious– with planning for a second baby, do you expect that you’ll have the two share a bedroom, regardless of the gender? We moved from Brooklyn to Seattle when I was 7 months pregnant with my second, but I always wondered what we would have done if we’d have stayed in our old apartment with two. We have a girl and a baby boy…

  83. My advice is, start taking note of what you love about your current apartment. What still makes you happy on a daily basis? Is it that the subway is across the street? That you can watch the sunset? Notice what still makes you feel cozy, safe, comfortable every day, even after having lived in a place for a long time. These are the things you should try not to give up in your search.

  84. For me a living room and a kitchen have to be detached yet close together. I can totally imagine that it’s emotional! I like your comparison to dating lol.

  85. I looked at 19 places before I found one that I love. It is huge, high ceilings, big windows, new floors, new appliances in the kitchen. The bathroom is pretty old and kind of gross but we’ll get it fixed up sooner or later. It was priced way lower than it’s value. Don’t worry. You have to look at loads of places to find your gold mine. So many people I know live in closets and come over and talk about how jealous they are of my space but they also live in the 2nd place they looked at. I live in the 19th because I didn’t settle. I also suggest a door separating the kitchen from the dining/living room (swinging preferred) and a door separating the living room from the hallway to the bedrooms to minimize sound transferal when you want to stay up and the kids are asleep. Don’t you want 3 bedrooms? You are trying to get pregnant!

  86. Love house hunters and property brothers (where they make a non appealing house into a dream home). Happy hunting!

  87. how incredibly exciting! brooklyn is my faaaavorite! best of luck to you and alex….remember to breath :)


  88. We live in L.A., so the kinds of living spaces are very different–but when we were house-hunting, our priorities were proximity to public transit (we’re bus commuters, even in L.A), a neighborhood that showed pride of ownership (clean, neat public-facing spaces), good light, and good storage. If we had been looking at condos, I would also have prioritized an in-unit laundry area so that we didn’t have to share machines.

  89. Okay, I know this is a little outside the box, but have you thought of Ridgewood, Queens? It is on the L line and M (I know you like to bike, so it maybe too far), but you should see what you can buy there. Ridgewood is home to an enormous National Historic District which includes just under 3,000 houses and apartment buildings. Many of these homes were built to last in the early 20th century by the German factory and brewery workers who settled there.

    Check out this cute couple who made there home there:

    And here is just some info:–queens-offers-quality-homes-with-historical-flair

    I hope you find the home of your dreams!!!! :)

  90. Closet space!!! I have lived several places and I have found one of the most essential items is good closet/storage space!

  91. I live in Carroll Gardens and I LOVE it. Happy to give you a tour anytime :)

  92. I’m doing the same thing in LA as we speak. We’ve totally outgrown our apartment but love our neighborhood and can’t afford bigger around here, but I can’t imagine moving to a burby area and having to drive everywhere with my kid(s) – we love to walk! Oh, the downsides to living in a big city. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put all this rent towards a lovely house with a big yard?

  93. Good luck with your search. Finding a home for your family IS so emotional. I hated looking and it is very hard when things are out of your price range. I definitely like the kitchen near the living area, open is preferable. We live in a small house and the kitchen is its own room, but off the living area. So, we’re either all in the kitchen, or at least I’m next to the action/where my child is playing. Also, how cute is it that you are househunting on a bicycle? Adorable!

  94. I wouldn’t worry too much about the distance between the living room and kitchen. Having had way too much experience apartment hunting, the two things that I would and will always rest my decision on is the overall energy you feel in the space and the light. If you have those two things, everything else will fall into place :)

    Good luck to you and your family! How exciting for you all :)

    xo Nadia

  95. my boyfriend and I live in a tiny weeny apartment which is basically 3 rooms – bedroom, bathroom and open plan kitchen/living room. I really like the living room and kitchen being together, it’s very farmhouse-like and homely!

    good luck with your house hunting — I can identify with it being an emotional experience!! you’ll find the perfect one in the end, though :)

  96. im a strait up city chix lol im used to the nyc dark apartments (family in the bronx and harlem,) I also have family in Staten island and you know its a bit of change and thats why im thinkin of living in queens (family there too) or brooklyn. I think its fine to have the kitchen and living room connected as long as we are happy, i can afford it and safe its a win/go situation for me! I wish you well I love brooklyn you will too.