Writer and food editor Julia Bainbridge returns to New York City from Atlanta
In 2018, after a nearly two-year stint in Atlanta helming the food section at the city’s eponymous magazine, writer and podcast host Julia Bainbridge went on the road for five months for an upcoming book project. She was stopping in cities across the U.S. to do research on non-alcoholic cocktails—and also entertaining the idea of relocating somewhere other than New York City, her former home of 10 years.
“The whole time I was [thinking], ‘this is wild, what am I doing?’” she says. What she uncovered was that it’s not just a city that calls you; it’s your people. For Bainbridge, New York had both, a potent combination that won her over, in spite of her initial intentions to try someplace new. And despite its hard-knock reputation, New York City can feel like a small town when you’ve found your neighborhood and circle of friends. “Part of what I love about being in New York is all the people you [run] into here and there. It makes this place feel like home.”
In deciding to return to the city, Bainbridge saw it as a homecoming of sorts, but also brought a fresh perspective on how her home would take shape.
In addition to her community of friends and colleagues, Bainbridge has deep familial ties to the city: Her father and his father were born in New York, and cousins and her godfather live there. (She grew up in Baltimore.)
The search for a new home was not particularly sentimental, even if returning to New York felt so: Bainbridge gave herself three days in November 2018 and saw between seven and 14 apartments each day, criss-crossing the city from Windsor Terrace to Harlem. Quickly, she decided to return to Brooklyn—and the neighborhood of Clinton Hill, in particular—which was familiar turf.
She was looking for a little more space than what the heart of the neighborhood could provide, and found a loft in a former Tootsie Roll factory on the west side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, that fit the bill. (The BQE could have been an issue, but Bainbridge has found that it acts as a sort of white noise machine.)
The pillars throughout the home created an easy distinction between spaces, and while it had high ceilings, it didn’t feel uncomfortably spacious. Bainbridge could visualize her furnishings and objects without fussing too much: rug and bookshelves when you walk in, just enough space for the dining table and chairs, living room near the windows.
“I knew exactly where everything was going when I walked in, and that’s always how it happens,” she says. If it doesn’t, if I can’t see it, then it’s not the right place for me.”
Coming from an 1,800-square-foot loft in Atlanta to half that in Brooklyn, it was important for the apartment to absorb most of her furniture and some family heirlooms, even if a few items had to go into storage in Maryland.
As a prolific entertainer, Bainbridge also wanted a proper dining table. In her last New York apartment, sitting around a coffee table sufficed for dinner parties, but in this space she wanted to elevate things a bit.
“In my mind, lofts are made for entertaining,” Bainbridge says. “I picked this apartment for myself, but I think a lot of my space is for entertaining for other people.”
Bainbridge was looking to create a home base that would have her feeling grounded right from the start, one decorated in a way that reflected her style evolution over the years. She describes her first apartment in New York as “aggressively feminine”, a look she started shifting away from in Atlanta. Back in New York, she’s opted for a more subdued color palette.
“I’ve also, before this, decorated just for style and not comfort, and the apartment is a nice mix [of] the two,” she adds, pointing to the Article sectional she bought for her Atlanta home and that takes center stage in her Brooklyn loft. Her bed and a side table are tucked behind a curved Molo Design screen at the front of the apartment, which creates an entryway while providing privacy for her sleeping area when Bainbridge has guests entering and exiting.
The neutral color palette throughout the home complements several family heirlooms: a life-size painting of Bainbridge’s great-grandmother; an abstract oil painting by Dan Rice; a chest that once belonged to Bainbridge’s paternal grandparents; a flintstock pistol her father commissioned for Bainbridge’s 30th birthday; and a Marino Marini print that belonged to her paternal grandfather, among others.
Moving back to New York and reacclimating to its energy has been both exhausting and exhilarating, says Bainbridge, and she’s looking at her return as an opportunity to cultivate an inviting space for entertaining and as a steadying force after an unsettled year.
“I don’t know if New York is my forever place,” she says. “I’ve lived a few lives [here]. But I moved into this place with the intention of being here [and] to come back in a new way.”
Making a home in a former candy factory in Brooklyn