As the COVID-19 crisis drags into week 10, cooped-up New Yorkers are finding joy where they can. For those financially able, new purchases are creating great opportunities for retail therapy.
While suburbanites may revel in pizza ovens, fire pits and trampolines, scrappy city dwellers seek some solace in smaller — but no less treasured — objects.
From practical cleaning tools to ingenious kitchen extras, here’s how some locals light up their small spaces during dark times.
Teacher Kim Steinhorn had been looking for a way to reduce the clutter and chaos that have inevitably crept into the Upper West Side apartment she shares with her husband and two school-aged sons. The surprisingly affordable solution came to her via an Instagram post: white wooden Ikea hangers ($5.49 for eight).
“They took a long time to come, which also made it more exciting,” she says. “When I open my closet now, everything is in order. It’s a much happier place. I can’t control much right now, but I can control my closet, and unlike the rest of the apartment, it’s my own private place.”
Clear the air
Williamsburg-based writer and editor John Newton and his architect husband have invested in sleek — and, at $300 a pop — somewhat pricey Blue Pure 211+ air purifiers from Blueair for their living room and home office.
“Before the pandemic, we thought we knew how much dust and pollution you get in Williamsburg, but being home all of the time, we became even more aware of the layer of dust everywhere,” says Newton. “With allergy season coming, we are hoping to not be suffering from allergies and worrying about whether it’s COVID or just allergies. We’ve been in the apartment for four years with no problem, but after spending 24 hours a day here for weeks, buying these filters seemed worth it.”
In the Bronx neighborhood of Marble Hill, writer Chantal McLaughlin is making working from home more pleasant with her new Ergo Ergo Active Stool ($109.99) in a “bright, happy orange” shade. “This chair is really fun. There’s a mild swaying so you can subtly feel your core working, or you can make a circle and exercise your core while you’re talking or typing. It’s fun and it gets the blood flowing,” she says. “I had my eye on it before the whole pandemic hit. When I started working from home, I knew I had to get it.”
For an extra cardio boost, McLaughlin, who has also recently adopted a cat, sits on the stool and pedals her feet on her Stamina In Motion elliptical machine ($119). It fits under her desk and also comes in a peppy orange hue. “It’s almost like it’s a recumbent bike,” she adds. “I keep it under my desk, but I just have to be careful because I have long legs and they sometimes hit the keyboard.”
Bubbles and yokes
In Greenpoint, communications consultant Elena Gaudino has turned quarantine into a creative exercise, creating a YouTube series called “Corona Chronicles: ‘Rona Essentials.” Among her favorite purchases, featured in the episodes: a Soda Stream Fizzi Classic ($69 and up) and the Eggsact Egg Timer (about $6).
“Sipping on seltzer with a slice of lemon during the day takes me back to the pre-COVID days of business lunches, while adding fresh-squeezed lime juice and ample splashes of tequila helps wash away thoughts of powerless uncertainty,” she says.
As for the egg timer, Gaudino notes, “I’ve recently developed a new passion for perfection when it comes to boiled eggs. There’s something extremely satisfying about cracking open a boiled egg and seeing a perfectly consistent, yellow yolk without the tell-tale gray coating indicating it’s been overcooked.”
Music to their ears
For her apartment in the East Village, artist Shannon Curry Hartmann recently bought Como Audio’s Duetto Internet-enabled radio ($299) which allows her, her music-loving husband and her 12-year-old daughter to stream music and podcasts from around the world.
“We have music on all day long, and are very eclectic in our taste. This radio and my Christmas cactus, which was blooming at the peak of the crisis, has gotten me through some tough hours,” says Curry Hartmann, who’s been playing everything from BBC broadcasts to David Bowie playlists to a favorite radio station from Martha’s Vineyard. “I don’t think it’s frivolous at all, the role that music plays in healing or just to distract us.”
So fresh and so clean
NYU professor Sabrina Dhawan has been on a major cooking and cleaning tear in the Greenwich Village apartment she shares with her 13-year-old son. To minimize trips to her building’s communal laundry room, Dhawan ordered a Joseph Joseph 85055 Wash & Drain Wash Basin ($19.99), which she calls “revolutionary in my handwashing journey.”
To enhance her cooking, she purchased a mandolin, and, wary of cutting herself, also bought a Microplane Cut Resistant Glove ($15) from Sur La Table. “I’m terrified I’ll cut my finger and I don’t want to have to go to the hospital,” she explains. Her newest order: a battery-operated Homitt Electric Cordless Shower Scrubber with changeable brush heads ($69.99) for “cleaning without having to use too much elbow grease.”
For Dhawan, whose pre-COVID online shopping tended towards the frivolous, even glamorous, quarantine’s been a moment of reckoning. “Ugh! It seems my life is all about cleaning now,” she says.
A lot on her plate
Publicist Sally Fischer, who lives in Midtown but has retreated to Sag Harbor, is making the most of meals with her husband and 22 year-old son using vintage Wedgewood Scenes of Italy Piranesi plates she’s scooped up on eBay.
“I had received several as a wedding gift, and after 25 years of marriage I’ve finally found the time to order some of the scenes I was missing from the service,” she says, adding that the plates, with their sepia-toned renderings of iconic Roman landmarks like the Trevi Fountain and Palazzo Barberini, are surprisingly affordable, ranging from $6 to $16 secondhand. “I’ve wanted the extra plates for probably 20 years and I never took the time,” she adds. “They’re handsome and very meaningful to me.”
Suck it up
Like a lot of privileged New Yorkers, retired Upper East Side travel marketing executive Nancy Friedman has had to adjust to cleaning her own apartment. “I didn’t know what my house cleaner was using, so I had to experiment,” she says. Friedman’s enthusiastic cleaning explorations led her to buy two vacuums: the Eufy RoboVac 11S ($159.99) and the “wonderfully light” Dyson V 11 Animal (about $500).
“This has made me much more sensitive to what my housekeeper goes through,” she says. “When she comes back, I’m giving her a raise!”
Chef Ned Baldwin, who runs the beloved Soho restaurant Houseman and has just published the cookbook “How To Dress an Egg,” has relocated from his Spring Street apartment to the North Fork with his wife and two kids. His newest cooking acquisition, an 8-inch cast iron pan from Smithey, “is blowing my mind. It’s crazy multi-purpose: you can fry an egg or roast meat, and I even made chickpea stew in it,” he says.
Baldwin’s also taking advantage of the abundance of local oysters, particularly the Peconic Gold from oyster farmer Matt Ketcham. “He has a bunch that are big and I love big oysters,” he adds. “The shells are super hard, which makes them so easy to open. These are huge, meaty delicious oysters.” Peconic Gold delivers to Long Island and ships to NYC via FedEx.
Life of pie
Marketing consultant Deena Siegelbaum, her doctor husband and their two young sons are anxiously awaiting their Ooni Fyra Portable Wood-Fired Outdoor Pizza Oven ($249), due to arrive any day. “We love to grill and hang out in our backyard, and have always wanted to make our own pizza,” she says.
To keep her energized during the work day, Siegelbaum’s also started receiving a monthly subscription from Counter Culture Coffee (from about $15/month). “While working from home, brewing delicious freshly-roasted coffee is very necessary,” she says.
For their Larchmont home, attorney Catherine Wallace and her husband Kevin (also a lawyer) bought a combo outdoor trampoline-basketball hoop. They have three sons — 14-year-old twins and a 10-year-old — who’d become accustomed to jumping around.
“We’ve lived here for four years and had been using our next door neighbor’s trampoline the whole time,” Wallace says.
With social-distancing rendering shared toys obsolete, Wallace ordered their own trampoline from Springfree (from $799 for the trampoline and $199 for the hoop). It arrived April 1, and after spending some puzzling hours assembling it, the family’s used it daily — including Kevin, who has suddenly begun mastering flips.
“He’s 45 and it’s pretty adorable,” Wallace says. “Sometimes he’ll go out in the dark after dinner and I can hear him practicing.”