I met Carol Becker in early 2020 after she won a two-hour organizing consultation I had donated to the Park Avenue Synagogue benefit. Carol was planning on putting her apartment on the market the following summer and wanted assistance purging and organizing prior to the move. We started with her home office, and then in subsequent weeks tore through closets, pantries, and drawers at a rapid pace, each week giving away, selling, donating, or discarding bags of unwanted items. Organizing can be an intimate journey, and there were many stories Carol shared as we sifted through 20 plus years of memories and forged a friendship along the way.
Like many of my clients, Carol is a busy overachiever with a passion for life. In addition to owning the iconic William Greenberg Bakery, she is a biker, golfer, traveler, marathon runner, sports enthusiast, philanthropist, board member at Syracuse University (with a dog named Boeheim), die hard New Yorker, and a lifelong learner who will celebrate her bat mitzvah this spring. She’s also a single mother to Emily and Alison, both in their 20’s, and a warm and devoted friend to many.
Carol’s “can do” attitude and positive outlook are contagious. Often, my empty nester clients are looking to downsize and make their lives smaller. In contrast, Carol felt that she had been spending all of her time in two rooms of her current apartment and was looking to celebrate her future in a fresh, new space where she could make new memories, pandemic be damned.
When Carol first showed me her new apartment, I may have been more excited than she was. Not only was there a large living and entertaining space, but the apartment boasted outdoor space as expansive as the apartment itself, and a state of the art garage right out of a futuristic novel. While the beautifully outfitted kitchen had an open layout conducive to sharing meals with family and friends, the only drawback was that it had significantly less storage than the one she would be leaving behind.
Not to be deterred, I took careful measurements of the kitchen cabinets, drawers, and pantry. We strategized about where we could put appliances, cookie sheets, china, and stemware. One afternoon, we painstakingly took out each crystal glass and goblet and separated those that were outdated in style, chipped, or part of mismatched sets. Carol’s table linens were also scrutinized and categorized; only those consistent with the contemporary, sophisticated décor planned for her new apartment were kept. After several hours of work, what remained was a curated collection of stemware and table linens suitable for both large and small gatherings.
Prior to the move, we engaged Augostino Rocchi of Creative Closets to build in and add storage in every possible nook and cranny. He also built out the bedroom closets to maximize space and provide clean, well-designed storage. Often organizing is enhanced by the use of containers, bins, and other space saving tools. For Carol, I ordered clear pantry bins, white storage bins with handles, clear shelf dividers, Blum drawer inserts, and lucite bookends. Bulky kitchen tools were replaced with collapsible ones such as silicone measuring cups and nesting storage containers.
For the most part, Carol was purchasing all new furniture for the apartment. Yet, she had one armoire that we loved too much to leave behind. As Carol and I discussed the possibilities for storage in the kitchen, I suggested she repurpose this so that it would work in the new apartment. We had it repainted white and added shelves. Positioned in the area between the kitchen and living room, it became the perfect solution for housing food storage containers and small appliances.
Like the black and white cookies from her bakery that are often named “Best of New York City,” Carol chose black and white as her basic color scheme in her kitchen and dining room. Red leather bar stools, a red Smeg toaster, and a red Le Creuset utensil crock add whimsical touches of fun and flair.
The culmination of the project was the floor to ceiling bookcase in Carol’s office. The white rectangular shelves of varying sizes provide a colorful and eclectic showcase for her interests, hobbies, and sentiments while also providing substantial storage. A black and white cookie bicycle, needlepoint mezuzahs hand made by her mother, art books next to prayer books, Italian cookie tins next to travel souvenirs, family photos next to mini liquor bottles, and board games next to antique baking utensils are all on display creating a testament to a life well lived. And the best part is the space available along the top for the new memories Carol is sure to make.
*Photos: James Bizon Photography