How Do You Live, Jessica Coen?

For Jessica Coen, executive editor of Jezebel, the Gawker Media title for women concerning “celebrity, sex and fashion,” the writing life doesn’t preclude living conditions that are comfortable or even chic. For the past year, the 30-year-old Ms. Coen has lived in a rental on the top floor of a tenement-style building near Tompkins Square Park that’s neat, color-spangled and, dare we say, attractive. On a recent Friday, we huffed our way up the four flights to see the place for ourselves.

How did you find the place?

My good friend has a broker who she swears by, and he hooked me up with my last apartment. I was pleased with my last apartment but they didn’t lower the rent when everybody else in town was lowering the rent. So I called this broker, and said, ‘I’m willing to move, I’m not in a rush, but if there is something as nice as what you put me in the first time around, in the same neighborhood, but for much less, then let me know.’ And this came up.

What are the top five things in your apartment you can’t live without?

My computer because it’s my office and my livelihood. What else can I not live without? I’ve always found that the answer to this kind of question is my computer. Does my iPhone count? I want to say something cultured. That print there is relatively new. It’s important to me and I would be sad to lose it. I found it in a flea market in Buenos Aires for under $10, and it’s almost 40 years old. What do other people say?

Lockhart [Steele, Curbed Network publisher] says books.

I was going to say my books, but it seems so pretentious. I’m pretty minimalist; can I just say three things? You know, I moved from L.A., and I’ve been here for around six years, but compared to the amount of stuff you can have in L.A., you become so stripped down here that you learn to live without almost everything. My clothes, my bed—it’s a really nice bed. I sleep well.

Which thing in your apartment has the best back story?

The print. I was in Argentina for two weeks over Thanksgiving this past year. There is an area of Buenos Aires called San Telmo where there are all these crazy old stores with all these Argentine antiques. I didn’t know the significance of what was what and my Spanish isn’t the best, so I couldn’t really shop at the antique places. But there is this giant mercado there. It’s where the locals in this old neighborhood do all their grocery shopping, but it also has the most ridiculous flea market. I’m not even sure why one would shop there, but there are no tourists, and there’s really old, dusty bric-a-brac.

I was rummaging around and I found this rolled-up print. I didn’t know what it was, so I opened it. I thought it was really cool—it was from 1971, and the artist made under a thousand of them. It was under $10. The dollar doesn’t go as far in Argentina as it used to, but it still goes pretty far. So I was really happy with that. Then I blew $350 on the frame.


Which room do you spend the most time in?

Here [living room with desk, couch, TV, bookshelf] because this is where I work, and this is what I come home to. The TV, everything, is in here. The bedroom is the sleeping spot. I don’t keep a TV in there; the only books that are in there are the ones I read when I’m going to bed. Because of the nature of working online, everything is really frenetic. I know that my bedroom doesn’t look particularly Zen, but comparatively speaking, there’s nothing in there but a bed.

Do you keep your neighbors close, or at arm’s length?

The night I moved in, I had nothing to set up, I was playing music from my computer, and the second the music came on: knock knock knock. There was the woman from across the hall. She’s in her late 50s or 60s, and she knocked on the door, and asked what I was doing here. I said, ‘Well, I just moved in today.’

‘Oh, well, this place has been vacant forever.’

“Well, didn’t you hear me move in today? It was very loud.’ She didn’t hear me move in. But she’s very concerned that people are going to try to break in through the roof, so any time there is an unusual thud, she is outside right away.

Also, there are heating problems sometimes, typical New York stuff; so our top-floor crew, we’re always checking in with each other about the status of the heat and the hot water.

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