Visiting New York City as a novelist verses a tourist changes the entire experience. The first time I ever went to the city, I was a tourist in every sense of the word and hit all the not-to-be-missed places (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, etc.). But when I visited to research Tiffany Girl, I looked at the city through a whole different lens. One of the things I fell in love with was the beautiful brownstone homes on the city’s Upper West Side.
As soon as I walked past a row of those charming buildings, I knew I would have to make one of them the fictional childhood home of my heroine Flossie Jayne. The Upper West Side was quite the swanky neighborhood and too expensive for her family, so I put them on the very fringes of it and made it so her father was living beyond his means. The beautiful artistry and design that goes into these buildings makes them feel like the perfect place for a budding young artist to grow up. See what I mean?
New York City brownstone homes were (and still are) usually quite long and narrow, with the biggest rooms in the very front and very back of the house. Because they were built upward, not outward, these homes usually had 2-4 levels, with bedrooms, parlors and sitting rooms spread across several different floors. Could you imagine walking up and down those flights stairs all day long? Yikes!
Since Flossie was an only child, the Jayne family didn’t need to have quite as much space as their friends with big families, so a home with two levels provided more than enough room for all of them.
Flossie would have spent the majority of her childhood in the sitting room, where she and her mother sewed fancy dresses for the upper class ladies of New York City. While she was hard at work, Flossie could look out the window and watch the people strolling through the north end of Stuyvesant Park. Not a bad view, right?
I like to imagine that Flossie’s childhood bedroom would have been tasteful and elegant, just like her. She would have had a four poster bed with white lace detailing on her bedding and a big, colorful rug on the floor. Remember how she decorated her room at the boardinghouse with her paintings? They would have been all over the walls in her childhood room too, along with prints of other artists she admired. I think Flossie would have had a dressing room table with a mirror where she would sit when she got ready in the mornings, and a rocking chair in the corner perfect for painting and reading.
What kind of picture of Flossie’s childhood home do you get in your head while reading the first scenes of Tiffany Girl? Have you ever been in a brownstone? Share your thoughts with me on my Facebook page, or on Twitter!