Retail expert and renowned blogger Paula Flynn on her 'Manhattan State of Mind' when it comes to her home
'I had never really been on social media before, I wasn't into Facebook, but when I discovered Instagram I loved it immediately as a visual tool for sharing. And the more I got into it, the more I realised that although there were lots of blogs out there, none of them was solely focused on shops."
Paula Flynn is explaining the thought process behind her blog, The Shopkeepers, a celebration of great shops, which she launched earlier this year. Already it has a loyal following among people as obsessed with retail as Paula. "The shops that I feature on the blog are all doing something a bit different," says Paula, "and it's as much about the people behind them as the shops themselves. Because there's so much competition in the retail arena, it's not enough just to have a shop any more. You have to do events, find new ways to engage customers, and let the retail space be a window into the company."
Although raised and educated in Ireland, Paula has been living in New York on and off since the mid-eighties. Trained in fashion and textiles at NCAD, she worked with Chloe and Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, before moving to New York and spending ten years working at Gap. "Then Orla Kiely asked me to help implement her vision when she opened her first shop in New York," says Paula, who went on to become president of Orla Kiely US, project managing the opening of the Irish designer's flagship store on Mercer Street in Soho. She left to join Flint & Kent as a design consultant, part of a freelance design team that develops retail projects in the US.
Paula lives with her husband and family in a 1960s high-rise building with its own gym, pilates room and roof deck close to the UN on the east side of Manhattan.
"The building is a great example of mid-century architecture, like the UN itself," says Paula. "It is designed in the style of a grand Park Avenue apartment, but in a modern package. By that I mean there are two entrances, main and service, and two staircases, one that is like a back staircase which goes from the kitchen to what was a maid's room. Our apartment is a duplex, spread between the 35th and 36th floors.We did a gut renovation, knocking walls and reconfiguring bedrooms to make four double bedrooms.
"In its heyday, the building had many famous residents, including Bobby Kennedy, Truman Capote, and Walter Cronkite who passed away a few years ago was still living here. Dina Merrill [of Merriweather Post and Caddyshack fame] is our next-door neighbour, and Si Newhouse, of Conde Nast, still lives in the building.
"Wherever I live, I've always looked for light and views. Here we can see five miles down the East River, with all the boats going up and down, and the planes taking off and landing at La Guardia. Near us is a new 90-storey residential building; I can't imagine who would want to live on the 90th floor. You'd be up in the clouds."
Paula describes her interiors style as minimalist. "I'm good with space, and I hate clutter," she says, although she admits to having plenty of the latter but being a stickler for keeping it all hidden. "I prefer contemporary furniture, and we have a few pieces of Irish art. I'm particularly fond of an Orpen watercolour of a little girl, because it reminds me of my younger daughter." In the summer, the family decamp to their house on a lake in upstate New York.
"In the city, we entertain more in the winter, and there are great shops nearby. I always buy cheese and bread at the Ideal Cheese Shop on First Avenue, and there's a great farmers' market on Dag Hammarskjold Plaza every Wednesday."