Is it just me, or are we all a bit fascinated with New York? I know so many people who either reminisce fondly about their time in The Big Apple, or else dream about someday living there. And tell the truth: When you hear the first few chords of New York, New York, you can’t help but belt out all the lyrics, right?
LaTonya Staubs lives a colorful life in Brooklyn. From the red and white polka dotted rug to turquoise chairs and on to orange spotted walls, this is an explosion of creativity. And yet, it’s still a calm from the storm that is the city, just outside their front door. That’s a trick that requires constant attention to balance and intention. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from this designer, mama, and lovely blogger. Friends, please welcome LaTonya!
Q: Tell us all about your family. (Also, your babes have such unique names, so please share how you chose them!)
A: My family and I live in Brooklyn, NY in a small and loving space. We started our family at a pretty young age, by total surprise. I was 21 and Peter was 24. River was and is still the most amazing surprise!
Before I got pregnant with her, Peter and I were young people just having fun in the city. There was always a party or show to attend, and my life was pretty much the typical life for a girl just barely out of her teens working and living in the city. I wanted a peaceful pregnancy and baby, after all the hoopla. I also wanted a baby girl with a unisex name, so she wouldn’t be judged about a job etc. before others ever met her. It goes so well with her personality.
We came up with Oak after I had already lost a baby well into my second trimester. I went into my pregnancy with him incredibly nervous and private, with a lot of feelings, and not knowing exactly how to sort through them. I soon realized that the insecurity after getting pregnant after a loss like that doesn’t just go away. All I could do was share my feelings with friends, and later with blog readers. I wanted to be strong and I wanted my baby to be strong. I knew if he made it through all the endless high risk appointments and past that 24 week mark he would be strong. Oak is a representation of that strength, like an Oak tree.
Q: How did this place become your home?
A: I don’t think we ever felt like this house was The One. I still don’t feel it. In New York, it’s always that “but” factor. To put it simply, you never get the whole enchilada in one property. Our apartment is home because we’ve made it home by adding little bits of us. It’s located in our dream neighborhood, we’re on the first floor, and have yard access – all pretty golden in NYC! – but we would of course love more space, a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer unit. Which will probably never happen! Or, at least, not all of it at once.
It’s close to impossible to buy in our neighborhood, but we have been really lucky with our landlords. All the pre-war apartments people bought for pennies in comparison to now are being held onto super tight. At this point, we’re pretty content with renting.
Q: What makes you love the place you live?
A: I always end up bragging about our area! Really, it’s pretty amazing. We love that there is so much diversity in our neighborhood! When we considered moving a while ago, my friend said to me, “Well, maybe you’ll find cheaper rent but you will be spending more for sure. There are so many places to spend your money.” And it’s true, in the best way.
We have so many cute cafés, all of which are ridiculously kid friendly. We are surrounded by four amazing parks within just a few blocks from our home. We also have the huge Fort Greene park, which hosts the Saturday morning farmers market – it’s the best. Lastly, people from around the world come to visit the Brooklyn Flea every Saturday, which is located just a few short blocks from our house. It’s all pretty insane.
Q: You recently redecorated your daughter’s room because it wasn’t working for her. Tell us about the process and the improvements that were important to you both.
A: We did some small retouches that made a huge difference in River’s room. The major change was the addition of baskets. We wanted her to be able to access her toys and stuffed animals and craft things quite easily. But I also needed it to be an easy clean-up for me and for her, since she’s also responsible for cleaning up after herself. I love that the room is bright and fun; it’s a reflection of River for sure!
Q: Describe her reaction to making her own design decisions and with the final outcome.
A: River loves it! We continue to add her artwork and artwork of friends to her wall. It’s always changing, and she loves that she has a say. I value her eye; even at three and a half, I think she visualizes and expresses things well. Her room is hers, and she is thrilled.
Q: How do you define – or resist definition! – your design style? How does your home’s decor and arrangement contribute to your family’s harmony?
A: This is a hard one, because I feel like I always try and stay in one design style and never ever follow through. I initially wanted this house to be a minimalistic, clean space with tiny pops of color. It definitely has evolved into a more eclectic, bohemian, plantastic space!
It’s bright, it’s happy, and some parts of it are calming. All in all, I just want someone – anyone – to feel at home when they enter that old steel door. Whether it’s the plants, the colors, or the layers of carpets that make you feel comfortable, I’m happy with that.
Q: You’re a thoughtful blogger who has discussed openly your struggle with what to share and what to keep private. Will you talk to us about the gains you’ve felt from your site, and how it has changed your life?
A: Goodness! Like motherhood, the blog guilt definitely comes in waves. Recently after opening up more about that struggle, I’m more settled in my position of what I will and will not share, and being okay with that.
The great thing about blogging is people connecting with you deeply, especially when you hit tough spots. The sometimes bad thing about blogging is people connecting to you deeply.
So far, my readers have been so understanding and loving, and I’m happy I opened up about that struggle. I learned that the amount of people unhappy with what I was no longer willing to share was really just a sliver of my readers. I value everyone’s opinion and criticism, and I just wanted them to know that.
Blogging has definitely been the groundwork for so many long-lasting relationships, personally and professionally. I’ve also grown so much as a person through opening up in the past, and I’m so thankful to my readers for allowing me to do so.
Q: Tell us about Welkin‘s philosophy. We’d love to hear about why you started the company, your partner, and your role.
A: Welkin NYC is a children’s line inspired by, and made in, New York City. We provide a sort of uniform for the urban lifestyle: clothing that is functional, durable, comfortable, stylish, and a little bit edgy. We love to create everyday basics that defy the typical seasonal rules of fashion. Our clothes are not disposable but rather season-less, meant to be worn and layered throughout the year, year after year. We offer a collection of unisex pieces as well as a rotation of dresses, jackets, and special collaborations.
Belle Savransky and I founded Welkin NYC to translate our love for the city into something tangible. I think like Welkin’s philosophy, our roles have evolved. As we put out each collection, we learn more and the line itself takes on another shape.
I am more of an extrovert and Belle is more of an introvert, but we both are creatives and bring different talents to the line. Our personalities even each other so well, and it makes everything so smooth. Without a doubt, Welkin will always be a sustainable line, and we absolutely love that everything is made right here in New York City.
Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom?
A: I love that my children’s toy pieces are like furniture staples in our apartment. I’m proud of that. This place is very much mine and theirs.
Without a doubt, I am surprised by how profoundly I can love these little humans. I’m loving every little moment right now.
Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…
A: I wish someone had told me that there will be moments when you feel like you’re totally failing at almost everything…and that is okay! Chances are, you’re doing amazing!
I love peeking in on New Yorkers, don’t you? LaTonya, thank you for inspiring us today with your style and substance! I giggled when you described the best and worst parts of blogging both pertaining to the deep connections formed with readers, and I wonder how many other bloggers out there feel the exact same way? (Gosh, I wonder how many people feel that way about life? Ha!)
Was I right about New York? Maybe since September 11th, I imagine we all hold a piece of New York in our hearts. Do you daydream about living in a big city, or are you just fine simply visiting?