As the force behind the beloved blog Habitually Chic, Heather Clawson lives in a richly visual world. Between studying 19th-century painting, designing interiors in New York, hunting through flea markets, and logging frequent trips to France—and, of course, being all over Pinterest—she’s trained her eye on thousands upon thousands of images. For anyone into design, art, and travel (and who isn’t?), her site is the perfect daily fix.
We had to know how Heather, who describes her own style as “unabashedly uptown,” actually lives and works. Our peek into her lovely apartment, located on the top floor of a tony uptown block, didn’t disappoint. It’s beautifully collected and totally respectful of tradition, and it moves to its own beat. There are tables made of books and antique silverware kept in mason jars. It leaves an impression that’s both rich and lighthearted, decadent and joyful. We couldn’t get enough (and want to copy everything). Take a tour and spend time with the lovely Heather Clawson at home.
Finding Her Uptown Groove
Like so many other staunch New Yorkers, Heather isn’t a native. She grew up outside of Pittsburgh, where, she says, “Andy Warhol is the hometown hero,” and was steeped in the stories of Warhol’s Factory and Studio 54 early on. New York seemed “mythical, glamorous, and full of opportunities.” Already cultivating her design sense, she pored over House & Garden—during Anna Wintour’s stint there as editor—and accompanied her mother while she steamed wallpaper and hunted local flea markets.
When Heather arrived in New York nearly 15 years ago, she felt destined for the Upper East Side. Although “the cool kids have always lived downtown,” she loved uptown’s association with Truman Capote and his swans—Babe Paley, Lee Radziwill, C.Z. Guest—and the glamorous past. And the modern-day version might be even better; as Heather puts it, “It’s still more polished and put together, and so beautiful. It used to have a snotty rep, but I find it really inclusive and neighborhood-y.”
Uptown is still more polished, put together, and so beautiful. I find it inclusive and neighborhood-y.
Always on the Hunt
A die-hard collector, Heather is one of those enviable people who seems to find gems wherever she goes. She buys great little paintings for a song or spots a lovely Wedgwood piece that someone overlooked. She believes in training your eye by looking at art and furnishings even when they’re out of your budget. “Over time, you get a sense of why one gilt frame is better than another,” she says. “And then you can spot the good stuff.”
She does have a leg up on the art, having studied 18th- and 19th-century European art—including all those beloved Impressionists—and that’s where her taste tends to go. Her haul always works when she comes home, since she has a gift for arranging objects and no desire for a minimalist, streamlined look. “I definitely prefer interiors that look collected rather than decorated. Everything in my apartment tells the story of where it’s from, even if it’s a $5 find at the flea market.”
I definitely prefer interiors that look collected rather than decorated.
Since founding her blog in 2007, following an early career working in commercial real estate and for interior designers, Heather has continued to evolve her schedule and her career. She stopped taking her own interior design clients a few years ago, when she began work on her first book. Currently she balances her time between creative inspiration—which could include a trip to the medieval Cloisters in the upper reaches of Manhattan—and execution, and along the way she’s preparing to write her second book. She tends to craft her blog posts first thing in the morning, to give her readers something fresh when they begin their own days. “I love that my audience ranges from design-obsessed teenagers to lovely 80-year-old ladies.” There’s no typical day—after posting a piece, she may continue working or zip out for meetings or a museum jaunt.
Heather loves having a proper office to keep her in a working frame of mind. At the same time, she loves the ease of not having to actually commute to an office. This all informs her personal style: “I’ve embraced having a uniform—though I do sometimes blog in my pajamas.” She spends a bit more on shoes, bags, and coats, since those are the most visible pieces when you’re walking around the city. “Even though New York is a big city, it’s also a small town for sure. You always run into someone you know.”
With the blog, there’s no separation between work and life. I’m always Instagramming and tweeting on vacation.
Less Fuss, More Champagne
While Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s never bothered to unpack and kept her telephone in a suitcase, there are certain similarities between her eccentric take on apartment living and Heather’s own. First off, Heather barely cooks—much like Miss Golightly, Heather says, “I have more champagne in my fridge than I have food!”
It follows that the kitchen wasn’t her first focus; as she says, “I had fallen so in love with the apartment’s south-facing windows and gorgeous light, I didn’t immediately notice the lack of kitchen drawers.” As it turns out, her flatware looks totally chic lined up in mason jars. And since she can order party-ready hors d’oeuvres from a spot around the corner, Heather has taken to throwing cocktail parties—serving champagne, natch—rather than hosting sit-down dinners.
I have more champagne in my fridge than I have food!
Many Happy Returns
“If I’ve been traveling, I find it so comforting to come back to everything in its same place and sleep in my own bed,” says Heather. One long sojourn away happened last summer, when Heather decided to decamp to Paris (trading New York takeout for food from Le Bon Marché’s famed La Grande Épicerie, which was dangerously close to her pied-à-terre). While she relished finally having time to see the smaller museums, become a flea market regular, and walk the city, she craved the routines and work ethic of New York.
Heather is unabashedly into monogrammed beddings. Amusingly, though, her bedding prompted one devout Habitually Chic reader to give her some love advice: “She wrote to me to say that, as a single person, I shouldn’t have monogrammed bed linens because it’s bad feng shui. I’ll report back!”
love it! thanks for the tour and narration.
Absolutely fabulous apartment.
The style is nice but this apartment has way too many books everywhere. I too live in a small space in Manhattan but you have to edit it back so that it doesn’t feel like you’re in a cave of books that can collapse on top of you at any minute.
Some of us are resigned to the fact that we will live and die owning far too many books.
Adore Heather and her great sense of style and panache!
The Arts by Karena
I read HC everyday, as a fellow blogger I really enjoy her work and now I’ve gotten to enjoy her lovely apartment. Great Job HC and OKL!!!!
Great sense of style; adore her apartment! Love that Heather doesn’t hide her books .Life with what you love..
Love a home that displays what the owner is all about — travel, good books and a passion for art and design. As a long-time native of NYC — the ES has always been trending!
Loved her apartment. She truly lives with the things she loves. What wonderful style this woman has!
Heather’s blog is by far my favorite! She inspires me with her wonderful sense of design. Having been in the arts and design world for the past 45 years it’s hard to impress me, but Heather sure does! Great to see inside her life!
Heather’s blog is by far my favorite! She has a great sense of style and design. Having been in the art and design world for the past 45 years, it’s hard to impress me, but Heather sure does! Keep up the great work!
Clutter is in the eye of the beholder.
Fabulous! Love Heather and her blog!
Beautiful blog, beautiful apartment…
Heather, could you BE more fabulous??
I too lived on the Upper East Side. And had my work desk right in front of a large window. Loved to look up the Avenue. I agree, Manhattan is a small town. Lots of neighborhoods. I love your apartment. Nice & bright & organized…with lots of treasures. Silverware in Mason jars! Now I know what to do with all my books: Make a table! And my loads of thrift shop/flea market prints. Thank you Heather. I so enjoyed your blog. And I so miss NY, NY! What a beautiful town 🙂
I’m going to be the only person who admits it, but I’m used to being “the” one who points out that the Emperor…or Empress…is wearing no clothing.
If you were to take your average “saves every plastic container from the grocery store” Depression Era shut in, give her enough money to buy a better quality of collected bits, and then organize them all over the place…this is what you’d get.
The individual items are quite beautiful. Taken in small pieces, many of the individual “decorated sets” are very well displayed. But the overall impact of the various pieces is completely, and tragically, blunted by virtue of being next to a hundred others. It would take about a week of living in this before the eye would gloss over it, the whole heavily covered wall of a room becoming one multicolored mosaic, the fabulous collection reduced to background noise.
There’s simply *too* much in every room pictured. This house looks like one of those “find the item” apps. It screams “This house is a museum…it’s very beautiful but no one *lives* in this space.” It reminds me of tightly packed antique stores.
Much of it has also been rendered completely nonfunctional: Books which one cannot read without un-stacking pictures from in front of them or lamps from on top of them, cups and glasses filled with silverware better left in drawers, long unused napkins held down with knickknacks….ugh.
There are enough plates and cups to serve a mansion’s worth of guests…but I’m betting that house has seating for about 12 in the dining room (if there is one), tops.
I *completely* get the desire to “nest” in an enclosed space surrounded by shiny things (note my avatar pic), but really…there needs to be a limit. It’s like she has a fear of empty horizontal or vertical space.
I couldn’t agree more with your post.
I can’t breathe with that much clutter. It looks like shopping display.
This is everything I want my home to be one day. I love the collected look–but more importantly, the feel of a home like this, having your memories be a presence around you.
Maybe it’s strange, but I could breathe easier and feel more at home in a space like this–one made cozy, full of art and books and beauty, always something to catch your eye–than a space that had been “edited.” Empty wall space, empty shelves, they leave me feeling just that: empty. But that’s just my style.
So to me, a home like this is wonderful, magical. I think living here, even though the pieces themselves would become familiar, every time you looked at them you would find something new. That’s the nature of art.