Two homes that nurture a family’s many creative pursuits

Before Hurricane Sandy, Nhi Mundy lived well in the Financial District with her family. She and her husband, Michael Mundy, were raising three children while he worked as a photographer and she teamed up with him to launch ‘An Afternoon With’, a blog that featured intimate images of individuals and families in their homes. .

Then the extraordinary storm flooded their two-bedroom apartment. New owners bought the building, made repairs and increased the rent by almost 30%.

“We had to give up our lives in the city,” Ms Mundy said.

The family moved to Jeffersonville, NY, in the Catskills, about two hours north of town. They had a dog, they had a cat and chickens, and they settled into a rural existence, still missing much of what they had before the storm.

“My husband and I had always lamented that the prices in New York were absurd, especially for artists,” she said.

“After the pandemic, it was like, ‘Oh, my God, I need to see people.’ So we thought maybe we should find a way to come back.

She started looking at rents around town, just to get an idea of ​​prices. “My husband took issue with it at first,” she laughed. “He thought I was leaving him or something – a joke, not a joke.”

But even he was intrigued when more bargains started to appear at the start of the pandemic.

“I grew up in New York,” Mr. Mundy said, “so I realized it could be like coming home.”

At one point, they came across a large, tempting studio apartment with large windows and lots of light. The rent was stabilized, which meant they knew for sure they wouldn’t be paying 30% more when the lease expired. The only hiccup for Mrs. Mundy and her husband was that it was on the Upper East Side.

“As diehard downtowns,” she said, “we reluctantly consider the Upper East Side for two reasons. First, because downtown real estate is crazy – it’s just very expensive. And then because the Upper East Side is where a lot of good public schools are. At some point we realized that a private school upstate would cost as much as an apartment in town.

Shortly after the apartment arrived, Ms. Mundy was accepted into a creative writing program at Columbia University. “Everything kind of fell into place and it made sense to have this kind of dual lifestyle,” she said.

Mrs. Mundy’s youngest child, Quyen, attends Eleanor Roosevelt High School and resides in the apartment full-time. Her two older children – Isabella, 20, and Kai, 18 – both attend Bard College.

“Because the space is small, we can live together, with three — or five — but it’s not comfortable. Having two people at once is a good level of comfort. Three pushes him. So my marriage has adopted a sort of part-time status. Most of the time I spend here Monday to Thursday with Quyen, and my husband comes on Thursdays and Friday.”

The family tries to spend time together on weekends, usually upstate at their home in Jeffersonville, but it always depends on their busy schedule.

In addition to her studies and work as an editor, Ms. Mundy is also a restaurateur who manages three separate locations of a Vietnamese restaurant called Bā & Me – two in upstate and a third in the Poconos. Her husband recently bought her a book called “How to Sit” because, as she said, “it’s something I have a hard time doing.”

$1,650 | Upper East Side

Occupation: Editor & Restorer

New business: In addition to publishing “DVEight”, a magazine dedicated to arts and culture in upstate New York, Ms. Mundy launched a second magazine in April called “Upstate Woman”, focused on celebrating modern rural women in New York and beyond. “When I moved upstate,” she said, “I realized there was very little literature for people like me, people who came as transplants.”

Golden handcuffs: Ms. Mundy is grateful for the success of her restaurants, but also wants more freedom from them, so she can work on other projects. “Thanks to the restaurants, she says, I can have the magazines, I can have this apartment. It is a blessing and a curse. I want to be a good businesswoman, but there’s a creative side to me that also wants to be happy.

It was hard to fit so much of their life into a studio apartment after lying in a three-story house on three acres in the countryside.

“Right after signing the lease,” she said. “I immediately got to work in my head, organizing and compartmentalizing the apartment so it could work for everyone.”

There’s the loft which she says serves as a “mini-bedroom” for Quyen – and their siblings when they’re there too. A ladder led to the attic, but Ms. Mundy replaced it with a small staircase and added a shoji for privacy. A Murphy bed hides behind curtains and a double airbed is tucked under a loveseat. The apartment is a study in space saving strategies – and yet there is often not enough room.

“Because it’s such a small space, and Quyen and I both go to school,” Ms. Mundy said, “sometimes I have to stay at Columbia and study at the library to give them their own space to study in peace at home.”

And to his surprise, the Upper East Side grew on Mrs. Mundy. “The one thing I had felt living downtown was this constant pressure to be something else,” she said. “I feel very anonymous here and I like that. People are dressed really normally and there is no pressure to be anything else.

For his part, Mr. Mundy likes to find the rhythm of the city. “The country is great,” he said, “but I’m all about the people, and it’s great to be around so many people doing interesting things and being part of that energy.

As for their 16-year relationship, the partial return to the city has been both invigorating and empowering for the Mundys. “In some ways,” Ms. Mundy said, “it’s boring.”

“Commuting isn’t much fun, sleeping alone is lonely, cooking for two isn’t as special as cooking for three or five — the conversation just isn’t the same.

But there’s also this sense of renewal: “When I see my husband now, it’s almost like I know him again — a reboot of this marriage. It definitely created a new layer, a new interesting point for our relationship. In a way, it might even be for the best.

For now, Ms Mundy said, there is no expiration date on her unconventional lifestyle.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to stay here, but for now it’s useful and it makes me happy. I would like it to stay like this for as long as possible. »

Comments are closed.