On Graduating to a New Neighborhood: An Interview with Tilden Brighton of To Be Bright

By: Sarah Vates Urban living
Photo by Tilden Brighton

The move into what feels like your first “adult” apartment is a triumph. Swapping Ikea furniture for timeless pieces and the curtains for, well, doors, is a life change well rewarded.

Tilden Brighton, the founder and face of the NYC life and style blog To Be Bright, is a Jersey-girl born and raised, so naturally, she moved to the Big Apple after graduating from the University of South Carolina. After three years of living in Manhattan’s Murray Hill, she hasn’t turned back, but she’s recently made another big move: from her first starter apartment to a more permanent space in the Financial District. Recently, Tilden has spent most of her time exploring her new neighborhood and developing her Best of NYC Guides.

We caught up with Tilden in her new neighborhood to talk about all things moving, neighborhood exploring, and what it’s like starting over.

Photo by Tilden Brighton

What’s the difference between your old apartment and your new pad?

I finally have a bedroom door! I was in an amazing studio space prior but I don’t think I could go back to not having a door to close. It’s such a game changer.

How have you shifted your design and decor from a studio to a one-bedroom?

Despite having a one bedroom, I actually ended up losing some functional space (especially in the closet department). Given that my bedroom is also operating as my closet and home office setting, I had to get clever with the sizing of my furniture to ensure I would be able to fit everything I own while still having a separate space to be able to get my work done. If anything, my design and decor got more practical, yet I was very resourceful when finding pieces that were suitable for a small space yet still attractive to the eye.

What would you tell someone who is moving to New York City?

Definitely do your research prior. Figure out exactly where you’ll be working, where your friends are, where you’ll expect to spend most of your time, etc. From there, you can determine your must-haves versus your desires / wish list and be able to find a place that will benefit you the most long term. The most important thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a perfect apartment—you’ll have to sacrifice something one way or another, so keep an open mind and be flexible with what you’re willing to work around.

Photo by Tilden Brighton
Photo by Tilden Brighton

How do you explore a new neighborhood?

I pay attention to how accessible it is to get to (i.e. subway lines), so if I’m anticipating having friends over or trying to get home late, I’ll know what to expect. I also keep in mind how popular it is during the week versus the weekend as well as restaurant and bar spots that could be great go-tos if I don’t want to venture elsewhere.

What’s your favorite thing about your new neighborhood?

As a blogger, I LOVE the new surroundings! The Seaport is super quiet, despite being a touristy area of downtown. There are so many spots to photograph and much more available to me in terms of getting great content. I also love the change of location, seeing new faces, and getting a different vibe than I did in Murray Hill.

What’s something you wish you had known before you moved to FiDi?

How much money I’d really end up spending to live in my building (haha), but honestly, it’s all worth it. I couldn’t be happier with my surroundings so it’s worth the extra working hours to make it possible.

Photo by Tilden Brighton

Describe FiDi in three words.

Historical, powerful, quiet.

Best cup of coffee and restaurant in you new neighborhood?

Still trying out new places but I’ll say for now the best coffee is at Cafe Patoro and restaurant is Trading Post.

Favorite new place to take photos in FiDi?

South Street Seaport! It’s so charming with the smaller, original buildings and cobblestone streets. I absolutely love the history behind it and how different it is than every other part of the city.


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