Manhattan transfer: At home with Poppy De Villeneuve

Leaving London was a big step for photographer Poppy De Villeneuve but in New York she's found a new focus – and a great loft apartment
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The Independent Online

If you're a curious person, New York is wonderful. There are always crazy people to look at in the street and they have the best street signs here! I can spend hours walking around SoHo and TriBeCa, checking out locations or simply watching the city go by. New York is changing all the time, with new shops and restaurants being built and new people moving in. In order to really experience a place, I think you have to live there. Living in London was great, but I got to a stage where I wanted to live in a new city and see things from a different perspective. I didn't feel I was giving anything up, rather that I was building on what I had.

I've always felt connected to the US. My mum is from Ohio, so all my life I've been moving back and forth between here and Britain and there's a definite familiar feeling in both places. I grew up in Midhurst, West Sussex, before moving to London 10 years ago; then, moving here, it was like two pieces of my life have come together. I like the oddities of American culture, though New York is unique in many ways. Things are pretty straightforward here. One of the first things you notice is that the emphasis is very much on work, which is great and inspiring, but it can be exhausting, too. There's rarely such a thing as a day off in this city.

My loft apartment is in NoHo, which is just north of Houston Street. It's actually better being a little bit further downtown. It's kind of a non-neighbourhood, which I really like. I was lucky to find a loft apartment in an old factory building on a beautiful tree-lined street. It's an amazing place, a bit like living in a funny little tree house. There's lots of wood and my bedroom is up a tiny ladder, so it feels as if you're sleeping on a perch.

Most apartments in New York are tiny, so I was really lucky to find somewhere with such a lot of space. Before I came here, I was subletting from a friend. I had to leave and the landlord said he knew a place but I had to meet him first thing on Tuesday to view it. The moment I saw it, I said I'd take it. You have to move quickly in this town.

The flat was pretty much there when I found it. If anything, I wanted to make it more minimalist. I really like places to look clean, so I had a battle taking down shelves and trying to hide things. Even though there's more space here than in most apartments in the city, it's still a struggle trying to fit everything in without exposing all my stuff. Disguising bits and pieces in the kitchen involved some strategic decoration. I like seeing nice pots and pans, but not food. Things like old flags are really good at covering stuff, and I pack loads of bits away in old crates. When you set your mind to it, there are lots of ways to tuck things out of sight.

New York is filled with shops. We have a great furniture store on Houston Street, where I found a Fifties sofa, which I've just had refurbished. I also found a lovely little art deco desk there, which I use for work. On Bowery there's an amazing kitchen shop, where I bought a stainless-steel work surface for tending to my portfolio. A lot of my stuff comes from travelling. I recently did a big project that took me across America. I found this wishbone in Austin, which is really just a chicken bone, but it was displayed in a stunning Fifties case and was just alluring. I also picked up a pair of antlers.

I'm constantly looking for curiosities. My mum helps me collect taxidermy birds. I have a stuffed tiger in London, but there's no way I'm fitting that in this apartment! I also collect old black-and-white photos, particularly those of couples, but basically anything that has a story behind it.

If you focus on finding one thing, you end up digging out the most bizarre stuff. I've got one picture of a couple on safari, with the woman holding a whip. It's very strange. There are other random shots, like one of a wrestler and another of a football team. Robert Ball photographs pacemakers once they've been removed from the body, and I've got one of his prints, which is amazing. There's something otherworldly about it, it's almost like a sea creature in some way.

It's hard to get bored in New York; I guess I'll stay here for a while. All my family are in the UK so I have to make sure I divide my time, but I think it's important to settle in one place. For the moment, New York is definitely where I'm at.

Poppy De Villeneuve, 29, is a photographer whose clients include Dazed & Confused, Vogue and Jimmy Choo. The daughter of Sixties fashion photographer, Justin De Villeneuve – the man who discovered Twiggy – and the model Jan De Villeneuve, Poppy was also a model before stepping behind the camera, aged 17. She lives alone in a New York loft apartment.

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