When a Breakup Also Means a Major Downsizing

Mr. Le Hay, a director of public relations at a luxury lifestyle firm, admitted that it took some time to figure out how to set up his new space — the first one he has had all to himself. Before moving into the townhouse, he lived in a series of shares in Ditmas Park and Williamsburg, paying between $850 and $1,100 a month.


Benjamin-Émile Le Hay moved from a 6,000 square foot Fort Greene townhouse to a railroad-style one-bedroom. He likes that there is a living room with space for entertaining.

Elias Williams for The New York Times

“It’s a humble space, but I wanted it to look nice,” Mr. Le Hay said.

Among his favorite things in his new apartment is a portrait wall that a curator friend helped him put together: family and celebrity photos, Japanese prints inherited from his grandmother, as well as sketches and paintings by Mr. Le Hay’s great-grandfather, who was a Parisian artist.

“It’s nice to be able to put up a lot of stuff that never saw the light of day at the old house,” said Mr. Le Hay. “There were a lot of rules.”

Even so, he credits his ex with teaching him how to decorate — he knew, for example, that the antiques he inherited from his grandmother, who died this past year, should be balanced with more modern pieces. He also tried to avoid an overly grandmotherly vibe by offsetting the standard-issue white apartment walls with lots of navy and brown.

Name: Benjamin-Émile Le Hay

Age: 30 Occupation: Director of public relations at Quintessentially, a luxury concierge and management firm. Rent: $2,400 a month Studio vs. one-bedroom: Mr. Le Hey was smitten with one studio he saw, which had a working fireplace. But he realized that a studio would make entertaining difficult and houseguests very difficult. Houseguest policy: “I say as long as you stock food and wine, stay as long as you want.” What he likes about his new apartment: The living room and bedroom are on opposite ends of the apartment. “It’s nice to have some separation. And I really do rotate between rooms all the time.” One of the benefits of not having huge parties anymore: “We had some parties with hundreds of people. Things got destroyed: antiques, glass panels, expensive photographs, toilets, plumbing. When you invite that many people into your space, you have to know what’s coming.” Why he spent three months searching for just the right apartment: “Coming from a breakup, I wanted to feel relaxed and excited about my new neighborhood and space. Here, I’m definitely excited about coming home.”

Another lesson imparted by Mr. Morrissette — how to minimize clutter — did not always feel so urgent in his last situation, but is now serving him well.

“I’m not a hoarder, but I have lots of sentimental objects, bric-a-brac, books,” said Mr. Le Hay, who makes use of several large storage trunks to hide the overflow. “I am not a minimalist, and I don’t try to be. I certainly have too much stuff in here. Life’s short, who cares?”

He has, however, pared down considerably. When he unpacked, for example, he realized that he had seven colanders.

Though no one is likely to misplace a colander — or a half dozen — in the galley kitchen of his new apartment, it comes with gracious prewar touches like high ceilings, moldings and a generous amount of closet space. And, crucially, a layout that lends itself to hosting gatherings and out-of-town guests, with a pass-through area big enough for a dining table and separate doors to the hall from the bedroom and living room, making it easy for guests with different schedules to crash on the pullout sofa.

This, Mr. Le Hay explained, was vital. For him, the magical thing about the townhouse was how frequently it had been filled with people.

Not only did friends of theirs live upstairs and downstairs, but he and his ex-boyfriend hosted, on average, two large events a month: dinners; Halloween, Christmas, Memorial Day and Oscar night parties; New Year’s potlucks; Passovers and Thanksgivings; impromptu gatherings with anywhere between five and 40 people; friends’ engagement and birthday parties; bridal and baby showers. On New Year’s Eve, two days before he moved out, a few dozen friends stopped by, uninvited, on their way to and from other festivities.

“That whole house was filled with creative people. I don’t think we realized how special it was when we were living there,” said Mr. Le Hay. Mr. Morrissette, a real estate renovator, listed the house shortly after they broke up, and it has since been sold.

Mr. Le Hay added that he has had a string of house guests in his new place, but so far, only small impromptu gatherings. “I’m ready for another wave, but on a very different scale,” he said.

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