During her 20s, like countless other New Yorkers in that age group, Sarah Steele “bopped around apartments that mostly, you know, weren’t so nice,” she said.
Ms. Steele’s résumé of rentals includes studio apartments in Prospect Heights and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as well as a diminutive one-bedroom in Williamsburg that she shared with a longtime (now ex) boyfriend.
A few years ago, when a college roommate went through a breakup of her own, “I saw it as an opportunity to live with an old friend. We moved in together in October of 2019, so we did the whole pandemic together basically watching ‘Sex and the City,’” said Ms. Steele, now 33, who plays the fearless secretary turned P.I. turned lawyer Marissa Gold on the Paramount+ legal drama “The Good Fight.” Its sixth and final season begins Sept. 8.
The two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was a strange place: The oversized bathroom with its Jacuzzi and red light seemed to have been conceived with Russian oligarchs in mind. And it was a strange, troublous time.
“I haven’t talked about this publicly much, but I had cancer,” Ms. Steele said. “I had a sarcoma in my leg — which, you know, knock on wood, I’m cancer-free now — but I had to have surgery and couldn’t walk for the first, like, two months we were in the apartment.”
Sarah Steele, 33
Home sweet home: “A couple of months ago, there was a really, really long, hard day on ‘The Good Fight,’ where I didn’t get home until like 3:00 in the morning or something. I put my bag down and starting sobbing with gratitude that I have this place.”
She continued: “We were like, ‘We are due for some good luck.’ And my roommate got up one day and said, ‘We are both going to find amazing love while we’re in this apartment.’”
Sure enough, two months later, both found “incredible partners,” Ms. Steele said. Then, in the summer of 2021, she found an incredible co-op in Brooklyn Heights. And barely a week ago, her incredible partner, Sean Patrick Smith, a lawyer, moved in with her.
There are two love stories to unpack here, and one quite stunning coincidence.
Love story No. 1 involves the apartment: a light-filled, two-bedroom walk-up with a wall of casement windows in the living room, two decorative fireplaces, a kitchen with a skylight, and a washer and dryer (no more lugging sacks of dirty clothes to the laundromat). But the most persuasive selling point was the array of built-in bookcases. “I was an English major, and I’m totally book-obsessed and so is my partner,” Ms. Steele said.
“I walked in and I was like, ‘I really want to buy this place,’” she said. “I asked my parents to come look at it, because I was like, ‘I can’t tell if I’ve just gone insane and can’t see what’s problematic,’ because it is a fifth-floor walk-up. But then my parents came and they were like, ‘Nope, you’re not insane. Get it right now.’”
Love story No. 2 stars Mr. Smith, whom Ms. Steele met on Tinder. On their first date, the two learned they were from the same neighborhood outside of Philadelphia. But there was another, far more rom-com-ready real estate connection: The house Ms. Steele grew up in had previously been owned by Mr. Smith’s grandmother, who turned it into a day care center after raising 10 children there.
“Through talking to Sean, I was like, ‘Wait, are you talking about this house in Philly where I grew up?’ I was like, ‘Wait, I know your family!’” Ms. Steele recalled. “I told him, ‘I was like 5 years old and putting on a little concert for your grandmother.’”
Among Mr. Smith’s contributions to the ornamentation of his new home: a portrait of said grandmother with a background that Ms. Steele recognized as the first floor of her parents’ house. The painting now hangs over the fireplace in the living room.
The apartment represents Ms. Steele’s first stab at serious nesting. “Before, it was like, ‘I know I’ll only be here for a couple of years,’” she said. “And when that’s true, you don’t want to buy crazy expensive furniture, because who knows if it’s going to fit in your next place.”
A bit at sea, she enlisted the aid of Adam Charlap Hyman, a designer and artist. Their first conversation went something like this:
Mr. Charlap Hyman: Could you tell me some things you like in other people’s houses?
Ms. Steele: I really like when people hang up Christmas lights all year long.
Mr. Charlap Hyman: We’re not doing that.
Ms. Steele: OK. Well, I really like tie-dye.
Mr. Charlap Hyman: No.
But Mr. Charlap Hyman took note of the bohemian aesthetic his client was after and offered up a version that was, as he put it, classier, with an adroit deployment of patterns on the sofa and on a pair of recently acquired stools. The two had a meeting of the minds about a custom-made daybed under the living room windows (perfect!) and an arrangement of pottery plates on a wall in the kitchen. “They’re awesome,” said Ms. Steele, who independently elected to go with beaded curtains to conceal the washer-dryer unit.
“I grew up with a beaded curtain in front of my childhood bedroom,” she said. “But they were pink and plastic, and from Hot Topic.”
Star-struck bargain hunters hit pay dirt this past weekend: Ms. Steele and Mr. Smith had a stoop sale to divest themselves of duplicate pots, pans and other kitchenware. But the couple have seamlessly commingled their books, their art (much of it covers the walls of the second bedroom) and their greenery.
“But I’m a plant killer,” Ms. Steele confided. “All the ones that look good are Sean’s.”
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