IMAGES: GINA ESPOSITO
Sandeep Salter is the creator and owner of Picture Room and Salter House, two beautiful spaces located in Brooklyn Heights. At Picture Room you will find artworks from artists both emerging and established, exquisitely curated and thoughtfully showcased for the public. At Salter House you will find a space full of beauty and warmth –– a family owned and operated cafe and housewares shop, a place that feels like home. We visited Sandeep at her country home on a bitterly cold day in January, and she willingly braved the cold with a smile, grace and ease to show us around the property her family enjoys away from the city.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF – WHAT YOU DO, WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS PATH ETC.
I moved to New York when I was 18, from London, where I grew up. I have two spaces in Brooklyn Heights, Picture Room, and Salter House. My husband, my two daughters and I live just a few blocks away from our shops, and we spend a lot of time in the countryside upstate. I am the second child of two dancers. I started my career as an archivist and bibliographer. My life is filled with art, and books, beautiful objects, and people who care deeply about what they do. I curate art collections, procure sustainable housewares, and make linens and dresses. I’m a mixed-race, ex-pat, small business owner, I had my kids young, and built my businesses with them in tow. I grew up in the city, and I’ve only recently discovered the joy of living in the countryside. I grow my own vegetables, and I feel most at peace with my girls and my husband in a nice big field with a creek within earshot.
WHAT DOES BEING BY THE WATER INVOKE IN YOU?
It relaxes me, and I feel most at ease by or in water.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL CHERISHED MEMORY OF SWIMMING?
I have so many cherished memories of swimming. I suppose the earliest being very young, three years old, maybe four, eyes half in the blue pool water, swimming towards my mom’s open arms, she's smiling and backing away, little by little, and saying, “C’mon, c’mon”. Swimming, and being in water is akin to a maternal embrace.
WILL YOU SHARE YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE BODY OF WATER?
I prefer fresh water, and I love to swim in mountain creeks and rivers. Twin Lakes in Colorado is a body of water that really stuck in my mind from a very happy day spent there. I grew up on The Regent’s Canal (Camden end), and it’s one of the most familiar and friendly bodies of water to me… though I’d NEVER swim in it! I love the ice pond right by our house upstate; it is a spring fed, concrete pond that was built in the 1800s as an ice pond for the town and the Dairy Farms. It’s reliable and beautiful, and full of good memories. We go there many times a week, it changes with the seasons, and we play with and around it however we can.
WHAT COLOR COMES TO YOU WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT SWIMMING?
Dark, dark blue, and moss green.
CURRENTLY BEING WINTER, HOW DO YOU ENGAGE WITH SWIMMING OR WATER DURING COLDER MONTHS? WE NOTICED YOU DID A NEW YEARS DAY PLUNGE WITH YOUR FAMILY, WHICH LOOKED LIKE SO MUCH FUN.
We did a polar bear swim on New Year's day. It’s going to be a new tradition! We play by the water so much. Throwing sticks and rocks into the creek. When it freezes over we slide around and skid for hours.
HOW HAS YOUR CONNECTION WITH SWIMMING AND WATER CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
It’s always been constant, in the city I live close to the water, and have needed it to check in. We walk along the Promenade above the East river. It shows me the beauty of the city and reminds me with great certainty, where I am and what I love about New York.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter, Eta, I had horrible morning sickness. It was very different from my first, and came in great long days of headache and nausea, it lasted for a large portion of the pregnancy. At that time, I had the most unmistakable urge to be fully submerged in water. It was almost carnal, and I’ve felt nothing like it before or since. So, I swam at our local pool whenever I could. It cleared my headache, and made me feel at peace. She was insisting upon it from inside me for whatever reason, and I appreciated that about her time in my belly. We had some really good swims.
WHAT DOES YOUR 'BEACH BAG' LOOK LIKE? DO YOU HAVE ANY FOODS THAT YOU FIND PARTICULARLY NOURISHING OR THAT BRING YOU JOY FOR A DAY BY THE WATER? ANYTHING ELSE YOU ALWAYS BRING?
Chips, Salsa, and Watermelon. Always. More than enough towels and cotton. Lots of drinking water. Marijuana. Sun-screen.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SEASON?
Actually, I don’t, I love each season for their distinct characteristics. It’s one of the things I love about New York, it cycles. England’s seasons blur together in the foggy misty grey, and I found that to be a real slog as a kid.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO WITH WARMER WEATHER? WHAT DOES SPRING/SUMMER LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Swimming. Open windows. No coats. No trousers. Naked kids. Gardening. More spontaneity. Meetings outside, work outside, everything, outside.
HOW DO YOU WEAR NU SWIM?
I wear Nu Swim in the garden. I like to get really hot, muddy and sweaty pulling weeds in the summer and then head straight to the pond for a swim and play on the rope swing with the kids!
MUCH OF NU SWIM'S INSPIRATION COMES FROM FILMS AND ART EITHER DIRECTLY OR LOOSELY RELATED TO WATER – DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SWIMMING OR WATER RELATED FILM, MUSIC OR ART REFERENCE?
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton. It was a book that I felt I could really relate to, growing up around all of these specificities of a sport (mine being dance and gymnastics, and hers being swimming). Leanne interpreted these specificities into an idiosyncratic and beautiful pastiche of drawings and writings. Leanne is a friend, and one of our Picture Room artists. I read the book before we knew each other, and returned to it as common ground.
YOUR PROPERTY IN NEW JERSEY LOOKS STUNNING; CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT BALANCING SUCH A PASTORAL LIFESTYLE WITH A FAST-PACED CITY LIFESTYLE (INCLUDING RUNNING YOUR TWO BUSINESSES)?
It’s been nothing short of a life-saver for our family. We were able to come up here and quarantine when the city shut down in March. We moved all of our shop inventory to the basement and kept our business afloat. I found my place in our garden, and we ate very well from the land. I am not sure if I’ve found the balance yet, since covid has turned everything upside down, and week to week, everything is always different in terms of our schedule and where we are. I think of my time in the country as a true life-line. The space, the air, the woods, the animals, the changes in the seasons.
SINCE COVID BEGAN, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ISOLATING? CAN YOU RECOMMEND SOME THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU FEEL GROUNDED? A RITUAL THAT BRINGS YOU PEACE?
I spent quite some time with this question… I kept re-writing it to sound less pessimistic, and then I just thought, why am I doing that? So, for real: quarantining with two kids leaves no room for rituals that bring peace, the peace only comes after 9.30pm, and by that time, I’m usually too exhausted to enjoy it, and there’s certainly more work to do anyhow. I’ve got some work to do to access modes of regeneration at a different time in my life. My husband grounds me, he makes me laugh, and he lifts me up. I count myself extremely lucky to have a unit to isolate with. But working moms have a lot to contend with right now (and working parents in general, but evidently it seems working moms have been particularly challenged during the pandemic). I’m homeschooling our kids most of the week, trading roles with my husband whenever one of us has to hop onto a call, and dive into our businesses (3 between us) during those in-between moments, cooking three meals a day and cleaning the house... the two days they are both at school, I check in with our staff at the shop, and race through my work to catch up. I thought that this school year would finally be the time for me to find some more balance and establish a creative rhythm because they would both be in full time school - but man, was I wrong! We’re kind of on overdrive most of the time, isolated, sure, but with constant demands from school, and work. We walk and hike, we play outside whenever one of us is short tempered. Cooking makes me feel at ease, and spending time in the woods with the kids, throwing sticks and rocks at the creek… I’m pretty good at shutting out work and the “outside world” when I really need to, and be present with my girls. It’s terribly simple, but, family, fresh air, and the ground itself keep my head on straight. More balance and new modes to find peace some other time.
WORK AT HOME ESSENTIALS?
HOW HAS COVID CHANGED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DAY TO DAY?
I appreciate what we have for sure. Covid has opened the doors to a constant and continuous series of adjustments, and a level of precarity I’d never felt before. I have to remain absolutely flexible and optimistic at all times. As long as we’re all healthy, and finding ways to enjoy ourselves, we’re all good! We really are all good.
SANDEEP'S SALTER HOUSE PICKS
SANDEEP'S PICTURE ROOM PICKS