Meet Jill Singer

Jill Singer Sight Unseen for Passerbuys
 

Jill is the co-founder of online design magazine Sight Unseen. A former editor of I.D. Magazine, Jill is also a freelance writer, curator, and design consultant, and her work has appeared in PIN-UP, New York, T Magazine, W, and more. She lives on the Lower East Side with her husband and their two children.
Tracksuit, Full Court Sport

ON HER MORNING ROUTINE

I wake up around 7 and spend the first hour or so with my kids — I have a 6-year-old son and an almost 2-year-old daughter. My kids are voracious breakfast eaters. They’ll eat yogurt, applesauce, a waffle and part of my smoothie, which I make every morning: almond milk, a banana, almond butter, some combination of frozen fruit, cocoa, and honey. Sometimes I’ll throw in some spinach. On school days, I take my son to school in Williamsburg, go to the gym, and finally start working back home around 10:30. This is the benefit of being my own boss.

On Writing About Design

I got my start in design writing at I.D. Along the way, I had some interesting detours, including temping for a summer at Miramax and the very short-lived Talk Magazine (RIP). But when I started working at I.D., I felt like I’d finally found my people. I didn’t know anything about design when I started, but I fell in love with it and now can’t imagine writing about anything else.

On Creating Sight Unseen

[Monica and I] worked together closely at I.D. — we have very similar aesthetics and very similar writing styles, and whether that’s innate or whether it comes from years of symbiosis I’ll never know. When we left, we wanted to do a project focused on the personalities in design and the more behind-the-scenes maker aspects of it. Sight Unseen was originally conceived as a place that lifted up the curtain on how things were made and delved more deeply into designers’ lives, from the things they collect to the way they live. It still functions as that, but along the way it’s also become a place to break new talents, scout new trends, and a daily destination for anyone looking for inspiration.

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I was an English major in college, and graduated one credit shy of a creative writing minor, so I’ve read a LOT of books of short stories. Jesus’ Son is my favorite. The narrator’s name is Fuckhead and for the longest time, that was my email password. It’s surprisingly fast to type.
— On one of her favorite books

On Growing a Passion Project into a business

We had no business plan and we were pretty naive about online publishing in general — we brought all these vestiges of print with us, including long-form, crazily well-researched articles that took forever to write. A few years in, we were starting to burn out, and I was personally inspired by the way sites like Cup of Jo or Of a Kind brought their founders’ personalities to the fore. So we started writing from a slightly less journalistic remove and let our own personalities and lives into the site a bit more. That coincided with the rise of our Instagram and with the debut of one of our favorite, more off-the-cuff columns, Saturday Selects — and suddenly writing was a lot less stressful and much more fun. We also re-structured the business so that we weren’t both doing everything all the time. As for tips for newbies, I don’t know! I mean, people told us it would take about five years before we felt like our site actually mattered and about 10 for it to become part of the establishment, which seems about right as we approach our ninth year in business.

On Shopping and personal Style

As I approach 40, I’m trying harder and harder to spend more money on fewer items. I buy a lot from from Madewell, COS, and Everlane, but I tend to splurge on Rachel Comey, Zero Maria Cornejo, Apiece Apart, Isabel Marant, and Loeffler Randall. I'm pretty much into anything that’s flowy but still has interesting architecture or details. Then I try to punctuate more basic outfits with cool jewelry or shoes. My favorite store in the whole city is this place called Personnel of New York in the West Village. They have an in-house brand that’s more affordable and then they carry Black Crane, Building Block, Lauren Manoogian, Shaina Mote — along with a bunch of more lesser-known brands. I’ve found some amazing gems there.

I think my aesthetic is a less avant-garde, more livable version of the one we feature on Sight Unseen. A friend recently came to our house in the Hamptons and she was visibly relieved that it wasn’t some sort of contemporary design shrine. My favorite pieces are the ones I’ve acquired from designer friends — a Fort Standard lamp, a Ben & Aja Blanc mirror, a Brendan Timmins chair — but I try to mix those contemporary design pieces with vintage items and more mass-market stuff like West Elm or Ikea. But yeah, I think my mom almost fainted the day I got a Pottery Barn couch.
— On Home design and decor
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On Her Beauty Routine

All my life, I had pretty clear skin, but after both of my pregnancies, I got this thing called perioral dermatitis, which is like red bumps around your nose and mouth. It can be triggered by hormones but also, frankly, by trying out too many beauty products. Pretty much the only way to eliminate it (in my case) was to take a 3-month course of low-grade antibiotics. So now I have a relatively strict beauty routine — I wash my face in the shower with Osmia Organics Black Clay Facial Soap, exfoliate once a week with an Aesop paste, and use a really gentle moisturizer by Avène. I get nervous about gunking up my face with everyday sunscreen but I finally tried the Glossier one, which is clear and light and smells good and doesn’t make me break out. Then I probably screw everything up by using a bunch of NARS makeup. I use Beauty Is Life Retouch Concealer and RMS Beauty Living Luminizer. Oh, and I have about 35 different lipsticks. It’s the only beauty product I can really experiment with. I also am a huge bar soap convert. I use this brand Mater, which has exfoliating chunks baked into it that I just realized are poppy seeds. And I’m obsessed with having really smooth upper arm skin, so once every couple of weeks, I’ll use this Japanese exfoliating cloth called Salux mixed with Aesop’s Geranium Body Scrub. It doesn’t quite replicate a Koreatown scrub but it’s close enough.

On Raising a Family in NYC

To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to balance work and family nearly as well as I do without my husband, who is really good at what he does and who makes the majority of our income. He’s the reason we can afford a full-time nanny, which gives me time to pursue what I love and run my own business, and the reason we have a house in Amagansett, where we can escape and our kids can play in an actual yard. That said, we are city people through and through, kids included. My only tip for new moms would be to not subsume your passions just because you have kids. I've taken my kids to Dia: Beacon, Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner, the Frieze Art Fair, LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, openings at The Future Perfect—and they love it all.

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Jill's Favorite Books

Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Stephen Shore: Uncommon Places: The Complete Works

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Jill's Favorite Movies

Stand By Me, Tootsie, Can’t Buy Me Love, Empire Records

Jill's favorite places

La Plaza Cultural, the community garden across the street from our apartment, is my fave. I go with my kids to visit the turtles or to say goodnight to the chickens, but it also has an amazing design legacy. In the ‘70s, Buckminster Fuller built a geodesic dome in the plaza, and Gordon Matta Clark built the stone amphitheater steps that are still there.

Odd Eye on 5th Street — a new shop with amazing vintage furniture and home goods. I found them on Instagram despite the fact that they’re four blocks from my apartment.

GG’s on 5th Street for the kale and smoked gouda pizza. When I was pregnant, I used to have them deliver Morgenstern’s ice cream to my apartment.

Wildair on Orchard for dinner. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

I always buy too much at the Dimes Market. Where else can you buy charcoal soap, a Cassie Griffin vase, and cashew cream all in one stop?

Paintbox for manicures

Coming Soon for gifts — they always pick up all the affordable stuff from OFFSITE!

 

Dress, Shaina Mote ; Bag, Balenciaga ; Shoes, Loeffler Randall ; Earrings, Vintage

Dress, Shaina Mote ; Bag, Balenciaga ; Shoes, Loeffler Randall ; Earrings, Vintage

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