Photos by Veronica Olson
Remember Emma Poole, the Cup of Jo reader who got a tattoo in homage of her dog, Robin? She’s a yoga teacher who rents a 650-square-foot studio apartment in Washington Heights, Manhattan. “I want people to feel at ease here,” she says, “like they’re in a womb.” Today, she gives us a tour and shares how she finally achieved her dream of living alone…
Sofa: Edloe Finch. Coffee table: Wayfair. Rug: Wayfair, similar. In top photo: Pendant lamp: Color Cord Company. Rattan side table: Overstock, similar. Faux fur dog bed: Amazon. Standing gold mirror: Wayfair, similar.
On manifesting new beginnings: I had only ever lived with roommates in New York, and for a long time, I thought that was the only feasible financial reality. Then COVID hit and I started teaching yoga online. Ironically, it was the best I’d ever done financially. So, I decided, ‘All right, I’m manifesting that I’m gonna live alone by the end of this year,’ and I began saving money really aggressively. Then one of my best friends called me that summer to tell me a studio had opened up in a nearby building. And I freaked out.
On going for it: As soon as I walked into the empty space, I started crying. I was like, ‘I love it, oh my god, I love it.’ Living alone had been a lifelong dream. Even as a little girl, I would watch movies, and the heroine would have her own unfathomable apartment in a city — and I was like, oh my god, I want that. I love being by myself and feeling independent, and because I’m around people all day for work, I need a lot of recalibration time. When it finally happened, I was like, oh my gosh, here we go!!!
Portrait of Emma and Robin: “a birthday gift from a friend.” Illustration of naked women in the forest: Liza Stout. Matisse blue nude: a framed card. “Half the prints were cards people wrote to me, which feels special.”
On a collection of nude women: As a kid, I was obsessed with the female form. My mom would put me in my car seat, and the second I got strapped in, I would take all my clothes off. I’ve always wanted to be naked! My sister and I were raised by our mother, who ran a household where conversations around sex and bodies were very open, never taboo. The day that I got my period, she was like ‘This is so exciting!’ I’m grateful that she helped instill in me a positive body image. This apartment feels like a tribute to that.
On soulmates: My friends and students joke that my dog Robin and I are a shared identity, but she is truly my heartbeat. Sometimes I can’t believe that this little pork chop beast and I have this intimate nonverbal relationship. I adopted her nine years ago and got her before one of the hardest years in my 20s, when I had an abortion and rough time in relationships. Having her presence beside me — warm, steady, and unwavering — was such a balm. I really feel like we were meant for each other.
On dealing with loss: This summer, I found out that Robin has a tumor the size of an orange growing in her little body, and it has ruptured. Because she is an old lady — she’s 13 — and because surgery wouldn’t make much difference, I’m choosing not to operate. I may have months left with her, or I may have weeks. I’m gonna be a f****** mess when the time comes. But I know she and I will always be connected. Even when she goes, her energy will stay.
Paint: a mix of Deep Mauve and Linen White by Benjamin Moore. Bed: Wayfair, similar. Duvet: Quince. Turkish towel on bed: Etsy. Round velvet pillow: similar. Floral pillow cases: Target. Standing mirror: sidewalk find. Bookshelf: Urban Outfitters. Side table: thrifted.
On finding the right paint color: This wall started out forest green and I liked it, but it didn’t feel quite right. Months later, I decided I wanted it pink. So, I went to my local hardware store and bought a mauve paint and a creamy white paint. Then I smoked a joint and put music on. I mixed the paints, used a roller to put them on the wall, then used a damp sponge to texturize the color. Honestly, it was a very impromptu let’s-see-how-this-goes project. I love the way it looks — very feminine and sultry.
On career changes: I moved to the city with the vision of being on Broadway. I went to college for musical theater, found an agent and was auditioning for acting roles. But I then realized I didn’t want to act as badly as I’d thought. And that was very jarring. At the same time, I had always been into yoga, and I felt most physically and mentally at ease while practicing yoga. So, one day I decided to do a teacher training and see where it went. Now I think I’ll be teaching yoga for the rest of my life.
On teaching in a personal way: I bring who I am to my classes, and that’s what my regular students are drawn to. It’s a pet peeve of mine when something insane is happening in the world and it’s not mentioned at all. I try to be authentic and grounding. There’s also a degree of sensuality in the way I put classes together, I want it to feel like a moving meditation.
On go-to hosting meals: I love a nosh board with different cheeses, olives, crackers, and fruit. Or I’ll go old school and make an eggplant parm and salad. My friends joke about my salads because they’re enormous — I’ll make them in a giant mixing bowl and throw in potato chips and chicken cutlets. I love a big salad because you get so many bites. It feels never-ending.
Print of nude women: “a page cut out from an old art book.” Mini portable lamp: MoMA.
On a simple way to destress: Have you heard of candle gazing? We learned about it in yoga teacher training. Basically, you stare for three minutes at that natural little glow, and you feel better. It’s a soothing way to practice meditation.
On taking baths: I took a bath every day during COVID. Dr. Teal’s lavender foaming bath is my go-to bubble bath. I light a candle and pull out my bath caddy and watch a show on my laptop — this year, I really enjoyed The Bear and Easy. After a while in the tub, I’ll hear Robin’s paws creeping down the hallway as she comes to check on me.
On chain reactions: I think when you make a big step in your life, you level up. After moving here, I thought, ‘Okay, what else can I do?’ Since then, I’ve continued my online yoga classes and started leading retreats. I even changed how I am in relationships. Before I was impulsive and went for unavailable people — I wouldn’t really think about what those relationships might cause in my psyche or heart. But there was a new energy in this apartment, and I didn’t want to bring in my past energy. So, I didn’t have sex for a year. I got a new mattress and new bedding, and I took time to focus on myself. Now I’m protective of my energy, and when I do have sex, it’s more intentional.
Ring tray: Urban Outfitters.
On trusting the process: It’s easy to worry about making the wrong choices in life. But I don’t believe that the wrong choice exists. You either try it and it works, or it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you learn and take a different direction.
Thank you so much, Emma — you are a force.
(Photos by Veronica Olson for Cup of Jo.)
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