When you are living in a spacious studio apartment in Astoria, who better to share it with that a 5-foot dinosaur?
Eric Fensterheim, a designer at Etsy, demonstrated his artistic promise at 5 years old when he painted the flame-breathing beast that now adorns almost all of his kitchen wall.
“It was a science fair project when I was in kindergarten,” Fensterheim explained. “I painted it in my driveway in New Jersey. When I created this, I did actually think that dinosaurs breathed fire. When I finished the project and found out that they in fact did not breathe fire, I was very disappointed, as you can imagine.”
Fensterheim, 30, has lived in his Astoria studio for a little over two years and has furnished his apartment with an eclectic mix of dinosaurs and art. Not a traditional combination, but one that seems to work. Fensterheim went to school at Northeastern University in Boston and then came to New York.
After briefly working at The New York Times (“I was the bad guy, designing website pop-ups,” he said), he began work for the online store Etsy, helping to design their website. The Etsy offices are located in Dumbo, a long commute for Fensterheim, but one that only increases his love for Astoria as he returns home to it each evening.
“I love living in Astoria,” Fensterheim told me. “I have lots of great friends in the area, two of whom I’ve known since childhood; we just all ended up here. Astoria has everything: all ages, all races, all kinds of food, and it feels safe. I plan on staying here for as long as I can.”
The main room in Fensterheim’s apartment is the living room, which also serves as his bedroom. Above the bed is a Russian Orthodox-style painting which was left to him by one of his grandmothers.
“I think it was painted in Lebanon, though it could be Russian,” he mused.
Below it is the bed, creating a cosy nook in the room. The sofa is decorated with colorful Aztec-printed cushions, and opposite that is an entertainment center that Fensterheim has pieced together over his time spent living in the apartment. Two copper-accented speakers frame the television and turntable.
“My neighbor Alex masters records for a living, and he came over and helped me pick out the speakers,” Fensterheim said.
I asked Fensterheim if he frequently blasts his music and throws parties.
“Thats the thing,” he replied, “I don’t. I literally do not ever enjoy listening to music, because I get so anxious. I had a vision that I would sit on my couch and light candles and listen to music, but it just doesn’t happen. They’re too loud!”
Fensterheim could certainly not be accused of being an inconsiderate neighbor!
Above the sofa on the wall hangs three prints.
“They are by the artist Andrew DeGraff, a Maine-based illustrator,” Fensterheim said. “Each piece is based on the journey a character takes in Star Wars.”
Another piece that caught my eye was a painting sitting on Fensterheim’s desk.
“My grandma painted it,” he told me.
It seems clear where the artist streak comes from.
As we were concluding the interview, we sat down and Fensterheim lit two aromatic candles.
“Oh hey, these I bought from Etsy,” he said. “Actually, the woman who makes them lives here in Astoria.”
Apparently there is nothing you can’t find here in Astoria: candles, the best paninis in New York (“You have to try Il Bambino,” Fensterheim said) and, of course, a 5-foot, fire-breathing dinosaur, lovingly preserved in the kitchen. Best place for her, I’d say…clever girl.