"The first thing I did was paint the boat pink," Angela Pham says on a chilly Friday morning at her property in upstate New York. The tiny but mighty 800-square-foot cottage is tucked away in a lush neighborhood a little over two hours outside of Manhattan, in a town that's definitely at risk of becoming something of a place to be for cool, Hamptons-averse New Yorkers. Rhinebeck is just far enough outside of the city to forget what it’s like to have car horns and sirens as the soundtrack to your life, but just close enough to bring your major Manhattan wardrobe with you (in Angela’s case, we're talking the kind of to-die-for vintage it seems impossible to find, Gucci timepieces, and anything else that fits the criteria of eclectic yet timeless).
Pham is a photographer by trade, known around town for snapping the chicest NYC parties (like, I don’t know, just the Met Gala) as well as shooting products and people for an array of fashion and lifestyle brands. But it's no surprise how often she finds herself in front of the camera due to her bold, inventive style. She also appeared on Bravo TV's reality series Gallery Girls back in 2012, which is exactly the kind of hilarious fun fact that makes her quirky and relatable in the very best way. Beyond getting the inside scoop on all things #phamcottage, including the inspiration behind her bubblegum pink house, I set out to answer the eternal fashion-girl question: If you wear an amazing outfit and no one’s around to see it, does it even count? The answer may lie in her Instagram feed, where it’s apparent that watering her lawn in statement pink suiting at 10 a.m. has really found an audience. Her polished-eccentric style delivers no matter the time or the place (or who's watching for that matter).
Anyone who’s ever lived in New York (or any other fast-paced city) knows that time is everyone's most valuable commodity. “When I’m at the cottage, I check my watch five times a day, but in NYC, I check it at least 30 times,” Pham says. She continues, “When I moved out from California, I quickly became overwhelmed with city life—the subway stairs, the spitting passersby, the incessant car honking… Driving north, I can feel that anxiety in my shoulders melt away (unless I'm the one driving, in which case I'm white-knuckling the narrow Taconic roads)."
Pham became intrigued by the idea of investing in real estate five years ago after reading the millennial finance blog Afford Anything, which she says made it feel accessible and ultimately a no-brainer decision. But where to start? “The journey was really one of my favourite parts and dating an architect made everything feel possible and less daunting,” she says of the process. “I fell in love with a Federal-style mansion in Catskill, an eight-acre land parcel in Phoenicia, a handsome mixed-use brick building in Saugerties,” and almost pulled the trigger on all of them.
Her hesitation, however, led her to the lakeside property she ended up purchasing. “I scooped it up faster than a vintage camel coat on a thrift store rack,” she says.
Next to her cottage, I’m naturally most intrigued by Pham’s style sensibilities. I’m surprised to learn that her childhood was actually deprived of fashion, not only because she was an uninterested tomboy but due to her mother's strict view on “frivolous” things like clothing. Of course, she eventually rebelled and became the unabashedly over-the-top, vintage-loving “fashion girl” who does some light gardening in the middle of the afternoon while wearing a party dress (same).
While Pham views her upstate abode as a work in progress, explaining, "A house is a living thing, and the fixing up never ends," it's obvious to me what makes this place so special. It's quiet without feeling isolated, sits atop a beautiful lake, and is a quick drive from a charming Gilmore Girls–esque (as Pham describes it) village.
Pham explains to me that her goal when getting dressed is to make people smile with what she wears. "It takes me about 30 minutes to get ready; it's not a process I love to draw out, but the best part is that it allows me to physicalize my mood. If I'm feeling especially confident, I'll go for the six-inch heels and the structured trench. If I'm feeling lazy, I opt out of getting dressed altogether and stay naked until noon."
I'm delighted to discover that this stylish city girl doesn't leave her fantastical wardrobe behind while at the cottage. In fact, it's quite the opposite. "My style becomes more IDGAF upstate because there is absolutely no one judging up here," says Pham.
Once dressed, how does Pham actually spend her time upstate? She says the greatest luxury is having the time to actually read and digest a full New Yorker article in print. So whether anyone sees her bold OOTD, she's much too busy doing her own thing to care––and that's the kind of style we can always make time for.