Sabrina De Sousa, proprietor of the New York restaurant Dimes, is as warm and amicable as her restaurant’s quirks suggest.
On a recent visit to her Chinatown apartment, De Sousa expressed the importance of custom-built furniture, and letting a space open itself up to you. Throughout her cozy two-bedroom, trinkets from home, friends, and family punctuate walls and shelves, meaning guests are never far from a good story. Here, De Sousa tells us how she finds comfort in her restaurants, and in her home.
What’s an early sensory memory that sticks out for you?
I spent all of my summers as a kid in Brazil, and I’ll always remember the feeling of landing at the airport. The dense air, you can smell the humidity and the soil. That always gave me a sense of home. Also, the shaggy rug that I had growing up. I’m a kid from the 80’s and I just remember the sensation of playing around on this shaggy rug.
How does emotional resonance like that play into the spaces you create for yourself, at Dimes and in your home?
There are definitely pieces that remind me of home in the spaces that I spend my time in. The brown color on this wall here makes me think of home, for example. And I have a whole shelf of tiny memorabilia from friends and different travels, and it keeps growing. Dimes is very much a blanket space that allows you to think about what you’re seeing. Everyone can see something different. There are all of these tiny little moments where you can pick up on things—little icebreakers. I think that’s also very reminiscent of me.
Are there any pieces in your home that are tied to specific emotions or senses.
I started collecting all of these tea canisters from the 70s, and some of them have this psychedelic messaging to them, and I think they’re just so beautiful. The artistry that’s put into those canisters is so nice. It kind of reminds me of childhood too because I kind of grew up right after that era, so there’s this association of the objects that I’d encounter as a child and just the way things were made back then.
Does it seem important to preserve items that you encounter?
I think its really nice to collect things that stick out aesthetically with certain people. To collect things that capture something for you, that someone else might look at and gain an understanding of you from.
What’s the most important element of creating a space that feels good for you?
I think patience is the first thing. I think it’s really nice to get a sense of the space and live in it for a little while. There are even things that I’d still like to do with this apartment, you know? And I’m also a huge fan of building things for a space. Every space is so different and if you’re always trying to find the standard sofa or the standard shelving system that you can just buy at a store I think you miss an opportunity. Sometimes it’s even cheaper to build something for the space.
How do you find restoration in your life?
It’s ironic because Dimes is a wellness-focused space; just eating well as second nature. I guess for me, though, I have a singing ball from Tibet. It’s kind of like a gong, and you just spin it and this little song plays, which is very comforting. Sleep is important, of course. But I don’t sleep as much as I’d like to. Hopefully, the Buffy will help.
Dan McMahon is a photographer working in New York.