Welcome to Power Picks, a monthly series on the things that help us navigate our lives, step into our personal power, or simply get us through our day-to-day. Our hope is that by sharing what makes us feel great, we can help you feel great, too.
I'm fortunate enough to live by myself in an apartment in the sleepy Brooklyn suburb of Ditmas Park that's been in my family for decades. However, living alone during the pandemic was a double-edged sword: I was blessed not to have to worry about roommates, children, or caring for someone else, but the self-isolation became difficult. In the beginning, I would go days without hearing my own voice or having face-to-face interactions. Phone calls and FaceTimes with friends and family only did so much to assuage me.
Before the pandemic, I treated my apartment as a waystation, often going out for dinner and drinks or staying late at work. My apartment was just a place where I slept for a few hours. I soon realized the importance of creating an environment of your own—a sanctuary. I always placed more emphasis (and money) on experiences—being young and living in New York meant I was always trying to be out and about, staving off the dreaded fear of missing out. The pandemic made me reevaluate everything. I've been trying to make memories within the walls instead of just outside them.
During quarantine, music became a way to fill the silence and give my living space texture: Jazz in the mornings as I was easing into the day; house music at night from NYC's many nightclubs doing live streams to fundraise; Bossa Nova when I was cooking; classical music as I read. I constantly asked friends what they were currently listening to, as exploring new artists and genres became a way to pass the time.
I owned a Jawbone Mini Jambox for years, picked up on a deep discount from a now-defunct electronics store. Since I had a small apartment, I figured a simple portable Bluetooth speaker would do just fine in the middle of the room. However, there were moments where it would sound tinny or rattle the books on my shelf due to the music I listened to having too much bass (house music is the best genre of music, as far as I'm concerned).
There are many high-end speaker choices, but Sonos was stuck in my mind after I went to a friend's house for a late spring dinner. He had a Sonos in the kitchen, and I loved how unassuming it was, a sleek black obelisk on the windowsill. He had Sade playing while he chopped the vegetables for a soup, and the speaker handled her velvet crooning and the deep reverb of the instruments perfectly, allowing him to be hands-free. Needless to say, I was sold, and settled on the Sonos Two Room Set with One.
The set was straightforward and easy to set up. The box held only two pieces: the speaker and the power cord. I did a quick download of the Sonos app and signed up for an account, and the whole process—from unboxing to playing music—took about ten minutes.
As an art director, judging items based on their looks is part of my job description. The Sonos is compact and sleek, and it fits into the decor of my house, which skews between comfortable and maximalist. I don't have a ton of storage, so getting a powerful machine in such a small package is a huge plus.
In terms of features, I was most excited about the Sonos Voice Control, which launched this past May. I know that the privacy ship has sailed, but I still refuse to have certain products in my home due to many, many instances of certain companies admitting they've been listening in. In contrast, all conversations and commands that you give Sonos Voice Control are stored within the product. I'm ashamed to admit that there have been times that I have hopped out of the shower to change a song on my old speaker, so the thought of being about to simply call out commands appealed to me, particularly considering the Voice Control has the buttery smooth voice of a late-night radio DJ. After all, the Sonos doesn't power off but stays on Standby mode in low power mode, so it's ready to play at a moment's notice. For the more tactile, there are simple touch controls on top of the console that works with taps and swipes.
Most of the speaker’s functionality comes through the Sonos app, where you set up names and locations for each speaker. You can play different music on each or group them together through the app or with a voice command for a cohesive environment. My Mini Jambox was in the living room, and I had a very cheap speaker (think: from Five Below) in my bedroom, which involved lots of switching Bluetooth on and off, pairing and unpairing, and moving speakers to different locations. Having one united sound system has been such a delight. I love that the Sonos operates over your home Wi-Fi connection, meaning I can take calls or watch things on my phone without interrupting the flow of music.
When it comes to environment, my apartment is pretty basic, consisting of two large rooms, longer than they are wide. My apartment building also sits on the same block as a park and middle school. While the sound of children laughing and playing can be soothing in the summer, the cacophony of school bus horns and teens yelling obscenities during the fall is less than ideal. Noise is the price I pay for living in New York City, but the wraparound design of the Sonos mitigates that noise by blocking out street sounds and filling the space with the sounds of my choice. The Sonos also includes an alarm and stop timer feature accessible through the app, allowing me to be lulled by a rainstorm playlist and then brought into wakefulness by soft music— and not by blaring horns. Finally, the Sonos has a novel feature called TruePlay that adjusts itself to the acoustics of whatever room you're in by measuring how sound bounces off the walls and furniture and then fine-tuning the speaker to the room, so you’ll always get your sound just right.
My Sonos set retails at $498, while one speaker goes for $219. I didn't realize I could love a sound system so much, but I can honestly say that this one has truly made my house a home.
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Brittany Holloway-Brown is the art director of Marie Claire, where she is responsible for all things visual and for ensuring the brand’s visual voice stays consistent and forward-looking.
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