Not that his neighborhood choice hasn’t inspired a few eye-rolls. “When I tell people I moved to Williamsburg, they say, ‘Of course, you did,’” he said, adding that being somewhat off the beaten path had, at least, garnered a little more respect.
Mr. Lebon, who has traveled to New York City for work frequently over the past decade, had ruled out Manhattan as too manic for a couple with two young children (their son, Hugo, is 4, and their daughter, Indie, 2). And he liked the relative calm of the southern side of the Williamsburg waterfront.
Calm, that is, if not exactly quiet.
They were among the first to move into their building, which is part of a site being developed by Two Trees (as well as the first building to open there). And now they are surrounded by construction. “Every day, they start with the jackhammers next door at 7 a.m. and they finish at 6 p.m.,” Ms. Lebon said. “But we moved to New York to be amid the noise. We love that we get to see all the construction.”
During the summer, they were likewise charmed by the parties and pop-up events at the temporary park across the street, Mr. Lebon said: “We’d open the window and listen to live music. Once there was a huge line around the block when we came home — Shake Shack was giving away burgers.”
On a recent morning, arctic temperatures were keeping all but a few ardent cyclists off Kent Avenue, but the Lebons’ apartment was bathed in warm sunlight. They had specifically sought a space with good natural light, but the view — their living room windows look directly out at the Williamsburg Bridge — was an unexpected bonus.
“Even when it’s raining, it’s still beautiful. You can watch the boats,” said Ms. Lebon, whose mother, visiting from Australia and unaccustomed to having so many windows, kept pulling down the blinds. “We were like, ‘Mom! We’re paying for the view!’”
The apartment rents for $5,450 a month, though a month of free rent brought it down to just under $5,000. Still, that is quite a bit more than the $4,000 budget they had set. But as they plan to stay for only two years, they decided that splurging on a place they loved was worth it.
“It was really important that my wife and kids were happy, because I was asking them to move here for my work,” said Mr. Lebon, who is introducing his footwear company, Rollie Nation, to the United States market and recently began online sales here. Several pop-up stores are also in the works. Ms. Lebon, who left her job as a flight attendant for Qantas shortly before they moved, manages the apparel store, Lost in Seasons, that the couple owns in Melbourne.
While they are here, they are renting out their place in Australia, a renovated four-story warehouse of approximately 4,300 square feet. The move has shown them “that bigger isn’t better,” Ms. Lebon said. “Here, we utilize every single room. And the kids are willing to sleep by themselves because they’re in bunk beds.”
As Mr. Lebon said, “Now every purchase is really considered. We’re living the minimalist life.”
He added: “The house in Melbourne had a very different vibe, very Restoration Hardware. With a four-story house, you don’t realize that it’s getting cluttered until it’s too late.”
Another difference, they said, is the dress code in New York. In Melbourne, “People judge everything: how you color your hair, what you wear to take your kids to kinder,” Ms. Lebon said.
“It’s even worse for a guy,” Mr. Lebon said. “If I wear camo or Off-White sneakers, people would be like, ‘What the hell is that?’ Here people wear whatever they want. You can express yourself, and no one is judging you. I’m a footwear designer and my wife runs a fashion retail store, so it’s our life and our living.”
Such openness, he has found, extends beyond fashion. “You don’t feel like you’re trying to do your own thing alone,” he said. “There’s a lot of collaboration and much more of a can-do atmosphere.”
As Ms. Lebon put it, “You feel like anything is possible.”
They like New York so much, she said, that they are reconsidering their two-year plan: “I think we’re already looking at longer.”