architects trash O’Neill Building loft in Chelsea, in order to make it beautiful, of course

for the due diligence files of 655 Sixth Avenue loft buyers (caveat emptor!)

Long-time readers of Manhattan Loft Guy know that I am a sucker for before-and-after photos; otherwise I have to wait for a loft having been sold twice, with good photos and floor plans depicting a given loft both before and after renovation. So a grateful tip of the MLG hat to Curbed for having linked on Friday to a New York Magazine Design Hunting feature, “Tour a Masterfully Redesigned Ladies’ Mile Apartment“, which led me on a click-fest to track down the featured loft.

Anyone who knows the building will need no text to recognize this as the O’Neill Building at 655 Sixth Avenue, with the curved seating area being in one of the turreted corners on the front of the building.

not many curved windows along the Ladies Mile (that’s Bed Bath & Beyond in the last window frame)

The NY Mag slideshow has some wonderfully (and possibly unintentionally) snarky comments about the “before” status of this loft from the architect who fixed it. From Slide #1:

“it was conversion architecture — a closed-in kitchen, inexpensively executed historic details.”

Don’t get splattered by this one from Slide #4:

“The original engineered-wood floor appeared stable but wasn’t, so we replaced it with a solid-wood floor”

In other words, if you’re a potential buyer in this “luxury” condo (circa 2006 new development luxury, but still), you might want to know that some hot shot architect thinks the conversion was “inexpensively executed” and that the floor was (ouch) not stable. You do hate to see that, and that.

the After looks swell

Kitchen now is completely different:

from closed to open, with hanging shelves and custom screens (that new vertical with the gas line is just to the left of the column)

The main open room is nowhere near as large as it appears in this photo:

that black chair at the corner of the rug is, in real life, not too far from the (new) bedroom wall you can’t see to the left

We’re told that the space went from two bedrooms to three, but lack a floor plan. There’s one “After” on the architect’s website, but you have to scroll down, click “+all”, then scroll again.

For “Before” pictures we have to do some digging. The architect told NY Magazine that the clients bought in 2013, but that can’t be right. No 2-bedrooms sold in the building in that year. (StreetEasy building page, Past Activity tab here.) It’s amazing how often owners and others get that sort of datum wrong.

The “Before” loft is almost certainly the “2,376 sq ft” loft #3F, which sold for $2.48mm in October 2011. Compare the floor plan on the architect’s site to the one on the 2011 listing: plumbing rooms are in the same places, kitchen was closed, and the two bedrooms taking 5 windows on Sixth Avenue are now three bedrooms using the same 5 windows. The old “Limelight” church steeple is visible in the #3F photos (see #2) and seems to be at the right height. (The 4th floor seems too high to get that Limelight view, and that corner unit on the floor above [#4E, as it happens] has been rented out since being purchased in 2007; the second floor is too low, as is evident from the 4th losing photo from #2E on the Sixth Avenue frontage.)

You’d never know from the #3F 2011 broker babble that the condo conversion was “inexpensively executed” or (mere) “conversion architecture”. (Ha!)

13ft ceilings, cast iron columns and wide plank walnut floors. Entertain in the state of the art Chefs kitchen featuring, Custom cabinets, Viking Appliances and a Bosch Washer-Dryer. A unique large circular Living Room ideal for entertaining. Both bedrooms feature ample custom closets and en suite bathrooms with extra deep soaking tubs. The master bathroom features a walk-in shower and double sinks.

Or that the “wide plank walnut floors” were engineered, and unstable. (Ha ha!)

we’ve been here before (right here)

I hit loft #3F way back on November 17, 2011, when the original purchasers from the sponsor in 2007 got their clock cleaned (O’Neill loft at 655 Sixth Avenue resells at 21% loss over 2007), apparently by the folks who just finished the renovation. I remember that loft to this day, including that oddly closed kitchen, the difficulties posed by the layout, and the windows. My buyers were underwhelmed in early 2011:

I remember that we thought the foor plan was surprisingly small. That is an odd reaction to “2,376 sq ft” that has only two bedrooms, especially one with such high ceilings (“13 ft”), but the space (to us) feels smaller.

I think that is due, in part, to the most interesting feature of the loft, that large curved corner that is, in real life, difficult to use. Certainly, that shape makes it hard to add a third bedroom without a radical re-do (probably requiring moving the kitchen, or swinging its axis). An unusual problem to have in a “2,376 sq ft” corner loft with 14 windows.

Funny that we did not consider compressing two bedrooms into three, but that’s what the architects did, in a pretty simple way. Instead of using the 5 windows and about 33 feet along Sixth Avenue for two bedrooms, they fit three into the same width. (Why didn’t I think of that?) None of the new bedrooms is large, but they are three.

Also funny: there is no mention of the quality of the windows in NY Magazine or on the architect website. As noted in that 2011 blog post, the windows bled sound, and are situated where all the buses and trucks up Sixth Avenue all day and night are running directly at this curve. My buyers and I did not particularly dislike the finishes or the floor, but we definitely thought the windows were due for an upgrade. It seems that the 2011 buyers and their architects did not think that a problem. (Or, if they did, it didn’t get notice in the press.)

Unless there windows were replaced and no one thought to mention it to NY Magazine, the owners-since-2011 were not as bothered by the bus and truck assault up Sixth Avenue as I and my buyers guessed that any resident would be. Manifestly, they had enough money to do that upgrade, if that was a priority. Different strokes, different folks….

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