$2 million later (!), 43 East 19 Street penthouse loft is ready for its close-up

New York Times goes big for a big loft with a big renovation
Don’t you wish you could get a look at more lofts that are featured on Manhattan Loft Guy when sold, to see how they have been renovated? (I know you do.) Here today, courtesy of the New York Times feature Great Homes and Destinations, is an article and a slideshow showing the just-completed two million dollar renovation and redesign of a loft that I hit when it sold back in the starting-to-thaw days of mid-2009. Of course they don’t present the loft in before-and-after fashion as I would like, or describe structural changes as opposed to design choices. But The Loft That Mediabistro Built, in today’s Home & Garden Section is pretty darn informative, and the slideshow has some jaw-dropping photos (and price tags).

Perhaps most jaw-dropping to me is that top line After number ($2mm renovation!) in the context of the top line Before number: these folks paid $3.905mm for what was generously described as a “4,100 sq ft” penthouse loft with a “2,050 sq ft” private roof deck, as recounted in my July 26, 2009, big loft, big roof / 43 East 19 Street penthouse closes under $4mm for (maybe) 4,100 sq ft + 2,050 sq ft terrace. Back then, I compared the 8th floor penthouse sale (with deck) for $3.905mm to the “triple mint” 7th floor sale in June 2007 for $4.395mm. (Interesting aside: that post was before I started riffing with The Miller after his post about how to value outdoor space, and I see that in my July 26, 2009 post I just ballparked [guessed!] that the roof deck was worth $250/ft; those were the [primitive] days!)

Before meets After; After wins
In its prior condition, the loft was more about bones and space than finishes and skin (“3 grand Egg & Dart columns, 12’ ceilings, wonderful original detail and hardwood floors throughout” is about as enthusiastic as the former broker babble got about the interior condition). The old floor plan shows a space easy to demolish to start over (note how few walls there were), and start over they did (“SHoP Architects … gutted and rebuilt the loft in shiny surfaces: stainless steel, lacquered walls and glazed concrete”). The footprint is too much a fairly squat rectangle to be a classic Long-and-Narrow, most windows are on the narrow ends, though the 3 east windows allow great flexibility, and it is (still) not clear whether there are plumbing stacks other than in that north west corner.

What is clear from the new photos is that the kitchen has been moved and an interior stair built.

That kitchen is … er … a classic in its own right. (Use the Full Screen function for the pic, please.) It is less an open kitchen than it is a kitchen with a living room around it (only 3 sides, but still). Not your standard millionaire kitchen on Park Avenue, for sure. The owners are clearly not shy, not modest about their intention in re-creating this loft: they set out to make a place “that everyone would be jealous of”. I think they can cross that one off the To-Do list, so long as “everyone” is used in the Pauline Kael sense to mean “everyone” who loves Manhattan lofts.

into the Before and After Album
This Flatiron penthouse has been given much better photographic treatment, from my perspective, as the only other loft that comes to mind in the Manhattan Loft Guy archives that has had Before and After treatment, though not as good treatment in an anthropology sense. In my April 18, 2011, ever so rare before and after shots of 39 Worth Street loft, I lucked into a New York Times piece in which a former NYT Styles editor revisited the loft she sold to a high profile wunderkind designer. That piece, and her persinal connection to the space, gave me food for thought:

Former owner Brubach captured the fact that homes embody dreams, lofts probably more than "apartments":


Like most new homeowners, Wang and I came with fantasies of change. His: “Having lived in New York, where you’re always out and your friends are always out because no one has enough space to entertain, I imagined an apartment where I could have my friends over and on the weekend not have to leave because I feel claustrophobic,” he says. “Where I would learn how to cook or do crafts projects.” Mine: I would host big parties and bring together people from different fields; I would cook intimate dinners for friends who would linger late into the night; I would retreat from the city’s assault on my senses, read, and write.


(Note how similar their “fantasies of change” were!)


He gutted her kitchen; she tries to understand:


The kitchen was central to both of our scenarios. Wang has moved all the appliances against a perimeter wall, with a marble-topped island nearby. “I have always loved an open kitchen,” he says. I’ve never understood an open kitchen. Or maybe it’s just that I’m too nervous a cook and an open kitchen leaves me nowhere to hide.

Is this “fantasies of change” thing innate to lofts? Note that the new owner told the New York Times in late 2007 when she sold a business and put $9 to $11 million in the bank that wanted some … stuff:

“I thought, ‘O.K., a car and driver and a new apartment and a whole new life.’ In fact, I can only afford two out of three.”

Today’s article mentions that she dropped the car-and-driver idea (“still driving her 2002 Subaru Forester”). New apartment? Check. New life? I guess, if only because she sold her business, and now has money, dependents, and things (in each of those cases, “lots of …”). Sounds as though this loft represents something for her that I am not qualified to get into:

you ask the couple if it makes them anxious to live with so much high-end gear.

“I was brought up to worry about stuff,” said Ms. Touby, who was raised by a single mother and described her childhood as chaotic. “So I’m anxious all the time. We’re both pretty anxious people.”

And there’s this nugget:

When pressed on what she spends time worrying about, she answered quickly.

“Losing it all,” she said. “Or being forgotten.”

Hence (I will just add) such conspicuous consumption (a place “that everyone would be jealous of”) and the … er … brass to welcome the New York Times platform so conspicuously, so soon (the redesign was finished all of 8 days ago, capped by a big party that the owner “wanted … to go on forever”).

and after After on East 19 Street?
I wish these folks a long and happy life in this loft, truly. But I can’t help but wonder where they go from here. Can you imagine that $30,000-seats-25 sofa anywhere but in a massive loft? (See pic 8; I assume it is a sectional, but still.) The hammock is obviously easy to move (you just unhook the 4 eye hooks, d’oh!) but where else might it really fit? (You need 12 foot ceilings, to start.)

Either they live here forever, or you are likely to find some fine (very large scale) furnishings on eBay in 10, 15 or 20 years. Good luck bidding!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012

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