New York Times charmingly shows what a $233/ft Flatiron loft renovation looks like

Manhattan loft owners are not necessarily funnier than others, but they have more choices

Maybe it is all the Auld Lang Syne-ing of late, but isn’t yesterday’s New York Times On Location feature in the Home & Garden section, Love In the Wings, the most romantic bit of real estate news you are likely to see in the Old Grey Lady? I mean … c’mon: The Guy buys a “1,500 sq ft” loft in Flatiron before 2001; The Guy has enough interest and taste to collect torn pages from design magazines to decide (among other things) to become “obsessed with glass tiles”; The Guy lived with peeling walls for more than ten years instead of renovating because he “was hoping to do it with somebody”; The Guy finally breaks down to engage a designer; within 6 months of completing a $350,000 renovation built with that “somebody” in mind, in 2011 he met that “somebody” on line, she moved in within a year, they had a baby, and are engaged to be married. Of course she loves his renovation (“[o]therwise, he assured himself [as he was doing the work, before she appeared on the scene], ‘she’s not the right person for me'”).

Sounds like RomCom to me.

While that is a lovely angle, the insight into design choices and budgets for a loft with peeling walls is what really interests me. He hired a “designer” rather than an architect, but the work is described as a “renovation” rather than a redecoration. (And it cost $350,000.) There’s little description of the “before” space apart form the peeling walls reference, but reading between the lines of the feature The Guy got a new kitchen and a new double-sinked and glass-tiled master bath,  at least, to go along with the wall of closets for that future “somebody” and the other storage items mentioned.

Otherwise, there’s no mention of upgrading electrical or plumbing, or installing central air, or moving walls, or in-wall sound, or the other elements of a “gut” or “meticulous” renovation that can add thousands to a budget. Of course I’d like to know more about the details, but my guess is that this was a very extensive renovation that completely changed the ‘skin’ of the place but did not include new floors, walls, or wiring. On the one hand, The Guy did spend $350,000 on a project that he had been collecting ideas for over a ten-year period, so it is not likely that he would have skimped on anything and it is clear that he had the means to do anything reasonable.

On the other hand, the photos (the Slideshow is here) look like he started with the footprint of the loft two floors above his (that would be this footprint) and ended up with a floor plan and ‘look’ that is probably very similar to that one (though of higher quality in finishes). Note, for example, the angled kitchen in the 3rd slide, and the narrow library-turned-nursery in Slides 4 and 5 that looks very similar to the second bedroom on that upstairs floor plan (see the 7th photo in this listing for what that room probably looks like, with one window behind the Ikea rocker in Slide 5). No matter how clever your designer (or architect) there are only so many solutions to that footprint that involves a true master suite (it’s gotta be on the west wall) and has a second room (nursery, library, bedroom, whatever; it’s either going to share a wall with the master as on the floor plan included from upstairs or it will be on the east wall taking that last south window). While there are more choices in a “1,500 sq ft” loft with no load-bearing walls, just one column, and multiple plumbing risers than there would be in an “apartment” of the same size, there are only so many ways to slice and dice a space with only one exposure.

While carpentry expenses are, therefore, limited, there is almost no limit to what one can spend on ‘skin’. That kitchen, for example, has “a sleek expanse of Poliform stainless steel counters and lacquered cabinets” and those magical hidden lighting sources (Slide 3), while there’s a $14,000 bookshelf unit in the library-turned-nursery (Slide 5), and none of the visible items in the master bath (Slide 8) came from Home Depot or Ikea, for sure for sure. There’s a thin line between “renovation” and “redecoration”, especially when the project involves built-in storage and closets, as in the waiting-for-somebody loft. But this $350,000 project certainly included things not generally counted as “renovation” (the $5,000 upholstery on that queen bed [Guy … only a queen??] in Slide 9, or the $5,000 glass coffee table in Slide 7, for example) as well as stuff that would be in a renovation budget ($14,000 for the bookshelves if they are fixed to the walls in the nursery, of course, or the $840 lamp over the kitchen island in Slide 3).

Seems as though The Guy got a lot of bang for his buck, however you might allocate the $350,000 between decoration and renovation. All for ‘skin’, apparently, but still only $233/ft. Nicely played, Guy; nicely played. And congratulations on the baby and upcoming nuptials.

Who would you cast in the RomCom movie?


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