Soho loft with the most awkward kitchen sells above ask at 543 Broadway

a triangle, if only on paper

How far would you consider it acceptable to walk to the refrigerator to get, say, vegetables to wash in the sink? If you said “really far, and please, can we put a door in the way as well?” then you might be the seller of the “2,300 sq ft” Manhattan loft on the 7th floor at 543 Broadway in the heart of Soho, which sold (above ask!) for $3mm on May 14. or perhaps you were the seller before that, when the same loft, in the same condition and configuration, sold for $2.275mm two years earlier. (We’ll get to that anomaly in a bit, but stay with me n the kitchen, please.) I wouldn’t have thought there were two people with such a preference, but that’s the fun of looking at Manhattan lofts every day … you see some things that are very impressive and you see some things that are weird.

This kitchen doesn’t look too weird, on first look:

sounds good: “open kitchen with top-line, stainless steel appliances including wine storage, gas range, a large pantry and a center island”; it is a big space, with lots of storage; there’s even the thoughtful addition of electric outlets in the island

And the pantry is large:

wait, what’s that RF in the pantry??

It is a bit of a cliche in kitchen design to talk about The Work Triangle. Here’s one basic treatment, with guidelines!

it is a triangle — albeit an imaginary one — that has always been an important element of a kitchen’s design and functionality.

The “work triangle” is defined by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink, to the center of the cooktop, to the center of the refrigerator and finally back to the sink. The NKBA suggests these guidelines for work triangles:

  • The sum of the work triangle’s three sides should not exceed 26 feet, and each leg should measure between 4 and 9 feet.
  • The work triangle should not cut through an island or peninsula by more than 12 inches.
  • If the kitchen has only one sink, it should be placed between or across from the cooking surface, preparation area, or refrigerator.
  • No major traffic patterns should cross through the triangle.

Efficiency is the triangle’s main goal, as it keeps all the major work stations near the cook, without placing them so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The work triangle is also designed to minimize traffic within the kitchen so the cook isn’t interrupted or interfered with.

 It’s a great convenience to have a refrigerator in the pantry, but not so convenient to have the refrigerator in the pantry. Without walls, there is a triangle from the frig to sink to stove, but there are walls, so the triangle is broken. Frig to stove involves a U-turn in this set-up.
You will often see prewar apartments with tiny kitchens that, after expansion, have a refrigerator around a corner, or separated from the main body of the kitchen. I’ve never seen a huge kitchen in a large loft set up like this, however. There are so many different ways to design this kitchen so that the frig is easily accessible from the sink, the stove and the prep surfaces that it is almost as if the frig placement was a design feature rather than a bug. Without disturbing the footprint, you could put the frig where some of the cabinets are, or put two low units under the counters on either the island or the corner near the sink. And if you were stuck with putting the frig in the pantry, you could put it near the door instead of on the far wall opposite the pantry door.

My experience of visiting this loft with a buyer in 2013 was a bit surreal. We’d seen but hadn’t studied the floor plan in advance, and were more focused on the mess of walls and plumbing in the back of the loft (how to rationalize that part of the layout?) than on the large open kitchen. When we went into the pantry and the lightbulb went off in my head, my buyer was puzzled about why I was chuckling. I pointed to the frig, which he thought a wonderful convenience, until he realized that the frig was the frig. I don’t think anyone else at the open house got the joke.

The Market and Manhattan Loft Guy, not on the same page (again)
As noted, I saw this loft with a buyer in 2013, when it could have been had for $2.275mm (had been had for $2.275mm). It wasn’t worth it to my guy then, as there was just too much work for his taste. To him, it was a total gut job, a matter of erasing all the lines on the floor plan and starting over. Or, if that Waterworks bathroom in back was worth saving (and building around), leaving the back pretty much as is and rationalizing the kitchen. That the kitchen had to be reconfigured (if not gutted) seemed obvious to him. And to me.

But we know that is not what happened, and that the buyer in 2013 at $2.275mm did quite well for herself in selling last month. The overall Manhattan residential real estate sales market was up 20% in those two years (per StreetEasy’s Manhattan Condo Index, of course). That simple time adjustment implied that the loft would be worth about $2.75mm in 2015, so a data nerd might think that the 2013 buyer was pushing it a bit by coming to market on December 12 at $2.85mm.

Of course, in the real world at least two buyers thought the $2.85mm asking price was a bargain, and the new owner just paid $3mm for the same loft in the same condition as when it sold for $2.75mm 24 months earlier.

I assume there is a renovation budget on top of the purchase price, but you never know.

windows are sorta awkward, also

The broker babble highlights the south exposure (those five windows on the long wall in the floor plan above).

This is the first floor that clears the neighboring southern building and therefore has windows facing south as well.

While true, this feature is not as much fun in real life as on paper. Start with the building photo, which includes that neighbor to the south.

7 is the floor just below the arched windows; see what’s south at that level?

Here’s what the windows contribute in real life, in this case in the master bedroom:

you’ll never see out that window, but without it this isn’t a “bedroom”

These five south windows are real windows, they just don’t do as much as most windows do. Not that it mattered in 2015: asked $2.85mm, sold for $3mm. Even with those windows up by the ceiling and that frig-in-pantry. Go figure.

out-performing The Market, even in a very mature Soho market

Soho hasn’t been an up-and-coming real estate sales market for many years. As a well developed (“mature”) submarket, the theory is that there should be limited opportunity for outsized gains, and limited risk, compared to markets that are ‘developing’. But theories are macro, and individual sales are data points.

As I noted above, the overall Manhattan residential real estate market is up 20% from May 2013 to February 2015, while this 7th floor loft went from $2.275mm to $3mm. (When will StreetEasy update the Manhattan Condo Index beyond February 2015??) The Index suggests that this loft would have been worth about $450,000 more this year than the $2.275mm the recent seller paid to buy it in May 2013. Instead, the loft was actually worth $725,000 more (a gain of 32%).

Go figure.



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  1. […] have put $500/ft into the slightly larger Soho loft on busy Broadway that I hit in my June 13, Soho loft with the most awkward kitchen sells above ask at 543 Broadway, and still be $700/ft less costly than this loft. (That hypothetical renovation budget should be […]

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