Garment district loft before & after at 361 West 36 Street

picturing the art more than the loft, alas

Have you taken the new Curbed out for a spin yet? The totally new look and feel (and editorial approach) were apparently driven by the need to standardize across the Vox Media universe. (Tuesday’s ‘explainer’ from the new E-in-C is here.) I am not sure how I feel about the look yet, and the focus on less aggregation and more original content is … a mixed bag, to me. But the new approach opens up the opportunity to make “House Calls” with a back story and as many as 58 photographs. (Fifty-eight photographs.)

The February 22 In a Garment District Factory Turned Loft, A Home Filled With Avant-Garde Art is one new kind of feature, at least insofar as it is supported by so many photographs (fifty-eight photographs, as you know), so that is definitely a good thing, as it is rare to get so many views of a Manhattan loft as-lived-in, as opposed to all dressed up for sale, or in an Architectural Digest-type feature, with many fewer pix. So woo-hoo! to Curbed for telling the touching story (see what I did there, Kelsey Keith?) of folks who bought a “3,000 sq ft” full floor loft way west on 36th street, in what I sometimes call Big Sky Country for the open views.

Short story: art-y American meets creative Italian while working in Florence in 1985, they move to New York to a Garment District loft (not this Garment District loft), bounce around Soho and the Financial District, have a son (now 12 years old) and move back to the Garment District to buy the loft in 2010 from the estate of party animal (circa 1970s). They make the loft their own, with “pieces of the impressive collection of avant-garde textiles, fixtures, and artworks”, and seem to live happily (ever after, let’s hope). The photos (fifty-eight photographs) offer an unusually detailed sense of their taste and art (and turntable!).

The text is a little strained (“[o]f all of Manhattan’s neighborhoods, the Garment District is one that feels less inviting to residents”; the least inviting?? sheesh), but tells their story. (Be sure to check the photo captions, as well.)

interesting what you can do to decorate a white-on-white loft

The text never says exactly how much work they did after buying in 2010, but the implication is a lot (emphasis added):

the building was converted to a co-op in the 1970s by a group of artists, some prominent, of whom a few still maintain space in the building. Alessandro and Elizabeth purchased their loft from the estate of a conservator of paper artworks who would throw wild parties in the ’60s and ’70s. When they moved in in 2010, the loft still resembled those bygone days. Gigantic mirrors covered nearly every flat surface—traces still remain throughout the apartment, notably above a toilet and bathtub—as if the loft was an architectural disco ball. Despite their taste for the interesting, most of the mirrors had to go. So too did the colorful walls and formica cladding the kitchen islands.

The couple scrubbed the color from the apartment to compliment their extensive, impressive assemblage of artworks. Each spouse has their own obsessive accumulation. …

Among the photos (how many, y’all?), you’ll see many that show open spaces in the white loft, with white walls, white flooring, white ceiling, white radiators. The color comes from their furnishings and finishes:

writing on a blank (er … white) slate (pic 1 of 58)

not quite as much color in this seating area (a beige rug??) (7 of 58)

In fact, it is not clear how much work that qualifies as ‘renovation’ they did, as opposed to redecoration.

the overall look of the loft is the same, before and after

Thanks to an enterprising Curbed commenter (from Brooklyn, evidently), I didn’t have to go to the trouble of tracing these folks to identify the loft they bought in 2010. Furniture aside, it doesn’t look very different:

white-on-white-on-white, in 2010 and before (Douglas Elliman listing photos)

white-on-white-on-white, circa 2016, with table in the same place as in right-hand 2010 pic above (seating in the distance) (25 of 58)

(As you already know if you clicked the 2010 listing link, they bought on August 26, 2010 for $2.315mm, or [only] $772/ft; their furnishings may be very expensive, but it appears as though their fix-up budget was limited.)

(31 of 58) The original caption: “The kitchen is largely the same from when they purchased the apartment, save for the copper overlay on the islands. It came to replace some formica.” (That last sentence is … awkward.)

The 2010 buyers are clearly talented scavengers, with this wall of shelving in their son’s room left over from the prior owner as only one example:

(40 of 58)

They don’t seem to have done anything to the ceiling, other than to change light fixtures and to open up the dropped ceiling in the kid room (see caption to pic 44 of 58: “[t]o give the small room a more open feeling, the couple removed the drop ceiling in this bedroom”):

(13 of 58) Original caption: “The woman who lived in the apartment before built out the beams. Some are structural, and others hide a fire sprinkler system and lighting.”

Remember this floor plan, colored by the 12 year old, and leaning in that red shelving in his room:

(43 of 58) The caption: “A floorplan of the apartment hangs out on their son’s shelf. Color accents by him.”

They definitely didn’t do much to the bathrooms:

(46 of 58) The caption: “The retro bathrooms have gone largely untouched. Elizabeth says they might be next.”

This floor plan from the 2010 listing should look familiar by now:

a kid could have some fun coloring this, I think, adding his parent’s big furniture

It is safe to say that no architect was involved in the post-2010 project that converted the loft that “still resembled those bygone days” to the colorful home pictured in 2016. What’s weird is that there is little evidence of those “bygone days” in the 2010 listing photos that were taken (d’oh) before the Florentine lovers bought the loft.

Nor can I find “Gigantic mirrors [that] covered nearly every flat surface … as if the loft was an architectural disco ball” in the 2010 listing photos (those photos don’t show every flat surface in the loft, but they show many flat surfaces, and I count only two mirrors, one each in listing photo #2 and #7). I remember disco as being a bit more vibrant, but maybe these folks (and the Curbed writer) are too young to appreciate that.

some Manhattan lofts have some quirky elements

Let’s wrap up the discussion of the interior of the loft. This is what happens when you don’t know what to do with all that space:

(30 of 58, with no caption … what could you say about this??)

The former owners had a lot more seating in this area:

look in the back left, on top of the raised platform (since whitened, along with the blue surfaces you see … the only color that needed to be ‘scrubbed’ as far as I can see)

Finally, it doesn’t appear as though they did anything to touch up this bit of authentic loft porn (said Manhattan Loft Guy, while drooling):

(55 of 58)

for all the new development in this old loft neighborhood, there’s still sky (lots!)

I haven’t mentioned (in a while) that the Curbed feature has 58 (fifty-eight!) photos, enough to include multiple exterior photos. The view in “Big Sky Country”:

(36 of 58)

Love, love, love this Big Sky view, with an iconic water tank:

(53 of 58)

Congrats to Allesandro and Elizabeth for decorating the loft (and to the boy, lucky enough to grow up here). And to Curbed for the bandwidth to include such an extravagant photo spread.


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