400 shoes that used to live in 12 East 12 Street loft need a new home, carry big profit

hello old friend

If you are a fan of well designed small lofts and a reader of Manhattan Loft Guy, you will remember the post I did about the tiny (“840 sq ft”) renovated loft with lots of shoes at 12 East 12 Street (November 7, 2010, another loft in New York Times, another inexpensive renovation, with 400 shoes) after it had been featured in the New York Times (A Nightclubber’s Quiet Retreat; slideshow here). The loft (#2NW) is back in the spotlight for me, as it sold on March 1 at $1.4mm. The fascinating thing for me is that some of the questions I had about the (only) $100,000 renovation after the Times fluffed the club impresaria and her shoes can now be answered, as the listing used an architect’s drawing specifying changes and dimensions as the floor plan for marketing purposes. That, and wondering how people can actually live like this. Two thats, plus marveling at the profit turned in this 2007 to 2013 round trip.


First, the loft made a quick splash on the market, coming out at $1.4mm on December 6 and finding a full-price contract by the first day of winter. The listing description is enthusiastic without being specific, but contains a link to the Times piece as a source of non-marketing salesmanship:


gut renovated industrial loft condo …. Oversized commercial windows with Northern exposures and 16 foot high ceilings. Interior features have superior finishes and fixtures, a full laundry closet with washer/dryer, oak floors, and over-sized bathroom. In addition, there is a loft that features a separate guest bedroom, plus a study that is perfect for working at home.


No names of materials, appliances, or other finishes, apart from “oak”. Back in 2010 I tried to read between the lines to gauge the extent of the renovation, and got pretty close:


The kitchen is almost certainly completely new (in the same location as before, most likely). There are no photos of the bathroom, or any mention in the text, but what are the chances that this oh-so-chic-and-tidy couple with a Jetsons kitchen would not have put in a similar bathroom?


Let’s assume they did little structural work. Apart from replacing the narrow stairs to the lofted (low ceiling-ed) office / guest room, they probably had to add that featured shoe closet in the (tiny!) bedroom. And we have no idea if they had to upgrade any plumbing or electrical, or put in fancy stuff like in-wall sound or upgraded windows.


then v. now

The floor plan tells us that they added (replaced?) a washer-dryer and added new tile floor and drain, replaced the fixtures in the bathroom without moving anything, put in a brand new kitchen on the footprint of the old one, that famous shoe closet was newly built in the bedroom, there are new doors, hardware and light fixtures throughout, the plumbing was to be replaced back to the risers, and the place was to be skim-coated. This is a whole lot of work for “about $100,000”. There was probably a second page (or a change in plans) as there is no mezzanine space (with an office / guest room) and it is not clear if the pre-existing ‘too steep’ stairway is the same as the one on these plans.


The missing mezzanine aside, I wonder how much of the work was actually completed as drawn. Note that the two-way fireplace (Slide #6 on NYT and 2nd listing photo) is not in the drawings and that the bedroom door is now hinged rather than sliding. (The shoe closet sits above the fireplace, as built; see Slide #8 on NYT ). The Times implied the oak floors were repaired and retained; the plans specify new wood floors in all areas but bathroom and laundry.


Regardless, it is clear from the descriptions in the Times and in the broker babble that the essential structure was not changed (other than the wall separating the bedroom from the living room, with the fireplace and shoe closet), with the kitchen, bath and mezzanine remaining where and how large they were. There is now a safer climb to the mezzanine and everything else in the loft (except the column and, possibly, the floors) have been replaced.


About that mezzanine … look at the NYT Slide #10, with the tall owner nearly bumping his head on the beam while seated in the office, and then at this bit of babble: “a loft that features a separate guest bedroom, plus a study that is perfect for working at home”. The no-outside-rail stair is not the only dangerous element of this loft.


I snarked a bit at the NY Times for not fact-checking the owners’ memories about basic stuff such as that they “bought [it] for $840,000 in spring 2008 — ‘the peak of the market,’ [as one of the couple] noted gloomily”, because “city records have their deed as dated March 14, 2007, a good year before ‘the peak of the market’” and for $20,000 more. Their memories may be bad, but their taste is market-certified as excellent: they turned an $860,000 loft into a $1.4mm loft by spending only “about $100,000”. As I said up top, this is a whole lot of work for that small number of dollars, counting a new kitchen, new bath, new plumbing piping, new fireplace, new fixtures, doors and hardware, and skim coated walls. If their memories about the renovation budget are accurate, I wonder if they got a club-owner discount.


speaking of math

With all the attention to detail and fine work done in this loft, it is easy to overlook just how small it is, in real and practical terms. As I said in the November 7, 2010 post, they told the Times “900 sq ft” and we have it as “840 sq ft” in our database. The only dimensions on the architect drawing ae around the bedroom; not how small that is: probably less than 8 feet wide and only 14 feet to the doorway. The living room to the kitchen/bath wall is only about 15 feet by 28 feet, with that back wall of plumbing being maybe 9 feet by 14 feet. At these numbers, the footprint is something less than 700 sq ft. On the one hand, this increases the renovation budget on a $/ft basis (above $140/ft) without including the surviving mezzanine; on the other hand this emphasizes how efficiently one has to live in the space (or, in the case of a couple, how efficiently two have to live in the space).


There is a closet opposite the bathroom that was not used for linens and towels (per NY Times):


The hall closet brims with a seemingly endless expanse of silky black tops and dozens of chic little hats.


The plans call for a pair of closets, each 32 inches wide where (instead) there is now a fireplace with shoe closet above. In other words, there is no place to store clothing on-site (other than hats, shoes and silky tops), including in furniture, apparently. Look at the the bedroom as pictured in NYT Slide #7; there’s no space even for a night table in there. Look at the living room as pictures in NYT Slide #3; there’s a credenza-thing-y under the wall-mounted television, but no other visible storage. At all.


Not many people can live this close to the wind; apparently “lots of storage space” is a life saver:.


The apartment might also qualify for honors as New York’s tidiest living space. The lack of clutter is almost surreal, with not so much as a stray paper clip visible to the naked eye.

This is partly because the couple are blessed with lots of basement storage space, where belongings not needed at the moment are tucked away in clear, well-labeled plastic containers. The absence of shedding pets also helps. But, perhaps most important, the two are on the identical page when it comes to clutter.

“A jacket on a chair bothers me,” Ms. Cardoso admitted.

Mr. Campbell added proudly, “I think the most common thing people say about our apartment is that it’s so neat.”


not judging, just sayin’

Personally, I don’t think I know a single couple who could live in this space the way these sellers did, and very few who could live in it without converting the mezzanine to dangerous storage. Yet: to market on December 6, in contract by December 21 at full price.


Even with these sellers (portraits of OCD, no?), there was a limit. They outgrew the space, or had a baby, or got tired of going to the basement all the time (where did he keep his clothes??). After 5+ years of ownership above the Gotham Bar & Grill, they sold to a family trust. It makes a lovely pied a tierre, doesn’t it?


© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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