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Sep. 24, 2013 - room or light? Tribeca or Chelsea? 2 lofts sold above ask at $2.645 million have different charms

new space or old?

I had ticketed two contemporaneous Manhattan loft sales back when there was a summer in New York; now is a good time to check them out. The "1,789 sq ft" Manhattan loft on the 3rd floor of 56 Thomas Street and the "1,493 sq ft" Manhattan loft #12A at 130 West 19 Street (Chelsea House) each have 2 bedrooms. More critically, both sold within 10 days of each other above ask at exactly $2.65mm. The similarities are limited to island, bedroom count, and market value. In fact, I would be surprised if many people willing to spend around two-and-a-half-million for 2 bedroom loft space saw both of them.

On the one hand, there is new Chelsea; on the other, classic Tribeca. The Chelsea entry is in ground-up construction finished in 2006 that is more loft-like than loft, but it has the high ceilings and open kitchen layouts that compete with "loft" listings; of course it also has amenities and (even with an unexpired tax abatement) relatively high monthlies. Floor to ceiling windows provide great light and long views.

The Tribeca entry is a classic Long-and-Narrow with only a few classic loft touches (some brick, 10 foot ceilings that [though dropped] reveal sprinkler pipes, large windows). The recent renovation gave it a skin and finishings that are (to quote the babble because it appears to be true) "simply beautiful", and at a significantly mint-ier degree than the 2006-era new development finishes at Chelsea House.

The most obvious differences are light and views; the more subtle difference concerns flexibility. From the 10th floor on 19th Street, all that glass lining #12A brings natural light into every inch of the unit all day, with roof-clearing views and sky. On the 3rd floor opposite the huge Legal Aid Society building on narrow Thomas Street, the babbled "wonderful light" will all be reflected and the huge windows provide views of nothing but limestone and office windows. The less said about views and light in the back, the better; or, as the babble hints, the space is "quiet".

I am not sure how much value The Market places on flexibility, but that quality is a hallmark of traditional lofts like at 56 Thomas and an anathema to newly built condos designed within an inch of their lives like Chelsea House. The #12A floor plan is perfect for what it is, down to that angled kitchen counter to open up the entry-to-living-space trip. It squeezes 2 ensuite bedrooms and a public powder room into "1,493 sq ft" ringed by glass apart from the back wall and one wall of the second bedroom. Finding even a place for built-ins is a challenge.

The "1,789 sq ft" 3rd floor floor plan, in contrast, has many options, depending on how you feel about light and how much money you are willing to spend. That back wall can fit two (real) bedrooms, but then you'd compress the plumbing rooms up that east wall (not difficult, just expensive). No matter what you do, that vast central part of the loft is a long way from windows; hence, the decision in the new renovation to really focus inward by, for example, installing that large two-sided fireplace that, among other things, visually separates the dining area from the front windows. This space is built to be enjoyed without (much) need of the windows (though the front room may, in fact, be bright), precisely opposite to the orientation of #12A. With no structural supports in the Thomas Street loft and plumbing running a long way on that east wall, there are many options for the array of rooms. The renovators chose a large master suite and a second (interior) bedroom / den that is babbled as making "a wonderful den" for owners who would all sleep together in the back.

As I said, these lofts have such different charms and limitations that I doubt someone who had a good idea of what they wanted would have seen both. They didn't overlap on the market, but they were somewhat close, and in function (2-bedroom) and price they are similar:

Feb 17

#12A new to market


Mar 27

#12A contract

April 22

#3 new to market


May 21

#3 contract

June 11

#3 sold


June 21

#12A sold


"$2.645mm" is hardly the kind of round number that you often see properties close at. In the one case, it was $50,000 (and 2%) above the ask; in the other, $150,000 above (6%). The new #12A owners is already paying almost $1,000/mo more in taxes and common charges, with an abatement expiring in 2018.

One set of buyers were prompted by competition to pay exactly the same price as the other set of buyers, who were similarly prompted but looking for completely different benefits. A happy serendipity for people who spend time poring over closed sale records.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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Jul. 3, 2013 - not all lofts have open kitchens, least not at Chelsea Mercantile at 252 Seventh Avenue


who knew?
One of
the hallmarks of residential loft-style living is an open kitchen; indeed, I would argue that this element was one of the early dividers between people who liked “lofts” compared to people who liked “apartments”. To generalize quite a bit, prewar “apartments” had kitchens that were enclosed by walls (often, with a door to complete the enclosure), some (smaller) postwar “apartments” had pass-through kitchens, and most original (‘classic’) residential lofts featured kitchens along one wall or in a corner, but entirely open to the main living space.


Personally, I believe that the popularity of “loft-style living” has greatly increased the number of open kitchens in new developments, particularly in relatively small cookie-cutter 2-bedroom condos. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about the residential lofts in the iconic Chelsea Mercantile, so I was surprised to note that the recently sold “1,481 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4F at 252 Seventh Avenue features a floor plan that is much more “apartment” than “loft”, with the closed kitchen tucked away by the entry, a long way from the living room. Put a nice door in that slot and a visitor would never realize there was a kitchen in the place.

The Merc is a huge residential loft conversion with a footprint that had been 4 buildings on half the block back toward 8th Avenue, with a light well cut into the center, so there are a great many different floor plans. There may be others, but #4F is the first floor plan I have noticed with the closed kitchen.

Can’t say that it hurt the marketing effort: to market on March 15 at $2.525mm and in contract by April 16 at a polite discount, then closed at $2.45mm on June 12. That’s $1,654/ft for a low-floor, no-view loft. That is a slight premium over the much larger loft 5 floors up that I hit in my February 25,
market corrects too-low price drop at Chelsea Mercantile, just as it's supposed to, and a considerable premium over the Chelsea Mercantile sales I hit in my December 10, 2012, no view needed to sell small 252 Seventh Avenue lofts at $1,339/ft, or at $1,593/ft, which also mentioned a series of 2012 sales under $1,300/ft.

knock yourself out
If you want to test whether there is a price difference in the building for open compared to closed kitchens, go right ahead. I’ve used this very large loft building as a laboratory for exploring the value of views (see my January 20, 2012,
privileged Chelsea Mercantile loft clears near $1,700/ft at 252 Seventh Avenue, for example), but I don’t have the energy to try the kitchen thing. (And I doubt that you will find the data leading to hard conclusions.) This post will be the 25th Manhattan Loft Guy post tagged “Chelsea Mercantile” if you want a headstart, and some context for individual loft sales here. (Note that some posts only mention The Merc, while being about a different loft building’s sales.)

I really hope they took that picture that way on purpose

In closing the pre-holiday period, the 5th listing photo is a candidate for the Hall of Fame. Look out the window (in large format, of course). If the photographer didn’t get that sign across the street intentionally as a perfect image outside a child’s bedroom, the photographer is the luckiest photographer working in New York, and I want him or her for my next listing. The only way it could be better is if the lettering across the street spelled S W E E T  D R E A M S instead of T I C K L E.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Jan. 1, 2013 - some diverting loft porn to stimulate your new year

too many Manhattan lofts, with too many photos (!)
I don’t have anything to say about the specific lofts you can view there, as the Location Department website is a business site for film and ad location scouts; for viewers like myself, it is like the proverbial drink of water from a fire hose: too many photos of too many lofts, presented with no useful commentary for a mere loft tourist and with no way to know what’s there without clicking photo by photo, loft by loft.

I know there are some stunning loft photos “MODERN APARTMENTS, LOFTS, BROWNSTONES & TOWNHOUSES: NEW YORK CITY” page because I clicked through a half dozen or so … but there are hundreds I did not (yet) click. In other words, the page is a vast time suck. Don’t blame me if you start today and don’t come out for a few days.

If you want a hint for a way to start, you could do worse than studying the different views of the brick walls pictured many times in the (100+) photos of this huge Broome Street loft. As that clever guy below says, these photos are not the kind of marketing of lofts you are used to seeing; if you lose patience up top, scroll down about two thirds and wonder about the underwear and other laundry strewn through that bedroom photo sequence. You just don’t see pictures like that everyday.

The first tip of the hat goes to Curbed for linking to this “clever” guy, who gets the main hat tip for the Location Department link.

Enjoy! Feel free to comment on favorite discoveries.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013


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Apr. 18, 2011 - ever so rare before and after shots of 39 Worth Street loft

that (almost) never happens (hooray!)
Long-time Manhattan Loft Guy readers may have noted the pregnant parenthetical that closed my post on April 15, 66 Crosby Street loft sells for $868/ft as a very tall project, wishing that we (well, I) could see before-and-after pictures of one or both of two high-ceilinged lofts at 66 Crosby Street, as both were fairly primitive when purchased (at least as to design and usage):

Would love to see pix of that, but that (almost) never happens. Sigh.

Really observant long-time Manhattan Loft Guy readers may have wondered if that parenthetical “(almost)” was just another but of temporizing or whether something was up. Something was up! I noted last week a fascinating photo set with essay (Curbed probably earned another hat tip for that, though I can’t be sure where I saw it) of the newly decorated and renovated version of a classic Manhattan loft that I profiled when it sold last year, and had it on my to-do list as a potential post.

That loft is #3E at 39 Worth Street, which was the subject of a W Magazine spread because the new owner is designer Alexander Wang (an apparent wunderkind), with the fascinating twist that the essay was written by the former owner, who was a Style editor at the New York Times. (There is also a video that goes with the profile, but I can’t get it to play; you may have better luck here.)

When I hit it in my June 13, 2010, 39 Worth Street loft finally closes, makes the papers, I was struck by how long it took to sell that loft and how, during the time it was for sale, a large construction site grew up around it (complicating the marketing, just a bit). Severely truncated, that history featured a launch in April 2006 at $2.95mm, a few breaks (total: 5 months) into February 2009 (then asking: $2.75mm), a longer break until October 2009 (back at $2.2mm) until a contract in March and closing last June at $2mm.

In those days, the loft was

a classic Long-and-Narrow of "2,560 sq ft" (per the former listing), set up as a one bedroom plus "guest quarters" plus home office, with the single bedroom (with bath) taking up the entire back of the loft, and lot line windows along the long side where the guest and office areas are (more about those windows later). *** [later:] lot line windows along the east side, then covered with butcher paper as a hint not to get too attached to them. The bedroom offered wonderful views of the construction site. Let's just say that there is a lot of digging (noise, dust) involved in a building with five floors above ground and four floors below. The fact is that very few buyers will buy into a construction zone that close and that large, if they had other choices.

That post was also fascinated by the attitude of a reporter for the New York Observer about Tribeca (hint: not respectful) and (horrors!) a bit snarky about classic Manhattan loft “style” (the Observer said):

features all the faux-former factory aspects of the pseudo-industrial rusticity Tribeca buyers go gaga for: exposed brick, original tin ceilings, even mullioned windows. The floor plan includes a "huge" open dining/living room; a handsome-size office; and a "sun-splashed" master bedroom with a chef's kitchen featuring—what else?—industrial stainless steel and hardwood with a double-wall oven and Gaggenau cooktop.

matters of black and white
W Magaznine was less interested in the visuals of the layout of the Worth Street loft, as re-created by the new owner (wunderkind designer), and more interested in his aesthetic sense for furnishings and lifestyle (it is the magazine of “Art & Design”). The slideshow with the article has mostly tight shots, many including Wang. (Personal fave: the refrigerator contents in Slide #9.) There’s one “before” photo that gives a good idea of the change in style (Slide #2).

Remember those lot-line windows that were covered with butcher paper in the late marketing period? Check out Slide #10 for the current “view”.

The Observer snarked on the former loft; I will try to avoid the snark in excerpting some W-notes about the new one:
  • An entire black menagerie seemed to have given their lives for the privilege of a place in the home of New York’s hottest downtown fashion designer.
  • This loft, they [Wang and decorator Ryan Korban] claim, is the most personal expression so far of the visual “language” the pair have formulated over the course of five years and two apartments, Wang’s showroom and first store, and the shop-within-shops that serve as worldwide outposts for his brand. “Very rich, very luxe” is Korban’s verdict on the result.
  • “Even the people at the top in fashion, even though they’re older, I see their desire to be sexy and young, and I feel that is lacking in the interiors world. I’m trying to bring a sexiness to everything I do.”
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.

That open-kitchen-from-galley is the only structural change mentioned in the article; the rest is Style (errr, “Art & Design”). For contrast, check out the floor plan and photos from an old listing. (I would think the long narrow bath behind the old kitchen was also a candidate for change, but there was not much time for a massive renovation, given that Wang did not buy it until last June.) Perhaps I am reading too much into Wang’s dreams for the loft, but it seems he (and his decorator buddy) were focused much more on the interior of the space and less concerned about the light and views. In other words, the loss of any sense of the outside from those east windows was less a bug and more a feature for him, than for many loft buyers.

The change in the floor plan of this loft is not on the scale that I would expect from the new owner of that 2nd floor loft with 16 foot ceilings on Crosby Street. I would still love to see before-and-after pix of a place like that, but I am grateful to the new owner and (especially) the former-owner-turned-visitor-and-commentator for this evocative ‘lifestyles’ piece.

© Sandy Mattingly 2011
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Aug. 8, 2009 - "loft porn", indeed (weekend diversion)

the wonders of the web
I can't remember how I got there, but clicking through one interesting link after another this morning led me to this review of The Mini Loft Bible at the LoftLife Magazine site. A magazine for "Loft Life"? Who knew??

more porn
I have bookmarked the site for future Manhattan Loft Guy exploration. But here are some kitchen images to get your juices flowing, from their blog.

© Sandy Mattingly 2009


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Nov. 8, 2006 - glass is much more than half-full / glass building fashion is reviewed

Newsday’s review of all the glass-this-and-glass-that in lofts and condos
I am not going to add more commentary to Newsday’s review, as they are much more comprehensive and concise than I can be about architecture. I will just note that they talk about the fashion of glass curtain walls in new Manhattan developments and cite (and comment on) the lofts at Phillip Johnson’s Urban Glass House, 497 and 505 Greenwich (about 497: “the curio look of a building in a bottle”; and about 505: “a brace of dark-glass boxes on sturdy-looking bases”), 255 Hudson, 40 Mercer, Blue Condo (“a piece of live-in costume jewelry”), and –of course – Gwathmey Siegel’s much-maligned Design For Living (“It's a curtain without a show”) as examples.
THX to Brownstoner for pointing me to it.
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Jun. 21, 2006 - G4.2 a new generation of Loft kitchens post-open

Original Manhattan lofts often had kitchens that matched the authentic industrial feel of the space: they were open to the rest of the space and more functional than stylish; perhaps an industrial sink, more likely to have shelves rather than cabinets, “basic” appliances. Call those G1 loft kitchens.
Fast forward to a (developing?) new style loft kitchens, which I will dub G4.2 loft kitchens but the NY Times calls “guy décor”:   closed kitchens that have more in common with grand prewar apartments than with classic lofts, or even with modern luxury lofts.
“Cozy” in a loft kitchen??
Rick Marin in the Times talks about (nearly) returning to the closed kitchen of his youth when he renovated his kitchen to suit his new lifestyle (ten years earlier, “open kitchens were integral to the cool, sophisticated loft lifestyle to which I aspired”.)
He implicitly blames Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and other TV super-chefs for the trend toward high-end open kitchen, the kind of kitchen his wife hates:
“the arrival of the husband in the kitchen, roughly concomitant with the advent of the Food Network, was a major event. He demanded huge, manly appliances with Teutonic names like Viking and Wolf. Not only did the act of cooking become a part of the culture of American society, but watching people cook became a desirable activity. And helping to cook became a matter of etiquette, as the line between guest and host blurred. Dinner parties took on that vaguely tacky potluck quality that makes my wife, a hostess who values old-school niceties, insane.
Since kitchens are such a “lifestyle” feature of apartment living, Marin’s new family structure called for “cozy” (when they eat in the kitchen) and “old-school”, when they entertain (presumably, they have a dining area – though he never says so).
If this is a trend for loft kitchens, it will be G4.2.
Kitchen Darwinism in Manhattan lofts
G2 loft kitchens were the upgraded kitchens in original lofts, or the newly built kitchens in loft conversions of the 1970s and 1980s: stylish appliances, higher-end cabinets, butcher block kitchen islands and expensive pots and pans hanging pretty much everywhere.
G3 loft kitchens reflect the arms war, especially in recent developments. As Marin says, the kitchen as fashion accessory: The “open kitchen has become a fashion accessory, the shoes or handbag of the new Manhattan apartmentand he uses the Altair condos at 15 West 20 Street and 32 West 18 Street as the archetypes, with an ad featuring a youngish couple in matching aprons stand by an open kitchen island — more of a peninsula, really — giddily preparing dinner with five female friends who look as if they might consider spaghetti straps a food group. ‘In a 23-foot kitchen,’ the copy reads, ‘there can never be too many cooks.’
I can’t put a cursor on that ad at the moment, but two examples of the open kitchens at Altair 20 can be seen in the listing data for the “A” line here and the “B” line here. (If you think my usage of the term “arms race” is a bit over the top, check out the description of these kitchens as “beyond state of the art”, then reconsider.)
Metaphysics for dummies: How do you get beyond state of the art?
If the Altairs (and their similarly breathless competition) represent the G3 loft kitchen, why is Marin’s closed kitchen G4.2 rather than G4? Because the (other) newest loft kitchen style may be coming our way from Milwaukee – of all places.
This G4.1 is the "inside-out" kitchen pictured in the Marin article:
“Diana Murphy, editor in chief of Kitchen & Bath Portfolio, sees a trend toward the inside-out kitchen, citing a loft in Milwaukee, featured in her magazine, in which the customary L shape of the open kitchen is reversed. Instead of being tucked in a corner, its corner juts out into the apartment. Sort of an extreme open kitchen.”
Visually stunning? Of course. But a long way from Point A to Point B in that kitchen.
So maybe G4.1 isn’t likely to catch on … but Marin’s G4.1 may….
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Mar. 31, 2006 - Creeping loft-ism nationally

You know “lofts” have moved way beyond trendy when The National Association of Realtors magazine talks about loft developments around the country, in cities and in suburbs.  The Loft Goes Upscale and Suburban 


Authentic lofts — with their high ceilings, open spaces, and expansive windows — are fetching prime prices in former warehouse districts, while developers churn out new variations of the popular style in cities and suburbs across the country.


Part of this may simply be the rest of the country catching on to a Manhattan trend, part of this may be the widespread revitalization of many core urban areas around the country, and part of this may be Hollywood’s influence:


[SoHo architect Henry] Smith-Miller attributes the loft’s increased popularity in part to a spate of blockbuster movies set in lofts, including the gritty and dangerous “Fatal Attraction” (1987) in which Glen Close and Michael Douglas take a fateful elevator ride or the art-filled loft in “Unfaithful” (2002) where Diane Lane and her French lover Olivier Martinez rendezvoused.

These films and others, such as “Diva” (1981) and “Ghost” (1990), “transformed interiors all over the world,” says Smith-Miller, who still lives and works with his artist/architect wife Laurie Hawkinson in a SoHo loft.


That article talks about loft developments in Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, and in the suburbs nationwide, most of which are new construction. Recognizing that not many of these new developments closely mirror “classic lofts”, one real estate agent said they should be called “clofts”, for condos with high ceilings.


Imagine “lofts” in a Las Vegas gated community….



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Sandy Mattingly is Manhattan Loft Guy; now with The Corcoran Group (http://corcoran.com/ ; but see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page), he can be reached most easily at Sandy@ManhattanLoftGuy.com or 917.902.2491, and followed on Twitter @ManhattnLoftGuy (note "mis-spelling"). After 7+ years, the blog has moved. Links here on RealTown will work for the foreseeable future, but new posts (and all the old content) has migrated to ManhattanLoftGuy.com.

Recent Posts

ch ch ch changes September 30, 2013
diversion is more of a (small) rant about Manhattan real estate "penthouses"
50 West 29 Street build-out loft sale not as simple as it looks
28 Laight Street 1-day loft sale looks like a whisper listing
room or light? Tribeca or Chelsea? 2 lofts sold above ask at $2.645 million have different charms

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