A few months ago, after we had just moved down to DC and were starting to search for a place to buy and both D and I had been casually looking at real estate listings (via the absurdly addictive RedFin app) in our downtime and popping in and out of open houses to check out what different neighborhoods were like and what the options were in our budget. We had a pretty clear idea of what our needs and wants were, and for the most part we totally agreed. We wanted a little bit of outdoor space, which living in the city, can be so important. Our last two apartments had been around 1,000 square feet, and it did not seem practical to live in anything smaller. I wanted a bathtub. We wanted maybe a small second bedroom and also maybe a powder room. And then I saw it. The perfect place that checked none of the above boxes. I think my rambling email to our realtor says it all:
Hi G! Over the last several weekends, D and I have popped into several open houses trying to get a better sense of what is available and what certain neighborhoods are like. I know we’ll talk over this all when we meet, but in the meantime, I am kind of loosing sleep over a place we saw and I am wondering if you think it is worth us considering putting an offer together.
I went and saw this place on Saturday on my own and again on Monday with D. I don’t know if it is because so many of the condos/co-ops I've seen here in DC totally lack character, but I love the old creaky floors and windows, the galley kitchen, the layout of the rooms, the overall size and location of the building. The entire place and apartment reminds us of New York, which of course, we love. BUT it doesn't have *everything* we want (no parking, no outdoor space, no in-unit laundry). However, I feel like we would have to do very little work on it and it could be almost perfect.
I think the reason I am unable to get it out of my head is because I have seen so many places and they all seem to have had the character ripped out of them, or in some cases, it was never there to begin with. A lot of white boxes that have either builder-grade materials or worse yet, "updated" kitchens and bathrooms installed in haste with cheap materials by wannabe house flippers. I know we could probably find a place that would check all, or most of, our boxes, but could very likely not “feel” right, as this one does.
One other thought that has us coming back to this is that a lot of the places we’ve looked at we would want/need to put in significant work/money and might be in neighborhoods that are a bit more up-and-coming …. this seems a stable neighborhood and the place wouldn't need a lot of work, which could perhaps make it a investment as likely we will be growing out of whatever we end up in in a few years and don’t want to sink a ton of money into something that doesn’t have time to appreciate.
So with all my rambling I guess I am trying to ask, do you think this place seems unique and special and worth putting an offer in on?
A view from the front entrance of our new condo. It looks much cheerier now that the planters are filled and the shrubbery is not brown. See below for more pictures from my first visit to the space. Apologies in advance for the crappy iPhone images!
Less than one month later, after a whirlwind of offers, counter offers, inspections, condo docs, severing of rental agreements, moving (not to mention D's brother’s destination wedding), we were in.
Nearly four months on, as I look back on this email that I frantically sent off to our relator, I could not feel more certain that despite all its quirks and all the things that it doesn’t have, this space is truly for us. And as we work on putting it together I look forward to sharing the process here. I so love the bones of the place and I am incredibly appreciative to the work the former homeowner (an interior designer) put into it, but it is important that it feels like us and functions correctly for us. And for better or worse, I get intensely hung up on details, which means I agonize over decisions and fall down the rabbit hole of looking for the perfect piece. But I think it is worth it. I’ve made mistakes in the past, buying on a whim (and to be certain I will make them again), and for both our sanities and the sake of our bank accounts, decisions need to be well considered.
One lesson I learned years ago when it came to fashion, but took a little bit longer for me to figure out when it comes to decoration (particularly for a space I live in), is that things I like in theory or in a certain situation, I don’t necessarily like on me (in the case of clothing) or in my home. I do not believe (at least not when you have a 712 square foot home) that old saying, “buy what you love and you’ll find a place for it.”
I think things need need to be far more considered. I might love something—say a bold antique suzani textile—but I know that if I bring it into our little jewel box of a space, this one 4’x6’ piece of fabric will dominate all other decisions that have to be made.
So… yeah … decisions will not be coming quickly. But that just means more for me to obsess about and write about here. Even if no one is reading or listening, I’ve always been the kind of person who works things out by writing them down. Pictures below of the space when I went to the open house. Despite the wacky paint colors and terrible iPhone photo and lighting, I hope you can see what charmed us!
A look at the space from the entrance door. I fell in love with the formal layout.
A MAJOR selling point for me. I loved the painted white floors and the original floor boards that are SO creaky! We are pondering, however, the idea of slightly sanding the floors down and putting a clear glaze on them to get an almost limed/white-washed effect. And the creakiness will hopefully be subdued a bit by the addition of area rugs which I've been manically acquiring since moving in.
A view of the living room from the entry hallway. The entire apartment is only 712-square-feet, but I was shocked at how much bigger it felt (and honestly am still surprised at how roomy it feels considering I've lived in places that were much bigger but felt much smaller). I pretty much have my plan-of-action for this room figured out, and can't wait to share it!
A look at the small sun-porch from the dining room. The people we purchased from were using it as a baby's room. We've turned it into an office. I want to find a way to do little Roman shades above the shutters that doesn't cost as much as a year of private nursery school.
And the living room from the office. I love that the previous owner kept the formal layout of the apartment. I've seen listings for other apartments in our building that have been made into "open floor plans" which to me would totally take away the charm.
The dining room as seen from the kitchen. This will be the first time in my adult life (I am in my mid-30s, folks) that I will have a dining room and thus this space is taking me a bit longer to "figure-out".
The kitchen is a SMALL galley style kitchen, but I have to say after cooking in it for four months, it is totally functional and brilliantly laid out.
A view down the small but functional galley kitchen. Though I am not a fan of mallards, this has made me really think about this space as a place for art.
A big selling point were the recent remodels of the kitchen and bathroom. Although I would like to make a few changes (the kitchen faucet has already been replaced with this one from Kohler, the heavy lifting has already been done.
One thing about the space is that from nearly every room (except for the bathroom and the depth of the kitchen) you can see into all the other rooms. This has greatly influenced a lot of my design choices ... more on that later.
The only downside to the bedroom is that there is really only one way to anchor the bed (which is how the previous homeowner's have their's situated here). I am struggling a bit with the design with this room as I've accumulated a bit of black furniture, that while in previous apartments had been split up in different rooms, all made the most sense in the bedroom here. A black caned bed, a painted glossy black faux bamboo dresser from the 50s, and a neoclassical vanity table, you guessed it ... also black with a back leather inset top. Just feeling like all the black needs to be broken up. At least one of these pieces will have to either be re-painted, refinished, or replaced.
Will likely add drapery here to make the bedroom more cozy. I've repainted these walls in Farrow & Ball's Skimming Stone which is already adding depth to the space.
A tiny, but totally doable closet. I am okay wit the small size as it calls for constant editing which is wonderful since I am allergic to hoarding.
The bathroom ... also tiny but I LOVE that the tiny white hexagon tile is floor to ceiling throughout the entire space (including the shower, which you can't see here). We won't be making any changes other than perhaps adding some humidity-loving stagehand ferns to replace the art.
The marble, the original tile, the crown and picture moldings ... so happy that the entry way hasn't been touched (other than with cats of paint) in its nearly 100-years.
The building is called "The Tiffany." So every morning I have breakfast at Tiffany's, which would have totally delighted my 16-year-old self.