Where else—short, perhaps, of federal lockup—can you find a couple in love who share such a teeny-weeny space? But more to the point, where else would that couple have made their 278-square-foot apartment work so well and look so elegant and not feel like a prison cell?
Sara Blumberg and Jim Oliveira, both 40, are private dealers who specialize in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian glass. The couple first moved to this Soho tenement walk-up in 1992, back when it was an all-pink rental and “just incredibly ugly,” says Blumberg—but nice and cheap. When the option to buy came up five years later, they thought no way, before deciding that for $92,000, maybe it wasn’t such a bad deal.
Five years passed, during which they made cosmetic changes. But it wasn’t until their friend Robert Gaul, a designer, came over to visit—and voiced some ideas—that they realized their place could be infinitely more livable, even beautiful.
“When you entered the hallway before,” Gaul says, “there was a wall straight ahead”—with a door to the bathroom in it. The apartment was a very cramped one-bedroom. By ripping down the wall and converting the space into a studio, Gaul made it seem bigger. Moving the bathroom around the corner also helped, as did the general use of white-lacquer cabinets and Corian countertops, whose blankness sets off the couple’s vases and art.
Also, “the whole thing had to work like a boat,” says Gaul—meaning that storage had to be clever and unobtrusive, and that fold-down work “desks” had to disappear back behind the dining-living-everything-room wall. It had to be a place where something could be taken out and then immediately stowed again. “It’s like being in a beehive,” admits Blumberg. “You are trying to fly and accomplish things and not hit the other bee.” But it helps tremendously when your hive is so nice to buzz around.
Because the early morning in New York, before the city’s come awake, is fantastic. The light is building, and there’s just a few people around grabbing their coffee.
Because I was at a traffic light and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hi, Deepak,” and I turned and looked and it was Carlos Santana, and then a little while later somebody else tapped me and said, “Hi, Deepak,” and it was Puff Daddy.
Because of Central Park, definitely. And the Lower East Side. Come on, you can see everybody down there. It’s a scene, man.