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Beach plums in bloom

STEAMING TOWARD A MOVE-IN DATE of this Friday at my new/old house in East Hampton, N.Y. Yes, I know it doesn’t look move-in ready, and the fact is, I still don’t have water. But that’s my goal. The phantom plumber was supposed to come yesterday to hook up a couple of fairly important items, including a toilet, but he was sick. Fingers crossed for today.

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I had two satisfyingly productive days recently. On Sunday afternoon, I put a coat of primer on the plywood floor in the dining/sitting room, above and below, soon to be covered by floor paint, probably white. Quick way to make the place feel cleaner and brighter.

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This first required the painstaking removal of hundreds of carpet staples, most with tufts of carpet stuck to them, a prospect that had been hanging me up for weeks. My daughter got to it last week with a pair of pliers, enabling the operation to proceed, and for that I am very grateful.

photo_3I spent almost all day Monday cleaning the house as best I could without H2O. That was a rather non-green operation involving broom and dustpan, the vac, Swiffers both dry and wet, spray cleaner, and lots and lots of paper towels. I won’t be happy until I get my rubber gloves into a bucket of hot soapy water, but it helped.

While I worked inside, Eric the tree man buzzed and chipped outside, removing tree limbs and a couple of whole trees near the house that posed a danger of falling. It’s not a dramatic change, but to me, the space in front of the house feels more open and airy. (Don’t go by these iPhone shots. I keep saying the place looks brighter, while the photos look terribly dim.)

The kitchen floor, below – 18″x18″ charcoal gray tiles — has been laid and will be grouted today.

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This was the inspiration photo for the floor tiles:

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The stove and fridge are being delivered later this week.

The contractor built a wooden base for a deep two-basin kitchen sink top that was left behind in the shed, below, following a magazine picture I showed him. I think it came out better than the picture.

IMG_1790Then I’ll have to say goodbye to all my helpers for a while and forge on alone for the next couple of months. The coffers have run dry, and all incoming funds will be going toward fix-ups at our mews house in Brooklyn. <–That link is to a four-year-old post; the rent has gone up. If interested, contact me at caramia447@gmail. The longtime renters are leaving, and the place requires attention and an infusion of cash.

By the way, anyone need a 9-1/2 foot long liquid propane tank, bottom? Once used to heat a now-disappeared swimming pool, it sits in the parking area like a beached submarine. I got a $4,000 estimate to take it away, so it won’t be leaving any time soon. It’s not in my way, but neither do I anticipate any future use for it. Do I have any takers?

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A LOT OF PEOPLE (myself included) give up, somewhat, on window boxes and outdoor containers by the time November rolls around. Others keep going… like the owners of the swell Manhattan townhouse, above, who’ve created an arresting display with gourds and berries.

My go-to place for inspiration in all seasons, including fall and winter, is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, above (that’s a side view of the Brooklyn Museum as seen from inside the garden), where crews were busy on Sunday repairing Sandy damage. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to have been too extensive there.

Some go all out in autumn with mums. Usually that’s not particularly interesting, but I like the front yard planting, above, where the lavender mums are interspersed symmetrically with juniper, a yellow grass, and a deep purple leafed thing whose name is not springing to mind.

Sweet potato and coleus hang in through Thanksgiving, at least, the chartreuse of the always-satisfying sweet potato vine a vivid contrast against the brownstone.

A red annual grass is flourishing now in the concrete window boxes of a fine house on St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights. Is there anything being built today that matches the elegance of that hefty iron stoop railing and brownstone window ledges? No, there’s not!

THE 1886 TOWNHOUSE featured today on “The Insider,” my weekly interior design/renovation column on Brownstoner.com, is a gorgeously intact neo-Grec row house treated to a lively freshening up by designer Lyndsay Caleo of The Brooklyn Home Company.

This one is not so much about renovation — the house was in pretty fine shape to begin with — but the interior design. Dig the hot pink room above, and the abundance of patterns on an antique chaise and armchair.

To see the rest of the house, a one-family owned by a couple in the music and fashion businesses, and find out what paint colors, rugs, wallpapers, and fabrics Lyndsay used, click right here.

THAT GORGEOUS OPEN STAIRCASE belongs to a new extension on the back of a traditional brownstone, carried out by Brooklyn-based architects Platt Dana. It’s the subject of my Brownstoner column today. For the full details, including photos of the kitchen and rear elevation, click right here.

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Northern Liberties street scene

283847941NoLibs? WTF is NoLibs? You might well ask. It’s a silly acronym (is there any other kind?) for Northern Liberties, one of the most happening neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Think of it as the Williamsburg of Philly — established enough to be a secure real estate investment, yet still with development potential aplenty.

Just north of Center City — an easy walk or bike ride — the neighborhood is old and historic, with 3-and 4-story row houses in a variety of styles. It dates back to William Penn’s 1680 plan for the city, when the area was carved up into 80-acre plots (“liberty lands”) to be given away as incentive to those who bought 5,000-acre parcels elsewhere in the colony of Pennsylvania.

I own two buildings in Philly and covet more. When I get listings emailed to me, I look at them. Usually I’m not moved to act, or even blog. But this one, left, is a corner building in a prime spot and apparently decent shape. The ask (down recently from 350K) is in line with current market conditions, and the possibility of renting both units and being immediately in the black makes it seem worth a closer look.

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data=Ay5GWBeob_WIPLDYoIWcfVXxvZu9XwJ55OX7Ag,vdn7d-fpjAqTDBft27wBVuuLm3uD_HXVRyJO3BEEF8EgwOeamOmJ187hWjVKu-p76vUhawZrKt4vPrhjn_1RMOJ3_WaZVFqIFcrFmF0_There are two apartments: a 700-square-foot one-bedroom on the ground floor, with outdoor space in back, and an upper duplex with a loft-like living space, above, two attic bedrooms, and a deck.

It’s clear that a cardinal rule of real estate sales has been broken here: the listing photos suck. Bad for the seller; not necessarily so for prospective buyers. I’ll be down in Philly next weekend and will take a few of my own. In the meantime, for more lousy-but-better-than-nothing images, go here.

And for an appointment to view this or other Philadelphia properties, I can wholeheartedly recommend Ken Krauter, the broker I used when I bought my house in Old Kensington, one neighborhood over, in 2007: ken.krauter@ziprealty.com, 215/450-0605.

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