Meanwhile, Back in Manhattan

I haven’t thus far gone into much detail about our lives in New York City (I wrote out plenty about it on HalfClassicSix), but suffice to say, we were very fortunate to been able to build and live a reasonably comfortable middle-class life in a fabulous classic apartment (circa 1910) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Pretty much everything on Our Philly Row has been about… Well, Our Philly row…. But meanwhile, back in Manhattan, we have been preparing our apartment to get it ready to sell so we can finally transition our lives to Philly.  We bought our 800 square foot one bedroom apartment in 2014, shortly after getting married. It is our first home together, and we bought it with the idea that it would be our forever home. After all, we were die hard New Yorkers with no intentions of ever leaving. Fast forward to the fall of last year when the idea of our apartment and ultimately New York City as being our forever home began to shift and evolve.

And then a year ago last weekend, Y and I boarded a Philadelphia bound Greyhound Bus (because we are “klassy” like that) for a ride that would change our lives. This was our first trip together to Philly and our intent was to visit the city to get a feel for for whether or not we could envision leaving our Manhattan lives to begin a new life there. Once in Philly, we dropped our bags at an adorable tiny 550 square foot, three story Trinity house in Rittenhouse Square. We knew we were preparing for an adventure into the unknown, but little did we know we had already seen photos of our future and the seed had already been planted for what would become our new home.


Little did I know that that the listing I came across and saved as a favorite in mid November of 2016 would be the house we would end up buying a few months later.

When I first stumbled across the listing photos of the Federal street house in mid November, I saw interiors untouched by time (in a good way and a not so good way), as well as tired but still there features long ago stripped away from the vast majority of Philly rowhouses, I became completely enamored with it and quickly added it to my favorites on Zillow. We only had a weekend in the city, and we planned to go to as many open houses as we could fit in (because it is completely normal to go to open houses when you travel, right?). I had hoped we could somehow weave a walk-by of the house on Federal Street into our walking about the city, and sure enough, we were in the neighborhood in the late afternoon, but by then we were pooped, and I gave up on walking an additional 5 blocks to see it because the particular area we were in didn’t look very nice (I pre-judged without any basis beyond immediate appearance).


While exploring various housing types in Philadelphia, I stumbled across this adorable Trinity house in Queen Village neighborhood. [Image: Curbed Philly]

After returning to New York from our first weekend in Philly, I got started planning our next trip for early January. Based on the six open houses we saw on our first visit, I drew lines on a map for the boundaries of where we wanted to search. I dubbed it the “Zone of Acceptability”. It is not that houses outside of the zone were not worthy…. It is just that we had determined that we wanted to stay within a very specific area for proximity to things. As it turned out, Federal street was just too far outside of the zone (but I had kept it in my favorites on Zillow).


The WOW house on January 7th, the first day we got to see the interior.

Now we needed a realtor and we had no idea where to start. We thought about the agents we had met at all of the open houses, and only one of them, Josh, stood out. He was the selling agent for the house on Carpenter Street, he was professional and friendly, we got a good vibe from him… We also really liked the house he was selling because it offered a lot of space for the money including a third floor which I could use as a studio. So for our second trip, we reached out to him and arranged for him to get us a private showing at the Carpenter Street house as well as several other houses. Even though I had already made up my mind about not living south of Washington Blvd, I had him include the Federal Street house because I was just so damned curious to see it. The day before we left, Josh called to let me know that one of the houses we wanted to see was off the market, and another was in contract, which left us with only three houses to see. On January 7th of this year, Josh took us to the house and WOW….. Everything changed…. Including my “Zone of Acceptability”. (The whole Wow house story can be read in Part I and Part II.)


Spring sprung in the park across the street just a few weeks after we took possession. These lovely blossoms were only there for a few days. (Our house is right of center.)

We took possession of our home on March 17th and somehow thought we could just turn our attention back to getting the NYC apartment ready and on the market by June. We figured we could be moved into our house by October. We plan… God laughs! Instead of focusing on getting the apartment ready, we had to deal with unexpected electrical and structural issues at the house which delayed our getting the apartment ready for months… And months…

Finally after our annual July week in Provincetown, we ignored the house and put all of our energy into getting the apartment ready to list. With a punch list more than 40 items long, including such things as: fix the bedroom door which was broken when we bought the apartment, install the custom bathroom vanity, re-install the two 99″ tall doors in the kitchen closets, repaint the entry hall, paint the bedroom, remove and carefully pack our fabulous chandelier, paint the living room ceiling to a pale gray, and hang the new fixture… And on, and on… It was a litany of tasks which took more than two months, and required hiring some outside help, as well as spending every single weekend in full on “Get this sh*t done!” mode. But we did it!


This is the before and after of our Manhattan kitchen. I did all of the renovations myself with the exception of the floor and countertops. There are a few additional shots further down, but you can see a lot more on my Kitchen Reveal Post on HalfClassicSix.

Finally, in early October, four months past our initial goal, our apartment was on the market. The apartment has been dumbed down to make it easier to sell… gone is the black ceiling in the living room, and the dark raspberry hallway, but it is still a beautiful place. During our three years in the apartment, we managed to transform it from a sad rental with good bones to an amazing home with a glorious kitchen. And we really did think we would never leave. We make plans, God laughs. Here is a tour of our Manhattan apartment as it is now. Just imagine what we can do to Our Philly Row….


The living room lost it’s black ceiling, but the pale gray is still fabulous.


Loving this Vedbo Armchair from IKEA.


The hallway is nowhere near as fabulous as it was when we painted it Raspberry Truffle.


Another shot of our entry hall. The yellow bench was an early purchase and makes a great place to sit and take your shoes off.


The center hall connects the living room to the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. It is so spacious, its almost a room unto itself.


The bedroom has basically been kept hidden away as it was always full of boxes (which have since been moved to the house).


The bedroom window is enormous and one of my favorite things about the room.


One of the details I love the most and will dearly miss is our curved plaster detail where the walls merge into the nearly ten foot tall ceiling in our bedroom (and kitchen). .


The bathroom came out wonderfully. We replaced the cheap pedestal sink with this custom cabinet with a marble top.


The queen keeps watch over the goings on in the bathroom.


The ceiling in our Philly row is about two feet lower than this, but I will still be able to make it amazing.


The other side of the kitchen has a beautiful buther-block counter.


Oh that floor!!!….. Handmade concrete tiles from Vietnam. It was the most expensive part of the renovation, costing more than the cabinets and marble countertops combined. But every day we fall in love with it all over again. More kitchen photos can be seen on my Kitchen Reveal Post on HalfClassicSix.


There you have it! Our Manhattan apartment has been a wonder place to call home and we will miss it dearly (especially the kitchen). As for selling the apartment? We had several open houses, and feedback has been hugely positive. People absolutely love the kitchen, they love how generous the room sizes are and they love our style. Our realtor refers to our style as cheeky, I say it is just us. Oh….. And one more thing…. After less than 50 days on the market, we went into contract (Woo Hoo!) with a closing date around the beginning of February.

Now this sh*t has gotten very real! We really are moving to Philly!









Till next time. . .

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  • Stacy G. says:

    The apartment looks wonderful. Congrats on the contract! To Philly, we go. I’ll see you on the blog. 🙂

    • Devyn says:

      Thanks Stacy! Our 1910 Beaux Arts apartment building is so much fancier than our 1852 middle class rowhouse, and I will certainly miss walking into a marble lobby and stained glass windows every day, but I am looking forward to taking on the challenges of making a simple home into an elegant space with irreplaceable charm.

  • Beth says:

    I still love that kitchen but the picture of the Queen over the toilet is fabulous! Thank you for sharing this site as your taste is awesome! I am in Philly often as my daughter goes to school there and my family is in the area. All the best!

  • Chad says:

    I can’t even imagine doing 2 project houses at once. Congratulations on coming a bit closer to the end of that craziness.

    I think the surviving wood and plaster work, the third floor, and the park frontage will be wonderful and more than make up for giving up the lobby and being (barely) south of Washington. Plus, being next to all the pho will be handy when you rip that kitchen out.

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