Living Small: A Tiny Manhattan Apartment Becomes a Home
People living in New York City are forced to make the most of small spaces, but it is unlikely that many have done it as gracefully and inexpensively as Mark Robohm, a drummer and Web designer. The tiny home, which doubles as an office for Mr. Robohm, is actually a small studio apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood, measuring just 400 square feet.
Mr. Robohm did the gut renovation largely by himself for less than $12,000. He built an entertainment unit with the drop-down slot for the television over a long weekend for $150. He installed the translucent window in the wall between the bathroom and the living room, which brings natural light into the bathroom during the day and creates a soft glow in the living room at night. He spent about $1,800 on the kitchen, plus $1,000 for a new stove a fact that could make a person who has paid a more typical Manhattan fee to remodel a kitchen (say, $30,000 and more) want to open the window of this little second-story Chelsea walk-up co-op apartment and jump. Perhaps just as impressive, Mr. Robohm lived in the space for the year and a half it took to do the work, a cost-saving move that required him to vacuum the bed before he could go to sleep.
Mr. Robohm received a degree in environmental science from the University of Vermont and has been doing household repairs ever since his parents bought an 1840s Vermont farmhouse when he was a child. Several years ago, he moved to Manhattan, where he rented a sixth-floor walk-up studio on West 22nd Street for about $1,300 a month. He often went to open houses for fun, with no intention of buying. Mr. Robohm doubted that he could really afford to buy any kind of living space in Manhattan. However, one winter day in 2002, when the New York real estate market was suffering fom the effects of Sept. 11, he saw this small studio apartment on West 21st Street.
The entrance was uninspiring: there was a wall four feet from the front door that supported a loft bed and blocked out much of the natural lighting. The ceiling over the entrance and kitchen area was only eight feet high, creating a claustrophobic feeling. The nonworking fireplace occupied the prettiest spot in the studio, by the tall windows that faced the street. But the price ($220,000) was right by Manhattan standards. Mr. Robohm realized that buying the apartment made much more sense than making improvements to his rental unit and then leaving them to the landlord. He took possession of the apartment in the following early Spring, had a party that evening and by 8 the next morning had begun gutting the apartment.
Living Small: A Tiny Apartment Becomes a Home
Joyce Wadler has written a detailed article about Mr. Robohm’s renovation in The New York Times. Interested readers can access the entire article here.
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