A couple of newcomers to the neighborhood like their apartment comfortable and uncluttered
by Margaret Mitchell, photographs by Erik Tischler
Ron and Jennifer Lieber say they invested about $100 thousand dollars to renovate their breakthrough apartment in Hillman Housing. But rather than making it glitzy and showy, they’ve turned it into an incredibly comfortable place.
Jennifer, 37, is from Ann Arbor, MI. A social worker and therapist with a private practice, she arrived in New York in 1989. Ron, 51, born in Japan to a US military man, came here in 1979 after service in the Peace Corp. He is an English professor at a local college.
Jennifer had an apartment on East 7th Street, between B and C, and when they got married, close to three years ago, they started looking for a bigger place. They definitely wanted to stay in Manhattan, but most of the real estate on the island was beyond their reach. It was Ron’s idea to check out the Lower East Side. They checked out a few apartments they didn’t like and one gorgeous one with a huge terrace they couldn’t afford. Finally, when they were shown the two apartments, by LoHo Realty’s Doris Elpin, they grabbed them.
“Both apartments were in terrible shape,” says Jennifer. “One belonged to an elderly woman who had passed away, the other was full of junk”... According to Ron and Jennifer, when the original owner of one apartment showed no signs of living up to his commitment to clear out the place, LoHo’s Jacob Goldman became personally involved, and helped them to get rid of the junk. They were grateful.
“We ended up gutting everything, including the bathrooms-except for the floors,” says Jennifer.
“We replaced everything,” says Ron. Their friend Herzl Abraham, from Downtown Interiors, was the mind behind the simple elegance of the place. Ron and Jennifer have been marveling at his designing genius.
At the center of the new, quite large central space, they positioned a scantily defined kitchen, with a cooking island and a stove, a simple-lined dining area and a spacious and exceedingly comfortable living room. The three spaces are only divided by their sparse furnishing, and yet they are clearly distinct.
The Liebers erected two new walls on either side of this spacious center, with the master bedroom and an office on one end, and two guest rooms on the opposite end. The Liebers plan to turn them into children’s bedrooms in the future.
They weren’t allowed to move the bathrooms, but they did reconfigure the kitchen. It required raising the floor under the office, to run new pipes. They did adjust the location of one bathroom wall, to make room for a deep bathtub. Ron loves the unique ceiling design of the Hillman apartments, with hefty support beams crisscrossing above the living room. Running track lighting in between those beams creates an unusual effect on the white ceiling and pale lavender walls.
Towards the end of our visit, Ron confided his pleasure at one of the windfall advantages of combining two apartments: having two whole bathrooms.
“It’s wonderful,” he said with a big smile.