Apartment Renters

In high rent, high turnover, high demand areas, you pretty much take what you can get in terms of an apartment. Maybe you’ll get the basic things on your wish list (pets, location) but not that fireplace or extremely detailed doors and transoms you always dreamed about.  For Vinny and me, location, price, and pets were what we could not compromise on, i.e. we had to be able to walk to school, we would not go over a certain dollar amount (read: poor grad students), and we had to have the cats.

We were able to find an apartment with those qualities just when we were at the end our rope. Realtors didn’t return calls, craigslist ads weren’t much help, and we had already seen a not-so-great apartment and one building that we wouldn’t even set foot in. (Elyse Gerstenecker wrote an article about her troubles while apartment hunting in the December 2008 issue of Preservation in Pink.)

When we saw this apartment, we knew it was our best shot. We didn’t have other options. So we signed a lease for this tiny apartment (as in small for one person) and we started thinking about how to improve it because the guy who lived here before us had never cleaned a day in his life.

Cleaning the apartment top to bottom was a must, cabinets, floors, windows, refrigerator, oven, bathtub, everything. We picked out paint colors and decided the cream color needed to be white for the window frames and door frames, crown molding, baseboards, and cabinets. Cleaning and painting is exhausting and it gets expensive.

So why would we bother doing this to an apartment that is only temporarily ours? We’re not getting reimbursed for painting, though our landlord did rip up an old rug for us and give us floor cleaner. We are trying to make this apartment feel like home, make it someplace we want to stay in for more than one year. And in the process of making this apartment a pleasant place to live, we’re keeping things in mind for how to do things when we restore our own house someday.

The apartment is in a historic house, one that was divided into apartments long ago. The more I sit in the house, the easier it is to see clues to the house’s history. Clues like crown molding in the closet, a former exterior window (now an alcove above my head) is in the living room, the molding around an old door frame that has since been closed in, hardwood floors under the kitchen linoleum, and other  things have revealed themselves as we’ve been painting and cleaning. I think our living room is a former porch.

I’ve never lived in an old house, so this project is one I’m more than happy to have. We’re taking care of the apartment, something it has needed desperately. And with all of this work, we already feel attached. Granted, it’s just a facelift and minor maintenance, not restoration by any means, but we feel that the house deserves it.  Once our work is done, I’ll do some historical research for the details.