The Studio That Turned Out to Be a Family Heirloom

When a New Orleans native goes apartment hunting in New York City, she happens upon a place where her mother lived in the 1970s.

The Studio That Turned Out to Be a Family Heirloom

Lindsay Rosenblum, in the West Village studio apartment where her mother lived from 1978 to 1980.Credit…Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

The Studio That Turned Out to Be a Family Heirloom

Lindsay Rosenblum, a New Orleans native, thought it was a happy coincidence when she realized that a West Village studio she was thinking about renting happened to be in a building where her mother and uncle lived in the late 1970s.

On a train to New York from Boston to start her hunt for apartments this spring, Ms. Rosenblum texted her mother about the second-floor apartment with a terrace and did her best not to get excited.

“I didn’t know if it would still be available by the time I got there,” she said.

Her mother, Katie Rosenblum, was already excited. She had loved living in the building, and when she looked at the listing, the apartment seemed strangely familiar. The building has more than 400 units, many of them similar, but her studio also had a terrace. Digging through old papers, she found a letter from 1980 and immediately called her daughter: It was the same apartment.

“I was astonished,” she said. “What are the odds that Lindsay would be looking at the apartment I lived in 41 years ago?”

Ms. Rosenblum, 29, was moving to New York for a job as the director of retail at Margaux, a women’s luxury footwear start-up, and was hoping to pay less than $3,000 a month in rent.

While most of the places she was planning to see had no more than one window, this particular studio had a wall of windows and a private terrace nearly as big as the apartment itself. It was in a doorman building and also had a recently renovated kitchen with a dishwasher. The rent was $2,900 a month.

$2,400 | West Village

Occupation: Director of retail for Margaux, a luxury footwear start-up
Walking to work: Margaux’s office in Chelsea is about a five-minute walk from her apartment.
Outdoor space: “Studios in New York can feel pretty constricted,” Ms. Rosenblum said. “The terrace really helps.”
The West Village: “I always liked that it feels particularly European,” she said. “New Orleans is a very European city as well, so it reminds me of home.”

That was a bit higher than it had been when her mother lived there — from 1978 to 1980, it rented for $290 to $300 — but not much else had changed.

Ms. Rosenblum’s father was also delighted, as it was his brother’s apartment first, from 1975 to 1978.

Of course, Ms. Rosenblum wanted the place. The only question was whether to rent or buy.

The building had been converted to a co-op in the 1980s, and the current owners had listed the apartment for rent and for sale. Ms. Rosenblum hadn’t been looking to buy, but given the serendipity of the situation, she couldn’t help running the numbers to see if it was feasible.

“Obviously, it’s a big decision to buy a place, but they’d both spent so much time here,” she said of her family members. “This place is so special to me, it made sense to have a nest egg.”

She submitted an offer of about $500,000, which was accepted, leaving her with a monthly mortgage payment of about $2,400.

The sale closed in early June, about a week before Ms. Rosenblum started her new job. When it came to settling in, she benefited from an unusual amount of familial enthusiasm.

“My mom saw it when I was moving in and was like, ‘Oh my God!’” Ms. Rosenblum said.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I think I’d ever see this apartment again,” her mother said. “Four decades fell away, and memories came rushing back. Then, in the blink of an eye, I was walking into the future with its infinite possibilities.”

Together, they went on an outdoor-furniture shopping expedition in New Jersey. Ms. Rosenblum’s sister, who lives on the Upper East Side, was also enthusiastic; they had often remarked that they would love to live in the building whenever they walked by.

Ms. Rosenblum bought her dining table from the previous owner, and replaced a built-in Murphy bed with a conventional frame and mattress that she brought, along with a love seat, from her apartment share in Boston.

The new furnishings are sleeker and more modern than those in the old family photos, which show a glass-topped table with cane chairs, a platform bed built by her uncle and grandfather, and a white rotary phone.

Much of the furniture her mother acquired from her uncle when she moved in has been lost to time. But there are a number of family mementos in the apartment, including the painting palette that belonged to Ms. Rosenblum’s grandfather, as well as display racks holding three rows of matted family photos that can be switched in and out. And on the terrace is a 1940s butterfly chair that belonged to her grandparents.

The apartment is decorated in neutral colors, but Ms. Rosenblum has added a few bright, personal touches, including a colorful sign by Simon Hardeveld, a New Orleans artist, that hangs over the love seat. It reads “Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler,” reminding her of her hometown. “I told him I wanted as many New Orleans things as possible in the sign,” she said.

“Where I’m from, families stay for generations, and some pass down their homes,” Ms. Rosenblum added. “It’s crazy to think that in a city with millions of people, I’ve landed in my own version of that.”

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