photo: Javid Yaghi A surprising budget bedroom in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world A surprising budget bedroom in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world
Like many hopeful developers, Christine Lazo and Firoz Rasul stumbled upon an ideal space in an unlikely city. In 2012, they were looking for a property they could use as a studio for their company, Born Naturally. Neither of them had previously owned a residence — and more to the point, neither of them had ever had a place they’d actually enjoy to live in.
A year later, they found a studio, a beautiful building that had once housed a movie theater. Along with the great bones of the structure, they found three units and started on renovations. Each of the apartments they envisioned offered very large and large-ish living spaces, with several of them near the top of the list of least expensive East Village properties ever listed.
The Lazos and Rasul moved in in April 2015. It was immediately obvious that they hadn’t chosen a place that could survive a couple of failed musical groups in a couple of bedrooms. Around the unit, the walls were lined with books. The sofa was so far to the left that you’d need to learn how to dance so you could get under it. It would have been funny to see Tony Bennett collecting autographs over the piano there. The doors from the kitchen to the living room — at the spot where a creative body would have needed to have a tissue — were linked to the locksmith. “We were throwing in the towel,” Mr. Rasul, a photographer, said.
But they listened to the artist, Erika Graff, who was living in the building. She had done some research and had determined that they could, because of the building’s place in the city’s cultural history, could continue to make a creative space, not just a place to stay. “If we added more rooms, we’d see ourselves as not being a studio dweller,” Mr. Rasul, 34, said.
The couple went from living in cramped quarters to living in spacious, spacious rooms — in the beginning, they made a wish list of things they would do with the space, like dividing it between Mr. Lazo’s bedroom and Ms. Graff’s, and giving it a different use on a monthly basis. Each room, they thought, could take on a different life. It could serve as a bedroom or “creative hub,” or a living space for their cat and Mr. Lazo’s dog. Their plan was to add a loft above, above what they had already, but when it came time to choose a name for the loft, they sought to be as inclusive as possible, from Brooklyn to Oakland to England. (As if they needed more inspiration on that front.)
It worked. The loft earned them an invitation to open for artist Phyllida Barlow at her recent residency at The White Columns gallery in Chelsea. They held a tasting party, filled with black holes and over-sized benches, and brought in a saxophonist. Later, they took the whole space over for events.