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A few months ago, I bought a space in Harlem, soon to be home of ‘the improvised life’s new LABORATORY, in which to experiment with all sorts of ideas for home and daily living.

I had scoured New York City real estate listings for YEARS, traipsing from space to space in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan weighing the pros and cons of neighborhoods, commutes, space-for-the-money – a huge list – until I finally said YES to modest space with very good bones. It was a lucky find, fitting a VERY limited budget AND having the essentials I’d been looking for: proximity to great transportation, a real neighborhood, good security, and most important of all, a wonderful view that could never be obstructed. The architecture is nothing to speak of and the apartment itself needed serious work.

It has become a lesson in seeing through the superficial to the bones beneath, and envisioning possibilities.


Over the past couple of months I have  been doing a basic renovation, packing as many good ideas as possible into the design, while working with a limited budget, documenting it along the way.

It is rich with stories and lessons, from demolition to drywall, to lighting and flooring, to the challenges and mindset of managing a renovation, decision paralysis, and making mistakes.

When I think back to the initial vision of it, it may have started with this early post…a dream house of a Marseille penthouse….

Although there are many projects yet to be done, ‘the improvised life’ and I will be moving there this week. We’ve got to take a week or so off to get ourselves settled (it is AMAZING how much a move entails) and will be up and running soon with a ton of new material, much of it happening right there in Harlem.

photo: sally schneider

Related posts: ellen silverman’s ‘spare beauty: the cuban kitchen’
improvised kitchens, for surviving a renovation (and other of life’s surprises)
lydia wills’ apartment: before + after + in between
before + after: lydia’s kitchen renovation

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2 replies on “introducing ‘the improvised life’s new ‘laboratory’

  1. Congratulations! We have just moved also and, you are so right, there is so much involved. Like a puzzle waiting to be solved.

    Thank you for reminding me that this is my own laboratory! And thank you for appreciating the opportunities change can bring…

  2. How exciting! I’m looking forward to hearing about how the space develops and the improvisations that happen along the way.

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