For Building Designers, a Customized Apartment


So they stuck to nearby neighborhoods, seeking a small, prewar building and a sunny apartment, preferably shabby enough to beg for renovation. Their ideal layout had the bedroom far from the living room. They sometimes have “weird scheduling conflicts that would let one of us be asleep and one of us be awake,” Mr. Dvir said.

Early on, they saw a one-bedroom on lower Fifth Avenue for $745,000. Monthly maintenance was $925. It was relatively small, with “a very uneventful view” of back windows, Mr. Rauchwerger said.

Still, the men were encouraged. “If this is what we can find on Fifth Avenue, we can find something better or something else,” Mr. Dvir said. That one later sold for the asking price.

At one viewing, they met Shai Bernstein, an associate broker at Douglas Elliman, also from Israel. “This whole thing was so stressful, it was so wonderful to have someone speak your native tongue,” Mr. Dvir said.

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GREENWICH VILLAGE A strange mezzanine, a high price and high renovation costs killed the deal.

Credit
Natan Dvir for The New York Times

They looked at a 10-unit walk-up building on a tree-lined Chelsea street. A one-bedroom floor-through, offered through an estate sale, had exposures to the north and south. The asking price was $765,000, with maintenance of around $1,100. The apartment had a newly redone kitchen and bathroom. “It wasn’t very impressive,” Mr. Rauchwerger said. “The apartment felt like it could be something much better than what it was.” The prospect of a renovation excited them. They offered $785,000.

Four offers were received, Mr. Bernstein said, and a different one was accepted. The men were disappointed, but “we are both very pragmatic people and knew sometimes it is hit or miss,” Mr. Dvir said.

Now, though, they knew just what they wanted. “We got kind of fixated,” he said. “We kept wishing there was another one like that one, because we liked it so much.”

They later saw a one-bedroom in a doorman building on Fourth Avenue for $875,000. Maintenance was $1,300. It included a loft space with a spiral staircase. Their offer of $915,000 was accepted.

But the living room was comparatively uninspiring, while the bedroom had big, beautiful windows and an open view that “you will never really see because you want to close your blinds when you go to sleep,” Mr. Rauchwerger said.

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CHELSEA A walk-up floor-through wasn’t impressive, so it was perfect for a renovation project.

Credit
Natan Dvir for The New York Times

And it was impossible to stand up in what they called the mezzanine level.

After sketching their renovation plans, they decided against it and backed out. “I didn’t want to commit to such an expensive renovation,” Mr. Dvir said. “We didn’t want to become slaves to the mortgage or the renovation costs.” That one later sold for $907,000.

Then, to their surprise, they heard from Mr. Bernstein that the contract on the floor-through hadn’t worked out because of financing issues.

They didn’t bother revisiting the apartment. This time, Mr. Bernstein suggested that they offer the asking price, $765,000. The executor of the estate agreed, and that was that. They closed in the winter. Then they gutted the place, selling the appliances and fixtures on Craigslist for cheap.

They moved in a month ago, still amid some dust and mess. “We were on edge quite a lot,” Mr. Rauchwerger said. “When you come back to a construction site from a long day at work, that is really difficult.”

But every inch is customized to their taste, including a motorized screen and projector instead of a television, and narrow appliances that fit perfectly.

“It was a lot of new challenges for us because of the small scale,” Mr. Dvir said. “I design towers but don’t design kitchens. It was a learning curve for us.”

Correction: June 29, 2017

Because of editing errors, an earlier version of a picture caption with this article referred incorrectly to the couple and misstated the given name of one of them. They are buyers, not renters, and the 29-year-old is Daniel Rauchwerger, not David.

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