Over the past couple weeks, blogs have been buzzing with news and photos of 215 East 12th Street- dubbed the “Kate Spade House.” Owned since 2007 by Pamela Bell, one of the four original partners of the Kate Spade brand, this 4-story, 25-foot wide townhouse is described by Stribling as “brimming with original detail, charm and a chic sensibility” for its eclectic combination of colorful, preppy, fun, sophisticated, and imaginative decor. Just visit the listing and browse through the photos- you’re sure to agree. A 2008 feature in the New York Times highlights an element that sums up the character of the whole house- “A John Derian sofa still in its muslin cover became an art project for Elenore’s seventh-grade class, who covered it in graffiti with fabric markers.”
As we said, though, this building was not always quite so charming and chic, and would have been unlikely to garner the attention of interior-design magazines at many points in its not-so-distant past.
According to historic tax records (uncovered as part of our East Village survey, documenting the history of every building in the neighborhood), the 4-story brick building was erected in 1854 with brownstone details and an Italianate cornice and window lintels. As was discussed at our recent panel discussion, A History of East Village Rowhouses, it is often hard to tell if such houses were originally utilized by one or several families. What we do know, from an alteration permit, is that in 1884 the building housed a total of two families. It was very common in the East Village around this time, as it became intensely settled with immigrants, for single-family houses built for successful merchants to become multi-family housing or even rooming houses.
In 1923, physicians offices that included operating rooms were added to the basement and 1st floors. The 2nd and 3rd floors were each 1-family apartments. The original stoop on the left side of the building was removed, its doorway made into a window, and the entrance moved to the basement (where it remains today). By 1927 the 2nd and 3rd floors were being used as a rooming house containing 15 sleeping rooms. In 1947 the physicians offices were removed and those floors were each turned into a 1-family apartment. The 2nd and 3rd floors also went back to being 1-family apartments. In 1953 the 2nd floor was split into two apartments.
When Ms. Bell purchased the building in 2007 for $4.3 million, she had to combine all of the separate apartments to create her spacious home that now includes 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, a large backyard, and 2 wood burning fireplaces (just to name a few selling points). But why, you ask, has this residence garnered so much hype recently? Because it is listed to rent, fully furnished for a mere $18,500/month. So get in your best Kate Spade preppy pink cardigan and straw hat and put in an application to rent this beauty!