Many New Yorkers dream about getting to live in a coveted rent-stabilized apartment — because it means that rent is often unfathomably cheaper than market value.
Such is the case for Hattie Kolp, a 29-year-old special education teacher and part-time interior designer.
When Kolp and her parents moved into the 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom apartment in 2002, they paid a little less than $1,000 a month. Thanks to rent stabilization laws that limit the amount that the landlord can increase the rent and that entitle tenants to get to renew their lease each year, Kolp took over the lease after her parents retired in 2018.
Today Kolp's rent is $1,300 a month. To put that in perspective, the median asking rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Upper West Side is $4,000 a month, according to StreetEasy data from Feb. 2021.
"I'm endlessly grateful that I have this," Kolp says. "It's the hugest blessing of my life because I would not be able to afford an apartment of the size on my teacher salary."
Kolp's building was built in the 1890s, which means amenities are sparing — Kolp doesn't even have a dishwasher.
"But that's okay with me, because I would much rather have space and charm," she says.
The unit is filled with unique old-school touches, like a dumbwaiter, which is a small elevator used to transport food and dishes, a butler's pantry that's separate from the kitchen, all original cabinets, some original molding, pocket doors, a foyer and a long hallway that separates the railroad-style rooms.
"You really just feel like you're living in 1900," Kolp says.
When doing any interior design projects, Kolp aims to "preserve the history and character of this place," she says. She often shops for antique furniture along the East Coast. Her favorite piece of furniture is an antique desk that was given to her by a family friend who passed away.
"I describe my style as I'm very heavily influenced by the architecture of my neighborhood, which is ornate, and I really am into Parisian apartments, just wide open spaces, intricate wall moldings, high ceilings, things like that," Kolp says.
When Kolp took over the apartment, she made her parents' master bedroom hers, and turned the room that used to be her childhood bedroom into a guest room. "I used to have it painted purple and pink curtains, pink, everything," she says.
At first, living in her childhood home was strange: "I think there was probably an hour where I felt really alone and weird just standing in an empty apartment where I had grew up," she recalls.
During the pandemic, the guest room wasn't functional, so she flipped that room into "a Parisian-inspired library," where she teaches remotely, she says.
Though rent-stabilized apartments are often difficult to give up because they are tough to find and affordable, Kolp, who is a life-long New Yorker, is often asked: why not just buy a place?
"Growing up, my parents just I don't think they were able to afford to ever buy in Manhattan," Kolp says. "Living in Manhattan, it's really quite the norm to be a renter forever." What she saves in rent money each month, she uses to buy decor and furniture to make the space her own.
"I would be crazy to give up this apartment," Kolp says.
"I view this apartment as my forever home."