The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by
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The Lion,  the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Most New Yorkers have either a good or a bad real estate story.  Here’s mine and it’s a happy one!

We moved into our 2 BR, 2 BATH, RIV VU upper eastside apartment when our son was less than a year old.  We loved  our building,  our local park,  and our neighborhood..  My husband’s office was in the E 40s,  and I worked in the south Bronx,  both very easy commutes,  our son went to school in the E 80s,  an easy walk,  and wonderful Carl Schurz Park on the East River was right across the street.   The only time our proximity to the river was a liability was during Hurricane Sandy.  (See Cooking with Gas)

We could walk to the Met,  the Jewish Museum,  the Whitney,  the Guggenheim,  the 92nd St Y,  several movie theatres,  dozens of delis and coffee shops,  and umpteen restaurants.   There was even a branch of Gimbels department store on 86th & Lex where you could buy everything you needed to furnish an apartment and clothe a family.  (See Stay-at-Home Mom)

What more could a girl want except maybe another room or two!   When my husband was watching sports on TV in the living room,  and my son was in our bedroom sprawled on our bed watching his TV shows,  where was I to go?  I often found myself reading in the kitchen or in the kid’s room,  not very comfortably in either place.  And though we had a small desk in our bedroom,  and a Queen Anne secretary in the living room,  neither was really comfortable for doing paperwork,  and so that was usually done at the dining table.   We simply needed more space!

But we managed as we were,  and then our son went off to college,  and voila! we had a guest room.   But the kid did come back periodically,  we had to let him in,  and so that wasn’t really the answer.

I was quite fond of our neighbor Mrs G,  an elderly lady whose one bedroom apartment abutted ours,   and I was saddened to learn one day that she had died.  One afternoon soon afterwards I came home from work to find her apartment door open and a construction crew inside renovating the kitchen and bathroom,  readying it for sale.

“Let’s buy it!“,  I told my husband,  and after the necessary dealings with the bank and the coop board,  we did!

Combining the two apartments was easy,  we simply created a doorway between what had been our master bedroom and Mrs G’s living room.

Our old bedroom thus became our new den,  Mrs G’s living-room became our new master bedroom,  and her bedroom became our new office – a reallly prescient move as some years later my husband gave up his mid-town office to work from home.

But here’s the magical part of my real estate story.  That door we created to combine the two apartments was on a small, angled wall in our old bedroom where my husband’s armoire had stood.  An armoire,  you may know,  is quite like the free-standing “wardrobe” of old.

When my son was young I read him C S Lewis’  fantasy series,  The Chronicles of Narnia.   In the first book,  The Lion,  the Witch,  and the Wardrobe,  four children climb into a magic wardrobe and find a secret door in the back that leads to another world.

Before we enlarged our space,  I had a recurring dream that our apartment had more rooms,  if only I could find the hidden door.   Little did I know one day I’d find it behind the wardrobe!

– Dana Susan Lehrman 

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: New York City, Apartments


  1. John Shutkin says:

    As a recovering New Yorker, Dana, I absolutely loved your story. What was so amazing about it was that it was perhaps the only New York apartment dream I know of that wasn’t a nightmare. And, even better, it actually came true. I kept waiting for either a disaster to happen or for you to wake up from this dream, probably in something like the claustrophobic studio apartment I had in Morningside Heights in law school.

    So thank you for showing us that sometimes good NY real estate dreams actually do come true!

  2. Love this, Dee…magical, and a dream come true!

  3. Marian says:

    Ah, the trade-offs of city life, Dana. I was jealous when I read of your proximity to the museums. Love that area! For a couple of years I have been grumbling about our too-large, two-story, four-bedroom house. However, with the shelter in place, it’s a relief to have private places to hide out from too much togetherness. Now I have to clean the place, though …

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    I love the way you described your dream apartment in the context of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So very clever. And how fortunate you are, Dana, to have such a wonderful place to live in NYC. When we are all allowed to go out again, I’m sure you will have a grand time once again.

  5. Suzy says:

    Dana, how great that your dream of a bigger apartment actually came true. I love how the door between the old and new is right where your husband’s “wardrobe” had been. It makes it kind of magical! I also love the line about your son, “But the kid did come back periodically, we had to let him in, and so that wasn’t really the answer.” Too funny! Looking forward to visiting your magical apartment the next time I’m in NY.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    I can attest to your lovely apartment, as I’ve been a guest and stayed with you when in town for one of the Arts Council events. It was November, 2010. You both were wonderful hosts and made me feel so welcome on a very difficult night (a close friend died that day). Great view, wonderful neighborhood…we met you in the neighborhood again for dinner last November for a fun Italian dinner, though didn’t get up to the apartment again. But I will always be grateful for your warmth and hospitality that evening. Dana, you had to leave for work early the next morning, but left LOTS out for breakfast for me; a wonderful hostess! Thank you so much!

  7. This is a wonderful story! I love the magical aspect of the doorway, and how your dreams were trying to lead you through it, with all the mysterious workings of synchronicity and manifestation. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Great story, Dana. The floorplan of your combined apts gave the tale verisimilitude and the secret door to the next apartment seemed so dreamy and believable at the same time. Thanks for giving us a peek into your life!

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for reposting this—it sounds like the perfect place to live in NYC! May the happiness continue 😀.

  10. That’s a magical ending to an unbelievably happy real estate story. “Unbelievable” in the sense that a lot of readers (especially New Yorkers) would find it hard to believe just how serendipitous and easy you made the whole transition sound! What a stroke of good fortune for your family.

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