Top Secret

The world is a small, weird little place. My recent evidence for this involves the “Top Secret” note I mentioned leaving for the new tenants at the original Manhattan Nest apartment a couple weeks ago. Mostly I thought—if these people were anything like me—they’d have fun stumbling upon some covert correspondence from the previous occupant of their new home. Like a midnight visit from a ghost or receiving an email from a wealthy Nigerian prince in desperate need of an overseas bank account, something about it would make them feel special. Chosen.

So, while sitting on the subway from Brooklyn during my final commute to my old apartment, I scribed such a letter. It divulged information about the blog, about me, a few helpful hints about the neighborhood (you know, where to buy wine and tools, the important stuff). Things like that. Then Vincenzo was all up in my space when I got there, and I panicked. Could I actually leave this note, single-handedly planting such self-incriminating evidence? What if it fell into the wrong hands? Maybe it would never make it past Vincenzo’s final cleaning, if he performed one, and they’d never even know? Or even if they did find it, would they care? Maybe they would think I was crazy? Maybe I am crazy?

Eventually, I decided the potential benefits (funsies!) outweighed the potential risks (loss of security deposit, intense, lasting shame), took a deep breath and stashed it in the bottom the wardrobe, pressed up against the back, where you’d have to be down on the floor and practically have your face planted to the ground to ever notice it there. It looked like this, because I never mastered block lettering in 3rd grade.

Then, just a week or so later, I got this in my e-mail. And oh did I get excited.


So, while trying to cram everything I own into one very tall yet not all that efficient closet I found your “Top Secret” letter.  I must say this was a very welcome surprise, as was reading your blog, since I had many unanswered questions & I was about to embark on a journey to seek you out.  That may sound strange so let me explain”¦

As I’m sure you know my roommate found your apartment on craigslist & we were the first people to view it a mere 24 hours after it hit the market.  She fell in love immediately and put in an application before I was able to return from Boston to see the place.  She assured me it was everything I’d ever wanted in an apartment, the perfect combination of pre-war character and modern aesthetics.  I’ll admit I was a touch wary.  She’s in finance and has a passion for saving money while I’m a designer who has a love affair with all things shiny, pretty & aesthetic pleasing”¦and naturally a flair for spending ridiculous amounts of money on said “pretty things.”  But I was at the end of my rope with apartment searching (I was traumatized when a bird that flew directly into my face at our last apartment viewing) and decided the hell with it, jumped back on the bus to NYC and hightailed it to the Upper East Side to see this “dream apartment.”

You had me at the orange glow light. 

The bright kitchen paired with that orange glow blinded me; did I see the outdated appliances? Nope.  Was I fazed by the lack of a dishwasher, the Formica cabinets or the odd coloring to the kitchen counter? No. No. No. I was indeed blinded by love at first light.

And then on to the bathroom”¦ohhh the bathroom! That tile floor & that navy paint, and my god”¦ that shower head! Again”¦ did I see the peachy tinted tile on the wall? Nope. Was I bothered by the fact that you step out of the shower and on to the toilet where toweling off becomes an exercise in body contortion? Absolutely not.

This apartment was everything our Stuytown apartment wasn’t and we hadn’t even made it to the living room yet.  The lighting! The windows! The doors! OH MY! My roommate was right! This place was a dream come true. Except that’s where the fairy tale ends”¦

Alas! Where did my orange glow light go!? (Okay, okay I’ll admit I knew the lighting was too good to be true..but a girl can dream can’t she!?) Where are the blinds!? Ohhh and the beautiful coverings on the glass doors”¦ what is this!? Where am I! Those beautiful windows”¦ did they always look out over brick buildings and neighbors bedrooms?! This cannot be the apartment I saw before; everything I’d fallen In love with is gone! Ripped from my grasp in one fell swoop.

I cried”¦ I mourned”¦ I tried to apply window film.  And then I found your “top secret note” and finally all was right in the world again (well not quiet. but I knew things were at least turning around).  I had in my sweaty, sticky hands (window film is indeed a bitch) the guide to (re)creating my dream apartment & also the story to where that damn showerhead went. Not only should Vincenzo pay you for single-handedly creating a masterpiece out of a mediocre apartment and renting it out in less than 24 hours flat, he should also pay me for all the work that I have to do to recreate what you accomplished. Who knew such a little tiny Italian man could destroy a masterpiece in a matter of a month? Had I known, I would have intervened”¦at very least petitioned to save the coverings on the door (to everyone who asked about our new apartment I said”¦ “Ohh! Just wait till you see the doors!”).

So sorry for this longwinded note but I thought you should know how much we adored your apartment, so much so that we were blinded by all the fabulous things you did to it that we didn’t really see much else, such as the need for insane amounts of storage due to the lack of closets.

We will be using MANY of your tutorials to update our new space (it’s like a dummies guide to our apartment, how cool is that) and we’ll also be doing some DIY projects of our own”¦ starting with an oversized mirror that we’re turning into a chalkboard for the kitchen.

So thanks again for the note, it was such a fun surprise & I’m already obsessed with the blog & will be following all of your amazing adventures in Brooklyn!

If you’re interested I’ll shoot you some photos of the progress we make!

Good luck with your new digs! (the details in the place are to DIE for, can’t wait to see what you do with that insane hallway!!)


Ps. Thanks for the stuff that you did & were able to leave! I love that the blog showed me what the place was like before you moved in”¦ the work you did on the doors & the cabinets is just fabulous.

Isn’t that just, like, SO COOL?! Not only did they find the note, exactly as I hoped, but my apartment now belongs to a totally awesome and sweet designer (check her out over here!) who’s going to take great care of the place.

Allie and I have emailed back and forth a bit and we agreed that this whole thing is just too much fun not to share on the ole bloggy, so hopefully every once in a while I’ll be able to post a little update on what’s happening over at the original apartment we all know and love. I’m totally psyched to see what somebody else with completely different taste will do with the same space, and I’m so glad my old home is in such great hands!

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 7.15.11
    alicia said:

    how freaking awesome is that?!! and that its someone cool.

  2. 7.15.11
    kim said:

    this needs to be turned into a movie script or something.

  3. 7.15.11
    Tabatha said:

    That’s so awesome! I hope we have such an experience someday when we move (having someone find our secret note and subsequently the blog of the renos).

  4. 7.15.11
    Alyssa said:

    I think the most important thing to take from all this is that THIS is the designer behind U by Kotex. I seriously buy that shit because the box is cute.

    That is all.

    • 7.15.11
      Daniel said:

      Me too!

      Er, well, I would. If I did that kind of thing.

    • 7.17.11
      Alicia said:

      Was just commenting to say the same thing. Now every time I use them I know who the designer is and what her apartment looks like. Creepy?!

  5. 7.15.11

    Alyssa-LOL funny, wine up my nose funny (it is Friday Night Pizza Night). Your comment is so true.

    And this IS a movie! I am going to make a prediction here…Amy Sedaris is going to come into your life, Daniel (if she hasn’t already). Have you read her books?

    Hmmmm, good thoughts. Thanks for the amazing post!

  6. 7.15.11
    Layla said:

    This just made me really happy on a shitty, shitty night. Thanks. =)

    (Also, REALLY happy we’ll see your old place again someday. I hate that feeling of knowing you’ll probably never see something again, even if it’s the old apartment of a guy I don’t know.)

  7. 7.15.11
    Callista said:

    This is awesome. I am so thrilled you shared this story with us, and I can’t wait to see new updates about the old apartment in the future.

  8. 7.16.11

    That is some seriously good (and well-deserved) karma!

  9. 7.16.11
    Becky said:

    Serendipitous kismet. Love it.

  10. 7.16.11
    Kyli said:

    Oh, this is just too exciting!

  11. 7.16.11
    Lena said:

    I did kind of think they would have that reaction! Lucky for them you were nice enough to leave the note! I would love to see pictures of their progress.

  12. 7.16.11
    Martha said:

    When you posted about Vincenzo’s painting I thought “the next tenants are going to be SO PISSED!” Sounds like they are the right people for the job, though.

    • 7.25.11
      threadbndr said:

      That’s EXACTLY what I thought. “Wait, it’s rented out again already, right? The new tenants are going to be SO disappointed that it’s back to basic paint.”

      As a landlord, I don’t automatically paint it back unless it’s a bad paint job or some REALLY weird shade (Denver Bronco shrine one time, puffy fabric paint another – that one I held part of the deposit – it was a total pain to get off). I show it to the new tenants as “let me know what color you’d like it when you move in or you can paint it yourself later.” We end up painting sometimes, but at least the tenants can pick their colors.

      I only ask that they don’t paint the white cabinets – they are SUCH a pain to redo. I’d rather repaint the walls a dozen times than paint cabinets.

  13. 7.16.11
    Erica said:

    What a wonderful story! I can’t wait to see their transformation of the old space. This right here is what makes the Internet fantastic. Yay!

  14. 7.16.11
    Mickey said:

    AWESOME! There’s so much going on right now! Can’t wait for the next update!


  15. 7.16.11
    Jinia said:

    Seriously, this would only happen to you! Love it! Hope to see it happen on your blog….awesomeness in a box!

  16. 7.16.11

    So cool! I’m glad you’ll be posting some of their updates…apartment legacies!

  17. 7.16.11
    Cindy said:

    I would totally watch the shit out of Manhattan Nest, the Movie! Let’s see, who will star in it… I’m picturing Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, we’ll get Kristen Stewart as Chandler, and a cameo from Winona Ryder as Anna Dorfman. Vincenzo… hmm… either Joe Pesci or maybe Danny DeVito.

  18. 7.16.11
    katie said:

    That’s an amazing story! When i was about ten and moved home to the other side of the country, I remember writing my name and the date at the bottom of the wardrobe. You just leveled-up that idea.

  19. 7.16.11

    Fun, fun, fun. Also just read your previous post and the fact that Vincenzo knocked $100 off your security deposit makes me want to punch him the kidney on your, and now Allie’s, behalf. Some people just don’t know a good thing when they see it.

  20. 7.17.11
    Jennifer said:

    Yay! This is what “Moving Up” should be like!

  21. 7.17.11
    Janet said:

    I’m JEALOUS. I want a secret note from you too. I want to be woven into the fabric of your awesome life too.

  22. 7.17.11

    I love it when a plan comes together!

  23. 7.17.11
    Monica said:

    This is beyond cool. Sometimes it pays to ignore the doubting/nagging/negative self within and take a leap. All that is left now is to wonder who could play you in the movie. Must ponder.

  24. 7.18.11
    Angie said:

    Reading about New York makes me so tired!! ;P

  25. 7.18.11
    purejuice said:

    allie! you rock! you will turn your next tenant on to this and a record of the manhattan nest will go on for 50 years! what a saga! i can’t wait! welcome aboard! and thank you, daniel, for being such a sweetheart. manhattan nest 4eva!

  26. 7.18.11
    Ella said:

    Top secret notes ftw!

  27. 7.18.11
    Mijk said:

    She needs a blog! (I miss your appartment ;)

  28. 7.18.11
    Sharon said:

    That is such an awesome and sweet story. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done to the place.

  29. 7.18.11
    Jenn said:

    That’s wonderful. And just like we all thought, it was the touches you added that moved them.

    So glad they have something of a sourcebook to recreate the look!

  30. 7.19.11
    Jill said:

    best. story. ever.

  31. 7.19.11
    Rachel said:

    That is simply awesome.

    And I’ve seen the word kismet at least three times in the last 5 minutes. Is it the word of the day or something?! :)

  32. 7.22.11
    Allie said:

    first off… i second the movie idea, but can Jen Aniston play me? She’a about 20 years older then me but I’m totally okay with that.

    second.. SHIT! i’ve got a lot of work to do on this apartment, so much pressure!!! I have to live up to the amazing job Daniel did with the apartment! AHHHHHH!

    • 7.22.11
      Diane said:

      We’d love to see pictures!! It would be wonderful if there were
      way before-before-after pics!!

    • 7.23.11
      Lena said:

      You should get a blog, that would be so much fun! Don’t worry, I think we all are nice people and aware that Daniels place was trully wonderfull but also know that it took him some time to get there, so we would be nice and not expect your apartment to be that awesome or that finished so soon but realize, that it is a work in progress. But you seem to have awesome taste as well so it would be really interesting to see what two different people do with the same apartment.

  33. 7.22.11
    AC said:

    Too sweet for words. It’s like an illustrated manuscript without pictures.

  34. 7.22.11
    Heather said:

    I just found you through Apartment Therapy and LOVE LOVE LOVE this story. Great stuff – I’ll be checking back regularly!

  35. 7.22.11
    Alice said:

    I love everything about this story and every comment that followed it.

  36. 7.22.11
    Ginger said:

    Dude, this is crazy-awesome. How very cool!

  37. 7.23.11
    sunny said:

    holy cow. SHE designed the U boxes? I love that product now.
    top secret notes: I must immediately write some and leave some for friends and family. coolest idea ever. (apart from the U boxes, of course)

    Can’t wait to read the progress posts!!

  38. 7.23.11
    sunny said:

    NOTE TO SELF: Do not mix up the U by Kotex boxes and Top Secret Notes when leaving items for friends and family. Could be embarrassing or just a fun story.

  39. 7.25.11
    Bonnie said:

    This is so cool! Kind of like a message & treasure map in a bottle. I’ve never left behind a note, but I try to leave something interesting to be found in a weird place. (I have found some interesting artifact at every house I’ve bought, so I know how exciting it can be.

    I’m looking forward now to watching you fix up your new digs. I’ve been wondering where you were, so thanks for the updates!

  40. 7.26.11
    Amelia said:

    OMGOSH!!! I stumbled upon your blog from Apartment Therapy on an unbelievably painful day at work. One and a half days of obsessive reading and devouring all your entries (yes all 20 pages), the bulk of it at work (no less, this is going to be bad…) and I am going to sound like a fangirl/lady/ah-who-cares because this gets me so excited about actually owning my own place in the future. Note: I live in the smallest country of the world where space is scarce and will probably be one of the masses who will be calling a coffin-sized apartment my home. So this is big inspiration to me.

    Good luck with your new place, I’d be so excited to see what you do with it. And love what you did for the new tenants of your old place.