How does a train wreck morph into a renovated brownstone? Just ask Lauren and Mike Blumenfeld.
Mike used the metaphor to describe their house when they bought it in 2006. Two years later, it had become the finished, open, welcoming gem that I witnessed on a late-spring evening in 2018.
Bloomfield is, of course, like its name, a leafy street with shade trees that bloom in spring. The classic straight, steep brownstone stairway leads to a beautiful wood door, decorated with grillwork.
Large potted plants on the steps show signs of just being watered.
Lauren is a senior partner in Coldwell Banker’s Jill Biggs Group.
Her territory is Jersey City, Weehawken, Union City, and Hoboken. In her 10 years as a real-estate agent, she’s of course witnessed the many changes that have taken place in Hoboken.
“People are staying longer in Hoboken,” she says, “and instead of leaving for the suburbs, they’re buying larger homes. They’re raising kids and turning up their noses at the suburbs.”
When Mike and Lauren bought the house, it had been converted into a three-family. It was dark and divided into small rooms, everything they weren’t looking for in an 1883 vintage Victorian.
But it was still cheaper to buy a fixer-upper than a restored brownstone or something brand new.
The most deplorable aspect of the original house? “There was a pink bathroom,” Mike says. The owner “loved pink.” Mike is the owner of Mile Square Insurance Agency on Newark Street.
Mike and Lauren retained local architect Anna Sanchez, who also lives on Bloomfield, to design the renovations.
The idea was to open up the interior, so there would be more space and light. Mission accomplished. In the open plan, the living room, dining room, and kitchen flow into one another. Mike loves to cook and entertain and once hosted a library dinner for 30.
The kitchen is contemporary without being cookie cutter. “There’s no granite or Caesar stone like everybody else has,” Lauren says. “There is stainless and wood,” she says. “I love wood.”
In fact, they have a stunning thick wooden dining room table, fashioned with no screws by a local artisan.
Spring and summer is a perfect time to look at backyards. The Blumenfelds’, like most Hoboken yards, is shady. It’s also pretty big and has a nice, lived-in feel. There are a few plantings along the side, but no formal gardens. In short, a great space to play with the dog or enjoy a barbecue.
The Blumenfelds do have a dog, Cooper, and two sons, Nathan, 17, and Eli, 14, both of whom attend Saint Peter’s Prep.
Nathan was hospitable enough to let us take a look at his bedroom: pretty neat for a high-school kid, with nice blue walls, a green bedspread, a work station, and music center. Windows overlook the backyard. You can tell from wall decorations that he’s a Devil’s fan—and he plays rugby himself. There’s a rugby ball to prove it.
On the way out, we get a peek at the bathroom, very contemporary with a green motif, which gives it a pleasant underwater feel. And if you’re into the celestial sphere, the shower stall features a skylight.
The hallway also has a skylight; this one’s huge with original German stained glass.
Heading downstairs, I was struck by the beautifully restored black walnut banister and Newell post.
Before leaving, we take a minute to admire the art on the wall in the living room. Lauren’s mother painted a picture of Mike and Lauren’s wedding. There are also family photos by Hartshorn Portraiture in the Monroe Center.
One last thing: That gorgeous front door? It’s from Amighini Architectural Antique Doors & Custom Reproduction in Jersey City. Even if you’re not shopping for a fabulous door, this is an exciting place to visit.
And so is the Blumenfeld home. Maybe you can get in on one of those library dinners, cooked by Chef Mike.—Kate Rounds