The large terrace is what sold Tess Lepore and Kevin Kuh on their Upper West Side one-bedroom, but for the first few years, it didn’t get all that much use.
“We were always thrilled about it — getting outdoor space is unheard-of — but in reality, I wasn’t home all that much,” said Ms. Lepore, who moved into the 600-square-foot apartment with Mr. Kuh and their dog, Marnie, in December 2017.
All that changed last spring. What had been a place to grow a few plants and host the occasional hangout became a space for just about everything: a living room, dining room, kitchen, art studio, music practice room, cinema, office, garden, storage unit and gym.
“When Covid started, we didn’t want to go out much, but we could always go out there,” said Mr. Kuh, a violinist who also works at New York University as the principal music librarian and the operations manager for orchestras.
Over the past 10 months, Ms. Lepore and Mr. Kuh, both 28, have discovered that there is very little that the terrace can’t be used for. Gyms closed? They jumped rope and practiced yoga on it. Movie theaters shut down? They pulled over the sofa and projected movies onto their building’s brick wall. Working from one of the apartment’s two rooms getting a little tedious? Time to upgrade their Wi-Fi router and take calls and Zoom meetings alfresco.
“You sleep in the bedroom, then work nine hours in the bedroom — it’s nice to have a change of scenery,” said Ms. Lepore, a director of planning for Becca cosmetics who has worked from home since last March.
“When it was warmer, that door was almost always open. It was like, ‘Do a little work, walk outside, come back in,’” Mr. Kuh said. “It’s not like that Architectural Digest huge sliding-glass wall, but it was definitely that indoor-outdoor vibe.”
$2,850 | Upper West Side
Tess Lepore, 28, and Kevin Kuh, 28
Occupation: Ms. Lepore is the director of planning for the North American region at Becca, a cosmetics company. Mr. Kuh is a violinist and also works at New York University as the principal music librarian and operations manager for the orchestras.
Sunlight: Their north-facing apartment gets direct light only when the afternoon sun reflects off another building, which makes the outdoor space even more prized.
Marnie’s terrace access: Has been almost unfettered since last spring, when the couple started working from home. Her walks have increased in frequency and length, as well. “We’re worried about what will happen to her when we go back to work,” Ms. Lepore said.
On working from home together: “Before, we’d spend two to three hours a day together. Now we’re together all day,” Ms. Lepore said. “Living in 600 square feet, it’s definitely small, but it’s interesting seeing what the other person does for work.”
Before their current apartment, Mr. Kuh and Ms. Lepore lived in a Hell’s Kitchen studio that cost $1,800 a month. They moved in toward the end of their time at N.Y.U., where they met working as resident assistants.
“It was such a deal, we didn’t want to move,” Mr. Kuh said.
“I felt so attached to the small community we had there — it takes time to get to know people,” Ms. Lepore said.
But the apartment was small and Marnie, the dog they had adopted as a puppy from a rescue truck in Union Square, grew much larger than expected. She was not the Shih Tzu mix they had taken her for, but a 30-pound wheaten terrier/chow/boxer mix.
When Ms. Lepore found a one-bedroom with outdoor space a half block from Central Park — for which they now pay $2,850 a month — it was too good to pass up. Instead of going to a small dog run off the West Side Highway, Marnie could play with other dogs during off-leash hours in Central Park.
Mr. Kuh, whose paintings hang on the walls of their apartment, was also excited to have an outdoor space where he could paint. In Hell’s Kitchen, he had used the roof or the fire escape.
“We didn’t know anyone who had a backyard or deck,” said Ms. Lepore, who kept a small garden on the terrace the first few summers. In March, she took it up a notch, growing herbs, flowers and vegetables, including eggplant, spinach and bok choy.
“We had a pretty incredible bounty,” she said. “It was great, except for having to carry bags of dirt up three flights of stairs.”
As the weather warmed and it became clear that New York would remain in a state of quasi quarantine for months to come, the couple embraced outdoor living.
Mr. Kuh played violin on the terrace, filming videos of his solo performances and of his part in the electronic trio Pool Cosby, which includes not only electric violin but also drums and a D.J. (The three performances were later spliced together.) The couple installed a bird feeder and entertained small groups of friends and family outside. And they started taking most of their meals on the terrace. There was, after all, a large dining table out there, which they didn’t have space for in the apartment.
They also realized they could use the terrace to store other things they didn’t have space for in the apartment, like extra rolls of toilet paper and seasonal clothing, which they put in a vinyl storage container.
Their only misstep? Putting a carpet outside. “It got kind of gross,” Mr. Kuh said.
Almost a year later, they still use the terrace almost every day, even in January.
“Since it got cold, we’ve had both of our families over, a few friends who were in town. We just bundle up,” said Mr. Kuh, who celebrated his birthday in October with a dinner made on the outdoor grill. “Being able to have people over and still be safe has been really nice.”
“The 30 degree days, I’m probably not going to be sitting out there,” Ms. Lepore said. “But the 40 and 50 degree days.…”
To help withstand the cold, they have Pendleton blankets and a small concrete fireplace they use to roast marshmallows and warm their hands. Ms. Lepore even considered building a greenhouse, but decided it was too logistically complicated in a walk-up rental.
“I’d love to get a heater, but we’ve been worried about where we’d store it during inclement weather,” Ms. Lepore said. Keeping it inside, she pointed out, would kind of defeat the purpose.