When I spoke to Paul about his home back in May, he told me that I had check out the home of his friends KC and DW and hear about their love for Pine Hills. I'm so glad that he connected us, because the charm and style of KC and DW's home made me want to move right in.
In a lot of ways, it's the kind of home you think of when you think of Albany's architecture and old houses. But KC and DW have filled their lovely old home with bright colors and modern touches that exude energy and creativity -- much like the vibrancy of the Pine Hills neighborhood.
KC and DW love their home and enjoy their neighborhood, but they also grapple with some of the same challenges that Albany faces as a city. They shared their experiences living in the Pine Hills neighborhood -- the things they love, the things they hope will change, and their favorite parts of their classic Albany house.
There are large-format photos above -- click or scroll all the way up.
What part of your city/town do you live in?
We live in the Pine Hills Neighborhood of Albany, near the Upper Madison business district.
How long have you lived here? Do you rent or own?
A little over three years - we bought our home in the summer of 2010.
Why did you choose to live in this city and this neighborhood?
We love the arts, culture, and restaurant scene in Albany, and the sense of community that comes from it. We sought an affordable place that had a similar quality of life to the Albany neighborhoods where we had previously rented - the Center Square and Washington Park areas. Most of all, we were searching for a diverse, vibrant and accessible neighborhood where we could walk to a grocery store, cinema, restaurants, parks, etc. Our location in Pine Hills gives us all of that. From where our house is located, you can walk directly north, south, east or west, and find yourself in a different and unique business district: Upper Madison, Lark Street, New Scotland Ave, and Western Ave.
What's your favorite part of your home?
The style and layout. It's an early 20th century arts and crafts style home with an abundance of windows (some stained glass), hardwood floors, and built-ins amid wide entryways. The house has two staircases, one in the front and one in the back of the house. These attributes result in excellent lighting, an open floor plan, and minimal hallway space. We converted the fireplace to natural gas a few years ago and have been thrilled with our energy cost savings and its impact on the environment- it's much cleaner than wood burning.
We make the most of our backyard -- we have two blueberry bushes that yield about 25 quarts of blueberries per harvest. We grow vegetables, herbs and have a few perennials gardens, and we enjoy relaxing on our deck.
If you were selling your home, how would you pitch it to a potential buyer?
I think the house will speak for itself -- it did when we first saw it. It has a very positive feel and, is, for me, a place I feel creative but can also easily relax. It's surrounded by a diverse neighborhood with great neighbors and the security of living right next to the College of St. Rose campus (we benefit from the presence of their very active campus safety officers). Our neighbors are always there to help us out. We share whatever we yield from our gardens, and we keep an eye out for each other, without being in each other's business too much.
If you had limitless funds and could buy any work of art for your home, what would it be?
Artwork by Henri Matisse or Ellsworth Kelly. We already have a lot of our own artwork in our home, and I think I'd spend most of the funds on mid-century furniture: pieces designed by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Harry Bertoia, Joe Colombo. I wouldn't mind the Bonnie and Clyde sofas from Blu Dot.
Shoes off or on in your house?
On, unless you're wearing snow boots or just went for a 10 mile run in the rain (hey, it happens around here).
What would you say to someone thinking of moving to your neighborhood?
Pine Hills can get a bad rep because of a few arrogant and ill-mannered college students who come to the area and wreak havoc around our streets. They lack self-respect and give the more responsible UAlbany students and alumni a bad name. For every three of them, we have hundreds of solid, hard working citizens who make Pine Hills the great neighborhood that it is. The area is filled with all kinds of great people: young adults just starting out their careers, growing families, retired couples, first-time homeowners, and accountable college and graduate students. We can't let the disrespectful students take over our neighborhood. I encourage anyone who doesn't act like a rabid animal to come and invest in this part of Albany. Homeowners need to welcome the renters and show them respect the same way the renters need to value the people who plan to live here for the long-term.
Pine Hills has beautiful streets and architecture, and holds great events. We look forward to the Upper Madison Street Fair that BUMP (Beautify Upper Madison Project) puts on in the fall and their summer music series. Pine Hills is a strong community; we all have to contribute to make sure the neighborhood lives up to its potential. [Note: The Upper Madison Street Fair is scheduled for this Sunday (September 22).]
Has anything crazy/weird/scary/funny happened in your home or neighborhood while you've lived here?
We woke up a few summers ago to see a plant ripped out from the front garden and thrown in the street. It was the morning after a St. Rose summer orientation. As annoying as it was, that is the kind of stupid stuff that happens from time to time. It doesn't happen often, we just sort of take it for what it is: It's the city, it happens.
The recent Times Union story about vandalism experienced by a young family in the neighborhood has been extremely disheartening. A probably-drunk and clearly disrespectful person walking by snapped their newly planted tree at the base, right in their front yard. Again, we can't let this behavior take over the neighborhood. Something needs to be done. Do we blast the colleges until they listen and actually do something? Do we change the city/building codes and regulations to prevent slumlords from buying more buildings and slicing and dicing them to overcrowd and jam students in? Will our next mayor be more invested in solving these problems? Let's remember, it's not just giving the neighborhood a bad name, its giving the city of Albany a bad name, and it's happening in other neighborhoods. We can be better than that.
What is the best thing about the space around your home -- your street, block, neighborhood, or yard?
We both work in downtown Albany. We can walk, bike or take the bus to work. There's a lot to be said for living and working in the same city. We try to shop within our neighborhood and support the small businesses throughout Albany, especially those within a five-minute walk from our house.
We obviously love our home's location within the city, but when it comes to running it gets even better. You can run all over the city and hit all the different neighborhoods: through Washington Park and around the lake, around Center Square to the Empire State Plaza, down to the Corning Preserve, up to SUNY, around the Helderberg neighborhood and to Buckingham Pond. There are several running groups in the Capital Region such as Albany Running Exchange, Team Utopia, and HMRRC that make the most of our city's great running routes.
What would you change about your home and/or neighborhood if you could?
The LITTER! We are constantly picking up bags of trash when we can, but it seems like the more we pick up, the more shows up the next day. I would like to see more garbage cans and for the people who throw their garbage on the street to be slapped with a significant fine - or as Akum once tweeted "come back in their next lives as tapeworms." The city and our beautiful tree-lined streets would be cleaner if everyone just made an effort to not litter in the first place and picked up what's in front of their house. It's such an easy solution to a huge problem in Albany. (Do we have to start running those 1980s anti-litter commercials again?)
I'd also like to see more people value the neighborhood and continue to expand or start businesses in the area. Tierra Coffee Roasters has been a great addition, and I look forward to seeing what's to come with their acquisition of the Madison Theater. Will Albany finally get the mid-sized music venue that it desperately needs right around the corner from my house??
Do you have a favorite memory of living here?
Since we have lived here we have hosted Thanksgiving and have many happy memories of Thanksgiving dinner in our home. One of us is a vegetarian. To see her go from never have cooked a turkey before to practically perfecting it for her family (thank you, Alton Brown) has been pretty cool. Our home is open to anyone who doesn't have a place to go on Thanksgiving. We enjoy never really knowing who will be sitting around the table with us and especially welcome anyone who will watch the football games with KC!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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