This story of the chic condo on Hampton Court is one that was almost never told.
Owner Andrea Sims, who grew up in Lexington, was fine living in New York, thank you.
"I am not moving to Lexington," she recalled telling her husband, Krim Boughalem.
But Boughalem, who is from the southeast of France, was intrigued by the city and enlisted the help of his brother-in-law in finding a place. They ultimately enticed Sims to see the first-floor condo at 75 Hampton Court. It wasn't exactly a showplace.
The stone-trimmed brick building is one of several built about 1910 by horseman Col. Milton Young. The famous Thoroughbred breeder — owner of McGrathiana Farm, which was later part of Coldstream Farm — bought Hampton Court from the street's developer, lawyer Charles H. Stoll.
Hanover Apartments is the second "flat" building on Hampton Court and the first one built by Young after he bought Hampton Court. At the time, the six-unit building cost $15,000 to build.
But the ensuing 100 years had taken a toll. When Sims and Boughalem looked at the condo, the most previous owner, the story goes, was rarely in residence but allowed others to party there at will. The 2,000-square-foot space was trashed — empty bottles and cigarette butts were the most evident decorator touches. There was even a book lying open in front of the toilet, Sims said, as if someone's bathroom reading had been interrupted unexpectedly.
Sims can laugh in telling the story now and at how quickly she said she agreed to the move. The couple had been looking at flop houses in New York and Pennsylvania.
"I was, like, let's make an offer," she said of the Hampton Court condo.
She saw past the chaos and tattered furniture to the hardwood floors, sun- dappled side porch and quirky architectural touches, including a radiator/warming oven in what was the dining room in 1910.
They've been working on the house for five years.
Now the side porch is dominated by a large, well-worn wood dining table. A mirror on the wall gives the narrow room a feel of space and, if you are sitting at the head of the table, it reflects a perfect tableau of an abstract painting, greenery and candles.
Touches of leather in brown, black and white anchor the room just inside the door. It's what the couple call "the first living room." A floor-to-ceiling bookcase that they built dominates one wall. The books on it are arranged by color.
Sims is an artist, and Boughalem is known for running eateries here and in New York. Together they own the restaurant Table Three Ten on Short Street.
Their unique sense of style infuses the space.
Sims mixed the robin's-egg blue on the walls in the second living room, giving it the slightest hint of green. A tiny yellow duck surfs the edge of the original claw-foot bathtub. Rusted screws are laid, just so, on a platter. The television is tucked so artfully into one of the built-in cabinets that it's a surprise to realize such a utilitarian piece made the artistic cut.
In the end it is a balance of whimsy, color, use and comfort.
Sims has this advice for people trying to make their own space feel like home: Buy things you love, and it will all come together.
The gold color scheme in the second living room came about by happenstance, she said: She put together things that were bought and not intended as any kind of set.
The house is filled, she said, "with equal parts stuff we found on the streets, rescued from the garbage and took out of my parents' basement."
The Hampton Court neighborhood, a historic little enclave tucked behind a stone arch off West Third Street, has turned out to be an unexpected bonus. People brought them cookies when they moved in, Sims said. "It was like Mayberry."
They've come to know everybody through get- togethers on the grassy median in the middle of the court. They wave at pedestrians when sitting on the shady front porch.
The condo, for all its style and quirk, is very much a work in progress.
The days of the teal walls in the master bedroom, for instance, might be numbered. "I just don't love it anymore," Sims said.
Even though the offbeat aesthetic of the rest of the house almost makes the peeling paint in the kitchen and plain, '70s-era cabinets work, things will ultimately change.
"We've got big plans for all of this," said Sims, gesturing toward a storage area off the kitchen. It's in the beginning stages of becoming a master bath.
Work on the house often gets upstaged by the couple's penchant for opening businesses, the latest a grocery store, in the development stage, that Sims said will be unlike any Lexington has seen.
For now, she said, "we have a really nice oven."