AT HOME WITH DUSTIN & JEREMY IN DOWNTOWN JERSEY CITY

Years ago, this trio of Stevens grads were roaming the halls of their fraternity house as active members of Kappa Sigma. Now, they’re living in the perfect post-college pad, a Jersey City duplex with lots of character. Roommate Dustin Heitner, laughingly calls it "the cleanest frat house you'll ever see."

And it's true. The men have created a spotless, beautifully decorated home accented by handmade furniture and a tightly curated collection of hand-me-downs and repurposed finds. When asked if parents helped with the décor, Dustin is quick to clarify. "No parents helped! Except for the candle holder on the dining table. My mom made me bring that," he laughs.

Dustin and Jeremy are an incredibly congenial duo. Not only did they attend the same school and joined the same fraternity, they also earned the same undergraduate degree while being resident assistants during their time at Stevens. If that wasn't enough, the 25-year-olds recently donned the exact same shirt — both purchased by their respective mothers who each found the button-up at Marshalls.

While Dustin was raised in Woodbridge, New Jersey, his parents are Jersey City natives. In fact, his mother grew up just blocks from the 1st Street duplex where he now resides. Dustin earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a master's in systems engineering concurrently. 

Jeremy grew up in the Philippines and has lived in the U.S. since the age of 12. He also graduated with a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and worked at General Dynamics in New London, Connecticut, before joining AECOM in New York City. By the time his first lease in Jersey City's Newport neighborhood was nearing its end, Jeremy was ready to live with old friends again. The two had stayed in close contact since graduation, but Jeremy jokes that he practically had to force Dustin out of his parent's house.

"A lot of convincing had to take place," Jeremy says emphatically.

"I did live at home," Dustin smiles. "But the rent was pretty cheap!"

Dustin and Jeremy started their search for a new place online in March 2019 and spent weeks sending links back and forth. While they both work in Manhattan, Dustin's parents and Jeremy's sister are in New Jersey, so staying west of the Hudson was important. Their initial search for a two-bedroom led them to several much smaller places, but they were immediately interested in the four-bedroom 1st Street duplex when it became available through Dixon Leasing. Dustin and Jeremy quickly secured a third roommate — fittingly, another Stevens grad and fraternity brother — and the tight-knit household was formed.

Their sunny home is located in a row of well-maintained rowhouses in a section of Downtown Jersey City known as The Village, just a 15-minute walk from the Grove Street PATH Station. Situated on the top two floors of a three-story building, with a small park across the street, the duplex benefits from great natural light and treetop, open-sky views. On the lower floor, the airy open plan layout accommodates generous living and dining areas and a well-equipped kitchen.

Two couches claimed from Jeremy's brother-in-law and a co-worker create plenty of room for relaxing in front of the 65-inch television, with one of Dustin's woodworking creations, a gorgeous coffee table, in between. The table was inspired by the "imperfect" ash slab top nearly split in two by a wide fissure. Dustin secured the slab with handsome butterfly key details, turning a so-called flaw into a feature. Below, a walnut base adds a midcentury look to the otherwise organic piece.

The adjacent dining area features another Dustin creation: a large dining table built to come apart easily, a necessity due to the building's narrow staircase. The result is a spacious eating area and an ingenious design where screws are concealed behind magnetic covers.

Dustin's interest in woodworking began at Stevens where he noticed that students would often use longboard skateboards to get around campus. A good longboard can cost upwards of $400, so he decided to try to make one himself. Partnering with a fellow student, after several failed attempts, they started making models good enough to sell. Having acquired a collection of woodworking tools in the process, Dustin began following woodworkers on social media and watching YouTube videos to find inspiration and expand his repertoire. He hopes to launch an Etsy shop soon to offer his wares for sale.

Atop the handmade coffee table, artfully fanned Bon Appetit magazines nod to Jeremy's interest in the culinary arts. Taught to cook by his mom, he looks to the magazine to learn about more complex recipes and techniques, and the duplex's large, open kitchen is the perfect place to put inspiration into practice. Anchored by an oversized granite island, the full suite of stainless steel Frigidaire appliances includes a gas range, refrigerator, dishwasher and wine refrigerator (currently occupied by more beer than wine).

 

Their third roommate's bedroom is situated on the lower level, and there are three more bedrooms on the top floor. Up the skylit staircase, Dustin's bedroom suite is an impressively designed, neat-as-a-pin space filled with his handmade and reclaimed furnishings in his preferred midcentury style. Light fixtures veer slightly toward an industrial influence, and vintage vinyl LPs are shelved on the wall, doubling as works of art.

A desk gifted from his aunt and a dresser bought for $50 from the online marketplace Letgo have each been handsomely refinished, stained to match and given modern updates like hairpin legs. A Hans Wegner chair is paired with a curbside find that Dustin reupholstered to create a sitting area near the sunny windows, and plenty of plants and pops of color add a lively energy to the room. In the walk-in custom closet, sneakers and clothing are neatly arranged, and the en suite bathroom features floor-to-ceiling tile and views over the neighboring park.

At the opposite side of the stairwell, Jeremy's room features New York City-themed artwork, family photos and a stack of wedding invitations. His TV is smartly hung on the wall to save space, and the wide reach-in closet is fully customized for optimal wardrobe storage. Jeremy has access to the second full bathroom on this level, and a small fourth bedroom currently serves as storage, although it has real man-cave potential.

In their convenient neighborhood, a tempting array of great restaurants and nightlife venues are mere minutes away. "The great thing about living Downtown is that there are so many great places to eat and hang out," Jeremy says. For brunch, he calls out Skinner's Loft on Newark Avenue. "They have a phenomenal brunch. And Orale for Taco Tuesday is mandatory. Their sauces are amazing."

Sober Shot on Jersey Avenue earns high marks for its inventive sparkling espresso drinks. "I mean, we usually drink black coffee," Dustin says. "Lackawanna Coffee and Nine Bar Café make great coffee, but Sober Shot has funky stuff and teas. And Würstbar right next door has good sausages and beer."

For a unique Jersey City experience, the two recommend Golden Cicada, a tiny, unassuming brick building on the corner of Grant Street and Marin Boulevard. Inside, the incredibly popular karaoke bar is typically jam-packed with a diverse crowd of locals. "The only source of music in this place is a speaker hooked up to a TV hooked up to a laptop," Jeremy explains. "As you request songs, an old man looks it up on YouTube. And, if you take a shot of their horrible Chinese vodka, they'll give you a golden cicada necklace."

In just a few short months, the three Stevens grads have settled comfortably into their new digs, and nearby family and friends approved of the spacious light-filled home and local amenities. Jeremy's girlfriend has given the place her seal of approval and an added thumbs-up for parking convenience. Now that Dustin's masterpiece dining table has been completed, this affable group of college friends looks forward to hosting a housewarming party to make their Jersey City home official.

 

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