Forgive me a post about ideas.
I feel so lucky to live and work in New York.
I tell just about anyone who will listen that this city is endlessly interesting.
A city of ideas, a city of energy.
Perhaps the “never sleeping” aspect is overblown, but even by pulling out a tidbit here or there – Hudson Yards, the renaissance of Brooklyn, bike culture, a resurgence of restaurant culture, you name it –
we are witnessing something special.
What we have in 2014, which has been percolating for the last 10 years
in new development and renovation,
could be called a New Gilded Age –
of city architecture, anyway.
Stopping just short of what
the 1870’s by way of Vanderbilt’s kin and the scattering of stunning townhouses across Manhattan and beyond, much of what was designed 100+ years ago, along with
conception of city living, is coming back around, less the abundance of servants.
Roughly one hundred years ago, architects began designing apartment buildings to attract townhouse dwellers and the newly minted rich.
Live-in help was part of the design – we still deal with “maid’s rooms” today, of course.
Any apartment larger than 6 rooms
had one or more.
During the second building boom
of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, the “servants as commonplace” notion began to fade, and a new conventional wisdom came into being.
City living meant smaller everything.
Fewer closets, smaller kitchens (even without The Help), lower ceilings.
Grand was gone, generally speaking, as were the maid’s rooms.
This wisdom would have it as follows: Don’t like the kitchens?
Go out to eat.
No one cooks anymore.
Baths too small?
One sink, a crammed-in toilet and shower, poor ventilation.
These sheetrock walls are going to be what they are.
Vertical living is what it is, buddy.
Have too many kids?
Move to the suburbs.
There, you could get
a large house in Westchester or New Jersey or Connecticut.
For many families who
wanted great public schools and big parks, leaving the city was the surest way of achieving
Otherwise, city folk were prepared, to a large degree, to sacrifice.
It was Apartment Living.
new mentality has returned, focusing
on what existed so long ago in those original layouts.
Buyers desperately want the feeling of living in a home, rather than an apartment – to live in large rooms, with high ceilings, enjoying old concepts of gracious living and contemporary convenience, simultaneously.
It is a “let’s have both” time of wanting to bring suburban convenience into city living.
The push in this direction has been going on
for years of course, but it has been codified in the most recent batch of new development.
rooms and walls
are freed up.
We can focus on the space between the stuff.
The pendulum swings
back toward wood,
away from stark white, in kitchens too.
It swings back to pocket doors;
large, sumptuous closets; workmanship; custom quality delivered by developers.
Views and light continue to rule, but volume of space, proportion of rooms, and flow have taken root again.
buyers and sellers, looking at new development and which product captivates.
An article like this on 151 East 78th captures a bit of the zeitgeist.
Baby boomers moving back to the city.
Successful professionals who will live much longer, and
who have delayed marriage and parenthood past the point of thinking about moving to the suburbs (professionals in their 40’s are set in their ways – and will make a go of living permanently in New York City, if it’s possible).
Foreign investors who understand a level of luxury that for so long escaped city living here in Manhattan.
Each buyer group expects a higher level of service and will pay for it, from growing investment accounts or via mortgage rates.
The manifestation is clear, as buyers attempt to create these properties from former “cookie cutter” properties, combining and reimagining the low-ceilinged disasters built between 1961 and 1991.
Back-to-back kitchens combined, brokers discussing the “Costco Closet” created in the apartment for those trips to East 116th street. Many buyers are quite successful – meaning that they have made homes.
In my new development posts, I’ll cover 551 West 21st and the Cast Iron House. Both are gorgeous!