Confessions of a Plan Addict
I am a floor plan addict. Andrew Alpern’s book “Apartments for the Affluent”,
replete with plans, was largely responsible for getting me into real estate.
Night after night I pored over the plans of apartments large and small
(including the one, at 635 Park Avenue, in which I had grown up) with which the
book was filled. I was hooked! During my first years in the business, I spent
every spare moment with the Select Register, volume after volume containing
plans for most of the city’s apartment houses. And sooner or later I got to see
them all! It was, and remains, a fabulous perk of the job.
People often ask me, “Isn’t it hard for you, who see so many extraordinary
apartments, not to want to live in them?” Honestly, the answer is no. It’s like
visiting the Met; I don’t expect to own the paintings there, but I do love to
see and appreciate them. My wife and I are perfectly happy in our cozy 3 bedroom
apartment on Central Park West, and I feel no need to move. Mostly, apartments
look like inventory to me. But there are some exceptions – usually the quirky,
the unexpected, the surprising – these are the ones I can imagine inhabiting in
an alternate life. Here’s a list of a few of them, in no particular order, and
my favorite Candela building, for a variety of reasons. At 95th
and Park, it will never be TOO fancy. The proportions are both
grand and welcoming. Nothing feels overscaled, as in some of the
grander Candela buildings downtown. These duplexes, which don’t
start until the 6th floor, have beautifully proportioned,
comfortable rooms radiating off a demi-lune staircase. They face
south over the Armory and are filled with light. They epitomize
the best of Candela’s Italianate grace.
duplexes towards the top of the Beresford. They don’t face the
Park; their exposures are primarily North and West. Because the
building is setting back on each floor at this height, each of
these apartments is different (there are 4 of them, starting on
the 15th floor and culminating with the penthouse). They all
contain three bedrooms, oddly shaped, with cool piercing light
and unexpected windows. Emory Roth’s high ceilings and unadorned
Art Deco aesthetic makes these apartments feel as if they are
floating above New York. The effect is magical.
filled me with a sense of tranquility. In the front appear
modest five room suites with story-and-a-half high living rooms
and a woodburning fireplace. In the back there are charming
little duplexes, four and a half rooms in size, facing the
buildings across the courtyard but nonetheless replete with a
uniquely New York sense of glamour. The first one I ever saw,
back about 25 years ago, had leopard skin carpeting, which
seemed so downtown to me. I never forgot it.
brothers, George and Edward, who built a number of
unconventionally glamorous buildings, mainly on West End and
Park, in the decade between 1910 and 1920. My favorite is 610
West End Avenue, built in 1912. Modestly perched on the
southeast corner of 90th Street, the exterior has lovely terra
cotta detailing but gives no hint of the sprawling apartments
which lie within. I particularly love the “B” line, which has
three huge contiguous entertaining rooms-living room, reception
room, dining room-spanning about 70 feet and including a
fabulous dining room bay window looking south over brownstones.
The three bedrooms are oversized, and the master has both an
enormous bathroom and a commodious dressing room. This is the
perfect place for a salon, or a book club dedicated to Proust.
I first discovered several of these apartments in Alpern’s book. Others I
found while cramming my head with plans during off hours at the office in my
early years on the job. Not all apartments live up to the titillating promise of
their plans, and some, especially in buildings of the 50s and 60s, can be better
than the plans suggest. But for the most part, the plan is a key to the kingdom:
you hold it in your hand (or click on it online) and see if it creates within
you that telltale little shiver, that Aha moment, when you realize, this is a
good one! This could work!.