The sunny pink-and-blue building at 246 West 17th has a model apartment and, of course, a companion book—they all do now—with drawings of imaginary families, the most prominent at 246 an interracial family and, of course, the mother is a psychologist wanting only goodness and reasonableness and for the children, too. All these tours in sales offices begin with the salesperson standing before a scale model. The world is a big, empty dollhouse. We’re all just trying to fill it.
Sheffield57’s “re-envisioned condos” at 322 West 57th should win a Nobel. Following are excerpts from the press release about the different apartments: “The Attorney,” who is “about power and sophistication” and has “embossed ostrich” and “shelves crafted in Macassar ebony.” He sounds rough but he likes the water, as evidenced by the white sailing photography. “The Fashion Shoe Designer” has “bright snakeskin pillows” and “glow-box nightstands.” No more need be said.
The “Elegant Woman Writer … ,” a lady of a certain age “with grown niece and faux tortoiseshell tables.” (But what about the Woman Who Is Screaming At Everybody on the Phone and Throwing Scouring Powder on her Pasta? Just what does that apartment look like? Is there a Persian carpet soaked with vermouth?)
Then there’s the new 21-story Gramercy going up on East 23rd Street (contracts for 70 percent reportedly went out the weekend after the office opened last week), the Michael Shvo and Philippe Starck extravaganza of a showroom with a rhinoceros head, and a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild, a bowl of green apples and Mr. Starck on flat screens flying around the city, for he is the ultimate fictional resident in his own designed interiors.
All these apartments have big art books or storybooks that expand the geography of the rooms that people are buying. If you bought at 141 Fifth (a sales office with flat file cabinet made upstate and a model apartment where the imaginary resident is reading Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico), you would believe that you are getting the Arch in Washington Square and a little girl holding loaves of bread.
For people who have the money and know the neighborhood, all this fiction is like the key chain the automotive dealer gives you, or the ballpoint pen with his name on it. But for the rest, they are terribly effective, containing somehow all the hope and promise of the 1964 World’s Fair.