“People have been relatively understanding, but maybe just a little bit surprised.” Ms. Turner said. “The fact that I have two bathrooms and live by myself seems to be an endless source of amusement. A friend also gives me a hard time about the name Ikon—not only is it spelled with a K but called an Icon.”
However, Ms. Turner sees her building as completely different from the high-rise, glossy developments along Williamsburg’s waterfront.
“They’re so large and impersonal, and I just imagine someone sitting on their five infinity pools,” she said. “But maybe it’s just this artificial construct I’ve build up in my mind about the difference between my building and other buildings.”
Indeed, most condo residents and potential buyers have worked out ways to rationalize their Condo Shame.
Dale Hrabi, the consulting editorial director of TheWeek.com, and his husband rent a two-bedroom with 14-foot ceilings, bay windows and original moldings for $2,400 on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Recently, they decided to buy. Mr. Hrabi’s husband is pushing for one of the new developments in Fort Greene; Mr. Hrabi finds them repulsive. “I have a deeply rooted dislike of expedient, cookie-cutter, pseudo-luxury condo developments and would almost rather blow money renting something ‘real’ with history, a story, the possibility that some woman once gave birth in my bedroom with or without a midwife or a lesbian couple had V-Day sex in the bathroom,” he said.
He realizes that a condo would make more sense, financially—but is already preparing elaborate excuses.
“If I were actually living in such a building, I think I would feel the need to immediately reassure people that I intend to live somewhere more ‘me,’ more ‘us,’ as soon as circumstances allow,” he said.
Does that mean he would be embarrassed to invite friends over?
“I think they are all smart enough to grasp why we would be living in such a place, but … yes!” replied Mr. Hrabi, who is in his 40s. “I think I’d probably go overboard trying to work against the cookie-cutter-ness of the design by having more original elements inside. I think the basic way people deal with Ikea is there’s always shame in Ikea, but it’s sort of O.K. if you mix Ikea with eclectic pieces that are yours. So it would sort of be the same thing.” (This shouldn’t be difficult considering Mr. Hrabi’s Scandinavian rag wall hanging of a rooster from the ’60s and his husband’s collection of ’20s and ’30s Rockwood pottery.)
Condo Shame also afflicts those simply seeking to trade up leases. A 24-year-old filmmaker who asked that his name not be used is currently shopping for a condo rental in Williamsburg. For the past year, he has been living with five other gentlemen in a storefront there that is, technically, not zoned for residential. The “apartment” has acquired enough filth over the year that the filmmaker has developed an allergy to dust. He is not ready to buy, but is willing to pay a bit more (he pays $950 right now) for a spanking-new condo. He speculates that he can find something under $1,500 at the Bedford L Stop.
“I think some people will make fun of me because a new apartment is really un-Brooklyn-y or whatever,” this young man said, “but I spent a year living in the shittiest situation in the world, so anyone who wants to say anything, they can talk to the hand.”
Still, he is categorically against the high-rises. He likes the NForth development on North Fourth and Driggs by architect Karl Fischer, who also designed Ms. Turner’s Ikon.
“I couldn’t bring myself to live in a 20-story building in Williamsburg. I would feel like a total douche bag,” said the filmmaker. “Those things are a pox on the neighborhood.”
But for the right price, he might be won over.
“I think people who move into the high-rises are pretty silly, but that is where the good deals are right now because that’s where no one wants to live,” the filmmaker said. “Maybe I’ll be eating my words in a few months and you’ll find me in one of those high-rises for like a grand a month, and I’ll just have to pull down the brim on my hat as I go in and out every day.”