Unit 5D was a well-lit and spacious two-bedroom with ample closet space, and gorgeous herringbone hardwood floors. The kitchen was an efficiently designed mini-hallway that seemed more appropriate as a ship galley than a kitchen for what was being marketed as a family apartment for under a million. Despite abundant cabinet and counter space and shiny new appliances, the narrowness of the apartment’s cooking area was enough to make a mole claustrophobic. There was certainly not enough room for one inhabitant to get the milk for his coffee out of the refrigerator while his or her spouse fried an egg on the fancy Miele stove. And who wants to start their morning off like that?
Coupled with the tile choice in the bathroom—a gaudy gray granite with faux-marble finish—the cons certainly outweighed the gorgeous floors and light-flooded windows.
On my way to the next apartment, 6E, I passed the Russian couple on the stairs, “So what’s it like?” I said in an eager whisper as if I were asking about Narnia.
“Dark,” the husband replied tersely; hmm, not the chatty type I decided.
Upon arrival at 6E I couldn’t help agreeing that “dark” really was the most accurate descriptor of the sixth-floor apartment. Indeed, other than the lack of light, slightly wider kitchen and tapioca wall color, it was eerily similar to 5D. The sales agent had pre-empted this reaction by explaining that the apartment had a southern exposure and that it was a shame it wasn’t sunnier today. O.K., so what about all the other gray days in Manhattan, is that just a necessary sacrifice for hardwood floors and Vegas-style tiling?
Down to the third apartment, 3F, a one-bedroom with a mysteriously large walk-in closet, larger than the kitchen, which echoed the claustrophobia-inducing model from upstairs. Though this kitchen was designed with even greater efficiency, boasting a dishwasher mysteriously located directly below the sink. It was like a magic trick—there was no sign of piping or plumbing—only the sleek dishwasher below the basin. Fascinating.
AS I WAS LEAVING the building a man with a slightly cone-shaped bald head and an attractive 40-something-year-old wife held the door open for me.
“Do you, uh, do you live in the building?,” he asked nervously.
“No, I was here for the open house.”
“Oh!” he seemed disappointed. “So are we. We wanted to talk to someone who lives in the building. I feel like it should have a doorman.”
“Well, it has security cameras,” I proffered apologetically.
“We live in New Jersey. We’ve only been looking for two weeks or so. We have a realtor who sends us listings of where to go. We like this neighborhood. There are a lot of older buildings around here like this one. They’re beautiful but the apartments tend to be kind of ugly, you know, the way they have remodeled them.”
“Well, they have beautiful floors and the lobby is nice.” It was all I could think of to say. Fortunately, I was saved by a 5-year-old dressed as a skeleton; he approached the building but his mother beckoned him to continue: “Honey, I don’t know how many people live there yet, I’m not sure they’re giving out candy.”
And with that I said goodbye to the couple from New Jersey and followed the skeleton down the block, he in pursuit of chocolate, me in pursuit of larger kitchens and more tasteful bathrooms tiling.