Thursday, January 19, 2012
Good That's Olde Too
At one time, modern high-rise buildings were marketed as "luxury." The apartments were sterile and devoid of character, with the most boring cookie-cutter layouts imaginable. They sported only the basic modcons, nothing luxurious at all. In New York City, luxury really just meant the absence of squalor. Not roach- or rat-infested, not a tenement, not a railroad flat, not dilapidated, not in a ghetto. In short, luxury was about what a place was NOT.
As I have written in numerous stories, in New York, like anywhere else, old or new is not necessarily better or worse. However, there are many wonderful features in old homes and apartment buildings, things now rarely seen. In New York City prewar apartments, higher ceilings, larger room sizes, and more generous floor plans all hearken back to a time when the human experience was valued above maximizing usable space. By today's standards, the common elements of prewar construction, if seen in modern construction, are now considered to be luxury.
Love of the old abounds here, with good reason. There are many neighborhoods where one will find a historic uniformity: row houses in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Greenwich Village, et. al. The aesthetic charm in these areas where there are blocks of antique homes is what makes the areas so well-known and highly coveted. The architectural charm and bucolic nature of the tree lined streets makes these neighborhoods some of the finest living experiences in the five boroughs.
But new can be great too. A family member just completed a McMansion custom home. The home took 38 months to complete, and I was privy to seeing it go up step by step and in detail what went into its construction. The owner, like myself, is involved in manufacturing and was very particular about every element. The quality of construction, appliances, and materials I see in that house is unsurpassed, new or old.
And everything WORKS. The modern heating, plumbing, and electrical systems far exceed the typically primitive systems seen in old construction. Where is the quality in age-old single pane glass windows with poor insulation and leaks? My landlord recently replaced my French windows after decades. The new windows with low-e glass, etc. are air tight and a joy compared to the old construction. I have lived with steam heat in New York City for over 40 years and can say nothing good about it other than it supplies heat.
Recently, I passed a truck on 6th Avenue with a sign: Olde Good Things. The company has a number of retail locations and a warehouse. I don't know if the business name is an acknowledgement that there are olde bad things too.
In homes and furnishings, there is a romance with the old. But when someone says they love old houses, old places, and old furniture, good is implied. Good is what ultimately counts, and if you're predisposed to days gone by and lucky, you can find Good That's Olde Too :)
Related Posts: Old New York Part 2, Old New York Part 1