New York Spaces

Unlike many city dwellers, I don't suffer from apartment envy. I can be comfortable just about anywhere on the planet, so long as there's full air-conditioning, Wi-Fi access, plush carpeting, moose heads mounted over the mantel, a 37-inch HD-enabled TV with the Extra Innings package, and a marble tub for naps and the occasional sponge bath.


Which brings me to the porch that I gaze down upon while crafting these wordy little miracles o' mine. In the three-plus years I've lived here, its owners have resurfaced it twice. They've bought new furniture, hung a charming wooden swing, and landscaped it with flowers and lush greenery. Last week, they added one of those triple-size titanium grills.  

What they haven't done, to the best of my knowledge, is use any of it. Seriously. If I had that porch at my disposal, I'd leave the building even less than I do now, which is almost impossible. I'd barbecue. I'd bask in the summer sun. I'd invite each and every one of you over for a magazine megasummit, at which I'd apologize for all aspersions previously cast and beg for jobs.  

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I wish magazines like New York Spaces would stop giving bored, wealthy homeowners in the tri-state area so many damn ideas. Like any number of real-estate/design mags, it takes us inside the bathrooms and boudoirs of the hoitiest of the hoity-toity. Unfortunately, it does so in a way that can only be appreciated by those who prize composition over comfort.   

The July issue touts wood lounge chairs, crystal damask periwinkle bedding fabrics, and a vaguely footstool-like item priced to move at $14,997. It throws out manicured Q&As with designers and realtors ("Finish the sentence: Noel Jeffrey is all about _____"), and profiles folks on both the business and creative sides of the ball. The mag just about approaches tolerability when it sticks to the latter, as in the sit-down with lacquer artist Nga Nguyen.   

The main problem, at least from where I'm sitting (on a Herman Miller Aeron desk chair that provides both style and support, according to the brochure), is that I can't envision anybody actually living in any of the places New York Spaces features. They look as sterile and polished as a movie set. To borrow a phrase from Uncle Junior, it's difficult to imagine anybody farting into these sofa cushions.  

The July issue's five spreads - a few showcasing Manhattan abodes, a few venturing out into the 'burbs - are all immaculately lit and presented. What they lack is evidence of human habitation. A few of the kitchen shots feature glasses filled to the brim with what I imagine to be freshly squeezed pineapple juice, but that's as down-home-y as the magazine gets. You can only look at so many vacant "living spaces" before your eyes glaze over.   

And while words are largely beside the point in titles like New York Spaces, the mag pokes a stick in readers' eyes by serving up quotes along the lines of "designing the space took as much mathematical logic as artistic creativity" and subheds celebrating a guy who "embraces the pendulum of interior design." "The pendulum of interior design"... what does that mean? I know that a degree of pretentiousness is par for the course in design-related professions, but come on.   

Oooh - plus we have our first "Worst Opening Paragraph" nominee in some time: "When God handed down the Commandment not to covet another person's land, He couldn't possibly have meant to include their gardens. If He had, then perhaps we'd all be condemned." Magazine Rack: I read these publications, so you don't have to.   

Is New York Spaces pretty and professionally assembled? Absolutely. Your coffee table has likely sheltered far worse. Still, I can't help but tsk-tsk a viciously materialistic magazine that titles one of its sections "Material Things." New York Spaces could desperately use a little more self-awareness and humanity.   


As you can probably tell from these last few columns, I'm running low on interesting magazines to review. Hence the no-repeats policy ends next week. Feel free to start mauling my mailbox with titles I've already written about in this space.   


Published by: Wainscot Media

Frequency: seven issues per year 

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