Spaced out

The real estate section of today’s New York Times talks about the popularity of enormous apartments–say 7,000 square feet–among luxury buyers. One uber-rich, young couple told their real estate agent that a four-floor penthouse was too small since they like to live large. Wealthy people who can afford whatever they want are, of course, entitled to live however they want, but I have always been perplexed by other’s desires to live in spaces far bigger than they really need. I know couples with living rooms they sit in three times a year; multiple guest bedrooms, but infrequent guests; big dens and little dens, 8 bathrooms, and kitchens with multiple sinks and dishwashers. They have more sofas, chairs, tables and lamps than a small-town furniture store.

An estate in Connecticut

I have been prone to excess in more than one area of my life, but the desire to live in massive spaces has never been one of them. I grew up in a modest, semi-detached house, sharing 1.5 bathrooms (the half bath was a 5 by 5 foot cubicle) with my two sisters and parents. When the dining room table was extended, there was barely enough space to fit the chairs. My bedroom desk, dresser and trundle bed were so close together, I could literally fall into bed after a long night studying for a big test.

When I married and left home, at 21, my husband and I moved into a studio apartment. “Luxury” was the three-bedroom, two bath-apartment where we lived with our two kids, which was about 1,300 square feet. I never craved owning a summer house in the Hamptons, or any traditional home, for that matter. I’ve lived in Manhattan for 44 years, and although I enjoy visiting big homes out of the city, I’m always glad to leave.

A brilliantly designed 600-square foot Manhattan studio apartment

I love the apartment where David and I just moved. It has a den and small home office so I can change my surroundings when the mood strikes. There’s also an outside space, itsy-bitsy by a homeowner’s standards, but a real treat for Manhattanites. I think the nicest thing about owning an oversize home would be to entertain extended family and loads of close friends. Big spaces let you have togetherness, but not an excess of it. And there are no waiting lines for the bathrooms.

4 Responses to “Spaced out”

  1. sharon Segal says:

    Good luck to you an David in your smaller apt. I will be back in early June and hope we can get together before I leave in early Sept for the Jewish holidays. Still no takers for the Long Beach apt. Please come and visit. Love, Sharon

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  2. Mary Benson says:

    Your post reminds me of a comment my spouse made when we left a party at an uber-large house: “That’s a very big house for some very tiny people!” (Host and hostess were both extremely small in stature.) I think of it every time I see a McMansion, or a real estate ad for an incredibly large place, etc.

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  3. Kate Line Snider says:

    Thanks for this, Geri! Bigger is not always better, but as you pointed out, bigger is a relative concept!

    True deprivation motivates some people to want excessive luxury. My mother-in-law grew up in a crowded farmhouse without indoor plumbing. Understandably over the years, her needs have changed.

    Two years ago, my in-laws moved from their palatial dream home to a retirement duplex.After owning a home with 5,000 square feet, including 7 bathrooms, my mother-in-law feels cramped. She and her terminally ill husband share three bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, large living and dining areas, plus utility and garage, with GENEROUS custom designed closet space. (She felt she had to have the biggest unit in the complex.)

    They have 1300 square feet, about twice the amount I shared in a suburban house with my parents until I was 10.

    I raised 3 of my children in a house we owned that was about 900 square feet. It had no air conditioning ( in hot, humid, Richmond, VA). We had one small tile bath, 3 teeny weenie bedrooms, and a huge un-landscaped yard with very little grass ( where I stored the kids as much as possible). My washing machine- and eventually, a dryer, were housed IN the kitchen. We had 4 tiny closets, a screened porch, and some attic space. I coveted AC and the biggest house I could find! I would have cheerfully killed just to acquire my in-laws’ current duplex.

    Age (and grown children) have their benefits.I am fortunate now to live alone with my husband and 2 cats in a suburban home with plenty of square footage and luxurious amenities, but it is not a mansion and I no longer want one. I want and have a home with AC, some “beauty spots”, and my own, private office space. (I could live in less, but not without the AC. )I no longer crave unused rooms to show the world I have arrived. The world doesn’t care.

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