"My brother John Boy made the white picket fence” is probably the last thing you’d expect to hear when touring a Manhattan apartment, but that is, in fact, the story behind the white picket fence in Tom Beebe’s fifth-floor Village walk-up. Beebe is, mostly, a thoroughly urbanized guy. He’s the creative director of DNR, a men’s fashion journal, and he’s just returned from the runways of Milan, but what he’s most thrilled about discussing is the screen door, mailbox, and fence that divide the galley kitchen from the living room of his 800-square-foot one-bedroom apartment. The mailbox belonged to his great-aunt Mary; the screen door spent most of its life thwacking away in his great-grandparents’ Mamaroneck kitchen.
“It brings an energy of the past,” he says. Beebe grew up in Westchester, one of eight children in a great stone Colonial. Every single thing in his apartment was inherited from a family member. The wicker furniture in the living room belonged to his grandparents, and he proudly displays a photograph of his parents necking on the love seat during their wedding reception.
It’s a rare space in Manhattan that evokes a cottage in the country where generations of families have gathered with their stuff. With its wicker and its overgrown greenhouse, the apartment is quite peaceful, even rural, but sometimes—for first-time visitors—also a little disarming. “Whenever people come over, it’s always, Where are we? I think people expect apartments to be very New York minimal. When someone brings a dog, it gets very confused, doesn’t know if it’s inside or outside.” Human guests can get very confused, too. Once, after a dinner party, a couple went home to sleep, and in the middle of the night, one woke up and wondered aloud, “Did Tom Beebe have a picket fence in his living room, or was that a dream?”