Call it a domestic version of Radical Chic: An increasing number of Upper East Siders—kept from moving by school districts or sociology—are pining so deeply for the trappings of downtown life that they’re turning their co-ops into facsimiles of ex-sweatshops. “The trend lately has been for our clients to buy apartments uptown, especially on Park Avenue, and to combine several units in the spirit of loftlike living,” says Alexia Kondylis of Kondylis Design. She recently renovated a five-bedroom prewar co-op on Park Avenue for a young family, reproducing the plaster moldings and solid oak parquet but completely opening up the main rooms. “The children now have almost half a city block to run back and forth,” she says with pride. In foyers, Kondylis says, she’s been installing recessed halogen lights: “That gives our clients the freedom to exhibit art.”
For interior designer Alan Tanksley, modern furniture does the job. He recently put a far-from-traditional thirteen-foot sofa in a Park Avenue living room for a young couple who feel wedded to the Upper East Side’s schools and family-friendly atmosphere. Mobile partitions also work, notes architect Alex Gorlin, who did Daniel Libeskind’s Tribeca loft and recently created an open kitchen-dining-and-living room with sliding walls in an apartment on East 88th Street. And another buyer hired architect David Mann to turn her apartment on 87th Street near Lexington Avenue—the old Gimbel’s, long since converted into conventional apartments—back into a loft. “I like new, modern, clean, and minimal, and I wanted no walls,” says the resident, a Web designer. “I read years ago that [a room with] high ceilings lends itself to creativity, and I think there’s some truth to that.”
If these walls could talk, they’d project to the back of the house. Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) and his wife, actress Kathryn Layng, have put their three-bedroom condo at 45 West 67th Street on the market for $2.995 million, working with broker Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier, who already has two bidders. The eight-room duplex formerly belonged to Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, who sold it in 1996. (According to another resident, they met while they both lived in the building and created the duplex after they got engaged.)
Across the park, real-estate mogul Bill Rudin—president of Rudin Management and head of the Association for a Better New York—and his socialite wife, Ophelia, recently listed their 5,000-square-foot co-op at 960 Park Avenue for $10.25 million with Brucie Boalt of Sotheby’s. Maintenance fees in the chic building—where residents include Edgar Bronfman Sr. and Gustavo Cisneros, plus at one time Claus von Bülow—also include meals at the Georgian Suite, the domed lobby-level dining room designed in 1927 by Rosario Candela.
264 East Broadway
1-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 950-square-foot co-op.
Asking price: $650,000
Broker: Ryan Fix, Douglas Elliman
The seller of this co-op—who owns Toad Hall, a furniture shop at ABC Carpet & Home—first put it on the market six months ago, at $595,000. He’s had several offers near that mark but hasn’t closed a sale, possibly because he’s bumped the price to $650,000. Our brokers, all of whom assessed the apartment before seeing the listing, say he’s overreaching.
Haley Lieberman Binn, Stribling: “It’s a Lower East Side postwar,” Binn says, shrugging. “But it’s completely renovated with fabulous light.” She adds that the sorta-fabulous gold hardware, the kind a conservative drag queen might install, doesn’t hurt, either. “I don’t believe the décor will get a much higher amount, but it gives you an idea of the apartment’s potential,” says Binn.
Her assessment: $600,000.
Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern, Gumley Haft Kleier: “It’s spacious and has a top-of-the-line renovation, open views, moldings,” she says. “Also, the neighborhood has become trendy, and prices have been driven up by new construction.”
Her assessment: $625,000.
Neal Young, Halstead Property Company:
“The terrace is enclosed, which gives extra room but may not be what someone’s looking for,” says Young, who lives in the same complex and adds that the elevators have just been renovated and the lobby and hallways are next. Another reason for the steep price: “The maintenance is about half what you’d pay in most of Manhattan.”
His assessment: $595,000.