Flush With Cash

How do you sell a high-end condominium in a city glutted with them? Look at the ads for the Altair lofts, in Chelsea. No photos of sleek, slick living rooms or glistening towers here: Instead, they feature a woman soaking in a gigantic marble tub, her adorably naked baby seated on the radiant-heat floors.

The Altair’s developers are onto something: tapping into bathroom lust. Now more than ever, experts say, buyers are demanding lavatories that aren’t just lavish—which they’ve been for some time—but large, too. “It’s a spa society. People are using their bathrooms as an oasis, a space to relax and get away from their day-to-day problems,” says interior designer Andres Escobar, who’s styling a spate of residential projects. “The new bathrooms are more in keeping with the luxurious lifestyles they envision for themselves,” adds Stribling Marketing Associates’ Sean Turner. “They go to hotels and spas and want to replicate what they see there at home.” Of course, developers are all too happy to oblige: “It’s a competition to attract buyers,” says architect Ismael Leyva, whose new Sundari Lofts & Tower is full of fancy glass tiles and onyx vanities.

In fact, these rooms are a key selling point in new developments because they are barely a possibility anywhere else. (Yes, you can shoehorn one into a prewar apartment—at the cost of a bedroom plus a fortune to reroute the plumbing.) At 147 Waverly Place (pictured), a new development in the Village marketed by Turner, master baths are as big as kitchens, which are already roomy. Olive Park in Williamsburg offers apartments with two bathrooms even though they’re only 700 square feet in total. (If there isn’t enough space to make them more commodious, Escobar says, they’re made to look as if they are.) At the Caledonia, Related’s new building on West 17th Street, Kohler “Tea for Two” tubs big enough for couples are the centerpieces of their “ginger crystal spa bathrooms.”

It wasn’t always this way. The last time the city saw a condo boom, in the eighties, “bathrooms used to be just five-by-seven rectangles. And variations were only if they were fitted with marble or tile,” says appraiser Jonathan Miller. “Developers back then didn’t have to put too much into bathrooms because the thinking was that buyers would tear them up anyway,” says Leyva. But today’s consumers—both sybarites and stressed-out types—don’t want to redo them, he notes. “It’s too complicated.”

Della Femina On the Move
Jodi Della Femina, co-publisher of The Independent and daughter of adman turned restaurateur Jerry, is upsizing in New York—and downsizing in the Hamptons. She and her husband, venture capitalist John Kim, are selling their two-bedroom Greenwich Village co-op, which has a 650-square-foot terrace and overlooks Grace Church, after two years (they paid $1.175 million through Corcoran’s Brian Rice, and it’s currently listed at $1.599 million). Like countless young Manhattanites, Della Femina says she’s Brooklyn-bound. Unlike many of them, however, she and her husband bought themselves a whole townhouse to cushion the blow. “We were just poking around in Brooklyn Heights and fell in love with it,” she explains. As for their move on the East End, the couple is swapping their four-bedroom traditional with a white-picket fence—they just accepted an offer of $1.675 million through Corcoran’s Gay Wasserman—for a beach cottage right on the bay.

Triple Assessment
315 Riverside Drive, Apartment 5D
1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath co-op.
Asking Price: $2.27 million.
Monthly maintenance: $1,646.
Broker: Marcia Gershon, Bellmarc.

Four years ago, the owners of this roomy co-op poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a renovation, transforming a dining room into a third bedroom and coordinating everything from the heater grilles to the locks. Will their investment pay off?

Auguste Olson, Mark David & Company: “It’s beautiful!” Olson exclaims. “[But] it might be overdesigned, so you’re paying a premium for someone else’s vision. Somebody may want to buy a less ‘done’ apartment for less money and use the extra [cash] to create their own dream home.”
Her assessment: $2.15 million.

Laurel Rosenbluth, Gumley Haft Kleier:
“In terms of the layout, there’s flexibility. But when they took away the dining room, they could’ve created a child’s room with a little less space and kept a dining alcove,” says Rosenbluth. Still, “the tree line and river view is pretty, and that trumps the deficits.”
Her assessment: $2.2 million.

Judy Oston, Halstead: Oston says she’d set her price a little lower to encourage a bidding war and reel in buyers who can’t quite handle a $2 million purchase. That said, “the architectural detail is phenomenal. It’s clearly in move-in condition.”
Her assessment: $1.95 million.

Flush With Cash