Friday, September 08, 2006

Living the High Life

Meet Suite (tm) Retreat Barbie (R). The description reads as follows:

Suite Retreat™ Barbie® doll is a sophisticated siren who oozes glamour and luxury. This sultry redhead wears a charmeuse pajama jacket with faux pearl buttons and blousy, chiffon sleeves. Her matching tap pants are trimmed in black and made of the same luscious cream. She completes the loungewear look with high-heeled black sandals and faux pearl-drop earrings.

She's looking like some 1940s glamour girl in this outfit/pose, isn't she? She looks like she's living the high life -- perhaps in an apartment hotel in NYC. Or maybe...she's living in a condominium for the new millennium. Specifically in a model suite....

Yeah, she lives in a model suite. Yeah, that's right. She lives in a model suite -- actually she COMES WITH the model suite. Yeah, that's right.

Buy a two-million-dollar condo in some sky-high tower and Barbie (tm) comes with it! What a marketing trick. What a bonus!

But really, I was thinking about condominiums yesterday. They are cropping up everywhere in this city and people are snatching them up in lieu of rentals. Some buildings are pure prestige, and even the names connote that. Here is a sampling of some alphabetically:

Aberdeen Place
Arboretum, The
Ascot Mansions
Ashley Court
Barclay Terrace
Beacon Hall
Bellair-on-the Park, The
Bentley, The
Berkshire House
Bradley Estates
Broadway Plaza
Bronte Harbour Club
Burnham Glen
Canyon Springs
Castle Terrace
Celebrity Place
Chedington, The
Colony, The
Ellington, The
Emerald Place
Empress Plaza

And of course, with names such as these, one would think the buildings are all shiny like a new penny. Not necessarily so. Many are converts -- rentals with some touch-ups and some minor facelifts that allow for the name CONDOMINIUM. And the subtitle: MONTHLY MAINTENANCE FEES.

But even if not all the condominiums are newly built, their model suites don't reflect that. For the most part, model suites can also be known as "designer suites." The furnishings, the carpets, the bedding, the artwork and accoutrements scattered around the apartment -- which should be renamed SHOWROOM -- reflect the tastes of top-of-the-line interior designers who work hand in hand with the architects to reflect the consumer market being sought for the building.

I've never gone to an open house for a condominium, but I've seen advertorials for them. And I always wonder at the elegance that is depicted in just about every photo. Seemingly this elegance comes with a hefty price tag, too, but not everyone can outfit a new condo in Bauhaus leather furniture and Agam prints and Laura Ashley bedding, and Royal Doulton tableware. It is just not a lifestyle that everyone can afford or may not even aspire to. For some people, IKEA is the way to go, for other people, it's GOODWILL; and for others it's "heimishe" (homey)

Okay, picture this: You pass a condo building -- The FRESSER -- advertising a unit you think you can afford -- "$200,000...but make me an offer I can't refuse!"

You call the Realtor and say you'd like to see the unit. "What floor is it on?"


"How many floors are in this building?"


"How could it be thirteen when the unit is on the fourteenth floor?"

"We don't believe in using thirteen in our buildings, G-d forbid, so the unit is on the 14th, but it's really the 13th. Get it?"

"Okay, so when can I see it?"

"How's about now? Are you nearby? I could be there in ten."

"So could I. See you then. Should I meet you in the lobby?"

"Oh, Miss, we don't call it a lobby anymore."

"Okay, so I'll meet you in the foyer."

"Not that either. We real estate folk call it an 'atrium.' "

"Okay, in the atrium. In ten minutes. By the elevator. Oh, will I know who you are?"

"I'll be the one wearing a button in my lapel that says, 'I'm Sam. Talk to me about finding a palace for you.' "
But first Sam takes you to see the Fresser's model suite. And a heimishe model suite is "just like home." There's a welcome mat on the outside of the front door, a mezuzah on the doorpost. And when you walk in, another mat and a sign -- "Please remove shoes at door." You do so, then move into the living room. The flowery couch and love seat are covered in thick plastic, and you dare not sit down for you know that your tuches will stick to the plastic and burn your upper legs when you get up.

You move into the kitchen, following the aroma of a freshly baked coffee cake. The table in the eat-in kitchen is set with bagels and lox and cream cheese and baby dills. "Just in case you want a little nosh as you're looking around," Sam explains. "But please use a plate and napkin."

You pass over the inviting food -- you're going to your parents for dinner and your mother would be terribly offended if you don't eat, and G-d forbid 'cause you had a nosh in a model suite.

The guest bathroom has a sign on the counter: "Tell them Sam sent you and you'll get a good seat!"

The master bedroom is a bit small, but that's because there's a queen-size bed and a day bed -- for overnight guests -- in the room, along with a dresser and a television and a mini bar fridge -- "In case you need a little nosh in the middle of the night."

The master bath is Art Deco black and white floor tiles, and the towels are bloodred ("Bought at a close-out sale," explains Sam). There is a floor scale that, when you stand on it to check your weight, calls out, "I'M NOT LYING!"

There is not enough cupboard space, you notice, and comment. "Cupboards, shmupboards," says Sam. "Put your stuff under the bed or in the bathtub and just draw the curtain to hide it...."


Okay, so maybe I took this heimishe model suite scenario just a bit too far (and believe me when I say there was not one bit of plastic covering our furniture when I grew up, so it's not a personal heimishe memory), but it started out just because I realized that not everyone's life and possessions are as attractive as the interiors of model suites. Sometimes it would just probably be nicer to be able to relate to something familiar...and yes, even in a model suite.

Maybe the bloodred towels have to go, but I think the bagels, lox and cream cheese ought to stay...don't you?