129 Lafayette sells but NOT because of the designer (contra The Observer)

is this Observer week on Manhattan Loft Guy?

I swear that I do not read The Observer. (I am not bragging, just swearing.) But for the second time in a week someone linked to an article about a Manhattan loft sale that is interesting enough to comment on here. On June 13, it was a 39 Worth Street loft that made the papers because it was purchased by a famous fashion designer but was interesting to me because it sold after a long campaign (39 Worth Street loft finally closes, makes the papers; I owe a hat tip on that one, but I can’t remember to whom … The Real Deal?).

Today it is Curbed that gets a tip of the hat about the sale of the Manhattan loft #4A at 129 Lafayette Street that made the papers because of celebrities on both sides of the deal, with a story line from The Observer that suggests that it sold because the famous interior designer made a fabulous space. To be fair, he comes across as modest; to be accurate, this beautiful loft sold for what it did because of the building and the bones, not the design.I will prove that after we talk a little about the loft.

The "2,363 sq ft" loft is set up as 3 bedrooms and 3 baths and has the huge advantages of being nearly square and being on a corner, with two long exposures. The Observer babble includes some (mandatory) agent gushing:

Of the Lafayette Street corner loft which Mr. Henault decorated in a stunning mélange of old-world opulence, pastels and paisleys, he noted wrily [sic], “I would love to take the only credit for it showing well, and say it’s because I’m so phenomenally talented; but, in fact, it showed itself. It’s a fantastic layout, it’s flooded with light."

"It was honestly a very popular listing," [agent] said. "It was high traffic and it had the wow factor because Darren is such a talented designer. It’s definitely the best apartment I’ve shown."

The broker babble includes this unfortunate locution (bolded by me):

The large second bedroom and winged third bedroom with en-suite bath make this true 3 bedroom loft extremely unique.

proving the value is the value is the value
That "extremely unique" bit is not only a fracture of language, but of fact … unless by describing a layout as "extremely unique" means that "there are no similar layouts in any other lofts anywhere, except for all the other "A" lines in this 11-story building".

Look, for example, at #5A upstairs, which happened to have sold in a more difficult market (without the benefit of Mr. Henault’s design):

Feb 23, 2009 new to market $3.25mm
April 2   $2.95mm
June 3   $2.85mm
Sept 25 contract $2.8mm
Nov 13, 2009 sold $2.8mm

 Here’s #4A:

March 10, 2010 new to market $2.895mm
April 14 contract $2.8mm
June 3 sold $2.8mm

You will see, by the way, that the floor plans for #4A and #5A are identical, with broker-babble containing many of the same elements in the two listing descriptions. No surprise, as all the lofts in the building were well-appointed when they were first marketed in December 2003 (first sales were in December 2004). Here is the original marketing babble for these units:

This grand historic structure harbors 27 sleekly modern, light-filled lofts that all boast 12ft clgs, oversized Industrial-scale Marvin wood-framed windows, exceptionally functional kitchens & luxurious baths. Attended Lobby, Valcucine kitchens w/Subzero, Viking, Thermador & Bosch appliances. Dornbracht & Grohe Bath Fixtures.


You could say that #5A took a while to sell, but that first part of 2009 was the nuclear winter of the Manhattan real estate market. You could say that #5A took a while to find the right price, but the #5A sellers did not have the advantage of an upstairs neighbor selling 4 months before, as #4A did.

it’s the shoes, Mars
The only thing you can say definitively about #4A and #5A is that The Market considered them to be identical. The "stunning mélange of old-world opulence, pastels and paisleys" in which the celebrity sellers outfitted #4A makes for a nice description in The Observer, but the celebrity buyers probably only have to deal with the pastel walls … the rest was taken to the new home or sold on Craigslist. (heh)

snark shortage today?
i took off on Ms. Malle on Saturday for snarking on Tribeca ("Gotham’s richest and least lively dominion"). But for some reason she loves this gritty edge of "Soho" (this block of Lafayette is (a) just above Canal but (b) a block east and south of the Soho Cast-Iron Historic District, as extended; is it properly in Little Italy?), describing it as part of "the coveted neighborhood". Whatever.


But here’s where she really drops the ball. The celebrity sellers are moving to, shall we say, a very different neighborhood, which passes without snark (is it out of concern for the young girls?):

"We bought the apartment five years ago because we were having children but ultimately decided we’d rather be uptown for the girls to go to school. We’re moving into a very different apartment, from a loft downtown to a very European Upper East Side home."


props where props are due
I have to hand it to Chloe Malle at The Observer for being on top of the Manhattan loft news. She was on the news that deeds had been filed for 129 Lafayette Street #4A and for 39 Worth St #3E within a day of their being filed.

Should I start reading The Observer?


© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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