“Sexy.” Now there’s a word no one would have ever used to describe my loft, much less “rich” or “luxe.” “Serene” was more along the lines of what I had in mind. But then Wang and I had arrived at these same 2,200 square feet at different times in our lives, via different routes. He in his mid-20s; I in my early 40s. He by way of a college dorm, where he shared small quarters with “three straight guys who’d come in with their soccer shoes and get mud on my bedsheets”; followed by a small apartment in Chelsea with parquet floors, which he loathed (“that bad blond polished-wood color”); an East Village studio where the living room doubled as his showroom, with a curtain down the middle concealing the bed; and, most recently, a furnished sublet in Chinatown while his own stuff sat in storage. I after 20 years in a tiny, rent-controlled Upper West Side walk-up, whose low overhead had enabled me to travel and live abroad.
It was the first loft I saw, and it had the TriBeCa trifecta: open space (no columns); lots of light, even in the back (no building behind it); and high ceilings (the original coffered tin). Sometime in the Seventies it had been converted from a factory for nuts and bolts to a residence, with carpeted platforms and Sheetrock partitions indicating bedrooms. For the renovation I hired Richard Gluckman, an architect best known for galleries and museums, whose skills and reputation were out of all proportion to my budget.
Like most new homeowners, Wang and I came with fantasies of change. His: “Having lived in New York, where you’re always out and your friends are always out because no one has enough space to entertain, I imagined an apartment where I could have my friends over and on the weekend not have to leave because I feel claustrophobic,” he says. “Where I would learn how to cook or do crafts projects.” Mine: I would host big parties and bring together people from different fields; I would cook intimate dinners for friends who would linger late into the night; I would retreat from the city’s assault on my senses, read, and write.
The kitchen was central to both of our scenarios. Wang has moved all the appliances against a perimeter wall, with a marble-topped island nearby. “I have always loved an open kitchen,” he says. I’ve never understood an open kitchen. Or maybe it’s just that I’m too nervous a cook and an open kitchen leaves me nowhere to hide. The galley configuration that Gluckman came up with (and Wang did away with)—counters and appliances in two long, parallel rows, with tall boxlike storage—not only obscured prep bowls and dirty skillets, it also allowed me to stir the risotto, deglaze the roasting pan, and burn the beans in private, without feeling obliged to feign the convivial ease of a celebrity chef on the Food Network.