Entertainment » Books

Designer Apartments

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Thursday May 12, 2011
"Designer Apartments" by Julio Fajardo
"Designer Apartments" by Julio Fajardo  (Source:hf ULLMANN)

Years ago, when we were young, we lived in San Francisco in a brand-new and very modern four-bedroom, four-bath triplex apartment with three roommates - and while three of us were typical twenty-year-olds with flea market finds, the fourth amongst us was a design-savvy queen whose bedroom and bath looked as if it were from a furniture showroom and had never been lived in, even in the early morning after a late night out. Periodically, we would peer into that master bedroom suite - and marvel at how everything was so pristine, so clean - so perfect. It was inspiring to witness - even if we knew that our own rooms would never look like that.

Pornography takes many forms - and design pornography is one of the most insidiously seductive. Who hasn't coveted an apartment glimpsed in the pages of a design magazine? Who amongst us hasn't imagined our own lives in those rooms? Sunset cocktails on the penthouse terrace and dinner parties for sixteen - and yet, who hasn't also wondered how everything is kept so clean?

Recently, we spent an evening immersed in such fantasies, provoked by the recent republication of Julio Fajardo's "Designer Apartments." Weighing in at nearly seven pounds and almost five hundred pages, Fajardo's book is a definitive tome on modern living in some of the world's more glamorous cities. As Fajardo reminds us, our home is our lookout onto the world, "our principle reference point" - and ever since the Industrial Revolution, the advent of apartment life has enabled our living spaces to become more and more like beacons.

Detail from ’Cinema Apartment’ from "Designer Apartments"  (Source:hf ULLMANN)

Highlighting more than sixty apartments around the world, all of them lavishly photographed (and accompanied by text in four languages: French, English, Dutch, German), Fajardo focuses on contemporary trends in design and living. The book’s various sections on "New Buildings," "Renovations," "Duplex," "Lofts," "Studios," and "Attics" examine residential construction trends as well as the innovative solutions that the world-renowned architects and designers employ to complete their visions. The inclusion of floor plans, as well as descriptions of the renovations, enables a reader to better understand how the rooms and apartments were transformed.

Flipping through the pages, a voyeuristic viewer moves from Miami to Melbourne, with stops in Berlin, Vienna, San Francisco, Amsterdam, New York, Rome, Milan, Born, Turin, London, and various other locales - peeping into rooms and windows, pausing in doorways - and trying to imagine exactly what kind of perfect people live in these spaces.

As fascinating as the apartments is the manner in which they reflect (or deflect) their environments. Invariably, there’s an abundance of light, as well as an expanse of space - and not a child or pet in sight. These are apartments with views - and no detritus whatsoever: no magazines, no framed photographs, and very little food. One closet reveals only white shirts. Staircases float, as if trod on only by poltergeists, and there’s a preponderance of white sofas. Floral arrangements are studies in ikebana.

And somehow, even with the absence of any people, it’s all very erotic - at least for those of us in touch with our obsessive-compulsive dominatrix. We once read that Madonna had said her favorite part of the day was when the maid had finished work - and everything was perfect. We can relate.

MulackstraBe 12, a residential building in Berlin  (Source:hf ULLMANN)

Republished by hf ULLMANN, "Designer Apartments" was first published in 2007 - and one of the more striking revelations in looking at these apartments is how quickly technology has changed. Some of the televisions and computers glimpsed in the offices and studies are outmoded - and yet, what is even more striking is the awareness that the contemporary classic furnishings in these photographs are timeless. We’re talking Eames, Breuer, le Corbusier, Knoll, Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and all those Barcelona chairs, Wassily chairs, tulip stools, egg chairs - and even those pieces from Philippe Starck that have dominated modern life during the past two decades.

Some of us frequent open houses, merely for the joy of seeing how other people live (and what park and river views they possess). And others spend Sunday with the "Real Estate" section, scrutinizing floor plans in the real estate brochures. If these behaviors ring true, and if you’ve ever wanted to see the inside of a penthouse atop Olympic Tower in New York, then "Designer Apartments" is for you. Park it on your night table and fuel your nocturnal fantasies for months on end.


PRICE: $39.99 / 480 pages / hardcover
LINK: Designer Apartments

A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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