Quest for Perfection
Sutton Place neighborhood 12-Room home designed by master Architect, Rosario Candela
The residential architects of the prewar era shared a common design ethos, and the best prewar apartments are a result of this “meeting of the minds”. There was a commonly accepted idea about what constituted gracious family living in those days relative to the requisite spatial configuration. The ideal apartment has three distinct functional zones: Living, Sleeping, and Service. Each zone should ideally be accessible from a central entrance foyer, and from each other. The Living Zone consists of a Living Room with a wood burning fireplace; a Formal Dining Room; and a paneled Library with built in bookcases. In superior apartments often the Dining Room and the Library open to the Living Room to create, with the Entrance Foyer, a four room suite for entertaining. There would also be a powder room to serve guests. The Sleeping zone should consist of several bedrooms and windowed bathrooms. Each bedroom should have an adjacent bath, and at least two closets. In my opinion, the better apartments have an adjacent bath en suite with the Master Bedroom. This bathroom also includes a stand-up shower in addition to the bathtub. The Service zone consists of Butler’s Pantry, Kitchen, and one or more Maid’s Rooms with at least one maid’s bath. If there are more than two Maid’s Rooms, there should be a Servant’s Dining Room, or Servant’s Hall.
In an ideal configuration, all the rooms (except those in the Service Zone) should have outside views. It is very common for the Formal Dining Room, or any number of secondary bedrooms, to face a courtyard, but the fewer of these the better. Of course, there are caveats to these rules.
The very fact that I can outline these basic parameters implies that there is such a thing as the “perfect” apartment. I am not sure if I believe such an apartment exists. It may seem hard to believe, but I understand completely when someone spends $20 Million on a 14 room Rosario Candela penthouse and feels like they are compromising some unalterable design characteristic. It could be that the breakfast room doesn’t face east, the Powder Room is too far from the Dining Room (or too close), or the terrace opens off the Library, and not the Living Room. As small as these “faults” are, they are real nonetheless. It is the very existence of these “imperfections” that drives us in our quest for real estate perfection. It is like the quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail itself doubtfully exists, but that is immaterial, as the quest for it is joy itself.