photographs by Juliana Sohn
Coveting Thy Friend’s House, A real estate chain of admiration, love and envy.
OBJECT OF DESIRE: THE CHELSEA GARDEN APARTMENT THAT ELICITED OUR ENVY AND IS THE FIRST LINK IN A CHAIN OF COVETOUSNESS.
A group of editors recently got into one of those high-minded discussions that often happen here at The New York Times Magazine. It went roughly like this: “If you could kick a friend out of his home and take it for your own, who would it be?” I blurted my answer immediately. Pack your bags, Adam Rapoport. Please apologize to your family for me. Also, I’ll need you to leave the Knoll credenza behind. And that industrial cabinet with the marble top that’s in your kitchen. And your son’s antique wall map….
Maybe it’s bad form to talk so blatantly about coveting a friend’s home, but there it was. What occurred to us next, though, was that it might be interesting to keep the chain going. What if we called Adam Rapoport and asked him whose place he coveted, and why. And so on.
The result, spread out over the following pages, is a testament not just to the excellent tasted and enviable means of the participants, but also to some other truth: that no matter how lovely and exquisitely decorated your home, there’s always something else out there that elicits a longing, not just for someone else’s things, but for the experience that lives in and around those things, the life that created the place.
It’s the kind of longing that, in the wrong proportions, is possibly a little bad for the soul, yes. But envy processed the right way can also serve as a kind of revelation. If I can’t forcibly remove my friend from his home, maybe I can create something of the same feeling in mine. For that, what I need most is the inspiration, not the place or the things. Except the credenza. I’d really like that credenza.