NYC's Most Expensive House

Posted by Steve on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 1:44am

I don't know which is more remarkable: the price tag or the appreciation.

The 18,500-square-foot, 103-year-old Henry T. Sloane Mansion at 18 East 68th Street just went on sale for $64 million, the most expensive officially listed house ever in New York. I thought that rocker, Lenny Kravitz, had set the unbeatable bar a couple of years ago when he paid a reported $40 million for the Duke-Semans mansion on Fifth Avenue. But since then there have been several townhouse sales in the $50 mil range. Not surprisingly, many of them are owned by weasels financiers, probably paid for by fat Christmas bonuses.

Since none of us will probably ever set foot in a house this expensive, let's take a virtual tour of this joint.

The outside is nice. Okay, it's a mansion. Maybe it's not the largest or most impressive crib in the neighborhood but, hey? No garage? Where do you store the garbage cans? And for $64 mil I want a second floor deck overlooking the peasants so I can pose like Mussolini. Something maintenance-free, maybe Trex. A few potted plants. Some string lights. Yeah.

The limestone could use a good cleaning. For this scratch, don't you think the sellers could invest in a little curb appeal?

Synchronicity, flashbacks and old photos

Posted by Steve on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 5:37pm

Yesterday was one of those strange "theme" days we all experience from time to time. It began with my neighbor, Betsy, and me taking a trip to an art store on 3rd Ave to get some old Brooklyn photos framed that I'd collected over the past year.

The centerpiece was something I'd bought from, which I'd discovered on the recommendation of a forum regular on Old House Web. It's a shot of a freezing cold, February day in Brooklyn Heights circa 1908 with the Manhattan Bridge under construction in the distance. The detail on the photo was mesmerizing (click here to see what I mean).

I bought a large copy of it. My intent was to frame it myself. After all, if I can construct cabinets and stained glass, how difficult could it be? However, as I started researching the techniques online I kept seeing comments recommending a web site,, which would build the frames for you for about the same price as stick building them. You provide the dimensions and they ship it to you in two to four business days. I priced out a nice frame, matte and foam board for around a hundred bucks. Pretty good deal.

In 5 years I'll make another plan

Posted by Steve on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 11:08pm

Want to know how out of shape you are? Paint your house. Between squatting down to cut in baseboards and torquing your body into dramatic poses while standing at the top of a ladder with a roller, you'll find out. Do it for several days and you'll have lactic acid boiling in muscles you didn't even know you had.

Construction Gibberish

Posted by Steve on Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:08pm

It's not complicated enough that a novice DIYer has to learn the skills, tools, techniques and best practices for what is otherwise a simple job in the hands of the All Knowing. He also has to learn the Babylonian nomenclature for the stuff he needs to do it. For instance, last year I was derailed for two days trying to find the name for a particular type of moulding I needed for the wainscot in my master bedroom renovation.

old roof cap I had the same problem trying to find the rooftop vent "thingie" for my bathroom fan. The not-too-bright helper for the GC I'd hired to rough-in my upstairs bathroom a few years ago had installed the wrong kind. It's not called a "fan vent". It's called an "exhaust roof cap". It took me an hour in Google just to find the correct name for it.

Igor may have known what it was called but not what it was for. It's intended for a pitched roof. I have a flat roof. As a result, this was the source of three years of water leaks which were damaging my pristine walls and kept me scratchin' and fixin' until I sussed out what the problem was. After finding the product (a Broan #636 roof cap) it took three seconds with the literature to find "DO NOT INSTALL ON A FLAT ROOF".

On a pitched roof, the exhaust port (on the right) is oriented "downhill" (I'm sure there's a construction term reserved for that). What happens on a flat roof is that any storm force wind blowing into that port will pop open the lightweight damper and the rain will pour in.


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