[Paleopsych] NYT: Cozy Nights on the Orient Express
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Cozy Nights on the Orient Express
NYT December 30, 2004
By JANE MARGOLIES
[Another idea on driving down the cost of supplying housing for those made
unemployable by robots.]
FOUR years ago, while living in Short Hills, N.J., Geoffrey
and Susan Harris bought an apartment on the Upper East Side
of Manhattan from a friend. The place was run-down and far
too small to be a full-time home for the couple and their
four children. Instead they bought it, somewhat
impulsively, as a pied-à-terre, a place to stay when they
visited the city for museum outings and shows.
But even as occasional quarters the place was cramped, with
just two bedrooms. The adults claimed one for themselves,
leaving the other, a modest room 12 by 14 feet, to
accommodate all four children. How could they all be
The room had too little space for four single beds, and
trundle beds seemed too much trouble. "The last thing we
want when we come here is to have to pull out and make up
beds," Mr. Harris said.
But it was plenty tall for bunk beds, at 9 feet 6 inches.
Eve Robinson, an interior designer the Harrises had hired
to help renovate the apartment, suggested built-in bunks to
free floor space for play.
To create a sense of romance about traveling to the a
pied-à-terre, Ms. Robinson, a mother herself, designed
stacked beds modeled on the sleeping compartments of
"Trains always appeal to children," she said. "I was
inspired by the idea of the Orient Express because it was a
bit exotic and would speak to the imagination of the
The contractors used birch plywood for the bed structure,
built on one of the room's longer walls, and made the
railings and ladders of maple. Six bottom drawers provide
storage space for toys and linens.
Each alcove has its own $1,400 sconce by Stephen McKay, a
lighting designer; (212) 255-2110. Each also has a gingham
curtain that can be drawn to provide a modicum of privacy
and a way for the two older children, Catharine, 11, and
Stephen, 9, to stay up reading without disturbing the
6-year-old twins, George and Elyse.
A faint silhouette of the New York skyline was painted on
the pale blue walls of each cubby by the contractor,
SilverLining Interiors Inc., which specializes in
decorative painting; (212) 496-7800 or www
.silverlininginteriors.com. "I liked the train moving
through the New York skyline," Ms. Robinson said.
On the other walls, subway graphics reinforce and update
the train motif. A horizontal line painted around the room
has circles representing the stops on the Lexington Avenue
line, which passes within a block of the apartment.
The bed unit, which cost around $17,000 (not including
$6,000 for the decorative paintings and strié wall finish
throughout the room), was completed two years ago.
That was just in time, as it turned out: shortly after the
renovation, Mr. Harris, who works in finance, took a new
job and the family moved to Boston. Suddenly an apartment
bought on a lark became the lifeline to New York.
"It's our connection to friends, to museums, to
everything," Mr. Harris said. He and his wife attend the
opera regularly, and the whole family makes the trip down
at least one weekend a month.
As Ms. Robinson predicted, the beds make the children's
Manhattan weekends something of an adventure. "It's fun,"
said Catharine, padding around the children's room on a
recent Saturday morning while Stephen made rubber-band
chains in his lower bunk. George cannonballed from his bed
just above, and Elyse nestled in an armchair with her Game
Boy, oblivious of the activity all around.
Such harmonious play is possible, Mrs. Harris is quick to
point out, only because the children occupy their tight
quarters for short stays.
It should be noted that they all have their own rooms back
in the family's Boston house.
"This is perfect," their mother said, "for two or three
days at a time."
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