February 23-March 1, 2006
cover storyWe Can Rebuild It
We're a city in flux.
On the one hand, you've gotta keep your ass moving 'round here lest some overzealous developer drop a new condo on it. And y'know, god bless 'em. Even though we're sort of aesthetically opposed to the whole cookie-cutter condo movement, we're told we should welcome the pre- and post-kids dining and nightlife crowd they attractregardless of where they heard that it was cool to move here.
On the other, plummeting mortgage rates have spurred a housing boom of another stripe, a fix'er-upper explosion that's turning neighborhoods you wouldn't have gotten within rock-chucking distance of 10 years ago into neighborhoods realtors are scrambling to come up with catchy compound nicknames for. Places where 20/30/40-something artsy/crafty/band-y types are putting down roots. Mythical places like Port Fishington.
Interior designer Floss Barber tells me that for folks who buy condos, "It's not really about the space." They're essentially looking for "a machine for living," she called it, dropping a little Le Corbusier on me. "You don't personalize your BMW or Mercedes, because it's good design," she explained. Which is why, in theory, people don't personalize their condos so much. Either that or they just see their condo as somewhere to keep their clothes while they're at work, the gym, the restaurant or the club.
So that's why we're dedicating this year's annual home and design issue to the restorers out there: the people taking old stuff, be it buildings, architectural elements or furniture, and making something sorta new or at least reveling in the oldness. We checked out architectural salvage mecca Re-Store up in Port Richmond. The two proprietors take stuff that's been ripped out of buildings and sell it to folks rehabbing their own houses. We got the sense that one housing boom was being driven by the detritus of another, so we sent Lori Hill to check out Re-Store's merch, to find out where it's going and where it's been.
We also sent A.D. Amorosison of a tiler, who knew?to talk with mosaic artist Bill Schafer about how some cracked tiles on the side of your house might boost its aesthetic value. We had trash-picked furniture queen Meredith Lindemon get the straight dope from a couple of craftsmen about when you should try to revive a curbside treasure and when it's best to let it go. Mary Armstrong investigates the two camps in the debate over historic districts. And we sent out our Vise Squad looking for the best hole-in-the-wall places to buy hammers and nails and plungersthey called them neighborhood hardware stores back in the 20th centuryand get the stories behind the grizzled characters who run them.