Thunderstorms hit the pavement
10:05 PM. Photo: JH.

It was in the high 90s yesterday in New York. Once you’re out on the actual pavement, the heat is all you can think about. The cab I found had some air-conditioning and that gave my brain the room to think of other things. For me, in summertime, it also evokes memories, particularly for the child when all of these things were phenomenal, and many times a wonder. The barefoot boy.

Back on the street (with shoes on) – in this case Fifth Avenue in the 50s, it seemed even more intense. I walked by Abercrombie & Fitch on 56th and Fifth. They had their doors wide open with the cold air billowing onto the sidewalk. Same when you passed by Harry Winston and Bendel’s. So much cold air you can (very) briefly cool off just walking by. This always strikes me as absurd and begging consequence. A metaphor for the state we’re in. But I’ve got a list of those situations anyway, all mini-harangues for me.

I still don’t own an air-conditioner. I’m not a hold-out; I don’t want one. It used to be that I couldn’t afford one. Now I just don’t want one. It’s not as comfortable temperature-wise as my lobby but it’s a lot cooler than the pavement where all those bricks and mortar are heaving the heat at us.

I’ve got a fan in my bedroom and another near my desk. I also eliminate just about all my clothes I’m wearing, except what I need to answer the door. I keep a bottle of cold water nearby and I drink it often. This way I save the expense of the additional power cost and I also don’t have an ugly machine mucking up some of the little window space I have. It almost sounds like I’m roughing it except I’m old enough to remember when life was like this for everybody. I daresay it’s still like this for most of us humans, and the animals.

Don’t get me wrong, I like air-conditioning when I’m around it. I’m certainly thankful they air-conditioned the buses and subways. I’ll bet there are a lot of people out there who didn’t know that the buses and subway air-conditioning is very new. Actually omnipresent air-conditioning itself is still a fairly new addition for the masses, including the very rich. And cars too. You used to just roll down the car windows and turn the side vents outward to create a stream of cooler air. You didn’t always succeed.

I find when I am around air-conditioning, I like it cooler. Uh-huh. And I could hang out in it all day and all night with nary a complaint. I’m as big a consumer as any when tempted. But to what end, at what consequence may I ask? And ask and ask and ask. Or as my mother was fond of saying to her temperamental errant child, “we shall see said the blind man.” However, this is now and that is later.

Sunday morning in Bridgehampton, JH turned his Digital toward the Hampton Designer Showhouse. This entire enormous house was beautifully air-conditioned when we arrived about quarter to ten. Serene. I did not lend myself to thinking about my utility bill if I owned that house. I did not care; I was there to enjoy. I imagine a very rich person who could acquire this house would think the same thing: they were there to enjoy.

I have to say I enjoyed looking around on Sunday morning. There were very few people present, save a couple of the designers, a few maintenance and construction people; a PR woman. Not a lot of people for a house of this size.

The thing about wealth is you really can live better. Maybe not happier (even probably not happier), but you can live better. Besides being cooler, or warmer, depending on what you need, you can have an environment that has beauty and convenience. Beauty itself is a great convenience. The Hampton Designer Showhouse rooms reflected this simple truth. Then of course, there are the choices, the devices employed to use of space and light. The sensibility, the aesthetic. This is where the hair-splitting and altercations begin. And everybody becomes an expert. With taste to boot.

Furthermore Showhouses are becoming more and more venues for product placement which can challenge or even neuter the imagination at times. But that’s what separates the adequate from the brilliant. And you’re the judge of course. Then you leave and return to your presumably humbler, simpler, less maintained abode and think about what it might be like, what you might like. And what you want and what you need. Lend yourself a dream or two; it’s good for the blood pressure, and good for the house.

L. to r.: The pool and jacuzzi; Entering the showhouse through the foyer designed by Barclay Butera.
Priscilla Ulmann and Jennifer Powers for Scott-Ulmann.
Pat Healing and Dan Barsanti.
L. to r.: Philip Gorrivan; Eric Cohler.
Eric Cohler.
Christopher Peacock.
Robert Stilin.
Michael Rosenberg.
Dennis Rolland.
Kenneth Alpert.
Buzz Kelly.
Martha Angus and Paula Caravelli.
A look around the showhouse.
Falk and Gordon Interiors.
Philip LaBossiere.
Noel Jeffrey.
House & Garden.
Laurence Rassin.
de la Torre Design Studio.
Alex Papachristides in his room.


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July 19, 2006, Volume VI, Number 116
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/