Lofty Living, On the Cheap

Dear New York Times Home & Garden section:

I like you. I do. But why do you insist on wasting precious resources writing about superficial people and their superficial-ness?

Witness: The first installment of “On the Cheap,” in which Times readers get hooked up with design professionals for redecorating advice. In this edition, a young fashion industry publicist gets advice on how best to spend her $5,000 budget (deemed “really tricky for a space this size” by the designer) to revamp her new apartment, a loft in downtown Brooklyn.

Pull quotes from the column on the first lucky winner include:

“But even though she spent months shopping, rearranging her furniture and studying a folder full of pages she had ripped from design magazines, the apartment still felt haphazard and too unsophisticated to invite over guests for a post-Fashion Week party, something she longed to do.”


“How you present yourself is important,” said Ms. Haines-Stiles, 29, who was especially embarrassed by a tear in her sofa that exposed the stuffing. “Everyone in this world is hypercritical. I don’t think I would feel comfortable having anyone from my office over the way it looks now, except maybe my closest friends. Definitely not my boss.”

The Times even supplemented their coverage of the redecorating melodrama with a package of graphics and interactive features.

And after all that multimedia effort, and a breathlessly reported chronicle of the late nights and Ikea runs spent desperately trying to get all the arrangements in place in time for the all-important Fashion Week party… we never get to hear about the party! Did anyone spill red wine on the freshly upholstered sofa? Were the publicist’s shallow co-workers able to mask their disdain at her mismatched chairs? It’s all tension and no payoff.

So maybe I should amend that plea. I don’t mind reading about superficial people. In fact I quite like it. That’s why the Weddings section is so much fun to read, after all. But why then, New York Times Home & Garden section, do you insist on writing earnestly about superficial people and their superficial-ness? The joke is supposed to be on them, not you. If you must write about superficials, write about them with some self-awareness; with some tongue-in-cheekiness for gosh sakes!

So as an antidote, I’m going to enter my shabby cubicle into the “On the Cheap” contest. How about you, dear readers? Does anyone have a dwelling that would actually be interesting to read about? Something the Times could write straight about without missing the mark? Perhaps you’re living in a yurt in Central Park or a houseboat on the East River, or maybe you have a treehouse in Queens or you’ve decided to forgo rent and crash in a really nice storage unit near the West Side Highway? Please, anything but a loft in Brooklyn.

Here’s how to enter:

This is the first in an occasional series of room makeovers costing $300 to $10,000. If you have a makeover problem or you are a design professional willing to help solve one, contact us at

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.