They may be made of bricks and mortar, but houses too can masquerade as something they're not
‘The apartment is what it is, it’s not pretending to be anything else,’ said our dapperly dressed Spanish client as he drew the last puff of his cigarette on his first floor terrace, before flicking it to the street below. The flat has elegance and charm, like its owner.
I pondered his words as I rode my Vespa back to the office. How, I wondered, could a property pretend to be anything that it’s not?Surely, on entering it, spending the briefest amount of time in a place you understand it — or at least see it for what it is.
We’ve all come across people who present a façade, in fact, we all do to a certain extent, depending on the situation we find ourselves in. It’s human nature, though some extend that into the realm of wish fulfillment, fantasy and mendacity in certain cases.
We have the different ‘hats’ we wear – whether for our work, personal or romantic lives. Those who know us very well begin to see the sides of ourselves that we may not even have been consciously aware of. But, no one, is fully cognisant of the complexities that make us up as human beings. I guess we’re all pretending to be something at one time or another — we’re merely players on the world’s stage, as Shakespeare so aptly described it.
Elegant facades over narrow Amsterdam houses
But property is, what it is, surely? There’s no need for it to pretend. I thought of the pompous appearance of some London houses I’d seen that housed smaller than expected properties. I thought too of the tardis-like exterior that led to huge gardens and more space than you could imagine for those who wished to be discreet.
I then remembered Big Daddy (who acquired his name when a friend from the South of the United States was visiting and couldn’t help but equate him to the Tennessee William’s character from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) telling me the story of a celebrity client. Big Daddy is one of London’s leading art dealers and his client is one of the biggest stars in the world and, arguably in the early 90s when Big D had dealings with her, the biggest in the firmament.
She came to look at a Chagall he had for sale: One vivid in colour and exquisite in composition. She liked it. The price tag was $3 million. Big D didn’t need to sell hard as the piece sold itself. She turned to her adviser and said, ‘Does this piece say $3 million to you?’ ‘No, it says $2 million to me, that’s what it’s saying.’
That was the offer they made which was duly rejected to their regret as it was sold the following week for the requested amount.
As I remembered this, I thought how right our client was — his apartment said to me, just what he was after £3.5 million, and had no pretence to be more or less than that. Refreshing, really.