Skip to Content
CityRealty Logo

Features

They don't make them like they used to! (45 East 9th Street, #72 - The Agency Brokerage) They don't make them like they used to! (45 East 9th Street, #72 - The Agency Brokerage)
When a listing is described as being in "white box" condition, it's exactly what it sounds like - a minimally finished space with the most basic of finishes. Some appreciate that, either because it won't compete with sweeping views or because it allows them to more easily put their own stamp on a space. Others, however, find it boring, especially compared to the grand interiors of old.

As such, some designers are working popular prewar designs into their new developments so as to offer the best of both worlds. One example can be seen at 109 East 79th Street, the new Upper East Side condominium that has incorporated sunken living rooms into select units. This has proven popular - many of these have already sold or entered contract at high prices, and the two current availabilities do not have this feature. We take a look at popular prewar design features, what homeowners get out of them, and listings in new and old buildings alike featuring them.

Crown Moldings


In prewar buildings, S-shaped moldings on top of a cove were installed to hide the cracks between the ceilings and the walls. Today, crown moldings are mostly enjoyed as a feature that adds character to a room.

108 Leonard, #9C (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

The San Remo, #8A (Compass)

The Dakota, #47 (Coldwell Banker Warburg)

Coffered Ceilings


In architectural terms, "coffer" means "indentation" and can refer to grid patterns in any shape (rectangles, octagons, or squares were the most popular). In addition to looking extremely dramatic, they have the benefit of absorbing excess sound. However, Bob Vila advises that they work best in rooms with high ceilings and can look too claustrophobic otherwise. Modern acoustic technology allows for smoother ceilings in new developments, but they remain eye-catching.

Goodhue House, #14M (Compass)

The Sherry Netherland, #2307 (Fox Residential Group Inc)

45 East 9th Street, #72 (The Agency Brokerage)

Herringbone Floors

In fashion and architecture alike, "herringbone" refers to an arrangement of rectangles that bears a resemblance to the bones of a fish. Precision is key when laying the wood to create the pattern for flooring, which may explain why we're seeing wide-plank floors more often in new developments. However, herringbone floors have the benefit of drawing the eye forward and creating a dramatic effect, especially in a large-scale space.

49 East 86th Street, #6A (Fox Residential Group Inc)

The Peter Stuyvesant, #6C (Compass)

40 East End Avenue, #12B (Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group)

Step-Down Living Rooms

Step-down living rooms are also known as sunken living rooms or "conversation pits," as architect Bruce Goff dubbed it when he installed one in an Art Deco house in 1927. Designers and developers eventually came to see them as tripping hazards and stopped including them in their buildings, but their sense of grandeur and appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mad Men alike have immortalized them in many a New Yorker's imagination.

Eastgate, #7D (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

20 Clinton Street, #6G (Nest Seekers LLC)

180 East 79th Street, #10E (Fox Residential Group Inc)

Built-in Bookshelves

In the age of e-books, minimalism, custom closets, and open floor plans, built-in bookcases and shelving are not in significant demand. But decades ago, they had the benefit of adding storage without eating into an apartment's precious square footage.

264 Lexington Avenue, #10A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

44 East 67th Street, #4D (Compass)

The Parc Vendome, #18C (Coldwell Banker Warburg)

Arched Openings

For a time, arched doorways and entries were seen as a quaint feature of yesteryear and an indication that an apartment was not exactly new. But what's old is new again, and design enthusiasts appreciate how they add charm and character to an otherwise unremarkable space. Some intrepid DIYers have even gone so far as to add them to their modern homes, but the arches are already in place at many prewar listings.

447 East 57th Street, #2A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

590 West End Avenue, #PHB (Compass)

1165 Fifth Avenue, #14/15C (Coldwell Banker Warburg)

Ornate Mantlepieces

In prewar and modern homes alike, fireplaces naturally act as the focal point of a living room. However, today's fireplaces tend to be decorative and with more streamlined designs, as opposed to the ornately carved mantlepieces that were likely to be found in homes with servants whose job it was to dust and polish the furniture.

71 East 77th Street, #9A (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

151 West 86th Street, #7D (Corcoran Group)

The Majestic, #11E (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)
Schedule an Appointment
To tour any of these properties, just complete the information below.
  1. Your message (optional)
  2. Your name
  3. Your phone
  4. Your email address
Or call us at (212) 755-5544

Additional Info About the Building