One-Bedroom Co-op in 1960s Red Brick High-Rise

 Location Chelsea
Price $50,000 (1984) (maintenance $580)
Square feet 740
Occupant Russell Hassell (book designer)

Been here long? Nineteen years.

Time flies. It's now worth eight times what I paid for it, $435,000 on the open market—so they tell me. I'm stuck here. If I were to get a larger, two-bedroom apartment with a view, we're talking $800,000. I couldn't afford that. I pulled out of my mutual funds after September 11. I threw everything over into cash, just let it sit. The stock market's been so crazy, I thought, why not get some enjoyment out of my money and buy a place in Miami. I paid half of the $178,000 upfront. I already have friends calling, "Do you think I could go down next month?"

Rage to order: Russell Hassell in his Chelsea closet
photo: Joshua Farley
Rage to order: Russell Hassell in his Chelsea closet

I read—this is in real estate lingo—four of the five hottest months ever recorded for existing home sales have been racked up this year. Prices are popping. Do I sound like I'm on CNN? "Back to you, Chirpy, and thank God no bomb exploded today so we can yap about money." Now we're looking at your condo brochure. Blue umbrellas, frangipani . . . Palm, avocado, mango trees. It's 800 square feet, only eight units, Deco district. It's back on Michigan, 15-minute walk from the beach. I figure if a hurricane comes in, it won't be as bad.

Do you have some photos? Oh, a black refrigerator! I once knew this state's attorney's investigator, this was in another state, he'd go undercover as a hitman and then bring in the guilty parties. Anyway, he was getting a divorce from his wife and she wanted a black refrigerator, breast implants, and a pink car. The model rooms have all these white draperies pinched at the waist. Heavy brocade is really wrong for Florida. The realtors always get there first to part the curtains. Look—a ziggurat archway to the dining room.

So, did you fall in love in Miami? No, but I'd like to. There's something about the heat that makes people really liquid. I have some osteoarthritic problems. I need the heat, the sun. It keeps everything loose. As a runner, the Miami beach in Miami is the best—packed sand. I was born in Staten Island, New Dorp Beach. Then we moved to Towaco, New Jersey.

Let's talk about here. Those six red velvet pillows are lined up like soldiers. I'm all about order.

You're sitting poised like a cat on that ottoman. Actually this isn't an ottoman.

You're right! It is a round drum covered with raw foam. When you remove the top, voilà, it's where you store your clothes. It's like the place the actor kept his costume change in the David Sedaris play about the elf. I made it from a Sonotube that they use to pour concrete.

You have so many different color Post-It pads on your desk. I'm standing in Staples saying what color Post-Its do I want this time around.

You said you're putting your office in the kitchen closet. Yes, I'm getting a bed.

Your voice got soft and low. I've always lived in the living room, worked in the bedroom, so that I could close off the mess at the end of the day. But now I don't make that big a mess every day. I'm doing bigger books that are more ordered. Here's my other closet.

[Scream.] The watches have their own little rack, each umbrella has a hanging pocket. Now you're wheeling out your pants. This is the little trouser trolley.

You have a map of the closet on the door. "All shoes, backpacks on bottom . . . Sweaters, flannel PJs, blades . . . Skis & fabric put in first, then place rod." Your apartment is like a book. Everything unfolds.

 
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