Violet Apples


Location Upper West Side

Price $92,000 in 1986 ($1,200 maintenance)

Square feet 1,450 (duplex co-op apartment in joined 1894 brownstones)

Occupants Jock Pottle (architectural photographer); Paula Pottle (service delivery manager, Bank of America)

The first level of the duplex looks like it hasn’t been touched since 1976—stained-glass lamps. But when you come up the stairs, you move ahead two decades into all sliding blond maple walls and glass and black and steel. [Jock] I was an old hippie. I moved here in 1976. Rent was $500 a month. It went co-op in ’86. This brownstone and the one next door had been joined in ’72. That allowed me to buy roof rights on the connected building. In ’98, I made the glass room on my roof to look out on the roof deck. I moved to New York in 1974, the day Philippe Petit walked between the twin towers. I grew up in the South. My father had hotels—one in Southern Pines, New Jersey, another in Spring Lake. Paula’s from Garden City, Long Island, one of the most beautiful towns, all old Tudors.

You have a horse! [Paula] His name’s Elliot. He’s a 17-hand bay thoroughbred. He’s just the nicest horse. He lives in Pine Plains. He’s got a beautiful spot. [Jock] Where we want to live. [Paula] On our friend’s converted dairy farm. Dutchess County used to be all dairy farms. He’s got a very large stall. [Jock] Twelve by 10. [Paula] He has a little companion, a donkey. No, they don’t sleep together. Horses sleep standing up. They keep each other company.

I loved how in Seabiscuit when the horse is upset and thrashing in his stall, the trainer says, “The smart ones don’t like to be alone,” and then in the next scene, Seabiscuit is calm with this baby goat and maybe some other animals. Thus, we can conclude that more intelligence means recognition that one shouldn’t be alone. Though I don’t know if this applies beyond horses but I bet it does. [Paula] They’re very social, herd animals. They need to all be together.

Does Elliot recognize you? [Paula] We stayed up at a bed-and-breakfast across the street. He whinnied all night long. [Jock] He knew we were there. [Paula] I have someone riding him. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not as bad as owning a boat. Anything to do with horses is expensive.

Because it’s an aristocratic hobby at this point? It’s because you can’t afford to have things fall apart—bridle, anything—or you put yourself in harm’s way.

Look at his picture! I love the way his nose, or whatever you call it, curves. What about your seven cats? [Jock] They’re idiots. [Paula] They have us very well trained. [Jock] I had four, she had three. It was like the Brady Bunch. We met in February 2001. [Paula] Otis runs the show. He decides who can sit in a particular place. [Jock] Our cats are the result of rescued animals. I trapped some of them. I got about 30 over the years. I was basically cleaning up the backyards here. It was hard trying to get them homes. It took them a few years to stop being feral and get somewhat domesticated. You catch more than you can give away.

Where do they sleep? [Paula] On the bed. You don’t even know they’re there. Achoo!

You said you have 20 trees on the roof. [Paula] Biblical proportions. [Jock] Now we have about 10 probably. There’s an apple tree. We’re going to let you pick off one and eat it.

A day in the country. [Jock] The worst part was bringing the dirt for all these trees up four flights. I did this before I got older. The contractor who built the deck took 40 trips—he and his assistant each—to bring the lumber up here. I brought up all the marble for the bathroom.

Let’s go pick the apple. It’s violet. [Paula] We have no insects up here.