Friday, May 20, 2016

Annals of Real Estate: Room for Books

This three-bedroom coop in a building on Memorial Drive instantly caught my eye. It has a Charles River view and it's listed for a little over a million smackers.

 All photos: Thalia Tringo, Thalia Tringo & Associates Real Estate, Inc.

This unit is refreshingly un-staged. No one decluttered it. Nothing was updated; no walls were painted neutral gray. You won't find the obligatory cowhide rug, dramatic mirror, large potted plant, knockoff DWR chair, or perfectly placed cozy throw.

Instead there one heck of a library:

When I first saw these photos, I felt like we already lived here. But as I kept looking, I realized for the first time that I have indeed successfully curbed my husband's book-collecting habits to a reasonable level. He only has a fraction of what this person has. (And keep in mind that this person, being an academic, also has an office somewhere that's really bursting with books. They all do.)

Here's the living room. Someone has spent lots of time bargaining in souks. I feel the need to catch up, especially in the rug department. There are very few deals on Persian rugs in Egypt or we'd have the layered look, too:

This person does not have cats, or these stacks of books would be spilled across the floor:

I've been informally studying the Academic Interior for decades. Several years of house-hunting in Cambridge provided the fieldwork I needed to supplement anecdotal knowledge I'd gleaned from friends and family over the years.

It's plausible that a person can have this many books and not be an academic. Plenty of people simply like and collect books.

How do I know this place belongs to an academic?

Find the sofa.

There isn't one. There's a stiff wooden bench with a leather seat in the photo below, as well as a sort of low daybed, which looks hard and is probably only comfortable for smoking opium.

Academics are oblivious to the joys of fine upholstery. The best thing you can do for an academic pal is to take her shopping and talk her into a decent sofa. This will dramatically increase her comfort although she probably won't notice. At least you'll have a nice place to sit when you visit instead of a wooden chair or the floor.

I like to see bookshelves lining a wide hallway:

I do not like to see books and papers sticking out from shelves. It drives me crazy, to be honest. But academics don't care a fig. If you bring it up, you'll probably get a blank, uncomprehending stare.

I like to have bookshelves in the bedroom:

Those shelves in the corner look particularly inviting and I love the little chandelier. But I can't help wondering about whoever is under that bedspread.

In the guest room, a gracious host will be sure to place a few interesting books for bedtime reading. Just as this host did:

Many academics don't understand the value of headboards, which is strange — reading in bed is a drag without one.

I  was expecting to see books — a few cookbooks, at least — in the kitchen, but no:

This is an academic kitchen for sure, however. I could give an illustrated lecture on how I know this, but I'll save it for another time.

I'm curious about what's in that round jar next to the wine bottle. Cigarette butts? Weed?

I know that some readers have been patiently rooting for us to find a new place to live. I'm grateful for your kindness and good wishes. But, before you let your imagination run away about this place, let me remind you that it's in a coop building. A coop board would never approve a quiet couple with five cats, even in Cambridge, a city that thrives on eccentricity. If we had five children with behavior problems, who are were all aspiring drummers and hyperactive bagpipers when they weren't tap-dancing, we'd be shoe-ins. But five clean, silent, fastidious, well-behaved cats? NEVER!


  1. Hm. I have a hard time imagining what the current residents are like as neighbors. I see an Israeli flag on the fridge and a pornographic painting on the bedroom wall…they certainly don't try to soften the edges of their personality. (And Israelis have LOTS of personality--I should know, half my extended family is there.) If you wished to restore this place to its intended glory, the coop board would probably roll out the red carpet for you.

  2. Maybe you could say you have 2 cats? Some of your cats look alike. Who would notice? Or you could say you are "cat-sitting" for friends on a long, academic journey. Hmmmm
    BTW, that picture in the bedroom to the left of the window.....

  3. The floor beams in this building must be weight bearing to the maximum! If not, with all the books in the apartment above, the occupants in the floor below must have large cracks in the ceiling. Some of the windows look perfect for viewing by the resident cats and there is space galore for them to speed about the apartment. Also, what is underneath the shelf next to the refrigerator.

  4. You never know, stranger things have happened


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