Thursday, November 15th, 2012
77

The Tale of Laurel Touby, Bold Millionairess, So Far

I was recently at a tony wedding party—it was really fun! Hooray for love!—and all the women there were talking about, among other things of course, their dresses. It was all "Oh I got this at a sample sale" and the like. Everyone wanted to be clear that she hadn't paid full price. Many of them even hadn't. It was as if buying retail was a crime. And it was slightly scandalous (as if it were, like, 1890) that one somewhat New York-famous guest was wearing sneakers. They looked like Vans, people thought. But I pointed out that they were in fact Bottega Veneta sneakers—so, expensive, suede, woven vans—which retail for $560. So that was actually okay, I think.

This party took place the same weekend as Laurel Touby and Jon Fine's "Housewarming and Art Party." "Three long years ago," the invitation went, "we invited our friends to a Housebreak party at our new apartment. With the assistance of giant Sharpies, spray paint, and sledgehammers, many of you played an invaluable role in the earliest stage of our renovation." Among the invitees to this housewarming were novelist (etc.) Kurt Andersen, Flavorpill's Mark Mangan, Craigslist's Craig Newmark and enduring New York guest list names like Felix Salmon and Daniel Radosh. Not so fancy really.

This is what their apartment looked like three years ago. This is what it looks like now. As she told the New York Times in a profile in today's Home section, she bought the apartment for $3.9 million (actually, $3,905,000, according to city records, to be precise), from Natalie and Steven Judelson, lawyers who now make artisanal sea salt in Amagansett, and then "renovated and furnished it for an additional $2 million." Touby describes the apartment as being "in the heart" of Silicon Alley; it is not, it is really located somewhere near the left ear of Silicon Alley. Touby bought the pad with the money she received from the sale of the company Mediabistro, in 2007. Estimates as to her actual take-home varied at the time; New York solidly put it at $12 million, as she owned 60% of the company, so that's a minimum, though that doesn't count any of the traditionally tasty post-sale executive retention fees.

Not very much cash on hand, actually, to have spent $6 million on an apartment.

And not what I would do with it, exactly, nor is it likely what you would do with it, but yet that's not a stupid investment; the apartment is very large, and on a very nice block of 19th Street—their names are on the buzzer!—and has a pretty roof deck. As if a hot piece of Manhattan real estate ever did anyone wrong!

Besides, though this may be totally untrue, word is that residents in the building are granted free meals from the exceptional restaurant located on the ground floor, as a condition of the restaurant's lease.

But after the apartment purchase, they spent a few months traveling the world, starting in late 2009, and adding that to the $6 million minimum on the apartment and the fact that they are "helping to put seven nieces, nephews and cousins through college," I would suggest that they carefully mind their money. It goes away so fast. (What's interesting is that Touby said at the time of the company sale that one of the few things she wanted was a car and a driver; the cost of her apartment and renovation could have paid for a car and driver for at least 75 years.) [Update: Touby said on Twitter today that the whole "desiring a car and driver" thing is false, and that it was a "misquote" from ages ago. Too bad, cars with drivers are great!]

People this morning have been scandalized by the Times article, which details the $30,000 couch and the $30,000 "leather, chain-mail and fur indoor swing." (Sounds uncomfortable.)

Mostly people are horrified afresh at the display of dollar signs. To be sure, $60K on two pieces of furniture is conspicuous consumption. A $2-million renovation is an awful lot of renovation. Yet people in New York City do this all the time. They just do not often relate the price tags to the New York Times. Touby's greatest contribution to New York is to derail the secrecy surrounding these kind of expenditures. So often the rich are trotted out, eager for a little attention, American-style—but only the right kind of attention. They don't want to be gauche, so they don't actually discuss how much all that splendor cost, even as they drag it before us.

Touby is doing us all a huge favor, ripping off this bandage of classy concealment. Going forward, the Home section should spurn the refined who are unwilling to put their checkbooks out there. From rich to poor, we're too often easily scandalized by the sheer act of the naming of price, whether it be salary, shoes, rent or leather, chain-mail and fur swings.

Whatever your personal feelings, which are sure to vary, I think we can agree that 1. that really is too much to pay for a couch that's not even really that great and 2. that this is the single most objectionable sentence from the Times slideshow of the Touby-Fine residence:

The spalted maple chairs and walnut slab table were made by John Houshmand. “Spalted,” according to Wikipedia is a timber pigmented by a fungus.

Did we actually just get "according to Wikipedia"'d by the Times? On the fairly common topic of spalting, no less? What is this world coming to?

77 Comments / Post A Comment

David Cho (#3)

Someone bought MediaBistro?

LolCait (#460)

Just wanted to leave this here:

"Last month, he finished his yearlong reunion tour with his old band, Bitch Magnet, the post-punk, hard-core, Oberlin-grown band of his youth (and about which he is writing a memoir). "

@LolCait #collegeradiodaze

gregorg (#30)

Seriously, and take half the couch money and put it toward an authentic $20,000 coffee table by Yves Klein's widow's second husband, instead of a $3,500 knockoff by your decorator cousin.

And I still don't understand what's wrong with anthracite.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

How nice for them. Related: I don't have dental insurance.

boysplz (#9,812)

So that fur/chain mail swing was the first thing they bought for the renovation. I guess they structured the rest around that.

I feel like if I had that in my house I would worry someone would find a way to have sex on it and then I would have to email Ask a Clean Person about how to clean off fur and chain mail.

jolie (#16)

@boysplz It's actually really easy to clean both fur and chain mail, which sounds wrong but is right. Basically you just have to remember that fur is hair and can be washed accordingly, and chain mail is just metal, which can be spritzed and wiped down, as long as it's dried thoroughly, and WOW I need to go rethink some things about my life choices now.

wallsdonotfall (#6,378)

@jolie What about the hide part of fur, though? Can you just shampoo that just the same, or would it smell? I guess that's why you need to be rich enough to hire someone to blow-dry your swing.

jolie (#16)

@wallsdonotfall The hide part you would treat the same way you would a fine pair of leather shoes, i.e. you'd have an army of tiny men who would come out under the cloak of darkness to cobble and such. (Okay actually you'd just use a small amount of saddle soap probably. Also this has been fun but I've gotta finish up this Ask a Clean Person pitch I'm sending over to Palm Beach Illustrated and The Robb Report.)

Megoon (#201,547)

@jolie What about that rubberized dust magnet of a chair???

jolie (#16)

@Megoon WD-40

libmas (#231)

Agreed on the price tags. One of the bigger failures of my attempts at lifestyle-journalism was a piece tracking the planning of two weddings, one lavish and one on the cheap, with price tags every step of the way. Nobody but nobody wanted to share.

jolie (#16)

I guess you got over being tired of questions as a journalistic affectation?

laurel (#4,035)

@jolie Oh snap.

jolie (#16)

OH MY GOD. I skipped the slideshow earlier WHICH WAS OBVIOUSLY A MISTAKE/BRILLIANT STROKE OF PERSONAL JUDGMENT.

They didn't even bother to pick up the fucking newspaper when they were done reading it. They just left it in a heap next to that S&M muppet-looking chair. SWEET FANCY MOSES I DON'T THINK MY HEART CAN TAKE [COLLAPSES]

laurel (#4,035)

@jolie I will bet you $3,905,000 that the newspaper that appears in the photo is the same newspaper that the photo appears in.

jolie (#16)

@laurel I will not take that bet! But I will follow up my newspaper rage with a small dose of AND WHY ARE THERE BOOKS JUST SCATTERED ALL ABOUT THE FLOORS???

jolie (#16)

(Actually though, and I am DREADING this day but now at least I have a small bit of solace: It's gonna be AWESOME when Choire & Alex sell The Awl and six years later we get one of these pieces on them.)(Okay on Choire. But the Balk one would be BETTER. Bearskin rugs and Barcaloungers littered with empty Jules Destrooper Ginger Thins boxes.)

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@jolie Have you not been following the McAfee saga then?

jfruh (#713)

@jolie "Alex Balk's Palace of Sadness features retractable computer-controlled shutters that ensure that no moonlight ever enter any of the living areas."

jolie (#16)

@jfruh I need more thumbs.

laurel (#4,035)

@jfruh: Huh. I imagine him alone in his roof garden, bourbon in hand, intent on winning a staring contest with his nemesis, the moon.

jolie (#16)

@laurel "Alex Balk's Roof Garden of Sadness, where all the plants are dead and the moon shines constantly."

libmas (#231)

That slideshow! "Ms. Touby, said Jaqueline Touby, a distant cousin and her decorator, likes to touch things." That is some high comedy writing, that is.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@libmas The slideshow is the best.

Slava (#216)

@libmas The coffee table is totally seapunk

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Being transparent (Kimono open?!?) about paying $30,000 for a couch is dense.

jbsquare (#793)

speaking of sneakers, the sneaks Jon is wearing in the first slide make me want to bleach my eyes.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@jbsquare They are Nike BAPE wannabes. That Jon has a whole collection of them! Totally punk!

jbsquare (#793)

@Clip Arthur I guess my main problem isn't with the sneaks, its with men entering middle age who dress like adults but decide to add some BOLD FLAVOR to their outfit via their shoes. If he wants to sass up his outfit try a bowtie, an ascot, a handkerchief in the coat pocket, or maybe a black eye.

@jbsquare The sneakers are today's equivalent of a monocle.

@jbsquare : So, basically, Yohji Yamamoto SS2013 menswear?

http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/S2013MEN-YJIYMOTO/

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@jbsquare I don't disagree. I think it's ridiculous as well. But hey, I am no millionaire! And wow, they are moving into venture capital? So that will be their home office as well? Look, no begrudging anyone cashing in & making a shitload in the process, but I look at that loft & all I see is the word "forced." Maybe that's who they are, but I thought that world of dot-com money died years ago. If I made that much off of anything & had no kids, I would just move out of NYC completely. Maybe keep a small office, but that's it. This seems like an echo boom of a dot-com bubble bursting.

RonMwangaguhung (#3,697)

cars with drivers really are the only way to go in this town

jbsquare (#793)

@Gef the Talking Mongoose ha, yeah well either black eye or bold pants. not both, at least for older dudes

jbsquare (#793)

@Clip Arthur if they are moving into venture capital I guess its only a matter of time till he trades those sneakers for birkenstocks.

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@jbsquare Maybe. Just inspired to look up Laurel’s Twitter at twitter.com/laureltouby . Check out the first sentence her self description, “founder of mediabistro.com, which I sold.” She said “which I sold?” She can’t just say founder of mediabistro.com & current venture capitalist? Oy vey!

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Clip Arthur "which I sold, and then renovated my apartment"

Multiphasic (#411)

For a second I thought you wrote "novelist Chris Anderson," which would've been brillllllllllz.

So if they were bold and courageous to come out with what they paid for all that stuff I am going to be just as bold and courageous and say, openly, in front of all of New York, that that is one hell of a fucking horribly decorated apartment. You're welcome.

Also books are stored vertically for a reason. It's so you can easily take them off the shelf. To read them.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@My Number Is My Address: "Mmmmy, what a stunning apartment. Books are awfully decorative, don't you think?"

dado (#102)

I'm not going to read it, so if someone can tell me if there were any feather boas in the article I would appreciate it.

hockeymom (#143)

@dado None pictured, though implied.

hockeymom (#143)

A huge problem with the seating in that loft. The rubber "fur" chair looks like a sticky nightmare that will swallow you up and the couch is built for laying on, not sitting for any length of time. The swing is more like a hammock so I'm not getting where they read all the books scattered around on the floor. Maybe they read on the floor?

On the plus side…lacquered walls! Love that. (wrecked by the cutesy "love/hate" pillows however.)

Whatever. Rich people things.

"Open kimono" needs to die.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

Am I the only one who liked the "before" picture a lot better?

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@stuffisthings A few days later & it dawned on me. I know exactly where this building is. I used to work for a company that had a loft space on one of the lower floors. Book publisher & artist agency. The space was great! Owners lived & worked in the same space which wasn't awkward at all. It was fun. Boss was a boss, but whatever. This was the late 1980s/early 1990s so I've matured. Neighborhood was 100% different back then. It was still filled with some companies occupying storefronts & lofts. Still a tad sketchy walking down Park Avenue South. The two banks on that corner now were once a fabric store & a designer bath fixture store. When the movie theater opened on Broadway it was a big deal.

But back to the space.

The original layout of all the spaces in the building was & is great. First true loft I ever spent time in. Basically a huge & open space equivalent of a gallery with little pretense. And even though my boss at the time easily had enough money to buy the space in 1980s money—which was less than current money but still pricey—he was cool & had a fairly simple & useful kitchen. Let the cleaning guy cook food all day. Damn, I am having some fine memories. Not just of the place, but back when NYC was a tad more human even in loft spaces.

David (#192)

My favorite aspect of the ever-so-modest-apartment-renovation reviews about NYC properties are those that include photographs of residential interiors filled with art, which happen to have a "retail" value in the millions of dollars. And as if beside the point, that component of what it takes to pull off the whole composition goes unremarked.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

They don't have the taste, they don't have the bargain hunting talent, but they sure have the money. It's not like they did something servicey here to do us a favor, they simply had no choice but to flaunt the money.

jfruh (#713)

Relevant quote from Splitsider's interview with Charlie Murphy, when he's asked about Dave Chappelle:

"So, if you happen to be a guy who was brought up in the hood and now you find yourself with a bank account of five million dollars, guess what? You can say "I quit" and never work again. Are you gonna be living in a big mansion? No. Are you gonna be throwing big elaborate baller parties? No, but you'll be not worrying about work, not worrying about money. [With] the interest of five million dollars, you have a nice home, bills to be paid, all that, for the rest of your life… Dave Chappelle is content. He got his money and he owns his house. He lives in the rural area of Ohio. Low overhead, he's a simple living guy. He's good guy."

Living the dream.

jolie (#16)

Since we're all still here I want to say this: I know we're playing right into the NYT's hand but this week has been a DELIGHT what with the embarrassment of Sichan outrage and raised eyebrows we've been treated to.

jolie (#16)

(TO WHICH WE'VE BEEN ETC. I KNOW I KNOW.)

Sure, we're laughing now, but will we be laughing when that loft is used as the main location for American Psycho 3: Mad About the Boa?

My guess is, yes, we will.

cherrispryte (#444)

Okay so yes a lot of the furniture is beyond horrible, but the slideshow introduced me to the idea of a private rooftop, which to me seems like a heretofore unimagined level of luxury. I WANT MY OWN ROOFTOP ONE DAY. IMAGINE THE DECORATING YOU COULD DO.

Also the bathtub ain't shabby.

@cherrispryte A lot of houses come with them.

cherrispryte (#444)

@My Number Is My Address Not roof, rooftop. Flat and suitable for decorating, sunbathing and throwing parties upon.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

jesus christ it's as if no one ever learned to backdoor the prices on 1stdibs without a login.

cherrispryte (#444)

@Art Yucko best euphemism ever, right here.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

PRICE LOGIN/REGISTRATION or you know just click on the dealer's homepage for a free five-figure quote.

Matt (#26)

Its Gold Cin time gain

Art Yucko (#1,321)

bartender b sure to spalt the rim

bartender pls

NinetyNine (#98)

I think Hearst > Radosh would have been a nicer underminery touch ('nicer').

Matt (#26)
NinetyNine (#98)

unbornwhisky sade all duts on elixir won't chut ott about how buxxfoot means tylor swift cant buy a thrill cuz feminism

Matt (#26)

we am demant all bloogers print aert there sprudshits form now un

NinetyNine (#98)

artyucko said: AW FUQQ

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Deleted by user

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Artisinally Salted by Pickle Abuser

gregorg (#30)

oh wait, also, the art is for sale?

Even Paige Rense didn't actually put Kenneth Noland paintings that were, themselves, for sale in A/D.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@gregorg: The only way I could like that comment better was if you included a reference to Bradley Little's murder.

tfey_hawbz (#36)

The saddest part of this article by far: "[Touby] also had a really good eye for talent… She spotted Rachel Sklar.”

untitled HD (#4,555)

Where is SPY magazine when we need them?

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

@untitled HD Kurt Andersen was there and he founded Spy magazine.

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