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Home Library: Majestic Metropolitan Living

Just a week after the fold of Metropolitan Home, I've got my hands on another city-centric design volume: Sue Hostetler's new book Majestic Metropolitan Living: Visionary Homes in the Heart of Cities. The shelter and design editor for magazines like Gotham, Hamptons, and LA Confidential, and the host of Plum Homes With Sue Hostetler on Plum TV (which "targets the most active, influential, and educated audience in the world"), Hostetler has tapped her cronies for tours of their unique and luxe urban dwellings.

The American dream of retiring to the pool and tennis courts in your countryside home is squashed by this book, which showcases a range of sprawling, real-life city homes. Each has an original sense of style, a warmth that defies traditional conceptions of "cold urban modernism," spectacular views, and in several cases, an outdoor space complete with a pool or lush garden. Many of the homes were created, not surprisingly, by converting former warehouses or other nonresidential buildings, or combining apartments.

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For the most part, I'd say the book, with big glossy pages, is nice to look at, and includes plenty of interesting details about how the homeowners and their elite decorators created each room. But, unless you have a bottomless well of decorating funds and an architect, I wouldn't say there's much to learn from a design perspective for the average decorator. I don't see much that's innovative in an attainable sense, and quite frankly, a few of the homes have a "nouveau riche" aesthetic — lots of beige, shine — that doesn't appeal to me.

I was blown away by a former Jewish vocational school in Manhattan which was transformed into a 20,000-square-foot home, though. The labyrinth-like space is centered around a courtyard and has a rooftop garden, both filled with so much greenery you'd almost forget you're living in a concrete jungle. From blown glass doors made by a Chinatown welder to canvas seating painted grade-school style with acrylic paint and chandeliers made from plastic parts, it is imaginative and playful, but its bones have just enough polish that you know the fantasy is for real.

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