January 29, 2013
photo by François Halard via Vogue.com
photo by François Halard via Vogue.com

In Adage this week, Ken Wheaton has a nifty little lice-biter of a piece about The New York Times being at the forefront of the real estate-based lifestyle troll game. He’s convinced, he writes, that the paper of record “has an Editor-in-Trolling. How else to explain all these 1,000-word pieces featuring New York Times bubble dwellers that so outrage those who can’t stand The New York Times‘ bubble dwellers?” (Here’s my pick for the most New York Timesian Story of All Time, from earlier this summer to get an idea of what he means).

Hold onto your hat though old boy—your moth-bitten, cartoon hobo hat—because Vogue has one-upped the Times at its own game. In a piece from earlier this month called “American Pastoral: Miranda Brooks and Bastien Halard’s Brooklyn Home“, which somehow fell through the cracks in my news reader/the actual cracks in the structure of the awful home/boxcar I live in until today (via not being a shitty person/a self-flagellating aspirational poor), Chloe Malle has written the Platonic ideal of the type of  #covetgaze, troll game real estate pornalism Wheaton is talking about. Let’s learn to hate its subject, its author, and ourselves all a little bit more, shall we?

The story is about the charmed life of Miranda Brooks, a Vogueish person, and her architect (of course he is) husband named Bastien Halard, which, also, of course: Bastien, who transformed their “timeworn row house into an Arcadian wonderland.”

“Did you feed the bunnies?” Miranda Brooks asks her husband, Bastien Halard, as she ladles cauliflower soup into an antique ironstone china bowl.

That’s only the opening sentence, but let’s just go ahead and assume I’ve highlighted every single other one contained therein and save ourselves some time.

Yes, he has. And he’s replaced the hay in their hutch, which Halard, an architect, built himself this past spring on the rooftop garden of the couple’s four-story Neo-Grec Boerum Hill brownstone. To his professional credit, Peter and Bun Bun’s hutch withstood Hurricane Sandy, though Halard noticed the next morning that the bunnies themselves did look rather windswept.

Hurricane Sandy, you’ll be glad to know, wasn’t powerful enough to fuck with Miranda and Bastien’s bunny hutch. Thousands of people, sure, but what do they do for work? Gross, don’t answer that.

That’s not the only huge national event that revolved around their cute little home, however.

And now it’s a sleeting Wednesday, President Obama has just been reelected, and the East Coast is bracing for another bout of perilous weather—a nor’easter this time. “Last night really made me remember it all,” says Brooks…

Yes, that was a momentous day in our country’s history right? Haha, fuck you, not that, she’s talking about her house.

…without a hint of nostalgia because she is referring not to the historic 2008 election but to her move here, one week before Obama won the presidency for the first time, with Halard and their two daughters, Poppy, six, and Violette Grey, four.

Without a hint of irony either. Without a hint of self-awareness either. Without a clue, you might say.

True, the plotline was not wholly original—chic Manhattan couple comes to Brooklyn, motivated by a growing brood and a need for space—but the execution couldn’t have been more DIY (Halard found the listing on Craigslist), a refreshing departure for a couple whose respective clients do not include that acronym in their vocabulary.

How quaint… finding a place to live on the… *shudders* internet.

(Brooks, a landscape designer and Vogue Contributing Editor, has designed the gardens of everyone from Ronald Perelman to Amanda Peet, while Halard has his own well-heeled roster.) Indeed, Halard completed the entire gut renovation in six months with a crew of Chinese contractors who couldn’t read an architectural plan, and with a budget roughly equivalent to what one of his clients would pay for a bathroom.

Everything^

I don’t even want to read it anymore in order to make fun of it, so I’ll just pull out a few key phrases and sentences, which, ok, might take them out of context, but keep in mind the entire context of the piece is pretty evident already, so I think you’ll be able to follow.

“The garden is tiny,” Halard called Brooks to say. “You’re not going to like it.” But the car she’d ordered was already idling downstairs, so she made the journey and entered the small garden—then covered in solid paving stones—“and saw the little carriage house and just said, ‘It’s perfect for us’…

It really is.

He preserved the staircase and happily exposed the joists.

Feels like maybe this article is happily exposing the joists.

“It wasn’t about an architectural statement, really. It was more about being clever, just finding a bit of charm. And Miranda did all the colors,” explains Halard, surrounded by walls painted his wife’s favorite hue: Fenching Blue from Papers and Paints in London.

Having a favorite hue.

The result in spring, with the garden blooming, is a lush Arcadia worlds away from the dense Jenga towers of the Gowanus Houses across the street and the hurtling F train two blocks away.

Dense Jenga towers of the Gowanus Houses.

Don’t worry though, they’re just like you and I, they pretend their house is a mess when people come over to feign humanity. “Brooks apologizes as she leads the way up the stairs to the second floor. ‘I’m sorry; it is really bad,’ she says of the mess.”

Why is it so messy, you might wonder? Isn’t there someone from Vogue coming over to write a piece? Well, funny story, you see… “Her housekeeper lives on Long Island and has been stranded without rail service since Hurricane Sandy.”

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