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Mystery on 5th Avenue
June 12, 2008 7:03 AM   Subscribe

It began when Mr. Klinsky threw in his two cents, a vague request that a poem he had written for and about his family be lodged in a wall somewhere, Ms. Sherry said, “put in a bottle and hidden away as if it were a time capsule.”
Sometimes when you make a simple suggestion about the remodeling of your $8.5 million 5th Ave. apartment, the designer goes a little overboard. In an awesome way. Don't miss the slideshow.
posted by Who_Am_I (81 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amazing. It's like Myst brought to life.
posted by ssmith at 7:13 AM on June 12, 2008


This made my week.
posted by iconomy at 7:14 AM on June 12, 2008


Holy crap. I lvoe it all, but especially the radiator cover, it's such a mundane thing so perfectly personalized.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:17 AM on June 12, 2008


'lvoe' is a cypher for 'really dig'.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:17 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to complain about wealthy people and their silly toys, but this is much too cool. I've got to take up carpentry so I can have some hidden rooms and other neat stuff someday.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:18 AM on June 12, 2008


The firm waited a YEAR for the owners to discover the clues. Wow! I can't imagine what it was like to wait and not spoil the surprise.

This is amazing.
posted by ColdChef at 7:19 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not nearly as cool as all of this, but I have friends in Texas who had a bookcase with a hidden door built into their home, as well as some other secret passages. One day, when I build a house, it's going to be tricked out like this, somehow.
posted by ColdChef at 7:22 AM on June 12, 2008


This is the kind of thing I've always wanted, and never been able, to do.
*bursts into tears*

(also: cool!)
posted by aramaic at 7:22 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to think, when I was a kid, that all houses had secret doors and passageways.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:26 AM on June 12, 2008


Very nicely done.
posted by pointilist at 7:30 AM on June 12, 2008


Very neat, very expensive, I'll take two.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:31 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is awesome. I am so building something like this into my next house. Hidden magnetic locks? Hells yes.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2008


Well at least we finally know where Bear Stearns put all the life savings investment money that people entrusted to them. Thanks goodness _that_ little puzzle has been solved.
posted by Mike D at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2008 [8 favorites]


My idea to embed lucky and interesting objects inside the bales of the straw bale house I want to build someday is just... well... lame now.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:36 AM on June 12, 2008


I used to think, when I was a kid, that all houses had secret doors and passageways.

They do, you just have to look harder ;)

I especially enjoyed the fact that it was a little kid, and not even one who lived there, who finally noticed the cypher. And yeah ColdChef, I would have lasted about a week before I called them, yelling "look at the freakin' radiator already!"
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:36 AM on June 12, 2008


Several years ago somebody told me that many of the china hutches that were built-ins in old prohibition-era, craftsman style homes actually had secret compartments in the back for storing alcohol. I thought it highly unlikely, but I've now lived in several craftsman-style places in Oakland that were built in the early 20th century, and my kid-like wonder prevails despite logic, because one of the first things I do when I move in is check the backs of the built-ins for lost treasure.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:51 AM on June 12, 2008


My inner nerd weeps with longing.

My outer nerd wants to hone her woodworking skills.

*twitch*
posted by Madamina at 7:54 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


My sister-in-law is an interior designer. One of her clients was the co-founder of a well-known videogame company. She was asked to design the house with all sorts of hidden passageways, secret rooms, tunnels, etc. Imagineers from Disney also worked on trhe project, creating a subterranean landscape with hidden treasures, etc. For example in one hallway made to look like the interior of a Pullman sleeping car (with small childrens' guestrooms modelled on a train's cubby-hole sleeping quarters) you pass your hand on the underside of a wooden railing, tripping a sliding panel at knee level. By climbing through you enter a maze which eventually takes you down ladders, etc. As you traverse this maze you can find other "portals," such as one which opens up as a back panel to a locker in the pool house; another opening up behind a waterfall that empties into the pool. A fake file cabinet in the home study is actually a door, etc. Very cool.
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2008 [8 favorites]


somebody told me that many of the china hutches that were built-ins in old prohibition-era, craftsman style homes actually had secret compartments in the back for storing alcohol . . . my kid-like wonder prevails despite logic, because one of the first things I do when I move in is check the backs of the built-ins for lost treasure.

For "lost treasure", read "bathtub gin". Win!
posted by The Bellman at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2008


Gah. I can't decode the radiator cover cypher exactly. I think it's supposed to say

Cavan, the archer's child; curious, bright - - your quick mind pivots and leaps like a dancer. The key to preserving curiousity's light is to love the question as much as the answer.


but what I actually have here on the paper in front of me is

Cavan, the archer's child; curioum, bright - - your quice gind pivots and leaps like a dancer. The key to preserving curioumity's light is to love the question as much as the answer.

So Cavan's friend is better at this than I am. Unless Cavan does have a quice gind, and in that case, good for him! He can probably afford one.

(What am I doing wrong? I know I spelled curiosity incorrectly...)
posted by iconomy at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2008


That is the awesomest project ever. That is one inspired designer. I think that article just guaranteed that he's now booked for the rest of his life.
posted by GuyZero at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2008


Very, very cool!! LOVE this kind of stuff!! Great post!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:04 AM on June 12, 2008


This is some damn cool. Ever since I was a kid I've dreamt of a house full of secret hiding places and that fascination still hasn't gone away. And making the house a giant puzzle is even cooler.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2008


This is the kind of thing I've always wanted, and never been able, to do.

That's because builders, architects, interior designers, sculptors and cabinet makers only work for free on the homes of people who can already afford to spend $8m on their apartment.

Presumably they subsidize the free work (I hesitate to call it pro bono as this is about as close as the public will get to that apartment) that they do for the rich by overcharging the middle classes?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:13 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


So fucking cool. I am reassured when I hear of people being able and willing to do clever, extravagant things like this. Viva ludic deisgn.
posted by everichon at 8:16 AM on June 12, 2008


Yeah my disdain for the rich is weighing against my admiration of people who obey God's commandment to "Go forth and do cool shit!" and my love of awesomeness is winning.
posted by ND¢ at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


EAT THE RICH
after they solve the puzzle
posted by everichon at 8:27 AM on June 12, 2008


This is excellent. I'd love to have some of this in my home.

When my son leaves for college, I am walling off his bedroom with a secret bookcase or something.

Not really, but I want to.
posted by genefinder at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2008


There's also the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.
posted by ericb at 8:38 AM on June 12, 2008


Fantastic --- thanks for posting. If I could gut my house and start from scratch, it would have crap like this everywhere. Now, where's my infinite coin purse...
posted by Pantengliopoli at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2008


When my son leaves for college, I am walling off his bedroom with a secret bookcase or something

You absolutely must do this. It's mandatory. At a bare minimum, you should wall up the room with drywall & repaint, so that the door to his room no longer exists.

Then, when he comes back on break and wonders where his room went, you can nonchalantly reply "Room? What room? There's never been a room there."

Please. I'm begging you.
posted by aramaic at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2008 [12 favorites]


I'm wondering if the architect was a cloudmaker.

I'm kind of fascinated by the whole ARG phenomenon. I really don't think the potential for artistic achievement there has gotten even close to being reached.
posted by empath at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2008


Then, when he comes back on break and wonders where his room went, you can nonchalantly reply "Room? What room? There's never been a room there."

pffft... too weaksauce.

"Son? I never had a son..."
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on June 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Son? Why my son . . . has been dead for thirty years!"
posted by ND¢ at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2008 [9 favorites]


Or even better, just get a new son and move him into the room...

"You're not Bobby! This is Bobby!"

For some reason, I'm reminded of that movie with the little kid and the UFO and he travels in time (maybe) and different people live in his house? Flight of the.. Hrm... Flight of the Navigator? Was that a thing?
posted by kbanas at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2008


The film is set in the year 2026, in the extraordinary Gothic skyscrapers of a corporate city-state, the Metropolis of the title. Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged. Metropolis, 1929.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:53 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, that whole article was fantastic. My house has a secret room. It's called the crawl space, and it's full of dirt and gigantic spiders and plumbing and wiring.

Somehow, it's less cool.
posted by kbanas at 8:55 AM on June 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Hmm, interesting iconomy. If I'm seeing it right, that means there are 4 incorrect letters in the cypher, 2 of which are in instances of (close to) the same word. The 4 "wrong" letters on the radiator are PHJP, which translate to MEGM. If it were all spelled correctly, you would have VNPV on the radiator mapping to SKMS in the translation, but you'd also have to take out the X->U from 'curiousity.' Note that the four wrong letter are just cyphered in the wrong direction, i.e. instead of shifting the real letters forward 3 to get the code, they've been shifted back 3. I'm guessing that it's a clue, but I don't think we have enough information about all the stuff in the apartment to actually figure it out.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:57 AM on June 12, 2008


WANT
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:04 AM on June 12, 2008


This is awesome, but I can't hep but feel a little sad about one thing....

When high-end NY apartments like this one change owners, they are invariably subjected to a studs-down remodel. Some time in the next decade or so, some hedge-fund douchebag is going to have all of this ripped out and replaced with stainless steel walls (or molded fiberglass, or virgins' teeth, or whatever retarded shit is in temporary vogue at the time).
posted by dersins at 9:11 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


some hedge-fund douchebag

"The father, Steven B. Klinsky, 52, runs a private equity company; the mother, Maureen Sherry, 44, left her job as a managing director for Bear Stearns to raise their four young children..."
posted by Dave Faris at 9:19 AM on June 12, 2008


Yeah, iconomy, I came up with the same and kept checking and rechecking to make sure I'd transcribed it properly. I've got to believe that those "errors" are meaningful in some way, as Who_Am_I suggests, because it just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that designer would allow to stand otherwise.
posted by mumkin at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2008


AHHHHH! It's like a real-life room escape game, right down to random things that you need to put together to do some other random thing. LOVE.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


How nice for them.

This is really cool, but it's hard to not want to say "fuck the rich and their fun" from my overcrowded, cramped midtown apartment.

Yeah, I'm just jealous.
posted by papercake at 9:43 AM on June 12, 2008


So wonderful in every way.
posted by paddysat at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2008


That is so very cool. So very, very cool...

You know, my house has some weird stuff sort of similar to this. Like that scuff mark on the wall next to where we keep our shoes. I bet it's some kind way of showing that there is a secret passage.

When I get home tonight, I'm going to find it... with my pick-axe!

My wife is going to be so excited when she finds out what I've discovered!
posted by quin at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Finally, an clue that led them to the location of the new toilet rolls. Ha! the rich are just like everyone else.
posted by azlondon at 10:06 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


"The father, Steven B. Klinsky, 52, runs a private equity company; the mother, Maureen Sherry, 44, left her job as a managing director for Bear Stearns to raise their four young children..."

Sorry, I should have said "some other hedge-find douchebag..."
posted by dersins at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2008


I find it unbelievable that the family lived with those radiator covers for a year and no one was curious (or is that curioum....) enough to sit down with a paper and pencil and figure out if the letters meant something.
posted by iconomy at 10:25 AM on June 12, 2008


Oh. My. Shit. This seriously brings tears to my eyes it is so cool. Imagine the feeling of living in your fabulous new apartment for A YEAR, getting used to it, realizing that you are finally feeling at home in it, that you know all its quirks and crevices, and then you find out there is A WHOLE WORLD OF IT THAT YOU NEVER KNEW. Oh man. And the fuckers that live there "remain bemused"? Bemused? Mr. Clough, come to my house and work your shit for my daughter and I and we will lap up your puzzles like they are the last water on earth. Wow.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:56 AM on June 12, 2008


Flight of the Navigator? Was that a thing?

It was a thing. It was an awesome thing.

And this house? Even more awesome. One year for Christmas my mother made a huge jigsaw puzzle that, once my sister and I had put together, contained a poem with a bunch of in-family references that created a puzzle we had to solve to figure out where our Christmas presents were. Highlight of my youth. This is like that, but with math and a huge budget. It's just so cool it makes me hop up and down. Thanks so much for posting it.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:00 AM on June 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


My uncle was a serious hippie in his time. He built a two-story house in the woods in British Columbia and made a living making and selling various crafts. I always admired the way the house was built, because he was an inventor at heart and designed so many clever things into it, including a rope swing in the middle of the living room. When he died, we were cleaning out his house and found a secret room in the basement behind a waist-high particle-board wall panel.

Inside, we found the remains of a very well-furnished mushroom-growing operation with multiple racks, an insulated temperature-controlled environment, fluorescent grow lights... I loved that man. It made my year. I hadn't heard a word about it in the 10+ summers I'd spent at that house.
posted by lostburner at 11:01 AM on June 12, 2008 [11 favorites]


Another evening, Ms. Sherry and Mr. Klinsky were lying in their custom-made bed when a rod running along its foot snapped off. “I’m thinking, What the heck kind of cheap bed is this?” said Ms. Sherry, who phoned Mr. Clough the next day.

His response, which might have taken a less adventurous person aback, was that she take a wait-and-see attitude, that the bed bit was part of a larger “story” and that all would be revealed in good time.


I can just imagine crappy contractors trying to pull this on their clients. "What's that? The drywall's cracked and bits are falling off the ceiling? No, no, nothing to worry about. It's all part of a larger story. All will be revealed in good time."
posted by juv3nal at 11:04 AM on June 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure that peaceful lazing in their bed is what caused the rod to snap off.
posted by setanor at 11:13 AM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I should have said "some other hedge-find douchebag..."
posted by dersins at 10:11 AM on June 12 [+] [!]

From the article: "Mr. Klinsky runs Victory Schools, a charter school company that seeds schools in neighborhoods around the country, as well as an after-school program in East New York that his own children help out with regularly."

Possibly not a total douchebag?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2008


the mother, Maureen Sherry, 44, left her job as a managing director for Bear Stearns to raise their four young children

Suuuure.
posted by lostburner at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2008



From the article: "Mr. Klinsky runs Victory Schools, a charter school company that seeds schools in neighborhoods around the country, as well as an after-school program in East New York that his own children help out with regularly."

Possibly not a total douchebag?

Judge for yourself
(Disclaimer: political contributions may not necessarily be an appropriate metric for making moral assessments, but they certainly can help bring them into focus.)
posted by Chrischris at 12:01 PM on June 12, 2008


I cannot deny my envy, and I do wish this miracle had been worked for people without the ability to realise any dream they like on a minute-by-minute basis, but, damn, this is some righteous puzzle-making.
posted by batmonkey at 12:07 PM on June 12, 2008


Chrischris: yikes. I'm glad I checked that out, but it was a bit of a bummer. Dang.
posted by batmonkey at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2008


When I was a very little kid we lived in a house on the estate of some eccentric 19th century naturalists, the Kennicotts. One of the manifestations of the Kennicott eccentricities was the "added features" of the homes on the estate. Each had multiple secret tunnels and pannels within the walls. The design tricked the eye so that the houses had, not just secret rooms, but secret wings. All of the buildings were connected by underground tunnels that were hidden behind bookcases and in closets. After we moved away, they discovered a trap door in the closet of my upstairs bedroom that ran to a never before discovered tunnel system linking even more out buildings on the estate.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:11 PM on June 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


Upon returning from a trip to Seattle, the Navidson family discovers a change in their home. A closet-like space shut behind an undecorated door appears inexplicably where previously there was only a blank wall. A second door appears at the end of the closet, leading to the children's room. As Navidson investigates this phenomenon, he finds that the internal measurements of the house are somehow larger than external measurements. Initially there is less than an inch of difference, but as time passes the interior of the house is found to be seemingly expanding, while maintaining the same exterior proportions. A third change asserts itself: a dark, cold hallway in their living room wall that, according to the laws of physics, should extend out into their yard, but doesn't.
posted by Dave Faris at 12:18 PM on June 12, 2008 [10 favorites]


I guess I'm the only one that thinks this would be incredibly annoying. Halp, I can't open the refrigerator until I find the crank that turns the lock that opens the floor which holds the cipher that finds the maze that leads me to the key!
posted by desjardins at 2:37 PM on June 12, 2008


This is neat, but what I really want to know is where's the hidden door behind which the dad keeps his "second family"?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:59 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


So between the Bears-Stearn connection and the charter school bullshit, this was done with what's essentially stolen money, right?

Somehow that manages to take a lot of the cool out of it.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:44 PM on June 12, 2008


Bear-Stearns made lots of money right up the the moment where they lost it all and then some. Ah, leverage.
posted by GuyZero at 5:50 PM on June 12, 2008


Oh, you bitter poor people.
posted by smackfu at 6:23 PM on June 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I love treasure hunts. I WANT THIS HOUSE.
posted by divabat at 7:24 PM on June 12, 2008


Well played Mr. Architect.

Oh, I get it; all wealthy people are douchebags? Discount his work with charter schools because he is rich. Oh, all the people who worked at BSC caused everyone else to lose money.

It must be hard for so many of you to go through life so bitter.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:32 PM on June 12, 2008


Britannia Manor, built for Richard Garriott (possibly the house referred to upthread?) has all sorts of secret passageways and stuff. It's really, really cool. And one time I stayed in a hostel in London that had a secret room behind a bookcase. It was the only room in the house with a television, if I recall correctly.
posted by Addlepated at 8:42 PM on June 12, 2008


Charter schools are pretty douchey, actually. A number of studies show them to be remarkable bad at educating. Good at profits, though, if that's your bag.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Britannia Manor, built for Richard Garriott (possibly the house referred to upthread?)

No. Not the home to which I refer upthread.
posted by ericb at 8:56 PM on June 12, 2008


I used to work for an investment management company. I always suspected there was a level of wealth an order of magnitude beyond what most people were aware.

I had no idea.

ohgoddontwannabebitter
posted by Space Kitty at 9:40 PM on June 12, 2008


she is a former triathlete and nonfiction writer who is more interested in her children’s sneakers than in the offerings of the shoe department at Barneys.

LOL. No, she's not a materialist ninny - after all she just spent tens of millions of dollars on a house
posted by dydecker at 2:29 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


This story fits in perfectly with the Times' focusing on this rich demographic. You and I, who are lucky to have two walls to rub together, are expected to read about their ginormous homes and second homes and eclectic interior decoration with envy. We're supposed to think, gosh, they're not your regular rich-as-fuck douchebags, they actually have taste and awareness of things outside their little money-cushioned sphere of existence.

Fuck 'em all.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:50 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just me, but it kind of shocked me how little imagination the members of this family have -- it really took them months to figure out that something was odd about their new place? That Caesar cipher, for example, is the most obvious thing in the world -- if you see that you should immediately know something is up. But it took a curious "friend" to clue the family in.

It would be nice if this led to the architect doing a public project, like a park or museum, that allows the public to enjoy this kind of puzzle-making other than vicariously.
posted by speicus at 7:07 AM on June 13, 2008


Too busy counting their doubloons, I'd imagine.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:09 AM on June 13, 2008


Probably don't actually live there. Just stay there on weekends, once a month.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:58 PM on June 13, 2008


Because they're so filthy rich they wear houses like clothes.
posted by smackfu at 3:58 PM on June 13, 2008


Some certainly are.

Has wealth disparity ever been so high?

I imagine that ye olde kings were mega-magnitudes wealthier than their subjects. Could well be things have always been this vulgar.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:24 PM on June 13, 2008


You just have more visibility to it now. Although still not that much really... who knows what luxury lurks in the farmlands of Connecticut? Some roads only have stone walls and gates lining them.
posted by smackfu at 7:54 PM on June 13, 2008




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