Who’s the fool? The person who spends nearly $1 million on a tiny studio? Or the one who doesn’t recognize the social-climbing opportunity of a lifetime?
The question took on urgency on a recent morning, when I found myself on the 24th floor of Four Seasons One Dalton, a Back Bay residential building so fancy that the washing station in the dog spa could break your heart.
I was being shown around — if the word “around” can be used in a space that can’t comfortably accommodate a full-sized bed — unit 2402. It’s one of seven studios that Richard Friedman, the building’s developer, in his beneficence, is offering for sale to the public.
To give the studio its due: Its ceilings were high, its one window was vast, and its vibe was quiet, if generic, luxury. And oh my god the amenities package that comes with it. The golf simulator room with a wet bar; the 20-seat screening room; the “cultural and lifestyle coordinator” who delivered oysters and champagne during the pandemic. The monied hush.
But in the end, there are still rules in this world. Gravity is one. Another is that 388 square feet, no matter how cleverly the Sub-Zero refrigerator is camouflaged to look like a tall, tasteful cabinet, is still 388 square feet.
And that’s 388 square feet for the whole place. By the time you’re done with the spacious bathroom, the generous closet, and the wall of kitchen appliances — Wolf and Viking though they may be — there’s not a lot of room left for living.
But why focus on the studio itself? When you’re trying to sell tiny patches of real estate that start at $795,000 and lunge toward $2 million, your best bet is to reframe the picture. To promote the lifestyle. The neighbor-to-neighbor networking opportunities. The glamour of living in the same building as car magnate Herb Chambers.
The original idea according to Friedman’s team was not to sell the studios to, pardon my word, outsiders. No. They were intended as, essentially, guest rooms for people already blessed to live at One Dalton, albeit on higher floors and with actual bedrooms. The studios, which range in size from 371 square feet to 687 square feet, were envisioned as acceptable places to store your mother-in-law, a nanny, or, Friedman said, with a straight face, a shoe collection.
The 61-story building opened in 2019, and of the original 13 studios, six have already been bought by people an elevator ride away, per Friedman’s spokesperson. One by Friedman himself, he said (subsequently sold privately to a fellow one-percenter). Another by a guy whose name I knew I should have recognized given the way Friedman tossed it off, so I nodded, but disingenuously. A third was needed by a resident with a lot of shoes.
Back in the unit, excuse me, the residence, Friedman had a question for one of his people. “How much does this cost?” he asked, curious, but only mildly. Or maybe the question was for show. He knew it was going to be some ridiculous amount.
Friedman, 83, was dressed in rich-man casual. His hair was silver. His tan was yacht. His white shirt possessed an inner glow. Let’s not waste time on God’s ideal blue blazer and go right to his jeans, which were so subtly aged and ironed that I half expected to catch Ralph Lauren in the shadows.
“It’s $900,000,” the marketing director told him. “That’s a lot,” Friedman said honestly.
On one hand: Yes, it is a lot. On the other: Also yes, but with a BUT.
First let’s examine the yes: The condo is actually $895,000, putting it at $2,306.70 per square foot. If you came back from your private Pilates session and threw your Lulu on the floor, you’re wasting $4,000, easy.
Friedman’s team didn’t put it quite this way, but because the original market for the studios were existing residents (aka wealthy people) they were folks who could afford to drop a million just to keep house guests (or footwear) at a distance.
But now that the opportunity has been opened up to the masses, some of the buyers may be people for whom $1 million is … how to put this delicately … actual money.
On a recent weekday morning, as Friedman’s people showed off the lavish amenities, I grappled with the reality that I’d never get to enjoy the Four Seasons’ “Wellness Floor,” and that my dog’s Instagram would never show her strutting through the front door of One Dalton on a rainy day, and then pausing, bored, while her feet are dried with towels emblazoned with an adorable paw print.
At the same time, I began to worry for future buyers. What if you’re someone whose lifestyle is, say, Somerville, but you figure that in today’s market, $1 million doesn’t get you much there either, so why not shed your clutter and superfluous family members and reach for the luxury tower.
So you push your budget, but look out! Suddenly you’re living in a vertical neighborhood of people who Summer and Winter in their other “places.” Now you can’t be seen in town on a holiday weekend, and your July week on the Cape has become a source of shame. How are you hanging out in the 50th floor residents’ club without having your hair done? And with those teeth!
The mortgage payments, and the monthly condo fees, which range from $550 to $880, would be the least of your problems.
But here’s the BUT: Looked at a different way, as Edith Wharton might, the condos are literally a foot in the door — to a social climber’s paradise, a networker’s playground. The elevator alone could be a goldmine of contacts. And just think of the French bulldogs your rescue could meet.
This story has been updated.