Gothic chick and graphic illustrator for the pre-teen market, Angela Martini lives in a ‘railway apartment’ in New York. (So-called because you walk through various rooms en route to other rooms the same as you would on a train.) A childhood spent growing up in tiny, dark apartments has fuelled Angela’s dream of living in a gothic mansion on a moor with turrets and sweeping staircases. But what is it they say about how you should never try and live out your fantasies?
Friday 13 August 1999
It’s always been my dream to live in a large house. A grand Victorian mansion painted in technicolor splendor, replete with turrets and gables. Oh, and window seats. No house is complete with out a nice, deep window seat in which one can while away the hours with a good novel. Or perhaps I’d like a vast stone edifice, a manor house with many rooms, dark winding staircases, long picture galleries leading to mysterious boarded up wings, dusty with disuse.
My dream house would have to be in England. On a moor. Of course on a moor! While I’m sure my initial obsession with mansions dates back to my first reading of ‘The Secret Garden’, a lot of it has to do with the fact that I lived for many years in a series of small apartments. Most of my junior high and high school years were spent in a dark, dank basement apartment. Confined quarters plus a penchant for gothic novels has ignited in me a love of space, sweeping vistas, grand staircases and dark brocade drapes.
These days I live in a brownstone Brooklyn, in a railroad apartment, which for the uninitiated means you have to walk through my bedroom to get from the kitchen to the living room. It’s the same apartment Francie Nolan describes in ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’, right down to the scary air shaft. It’s a great apartment and very affordable for the vicinity. It’s old too, with tin ceilings, fanciful moldings and wooden door knobs. Yet I still yearn for an open floor plan and cathedral ceilings.
This week I’ve been house sitting for a woman I work with. She lives in a neighborhood I love, Ditmas Park. It’s chockful of Queen Annes and Tudors. Unattached houses line both sides of the streets, which is a rarity in this borough. I always thought it was odd to see so many mansions so close together. They seem to want more land, but they have the misfortune of being situated in the middle of Brooklyn.
The house I am staying at is grand; its only defect being the lack of a porch. My dream house has a porch, complete with a rocking chair and a porch swing. But despite this grave deficiency, it’s a most wondrous house. A large foyer sporting a huge winding staircase welcomes you when you enter. Large rooms painted in muted tones are laid out in an almost haphazard fashion. The kitchen is spacious enough to hold a square dance. Every room is utilized by its owners from the basement up to the third floor servants’ quarters. All this room for a family of three. It’s truly amazing.
It’s my dream house, how could I not be in ecstasy?
Well, I’ll tell you. My childhood dreams of a rambling mansion home have been shattered, never to be reassembled into such a large aspiration. Call me lazy, but my God, I’m getting tired of walking up and down all those freaking stairs. God forbid you leave anything up in the master bedroom. When you remember it, by the time you reach the cavernous kitchen, you have either a five minute trek across the house and back up a flights of stairs, or you learn to do with out said item. And never mind yelling ‘Come – Quick!’ to me from the other side of the house. Either the great distance will muffle your cries or I will not be inclined to hear you, lest I have to walk fifty yards to see what you want. The bitter truth is that there is such a thing as having too much of a good thing.
My eyes have been opened. For now we will keep our cozy little railroad and save our pennies for our own dream house. I’m sure Kyle will be pleased, as a two bedroom apartment will fetch a lot less than an enormous palace.