What’s the Status of Flaunting Your Status?
This is an excerpt of the "What’s the Status of Flaunting Your Status?" originally posted in the "New York Times". Published on the 22nd of July, 2023.
In what now seems the quaint era of Truman Capote’s baroque social diagrams, what distinguished the truly wealthy from the merely rich was the better vegetables they served: “tiny ones.”
Were Capote alive today to freeload off his social betters, the details he would most likely espy might not involve the fare at their tables — even the mega-rich do takeout — but the Hallstein water they import from Austria, or their $15,000 computer-operated Danish TopBrewer coffee systems, or the $700 hand-embroidered monogrammed towel sets they order from the cult Florentine linen shop Loretta Caponi, or even the subtle toggles they use to switch off a light.
Lately throughout gentrified Brooklyn — or Hollywood on Hudson, as some call a borough now home to Adam Driver, Matt Damon, Michelle Williams, and Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz — the brownstone superrich signal domestic chic with decorative details like a $220 light switch manufactured by the English company Forbes & Lomax.
For the average home renovator, of course, a $22 Leviton light switch from Home Depot does the job just fine. Yet no five-story Brooklyn Heights behemoth, where the obligatory uncurtained windows open up on scenes reminiscent of ethnological dioramas (Exhibit A: Lives of the 21st-Century Technocrats), can be considered complete anymore without Forbes & Lomax toggles in each room.
“They’re house jewelry,” said David Hottenroth, a partner in the architectural firm Hottenroth & Joseph, referring to the elegant 1930s-style switches made of nickel, bronze and brass.
Or they are a domestic version of Kendall Roy’s Loro Piana baseball cap in “Succession” (remember “Succession”?): absurdly costly, yet so subtle you only notice them if you already know how expensive they are?