The Hidden Expense

The Hidden Expense

By Zisi Naimark

One of the mandatory classes at The New York School of Interior Design is textiles and finishes, in which students are expected to gain a thorough understanding of the materials used in today’s interiors. This class has been described by students as “a necessary evil,” a “thundering bore,” and “a total snooze-fest.” The professor who taught the class was no worse than average and better than several – but search thine own heart, reader, and ask yourself if you would be able to make a class on textiles interesting.

In a fit of inspiration, the professor invited her friends to lecture each of the weekly classes. Each of these friends was a professional in the field of textiles. They each spoke of one particular type of textile that their firm specialized in and its many uses, and they each told absurd tales of clients and their misinformed misadventures.

It was still a thundering bore.

And then came Ed Goodman of Scalamandre, who presented various forms of passementerie – that means tassels, fringe, pompoms, and other edging details. Ed spent a moment singing the praises of the conditions in the company’s Chinese factory, saying that the workers were well paid, well fed, and working under 10 hours a day. Then he explained the process of procuring the silk and the hours of labor involved in turning the silk into one tassel. Which, I suppose, is why one tassel from Scalamandre will put you back the equivalent of one weekly shopping excursion at Seasons for a family of four.

Mr. Ed Goodman then regaled us with a tale of a Park Avenue dame who breezed into the showroom and ordered $45,000 worth of fringed trim. Several weeks later, she invited Ed to lunch at her apartment, luring him with the offer of showing him the final destination of his precious passementerie.

And so, off trotted Mr. Ed Goodman of Scalamandre, who was greeted at the door with one butler who took his coat, and a second butler who offered a silver tray of drinks. The grand dame herself led the tour of the apartment, library after study after drawing room, with the butler always at their elbows ready to refill the flutes. Bedroom after boudoir after dressing room, and there was no sign of the lovely, lovely trim. Now, this apartment was a floor-through, and the entry was on the north side, and now Mr. Ed Goodman found himself staring out the south-side windows of the master suite with still not a glimpse of his darling tassels.

“Look in here,” gestured the hostess, pointing to a heretofore unnoticed door on the far wall of the master suite. And Mr. Ed Goodman felt his heart sink right down to his Mantellassi-clad toes as he realized that his handmade silk passementerie was being housed in a bathroom.

Silk. In a wet location. Do you follow my meaning? Goodbye, trimmings, you will be rotted through within the year.

But all was not lost! The room was, in fact, a walk-in closet. And the fringe was lining each shelf. Life breathed again within the Asprey suit.

“Well,” says the philosophical Mr. Goodman, “you have to hide the tax-evasion money somewhere.”

I heard this story from Mr. Goodman himself, and after several years of experience, I can tell you that there are very many places to hide the tax-evasion money. A roll of wallpaper from Cole & Son can be $120 a roll, with at least four rolls needed to finish the smallest powder room. And just last week, I witnessed this very wallpaper on the walls of a large laundry room. Incidentally, the laundry room in question was on East 79th street, not far from the passamentarie-laden closet.

The same apartment had a John Salibello light fixture in the foyer. Anyone could see it was beautiful. And an insider could see it was about as much as full tuition for two boys.

This apartment had five bedrooms (though two were to be converted into walk-in closets), five bathrooms, a laundry room, and a library. It was an entire floor of the building. The living room had around as much square footage as my two-bedroom apartment. Sold at $11 million, the place was an absolute steal. And looking around at the décor, I saw that the previous owners had spent close to a million dollars decorating.

Just to be clear, I was walking through the apartment that had been cleared of furniture and many light fixtures. The clients had only just closed when I arrived there. This monetary calculation was based on the leather-paneled walls in the master bedroom (mustard colored and horrid), the watered silk walls in the bedroom/closet, and the hand-fired clay tiles in each bathroom. The 36” orange Lacanche oven in the kitchen retails for about $7,000. The Carrera marble counters and shelves were designed with a special tray indent that is not widely available. The entry foyer was wood paneled with detailed moldings – and that was recently done, not original to the building. That woodwork alone could cost close to six figures. That foyer was as large as my kitchen and dinette combined. The textured velvet wallpaper in the dining room would be coming off, as would the art deco gold and white fireplace. All is to be replaced with items of equal or greater value.

Not that the IRS needs to know.

Zisi Naimark holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The New York School of Interior Design and has been working for professional design firms since 2012.  She lives in Kew Gardens Hills, where she is tolerated by her husband and sons.  She can be reached at


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