Craft House client, Second House, featured in NYTimes
By Ginia Bellafante, The New York Times
Chances are that if you are reading this in or near New York City now, meaning sometime between the 22nd and 26th day of the seventh month of the 17th year of the 21st century, you are very hot. You are almost assuredly irritated as well as hot, because as Samantha Gillison recently put it in a column in The Guardian, explaining New York summers to those fortunate enough to spend them in London, “Being confronted by your own cosmic insignificance as you struggle through an inferno to get to your dumb job can be a deeply unpleasant sensation.”
Summer in New York demands an inner reckoning, she suggested, a re-evaluation of every life choice you’ve ever made. What are you doing here? If you are a parent keeping a child in the city on an especially brutal weekend, when you might simply be forced to stay inside revisiting the entire Pixar canon, it can feel as if you are imposing what would count as a code-red abuse among the affluenza class, roughly equivalent to permitting the consumption of a street vendor’s hot dog.
During periods of intense heat, mayors stress the importance of air-conditioning, as Bill de Blasio did this month, while also stressing that you shouldn’t use too much of it. Setting temperatures below 78 degrees is bad citizenship because it can threaten the power grid. Air-conditioning is never quite right in New York, as anyone who has lived here knows — in offices it is too cold; in homes it is not cold enough. Water, of course, is elusive. This year, though, the mayor committed to keeping certain large public pools open until 8 p.m. and playground sprinklers on until dark. He also reminded New Yorkers that they can travel to a local fire station — if they are able to prove that they are 18 or older — and obtain a spray cap with which to open a fire hydrant safely.
But fire hydrants are not the Adirondacks or the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps it was inevitable that the sharing economy would, in all its professed virtue, come up with a way to make you feel as if you owned a summer place when you didn’t have one. A few weeks ago came the birth of Second House, a club in which you apply to spend one weekend or many in a well-appointed home out of the city with strangers, vetted by the company to ensure not only that the strangers in question are disinclined to extreme lunacy but that they are, as the website puts it, “creative, entrepreneurial, soulful, independent, globally minded, optimistic, social, innovative and fun-loving.”
The idea is to build a collection of these houses no more than two and a half hours outside major cities around the world. Second House will rent or buy them or manage them for people who use their vacation homes infrequently. The first and only house so far went into full operation, on the North Fork of Long Island, during the first weekend in July, with membership at $2,000 for 24 days of tenancy. No more than 10 people are ever together at once. A host from the company is always present. Families are welcome, sometimes, particularly those with a single child who are not averse to co-sleeping. A better world through the disruption of the Hamptons summer share!
The company was developed by a group of women, one a former banker from the Netherlands who worked for years in Milan and reveled in the particularities of bourgeois Italian weekend rituals — you always left the city and always to join big groups of friends and family. A company representative meets applicants beforehand, although one meeting does not necessarily prove sanity. So there are recurring events in the city where company members and potential guests can engage one another. And these events require you to do more than sit around and drink rosé. You get together to learn about natural nutrition or to view an exhibition of photographs from Burma or to learn about the interplay of architecture, mood and health, the subject of a recent discussion that included a representative from an outfit called Delos, which bills itself as the world’s first “wellness” real estate firm. (Because when you think of self-restoration and reducing anxiety, you always think of Manhattan real estate.)
There are also communal dinners in town, and if the vetting process fails — if a selfish bore who takes the last glass of orange juice in the morning and demands that Fox News be on all day somehow slips through — the offending party will never be invited back to the house.