Architect Eran Chen is the founding principal of ODA, a New York-based firm he began in 2007, which is responsible for residential buildings, cultural buildings, hotels and more. The firm has worked in California, South Korea, New York, and Berlin, among other international locales.
The Israeli-born Mr. Chen, 47, is currently working on GALERIE, an 11-story, 182-residence condominium building in Long Island City, which will have a concrete, brick and glass facade along with three unique architectural glazing styles—punched, curtain wall and window wall.
We caught up with Mr. Chen to discuss what makes for a quality outdoor space, the surprising phenomenon of the High Line, and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Eran Chen: I’m very interested in properties in urban environments. The future of humankind on the globe is in cities, and I’m always advocating for a change in the way we conduct our lives in cities. My dream property to work on would be a highly diverse mixed-use program in the center of the city, that would include both housing, office spaces, retail and cultural venues.
But for my home, I love what I have. I love living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. I love access to the facilities that the neighborhood offers—parks, retail, elements that support families. It’s great to have outdoor space that’s big and wide, which my living room spills out to. Having a slight view of the river is great. And the apartment is also not too high or too low to the street.
MG: Do you have a real estate property that got away?
EC: I own a house in a town upstate called Waccabuc. It’s an old farm with a country house on it. But before I bought that we looked at another country house property in North Salem— because we like horses. It was an amazing property with an English stone house on it, but someone else bought.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
EC: For me, it’s the ability to have choices. Choices to satisfy the human needs and desires that we have. In real estate, the more choices one has that relate to their passions and desires, the more luxurious a place.
Ultimately it’s about choice. For me, in New York City, it’s about outdoor space. Not having the choice of spending time outside is not luxurious enough. Ideally that space would be connected to your apartment, so you have the ability to choose being inside or outside, but if you can’t have it in your apartment, at least an outdoor space within the building.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
EC: There are a few. Long Island City is one of them. It’s very close to midtown in terms of transportation. It has rawness to it that has yet to be defined. It has a strong sense of culture with PS1.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
EC: One thing I think is a huge surprise is the booming nature of the High Line, and the luxury properties around it. Some of the most expensive properties are around there.
That’s a huge surprise. The High Line is an amazing public space, and that’s helped, and the overlap with the galleries of west Chelsea, have created a hype that have made it very desirable. I wonder how long that will be sustained.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
EC: I differentiate between main home luxury and second-home luxury. The biggest cities attract the most luxurious ways of living because of connectivity and accessibility. London has some of the most amazing homes I’ve seen. But it’s not just about the concentration of wealth, it’s also about the accessibility to Europe. In London, you have a mix of mid-rise and low-rise homes that are beautiful.
For second homes, the list is so long, I don’t know where to start. Those places don’t have to satisfy all your desires, you can just spend a week in some part of Italy or France, or Caribbean.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
EC: I love the fact that the living room opens up to my garden. To me, the threshold between inside and out is the most exciting thing in a home. That can be a bay window, where you sit inside but you feel like you’re outside, or windows that have depth to them.
I’m always trying to expand this feeling of being on a threshold.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
EC: I’ve got two homes and they’re very different. My city home is about functionality and efficiency, because I’ve got three kids and a dog. No matter how big your apartment is, it’s never big enough. It’s about finding cozy moments—my library, my den, a specific chair that I have with a light next to it where I read. These small moments are amazing.
The country is all about the outdoors. And it’s extremely different. It’s a modern glass house, where the outside literally comes inside. We have deer running around, and beautiful birds.
MG: What’s the most valuable thing in your home?
EC: By far, the art collection that I have. I’m a big fan, not just of owning, but of living around art.
Art can be lucrative and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are so many young artists whose work people can afford.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
EC: Outdoor space, by far, but quality outdoor space. It’s not all the same. Having a balcony is useless, but a terrace is great—where an apartment is set back and there’s room to have furnishings and plants outside.
Courtyards are the most valuable, because if they’re designed well it’s a haven.
MG: What’s your best piece of real estate advice?
EC: Before falling in love with finishes, understand the basic elements of spatial design. Understand the flow of the space first and only then allow yourself to fall in love with the finishes.
MG: What’s going on in the news that will have the biggest impact on the luxury real estate market?
EC: The geopolitical system has a big effect. When there are nerves about the economy, wealthy people choose not to buy.
It’s been almost 10 years since the last recession. And the country is very divided. And even though the economic numbers are strong, people in the luxury world are a bit more nervous.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
EC: I’m an architect, so for myself, the idea of buying a used property is tempting because I can shape it how I want to. I’d love to buy in my own, new buildings, and I do. But I think overall there’s something extremely tempting about buying used homes, if they hold strong characteristics, and you have the guts, patience to renovate yourself.
The flip side of it is there’s such diversity of new properties, so it’s easy to pick something that’ll suit almost anybody.
MG: What area currently has the best resale value?
EC: In Manhattan, it’s still Chelsea and Tribeca, but outside the city, I would say Long Island City is consistently upgrading, and in today’s market, if you buy an apartment in there that seems expensive, it’ll be more so in the future, because it’s emerging.
Other places, like Bushwick in Brooklyn, are more for investments. I can see firsthand how that neighborhood is transforming.
And for longer investors, I’d start looking at areas in the Bronx.