In a recent search for news in the world of apartment living, I stumbled across a contest in Manchester, England that awarded some lucky bloke a furnished, rent-free, luxury apartment for a year - James Gilhooly, I envy you. But it made me wonder about another apartment giveaway contest that took place last year a lot closer to home here in New York.
Local clothing retailer Daffy's (think T.J. Maxx with an especially eclectic European label fetish) had a competition to find the most worthy shopper to be a tenant in an apartment building where the $7,000 per month rent would be decreased to a much more affordable $700 for a year. And this wasn't a nondescript apartment building for which people were baring their souls on in a 30-second video submission- this was for a building designed by Rogers Marvel in the West Village. Passersby know this building for its extremely triangular and highly voyeuristic glass façade.
So after a little Googling, I found the winner - Kimberly Dawn Neumann. Out of sheer curiosity and seething jealousy (yes, I entered the contest), I called her up to see how things are in her glass tower. And it's no surprise to find that the Broadway performer-fitness instructor-writer is living it up in style while she has ownership of the furnished two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. So how did she stand out amongst the thousands of other entries?
Neumann explains she knew she could win the contest with just a little bit of forethought. "I recognized it was a promotion," she says. "Daffy's is obviously looking for people who frequent the store and knew what they're talking about. It's not blind luck like a lottery, this was a competition." In other competitors' videos she watched them complain about loud neighbors, being out of work, bad neighborhoods, terrible relationships and general apartment whininess (watch the video below for a mashup of complaints). So she wisely sold herself as "The Carrie Bradshaw of Broadway" – someone who has the champagne tastes of the Sex in the City character but in reality has the budget of a discount Daffy's shopper.
Her creativity didn't stop there. Once picked as a finalist she had to drum up the support of everyone she knew - and everyone they knew - to get voted into her dream apartment (Seriously, folks, the elevator opens up into her apartment!). "I created daily e-mail blasts to a very large list of people," Neumann laughs. "I created horoscopes that all ended with 'and you'll vote for me today.' I had a mixologist create the Daffy-tini and I sent the recipe out one day." All this effort and originality obviously paid off.
But it's not all caviar dreams. You find out a lot of things when you read the fine print. The apartment is hers not for a full year but rather nine-and-a-half months. And while she's paying $700/month rent, she's also paying the taxes of a $7,000/month apartment ("Obviously I blame the IRS and not Daffy's"). And she now pays an electricity bill that's five times more than her previous much smaller (and, apparently, darker) one bedroom apartment. Then, of course, there's the house guests. She had so many people wanting to come see her new digs that she would throw parties to get as many people in and out as possible at one time. She introduced the apartment at a Halloween party where she dressed up as Barbie and had the opportunity to show off her not-quite-Malibu Dream House. ("I was left with the biggest mess. I may be living like a millionaire but I had to clean it up myself.")
And what has she learned that she'll take back to her more meager existence when this all ends in August? A lot about the desirable amenities and a bit about design.
Her glass surroundings have her rethinking how she has piled up things in the past. "I used to artfully place piles everywhere, I can't do that in a showplace apartment. I really like the lack of clutter and the minimalism." Then there's the shag rug - "I would love to get one, I adore what it does for the space. it's so plush and so feminine." And perhaps most importantly, she has a new appreciation of a full-sized tub. "It's my favorite feature. I live in the bathtub. It's really the best thing ever," coos the lucky* contest winner. "My Facebook updates for the first few weeks were solely about the tub."
*In case you singles out there wouldn't mind some of Neumann's luck rubbing off on you, the relationship expert (she wears many hats as the Bradshaw of Broadway) is launching a dating advice website on Valentine's day – www.datingdivadaily.com.