THE WEEK’S BEST: Design, architecture, and technology

What I wrote last week:

Suboptimal personal finance advice: Take off two years to learn to cook ramen

But that bit of advice from Wealthfront – that you can quit your job, travel the world, find yourself, all within your long-term financial plan! – ignores a few small details. Like, it’s really hard to save money when you have no income, or the free money you forego from your company’s retirement savings matching program. Oh, and the time value of money – that money you save now is going to be worth a lot more in 20, 30, or 40 years. I once wrote that just a 1% additional fee on retirement products could cost millennials $590,000 in sacrificed returns. What do you think it’s costing you by not saving at all?

What I shot last week:

Design, architecture, and technology digest:

Architecture and Design: Cities

Pave Over the Subway? Cities Face Tough Bets on Driverless Cars — New York Times

Highways today can carry about 2,000 cars per lane per hour. Autonomous vehicles might quadruple that. The best rail systems can carry more than 50,000 passengers per lane per hour. They move the most people, using the least space. No technology can overcome that geometry, said Jarrett Walker, a Portland-based transportation consultant.

Finally, a fix for the city’s worst land-use mistake: Garment District to give way to modern uses — Crain’s New York

The city has at last recognized reality. In recent years, architects and design firms have swept in, along with tech companies and nonprofits—some in space restricted to manufacturers—bringing in a new, affluent workforce. Even more transformational, the district is now home to 42 hotels, with 12 more under construction. Tourists have in turn lured restaurants and bars.

The zoning did not save a single manufacturing job but cost the city dearly by depriving businesses of affordable Midtown space.

The Millionaire’s Mortgage: Paying off your house is saving for retirement. — Slate

At the beginning of 1996, urban homes were actually cheaper than their suburban counterparts. And then everything changed: From January 1996 to November 2017, suburban houses appreciated by 112 percent, while those in cities went up by 195 percent. That’s a huge difference, and there’s no reason to believe that the trend is going to abate any time soon.

What that means is that making mortgage payments can, in theory, be a way to accumulate wealth almost as effectively as contributing to a retirement fund.

Architecture and design: Style

How the Fleece Vest Became the New Corporate Uniform — WSJ

Typically, the vest is worn over a button-up shirt and paired with chinos and brown dress shoes of any flavor. “The uniform” is how this ensemble has been branded around the office of one 36-year-old working in capital markets in Pittsburgh, a past practitioner of the much-mocked look who asked that his name be withheld. During a recent trip to New York City this month, he observed scores of men wearing gray fleece vests even as temperatures touched the mid-90s.

And the retort…


Fashion is a fun example for thinking about the excesses of self-expression, but it can have real implications for upward social mobility. Uniforms, whether in the form of the formal business suit, or the slightly more casual Midtown look, take attention away from meaningless status markers and put the focus on individual competence, helping talented young outsiders move up in an organization.


The Hikidashi box, which retails for $89 for a set of six nested containers, feels like the thick laminated fiberboard boxes Apple uses to contain their products. They come with various decorative liners and perhaps most importantly for budding KonMari acolytes, they arrive bundled with Kondoisms—with buyers gaining access to folding tips, tidying newsletters and even an invitation to join a tidying support group.

Investing in Fine Wine Is More Lucrative Than Ever — Bloomberg

Chad Walsh, head sommelier of Michelin-starred restaurant Agern in New York, registers online for auctions where he’ll bid for both work and personal investment. “It’s one thing to chase the blue-chip stuff at a good price,” he said. “But the best investments are when you’re finding the thing that everyone is buying when they’re squeezed out of whatever the blue chip was.”

Top Notes of Poo: Natural wine is weird, funky, even dirty. Sommeliers are obsessed. but does it actually taste good? — Grub Street

Master sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier was walking through Central Park when she recognized a scent: manure, which rhymes with flâneur when she says it. “It’s funny because some guys love this smell — that kind of dirty, sweaty smell,” Lepeltier says. “That’s what they want in natural wine. Horse shit.”


Celebrity food culture now is inextricably linked with wellness—which actually means thinness. From the idea of “clean eating” to the various juices, tonics, and supplements promising to boost everything from your brain power to your sex life featured on Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness hive, Goop, fancy food is much more austere now. Rather than pointing to a simpler past, it promises an unlined future, in which the glow of youth remains incandescent, powered by dried mushroom powder and matcha smoothies.


Amanda Hess is a fantastic writer, and I’m stoked about this project of hers.

Like, Comment, Subscribe, Weep — New York Times

Wherever the trends move and the cash flows, there we all are. The dizzying rise of online visual culture means our faces and bodies are exposed and scrutinized like never before. Whatever it is we “do” for a living is increasingly stitched up with who we are. We sell ourselves and stuff at the same time — my Instagram cat photos are interspersed with links to my articles, asking you to like me and my work, too.

Between the lines: Venmo’s public transaction feed is a bad idea — Axios

Sharing transaction information publicly could reveal a lot, especially if one makes a lot of transactions over time. While designed for friends, information shared publicly could find its way into the hands of data brokers, credit monitors or others.

As a reporter, it struck me as a potential gold mine of information, but I can’t think of any good reason why someone would want to share their purchase history and LOTS of reasons why that’s a terrible idea.

The Rapid Rise of Millennial Collectors Will Change How Art Is Bought and Sold — Artsy

We’ll use technology to co-opt art to enhance our personal brands—not so much in our real lives, but in our digital avatar lives on social media. Trent says that Instagram “has been the real game-changer for the art world.” It’s the perfect mix of visual and social. She notes that “for the first time, a completely open awareness exists about who owns and who collects what.” This hyper-connected transparency may benefit the market, but it might also imbue our collecting with a herd mentality, defined by insta-trends, branding, and channel buzz (try and find a hedge fund manager today not looking to acquire a George Condo).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *