I have a sneaky habit of peering into people’s apartment windows as I walk past. Maybe it’s because, growing up in South Africa, homes were surrounded by high security walls, but mainly, I’m fascinated with how people decorate their homes. This weekend I got to indulge my voyeuristic side at Open House New York, an annual programme that opens off-limits sites of cultural and historical interest to the public.

On the programme, New Yorkers could see the inner workings of Subway Substation No. 22 in Brooklyn, we could tour the underground cheese caves of Murray’s Cheese in the Village and see how a penthouse in NoHo creates a seamless flow between interior space and roof garden.

Except that I couldn’t see any of those. The substation and cheese cave tours filled up on the first day that reservations were available, and the penthouse was closed “due to mechanical failure.” A tour of the Metal Shutter Houses with architect Dean Maltz sounded interesting, but when we got there the only things to see were an architectural model and a big hole in the ground!

I must have had bad luck this year because there’s ample evidence of some very interesting places on view at the OHNY Flickr pool, all entries in the programme’s photo competition. These are some of my favourites.

The New School’s Tishman Auditorium posted by Manuela Martin.

Mosaics in the hallwayof the Masonic Grand Lodge posted by Uptick.
New York Marble Cemetery in the East Village posted by Edenpictures.

Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection posted by edenpictures.

High Bridge Water Tower, posted by Jesse Chan-Norris.
I did take a very lovely tour of the High Line, an elevated railroad running on the West Side of Manhattan that is no longer in use. We weren’t allowed to publish our photos because the section we toured overlooked the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s rail yards, itself slated for radical redevelopment. But this is what it looks like on the Friends of the High Line website.

The bottom section of the High Line is being transformed into an inspired-looking series of parks designed by Piet Oudolf. We toured the northern section, still in its overgrown nature-overtakes-city state, which was enchanting. We walked along the crumbling wooden planks through waist-high shrubs and drifts of long, soft grasses. I found myself wishing they could just lay a glass floor over the track to preserve it as is.

The other site that did not disappoint was the Row House Revival in Park Slope, Brooklyn, designed by Coburn Architecture. This elegant home was built in the late 1800s and expanded into the adjacent lot when it was renovated over the past few years.

Decorated in what architect Ward Welch described as a “Federal hip” style, the home is elegant, plush and welcoming. I admired the designers Erin Fearins and Catherine Brophy’s restrained colour palette and subtle shifts in texture.

The bedroom in particular was a sanctum of calm, which is just the kind of hideaway I’d like after my day touring New York City’s hidden treasures.