Monday, April 12, 2010

Barbara Taylor Bradford Lists Sutton Place Pad

SELLER: Robert and Barbara Taylor Bradford
LOCATION: New York City, NY
PRICE: $18,995,000
SIZE: 5,310 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: A week or so ago, Your Mama received a message from our pal Misty Mountain who pointed us in the direction of a listing for a large apartment at River House, one of New York's most elite cooperative buildings located in the swank but somewhat isolated Sutton Place neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan. Misty Mountain was quite certain, even adamant that the significantly sized apartment, listed at $18,995,000, is owned by producer Robert Bradford and bestselling authoress Barbara Taylor Bradford. A little digging around on the interweb and sure enough, just like Misty Mountain promised, the hoity toity and very expensive River House residence is indeed owned by Mister and Missus Bradford.

Missus Bradford, a still quite spry septuagenarian, first worked as a fashion editor in London before marrying Mister Taylor and moving to the United States in the early 1960s where she became a successful syndicated columnist (Designing Woman) who wrote ad infinitum about the ins and outs of tasteful interior day-core. She later wrote a slew of children's books based on stories from the Bible and–according to her own biography–8 books on home day-core including How to Solve Your Decorating Problems in 1976 and Luxury Designs for Apartment Living in 1983.

Although her vast fortune pales in comparison to J.K. Rowling's billion dollar bank account, and no one is going to mistake the novels Missus Bradford pumps out at an almost alarming rate as lit-ruh-chuh, British born and hard working Missus Bradford is none the less one of the wealthiest writers alive due to the screaming sales figures of her 25 novels that include 1979's wildly successful A Woman of Substance, as well as Angel, Another Town, Emma's Secret and her most recent book Breaking the Rules.

Combined, Missus Bradford's books have sold more than 80,000,000 copies in 90 countries and in 40 languages. Impressive statistics by any account. To date, ten of Missus Bradford's books have been made into movies or mini-series' for the boob-toob. Most (if not all) were, not surprisingly, produced by her huzband Robert Bradford, a former actor who among other credits sang on a number of songs for the original Wizard of Oz.

We confess to never having read one of Missus Bradford's books but based on their titles and cover art Your Mama would have to classify Missus Bradford's novels as shlocky romance affairs with complicated and interwoven story lines. (We're pretty certain she would have even less flattering words for Your Mama's admittedly limited abilities as a wordsmith.) However, according to Missus Bradford a book can not be judged by its cover (or title) and in a 2004 interview in the Palm Beach Post, she curtly corrected the interviewer telling him that she is "not" (emphasis in the original) a romance novelist but rather a "family saga writer." Your Mama's not going to argue with her self-characterization because not only is Missus Bradford a formidable woman but she's about 80 some million books more successful than Your Mama so, you know, who are we to judge?

Anyhoo, after a peep around the property records Your Mama can't quite sort out when Mister and Missus Bradford bought their cooperative apartment at River House but it was most certainly prior to 2006. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Listing information for Mister and Missus Bradford's big ol' apartment at River House states it measures 5,310 square feet and includes 4 bedrooms and 4.5 poopers plus a sizable staff suite comprised of three bedrooms–two of which have been merged into one, a single pooper and a large laundry room.

A private elevator landing opens to a foyer, which in turn leads to the 18 foot wide and 29' 9" living room, all done up and did over in various shades of blush and beige. There are three windows over looking the East River, walls upholstered in cream colored silk, polished hard wood floors, and a fireplace. An adjacent bar room–that Your Mama thinks was unfortunately carved out of what was once a much larger gallery style foyer–is furnished with a banquette covered in tufted mushroom colored velvet, a burled occasional table that probably cost as much as Your Mama's big BMW, and a built in bar of mahogany with a brass foot rail and a trio of bar stools that appear to be screwed into the floors.

On one side of the living room we find the library, also with a fireplace and also did up in shades of blush and beige, and on the other side the really red and rather theatrical dining room with its view of the East River. Besides the red (silk covered) walls Missus Bradford, who is responsible for her own day-core, outfitted the room with a burled walnut table and matching chairs, striped fire engine red drapery–those, hunnies, are most certainly draperies and not curtains–an antique crystal chandelier, and moldings given a faux tortoise shell treatment using brown paint and gold leaf.

Other rooms in the Mister and Missus Bradford's River House residence include a blue sitting room where the Missus displays her collection of blue and white porcelain pieces from England and France and where during the apartment's decorative re-do Missus Bradford discovered, uncovered and restored a painted canvas in the over-door. The monochromatic linen and stone colored painted was installed by the apartments original owner and a second similar canvas was found (and restored) in the over door leading from the dining room to the living room.

A long corridor from the foyer leads to the three bedrooms which the childless Bradfords have re-purposed into a sitting room/dressing room for the Mister, an office where the Missus spends the bulk of her days pounding out her family sagas and, at the back of the apartment, a den or family room custom fitted with loads of shiny wood built-ins that house the electronic and boob-toob equipment.

The primary access to the couple's private quarters, we are sorry to say, requires an inelegant squeeze past the built-in bar in the "bar room." Had this "bar room" not been carved out of the original gallery entrance the entrance to the master suite would make a lot more sense from a programmatic point of view. As it is, the path to the master suite is, at best, clunky.

The master suite consists of a fair if not over-sized bedroom with cherry red wall to wall carpeting, raspberry colored silk upholstered walls, a rose colored chaise lounge, and pink and blue chintz valances and drapery that was also used in the making of the canopy over the head of the bed. Listen butter beans, we don't mean to be mean, but lo-ward have mercy, the Bradford's bedroom looks like the sort of thing one might find at the Madonna Inn. Now children, Your Mama loves us some of that campy hot mess that is the Madonna Inn where the themed rooms have nutty names like Barrell of Fun, Country Gentleman, Krazy Dazy, and the truly crazy and famous Caveman suite. But children Your Mama would never our self nor do we recommend anyone else actually work over their boo-dwar like it could be the Revolutionary Rose room at the damn Madonna Inn.

Missus Bradford's personal pooper is accessed through her dressing room, an octagonal room that hides three closets behind the paneled walls. Believe it or not chickens, the dressing room day-core shows a modicum of restraint despite the crystal chandelier, the myriad of carved floral accents, the dressing table draped in flowered fabric, the black lacquer chinoiserie style dresser, and silver leaf moldings.

The casually elegant ink slinger, still dishing a pleasantly lilting English accent even after nearly 50 years in the U.S., once took Joy Philbin–that would be the wife of television's most annoying talking head Regis Philbin–on a tour of her generously scaled if old-fashioned apartment during which she said, "Apartments or houses that are devoid of accessories tend to look like hotel rooms." Your Mama agrees with Missus Bradford that proper and well executed day-core should absolutely reflect the personality, interests and quirks of the owner. However and despite knowing as much about the nuances and traits of "traditional" day-core as we do about brain surgery, we dare-say that Missus Bradford might have been wise to have heeded the sage advice of the inestimable and laser sharp Coco Chanel who supposedly said something along the lines of, "Before leaving the house, a ladee should look in the mirror and remove at least one thing."

Anyhoo, given the utter improbability that a single person who resides at the seriously selective River House would ever consider allowing Your Mama, our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly or our mean ol' pussy Sugar to even cross the threshold of the lobby let alone live up in the old pre-war dowager, our opinion is really of little import. Never the less we'd sooner chop off a couple fingers than live in that stodgy and staid beast of a building that's about a million miles from anything. In Manhattan terms, a million miles is like four or five blocks and four or five blocks might as well be a million miles in Manhattan. Who wants to schlep more than a block or maybe two (by foot, cab or car service) in order to snatch up a late night candy snack at the nearest bodega or Korean deli? Plus, there's practically no place to eat over there on the farthest east side of Midtown Manhattan besides a Mac-Donalds and the old-school French restaurant Le Perigord, neither of which is on Your Mama's preferred list of dine-in or take-out establishments.

The relative dearth of services (in the immediate area) might help to explain why River House, once the cream of the co-operative crop in Manhattan, has declined in residential desirability over the last decade or so. There is no question that River House, built in a stunning Art Deco style in the early 1930s, is impressive and by most people’s standards prohibitively and ludicrously expensive. However, Your Mama sees Old Ladee River House like an aristocratic blue blood living in reduced circumstances who still shows up for lunch in an expensive but very old couture suit from Chanel, a pair of scuffed up Ferragamo pumps, and the only emerald choker she hasn’t had to hawk in order to keep the lights on and pay her pinch faced housekeeper Helen to keep her from seeking employment with a younger and wealthier woman.

Although it's not uncommon for River House residents to list their cribs with sky high prices excess of twelve or even twenty million clams, according to Street Easy (and Dana Rubenstein at the New York Observer) the single most expensive apartment to change hands in the last 6 years went for a mere $10,000,000. One agent who does the bidness in the building told Miss Rubenstein that 9 years ago, back when River House was still the shit for old money types looking to live among their own kind and new money types looking for an instant air of old money, an apartment traded for $12,500,000. That may be true but we find no easily accessible record of that transaction. Either way those selling prices are far below the asking numbers of 4 of the 5 spreads currently available on the open market at River house and make Your Mama think that the price tag on Mister and Missus Bradford's prairie like pad is, perhaps, a bit more than optimistic.

The most expensive apartment to be on the market recently belongs to former WorldCom director Francesco Galesi who spent a couple of unsuccessful years trying to unload his 16 room, 8 bedroom and 7.5 pooper penthouse with a blistering asking price of $35,000,000 and monthly maintenance charges coming in at a heart stopping $12,600. The doo-plex digs are no longer on the open market but that don't mean it isn't being quietly shopped around by one of the city's better connected real estate brokers. Mister Galesi, some of the children may recall, is the very same guy who sold Calvin Klein a grotesquely towered and turreted $29,000,000 tear down in Southampton that the fashion diva is in the process of replacing with a sensationally sleek Michael Haverland designed compound.

Philanthropist and theater maven Laura Pels has her sprawling spread on the market at $24,500,000 (reduced from $29,000,000) making it the highest priced place currently on the open market at River House. Miz Pels' pad, according to listing information, includes 4 family bedrooms, 4 fireplaces, 3 poopers (plus a staff suite with servant's hall, laundry facilities, double sized bedroom and private pooper), 2 balconies hanging over the river and a large set back terrace accessible only through bedrooms and the library.

No run-down of apartments for sale at River House, no matter how brief, would be complete without mentioning Broadway producer Marty Richards epic struggle to off-load his queenly 14-room maisonette unit since about the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. The doo-plex digs, first listed 10 or so years ago, have been priced as high as $29,000,000 and as low as $11,500,000. Miss Richards has reportedly had several buyers enter into contract for the colossal penthouse but none of the deals were fully consummated. Miss Richards remains, as far as Your Mama knows, in residence and his penthouse now carries an asking price of $13,900,000.

Some of River House's earliest residents included illustrious, old-money New York names like Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, retail tycoon Marshall Field III, William Rhinelander Stewart, Jr., James A. Burden, Jr. and Huntington Hartford, the entrepreneurial heir to the A&P supermarket fortune and the man who once owned the land that is now the dog walking paradise of Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles. More recent former residents have included actress/heiress Dina Merrill (her mother was Mrs. E.F. Hutton dontcha know) who moved out in the late 1990s, former head of Tiffany & Co. Walter Hoving, Susan and John Gutfruend who decamped for a beast of a doo-plex at 834 Fifth Avenue and who recently put their pied a terre in Paris on the market.

Current residents of River House, according to city records and previous reports, include the always controversial political powerhouse Henry Kissinger who has lived up in River House forevuh, and a lot of bankers and financiers such as Alexander Navab, Leslie Bains, and Jeffrey Leeds who paid $10,000,000 for the apartment of Blackstone Group's Pete Peterson. The younger set at River House includes old New York money scion Kiliaen Van Rensselaer and young socials Brook and Ferebee Taube.

Where Mister and Missus Bradford will hole up next is any one's guess-or at least it's not known to Your Mama. Perhaps they'll head across the pond to the Missus' homeland, maybe they've decided they don't really need such a grand home and are looking to downsize or perhaps they'll move on down to Palm Beach and live out their remaining days surrounded by the same sort of old money blue bloods, big bizness barons and Wall Street tycoons who have typically inhabited both River House and Palm Beach.

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