Sunday, October 31, 2010

Real Estate Rundown: 927 Fifth Avenue

Last week, while settin' around sippin' on a gin & tonic contemplating the obviously misguided but somehow still kind of brilliant choice for our friend Hunny Bear to dress up as Justin Bieber for Halloween, we received a typically breviloquent query from another friend and informant Hot Chocolate who asked Your Mama if we knew the dish and dirt on a dee-luxe apartment at the fayn-cee and famous 927 Fifth Avenue building in New York City that recently hit the market with an ear piercing asking price of $26,000,000.

We didn't.

So we did what we always do when our real estate interest gets piqued. We gathered a few provisions (some booze, a nerve pill and a small cache of candy), fired up the interweb and went for a peep and a poke around property records and past reports. Our search was short. The New York Times, much to our delight and chagrin, had already identified the seller of the high floor twenty-six million dollar cooperative apartment as the estate of fairly recently deceased multi-billionaire Bruce Wasserstein, brother of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein and former Chairman and CEO of the white shoe investment banking firm Lazard Frères. Mister Wasserstein went to meet his great investment banker in the sky in October of 2009.

In addition to his duties with Lazard Frères, Mister Wasserstein also owned the eponymous private equity concern Wasserstein & Co. through which he owned, among other bizess entities, New York magazine. At the time Mister Wasserstein bought the magazine in 2004, it was an arguably increasingly stale and quickly becoming irrelevant publication into which some say he breathed new life and renewed success and prominence among the publications and papers that devote themselves to all things New York City.

The slender and handsome limestone clad building at 927 Fifth Avenue, competed in 1917, was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Warren and Wetmore, the same accomplished architects who designed the architecturally outstanding Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Built with just one 14-room 6000-ish square foot apartment per floor, the intimately scaled 927 Fifth Avenue offered residents both high luxury and the luxury of privacy. It still does.

Exclusive, expensive and favored by big money Wall Street types, 927 Fifth Avenue is unquestionably one of the very good cooperative buildings that line Fifth Avenue but not, butter beans, one of the very best. Those aristocratic real estate honors, which many will surely decry as outdated and outrageous, belong to cooperative buildings with addresses such as 834, 820, and 1040. For the sake of simplicity, let's just call 927 a solid a-minus building with a board that, despite a couple of past "celebrity" residents, prefers a less attention seeking sort of occupant; They allegedly, many years ago, rejected Barbra Streisand when she sought permission to live up amongst their hoity-toitiness.

While a piece of cake to sort out the identity of the owner of the $26,000,000 apartment currently on the market, Your Mama found it far more difficult to sort out just who owns each of the other 11 full floor apartments at 927 Fifth Avenue. We dug at, pulled on and carefully cajoled the interweb until we were blue in the face and four and a half gin and tonics into the wee hours of the morning. (See how we do for you, children?). Listen here to Your Mama now, carpet tacks, because we're about to impart a cliche nugget of wisdom: Persistence does indeed (sometimes) pay off because after quite a few false starts plus the generous help of a very informative article in Vanity Fair Your Mama finally managed to piece together what we're pretty darn certain is a complete list of the current residents at 927 Fifth Avenue.

Some reports indicate that real estate developer and coop board president Richard Cohen owns the eighth floor apartment at 927 Fifth Avenue. He does not. Our research reveals that Mister Cohen owns the second floor unit, an apartment he shared with tee-vee achor Paula Zahn until sometime in 2007 or 2008 when the long married couple went splitsville. An acrimonious dee-vorce ensued and all sorts of lurid allegations got tossed about and reported in the gossip columns: Miz Zahn (allegedly) told people that her marriage was sexless. Mister Cohen accused Miz Zahn of hooking up with his pal Paul Friburg.

Your Mama don't know anything about those things but we do know that in 2004 Mister Cohen–and by extension Miz Zahn–was embroiled in an even more public brouhaha over the building board's desire to "evict" Pale Male and Lola, a pair of red-tailed hawks who had built a nest atop some of the building's decorative stonework overlooking Central Park. It's a long and sordid story, puppies, the details of which are another story for another day. Suffice to say that Mr. Cohen, as head of the board, successfully led the charge to remove the nest in 2004. Under intense pressure from the public, it wasn't long before the board built the lovebirds a new nest but alas, as far as we know, Pale Male and Lola have yet to produce a single winged shorty in the new nest. The story, should any of y'all be interested gets hashed out in the aforementioned Vanity Fair article.

In May of 2000, shoe purveyor Kenneth Cole and his wife Maria Cuomo-Cole–daughter of former New York State governor Mario Cuomo–paid $11,200,000 for the 3rd floor apartment at 927 Fifth Avenue, which they bought from private investor Laurence Schneider. As the story goes, the couple renovated the apartment but, due to a classic case of the mysterious The Real Estate Fickle, never moved in. The renovated residence was hoisted on to the market and snatched up in 2003 by hedge hog Lee Ainslie of Maverick Capital. We were unable to ferret out the sale price but, in case any inquiring minds want to know, in March of 2008 the Cole-Cuomos shelled out $14,500,000 for a cooperative apartment at the seriously stiff lipped One Sutton Place South.

In 1998, former Bankers Trust president and CEO Frank Newman–who received a severance package worth a reported $100,000,000 when he left the financial juggernaut in 1999–bought the 4th floor spread at 927 Fifth for around $9,750,000. He put the 14-room residence back on the market in 2000 for eighteen or $19,000,000. In the spring of 2002 word began to slip-slide down the real estate gossip grapevine that an offer of "almost $13,700,000" offer had been made. The buyer was Goldman Sachs bigwig Thomas B. Walker III. At least one report says the purchase price was $13,000,000. At the time of the sale, the apartment has high ceilings, ballroom sized public spaces with park views, fireplaces and restored gold leaf details.

The fifth floor, as best as Your Mama can surmise from our spin through the interweb, belongs to long time resident Claire Edersheim, the widow of financier Maurits Edersheim, an early and long time employee of the once venerable investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert. Mister Edersheim became rich as he climbed the corporate ladder, but in the wake of Drexel's 1990 bankruptcy, he migrated over to Smith Barney.

In addition to an entire house in Scarsdale, NY, in 1970 Mister and Missus Edersheim had the chutzpah to have their pre-war digs at 927 Fifth Avenue completely done over by Brutalist architect Paul Rudolph. The result was a sleek 1970s glam meets a throaty 1930s whisper with lots of suggestively curving walls, shiny surfaces, exotic lighting, Lucite tables, and an army of tufted arm chairs in the corner living room that overlooks Central Park. Numerous and delicious pictures of both projects can be seen here. Since a couple of the photos of the Edershiem's spread at 927 Fifth Avenue show they were taken in the summer of 2010, it appears that precious little has been done to mar the genius of Paul Rudolph.

By a process of elimination we're fairly well certain that leveraged buyout billionaire Marc Rowan and his wife Carolyn own the sixth floor. Like the now deceased Mister Edersheim who lived for many years the apartment below, Mister Rowan is a former big shot banker at Drexel Burnham Lambert. He founded and now heads up some other money making operation called Apollo Management.

Petroleum pasha Robert Belfer and his wife Renée own the seventh floor at 927 Fifth Avenue. Your Mama hears from someone we trust, someone who orbits in the same social milieu as Mister and Missus Belfer, that although Mister Richard Cohen may be the president of the board at 927 Fifth Avenue, it is Mister Belfer who is the gatekeeper. According to our source, the man can single handedly nix a potential buyer with the wee tic of the eye.

Big time philanthropists and patrons of the arts, Mister and Missus Belfer gave enough money to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that there is now a Robert and Renée Belfer Court for the display of early Greek art. They also handed over enough dough to Harvard University that there exists in their name something called the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Despite his large philanthropic gifts, Mister Belfer may in fact go down in the Wall Street history books for something else entirely. We doubt there will be much sympathy from the common folks who work hard to gas up their car and pay their cell phone bill because the Belfers are still crazy rich, but Mister Belfer was once a major shareholder and director of the doomed energy juggernaut Enron and when that colossal corporate turd swirled down the financial terlit he and his family reportedly lost up to two billion bucks.

Due to it's relatively small size, the turnover rate for apartments at 927 Fifth Avenue tends to bend towards molasses slow. The most recent recorded transaction of a residential unit was in May of 2005 when iconic actress Mary Tyler Moore and her cardiologist huzband Dr. Robert Levine sold their 8th floor unit for $18,o00,000 to asset management fat cat Robert Goldstein and his wife Stephanie.

On the 9th floor, radio and tee-vee tycoon Judith Hernstadt, the ex-wife of former Republican senator from Nevada William "Bill" Hernstadt.

Former Lazard Frères Chairman and CEO Bruce Wasserstein paid around $11,500,000 for the 10th floor unit at 927 Fifth Avnue in 1997. As mentioned previously, he added the 11th floor to his property portfolio in 2001.

The 11th floor unit, the one currently on the market at $26,000,000, was purchased in 1996 for around $10,000,000 by investment banker Richard Gilder. He bought from a ladee named Augusta Berin, the widow of clothing deisgner Harvey Berin who was best known for dressing former first ladee Pat Nixon. In May of 2001, Mister Gilder sold the apartment for around $15,000,000 to his downstairs neighbor, Bruce Wasserstein.

It's not clear if Mister Wasserstain planned to combine the two apartments–which one real estate broker claimed in some article we can no longer locate would be difficult because of the layout–but if he had done so he would have wound up with an almost unimaginable 20+ room 11,000 square foot beast with some of the best views of Central Park that money can buy.

Listing information, although slim on photos, shows the mansion-sized co-op crib includes 4 bedrooms, 5.5 renovated poopers, at least 3 fireplaces, a paneled formal dining room with three exposures, a living room with views over Central Park and as far north as the George Washington Bridge, a library and a "state of the art" kitchen with three huge windows and a separate dining area. The original 14 rooms have been winnowed down to 9 and the maintenance and common charges run, according to listing information, a stomach churning $14,777 per month.

The very quiet Harold and Judith Winters own the top floor unit at 927 Fifth Avenue. Iffin we're being honest, and we always are, Your Mama has no idea who these Winters people are or why they have the dough-re-mi to reside in the top floor of one of New York City's better and most costly cooperative apartment houses, but they do. It was outside Mister and Missus Winter's apartment, atop the arching pediment above the window and below the elegant and ornamental cornice, where the famous Pale Male and his ladee Lola made their original nest.

In addition to Mister Wasserstein's $26,000,000 apartment on the 11th floor, 927 Fifth Avenue's maisonette unit is also on the market with an asking price of $8,900,000. Currently configured as a doctor's office, the 4,000+ square foot ground floor space has been on and off the market since at least August of 2007 when it was listed at $12,950,000.

According to the Columbia University Archives, the maisonette was originally designed as a 10-room residence with a private entrance on East 74th Street. Formal living and dining rooms and a breakfast room spanned the width of the apartment a long corridor off the entrance hall lead back to two family bedrooms with Jack and Jill pooper and a master bedroom with private facilities. The kitchen, tucked into the dark belly of the building, was flanked by three cell-sized staff room that shared two small closets and one closet sized pooper.
Marketing materials for the maisonette include a potential floor plan (above) for the transformation of the the doctor's office's current warren of rooms into a luxurious 3 bedroom and 4.5 pooper residence with a grand 45-foot long living room, formal dining room with built-in bar, library, and a windowless kitchen with butler's pantry an adjacent staff suite comprised of 2 small bedrooms that share a single windowless pooper.

Like every other real estate gossip who cares about such trivial things, Your Mama waits on pins and needles to hear who buys the apartment and whether the Wasserstein estate will opt to sell the tenth floor spread as well.

photo (building exterior): Property Shark
floor plan (maisonette): Brown Harris Stevens

Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Easton and the Center Table





This week Linda, Megan and I were thrilled to interview noted architect and interior designer David Easton on The Skirted Roundtable.  Never having heard him speak before, and only having read his interview on the NY Social Diary HERE – we didn’t know quite what to expect.   Our interest was piqued when just before we started, his assistant wondered if we did any editing!  Mr. Easton was a delight and a total surprise.  Expecting someone dour and serious, he was mostly fun and he certainly likes to tease.   Engaging and warm, he turned the tables around by asking us questions about our ourselves.   We talked a lot about science fiction – something he is obsessed with – and what he thinks the future will be like.   He doesn’t see much hope for the cabriole leg, unfortunately.   We did manage to fit in some discussion of interior design and his new book which is a compilation of his most noted and favorite projects.    I recently wrote about one house – his own country estate Balderbrae which was sold a few years ago.   While talking about Balderbrae, the subject of his space planning came up and how he likes to design a large main living space which many times encompasses a dining area.  Easton is enthralled with one room living which includes the office in it.   When designing the interiors for these spaces – he tends to use a center table to divide the seating areas.   

I love a center table, whether in the living room or the foyer.   The center table is wonderful in a cluttered design – piled high with masses of books and accessories.   I have one in my entry hall and its tablescape changes on a whim.   For years a large birdcage stood in the center of it, now an overscaled urn takes its place.    The center table has long been a decorating tool.  Finding images of contemporary interiors with center tables was not as easy as the more traditional designs.   The table can be round or hexagonal, but square is rarely a chosen option.   The table is often bare though skirted is a popular choice.   In our interview, Easton freely admitted that he often chooses to use the center table and is quite fond of it.    Though his rooms are very large, the center table can be used in smaller rooms where an off-center placement may be preferable.  

Below are some examples of how to use this popular decorating element – the center table.   Enjoy!




Balderbrae – the one room living and dining space combined with fireplaces on both sides.  Easton uses a skirted table here to divide the room into the seating and eating area.   He usually surrounds the center table with stools and masses of books.




This Easton house in Dallas shows a skirted table surrounded by tiger skinned stools.  Again, it is piled high with books.   Also notice the cubbies above the doors are the same as at Balderbrae.




Same house, looking the other way – here you can see there is a fireplace at both ends of the room, just like at Balderbrae.




This garden room is divided by a skirted table.   Notice the pair of French chairs with a lacquered back – how pretty!




In his own NYC apartment, an antique wood table divides the room.  Easton says that one room living is his favorite kind:  he even likes to include the office in the living space.  Here you can see his and his partner’s desk back to back.





And, looking the other way at this NYC apartment.  Notice the cubby above the door!  What a pretty door to use on the interior, instead of just an exterior.





Here, Easton uses another antique table to divide the living spaces.  This room is very dressy, not the casually French inspired rooms he does so well a la Balderbrae.




In Colorado – a round center table divides living spaces and dining spaces. 




The same room – looking at the other side.  Notice there are two fireplaces here also.   And, instead of the cubby above the door, there is a transom.   Easton recognizes that doors look better reaching up to just a foot or two below the ceiling – but in high ceilinged rooms this can be a problem.   He fills in the extra foot or so with either a cubby, a transom, a painting or a collection of plates.   As I tell him in the interview – Easton is a master at furniture placement.  Never is anything out of place, nor “wrong” – no bad fabrics choices or pillows or accessory, everything is always perfect.  




At a beach house, this center table is a less dressy choice.  Shells and books share the tabletop.




Charles Faudree:   Other designers share Easton’s love of the center table.  Charles Faudree from Tulsa has a similar aesthetic to Easton.   Easton’s partner, the artist Jimmy Steinmeyer, also hails from Tulsa and he has illustrated all of Faudree’s books.    Faudree, like Easton, has used the one room living space plan.   Several of his own custom designed houses have employed two fireplaces with a center table dividing the living and dining spaces.   Here, two fireplaces face each other in a very large living/dining room.    A painted square table divides the two areas – one of the few times a square shape is used.   This room is also perfection – Faudree is every bit the master at interior design that Easton is.   The room reminds me of Balderbrae!




Faudree:    The center table doesn’t always have to be used in a large room.  In this small study, a center gate leg table is used to divide the room.    I think the table makes the room look so much more cozy and inviting!




Alessandra Branca, the Italian interior designer from Chicago, loves to use center tables in her designs.   Here an antique wood table piled high with books divides a living room.


Branca:  Looking down from a second floor, a round yellow skirted table divides this expansive living room. 




Branca:  Too beautiful.  Those stools !!!!  Whoa.   Here a muted fabric covers a skirted table – lit by a large outdoor type of lantern.  Gorgeous hand painted wallpaper wraps the room.   This is like eye candy – your mouth waters just looking at it!!!




Branca:   In a large space, a wood table divides it.   Here, Branca used a crystal chandelier over the table.   I love the way she uses trim on her stools – here and above.    She is one of my favorite designers – I love everything she does.



Branca:  Here, Alessandra designed a penthouse suite in a L.A. hotel.   She used a large, painted round table to divide the living space.   Stools surround it.  Book this room for me!  



John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross use a large, casually skirted table to divide the living room in their country house.   Their style is much more eclectic and less formal than Easton, Faudree and Branca, yet the use of the center table looks perfect.   Notice the gorgeous columns and  molding!




Vicente Wolf:   in one of my personal favorites from his portfolio, Wolf uses a gorgeous antique table to divide a large living room.    Here, the table is topped with accessories, not books, and a sturdy, upholstered ottoman grounds the setting. 




Timothy Whealon:    Whealon uses an antique table, surrounded by antique stools in a dressy apartment.   A large lantern hangs over the setting.   Placing a light fixture over the center table is a wonderful choice – and should be considered if at all possible.




Kathryn Ireland:  In her own California home, a skirted table stands in her living room – acting as a division between the entrance and the room’s interior.   Ireland changes the table’s covers frequently. 




John Stefanidis:  Stefanidis used a large octagon shaped skirted table to divide areas in a very dressy family room.   Classic.   I don’t care for the lone lamp on the table – I think something bulkier might have been better.  I know,  I know – who am I to question the fabulous Stefanidis?!!!  What chutzpa!   It’s OK, he knows I love him.   Completely!  In fact, his book – Living By Design - remains one of my favorite all time design books.



Jeffrey Bilhuber:    Some designers prefer to use a back to back sofa to divide a large living space.



J. Randall Powers:   Randy used a back to back sofa in this large family room in Houston (this picture is distorted in the middle!)   The casual striped linen fabric tones down the room, making it less dressy.  What great pillows!  So large!!!   This room is just perfection – I love, love, love it.    The window treatments are wonderful – I love the busts. 




Windsor Smith:  Windsor is a designer who often employs the back to back sofa.   She designed several versions of it for her furniture line.  Here in a dreamy living room – the velvet covered sofa takes center stage.   I love the curtains here and the touch of zebra.




Windsor Smith:   Windsor does more contemporary designing too – not as often, but she does do it.  Here she changed the lines and details on the sofa to reflect the Hollywood Glam vibe of the room.




Windsor Smith:   Her white slipcovered back to back sofa with the “butter pats” hem edge is her most famous.   Here, a beach house is the perfect location for the back to back sofa – which faces a fireplace. 





Windsor Smith:   In her new home, a back to back sofa in her own Kravet fabric, again has the butter pats hem.   Here, the sofa faces a conversation area on one side and the tv and fireplace on the other.  See below:




Windsor Smith:   The other side of the her family room.   Great double zebra rug!




Windsor Smith:   In her former living room, the white slipcovered back to back sofa rests along side the fireplace.    The walls are such a great shade of barely there pink.   Notice how she placed the chandelier right above the double sofa.    This house was so beautiful – it makes me sad to see the old pictures of it!


Which do you prefer for dividing a large room?   A center table or a back to back sofa????


Joni Webb:   An earlier version of my center table – with the bird cage.   This looks so much better than it does now!   Oh well.  Things change, not always for the better.




For holidays, I use the center table for overflow seating!  Last year I had six at this table.





The year before I only needed four extra chairs.  Our family is growing!  We’re having a big wedding this March when my nephew Jeffry gets married. 





To order David Easton’s new book, which I highly recommend if you are a fan, click on the name of the book below:





And remember to listen to this week’s Skirted Roundtable with Mr. David Easton!  It’s an interesting one!!   HERE.








A special invitation for Cote de Texas readers:

On November 11, Jill Brown of Brown HERE will be hosting an event and auction at her shop benefiting the Yellowstone Academy.  Yellowstone is a private, not for profit, faith based school started in 2001 for children living in extreme poverty.   Opening their doors with just 64 children, the school now serves 320 students and goes up to the 7th grade.  Their amazing student profile is:

  1. 100% of admissions are from low-income families
  2. 87% of students are living in poverty or extreme poverty
  3. Median family annual income is $8,088
  4. 93% live in single parent households
  5. 95% of  students are African American; 5% are Other.

What an amazing success story!   Instead of talking about it, these people actually have accomplished something wonderful for the community.  

Jill has been a great friend to Cote de Texas – she hosted our largest ever giveaway this year when she donated a lantern from Brown and now  for this benefit, she is setting aside 30 tickets for readers of this blog – at $40/person and $60/couple.   The auction will feature great items from Jill’s store such as high and low chandeliers, lights, furniture and more.   If you would like to attend the event or feel motivated to donate to the school, please click HERE for all the information. 

As always, thank you Jill for all your support.


A video starring the students of Yellowstone Academy!

Weekend Wrap Up

Listen candy corns, it's Halloween, we're hopped up on the candy and we just ain't got that much for you today, so this one is short and sweet. Boo!

Iffin Your Mama is being truthful–and we always are–we'd snitch on ourselves that we can't name from memory one single film starring Val Kilmer. We can't, 'tis true. A quick consult with the Internet Movie Data Base and we realize we've never even heard of anything Mister Kilmer has done since 2004 when he made a guest appearance on Entourage. Okay, we've heard of Knight Rider but thought it was a tee-vee show from the early 1980s with that nails-on-the-chalkboard David Hasselhoff. Besides, he wasn't really even on Knight Rider he was the voice of the car, K.I.T.T. Ugh

That said, in 2010 and 2011 alone, Mister Kilmer's got 15 (or so) projects in the hopper, in post-production, or in the planning stages, which means the moon-faced thespian and former hottie has been pretty damn bizzy lately.

The man has also been bizzy trying to unload his 5,328+ acre ranch outside of Santa Fe in Rowe, NM. He first listed the stunningly beautiful property a long time ago for $33,000,000 but recently lowered the price by $10,000,000, a somewhat shocking and desperate seeming amount. But then again, maybe the property was stoopidly priced at thirty three million.

There are, according to listing information, 6 miles of Pecos River frontage, 10 natural springs, 50 miles of hiking and riding trails and an Santa Fe adobe style main mansion filled with a lot of Native American artifacts that sprawls across 11,573 square feet and includes 7 bedrooms, 9 full and 2 half poopers.

Although we're not sure–which means don't take this to the bank–we think Mister Kilmer bunks down in Malee-boo when he's on the west coast.

Noted New York City gallerist Jeffrey Deitch opened the Lower Manhattan Deitch Projects in 1996 with a show by Vanessa Beecroft and over the years presented the work of a whole lotta art making young guns like Cecily Brown, Ryan McGinness and Inka Essenhigh.

In early 2010 it was announced that Mister Deitch was to take up the reins of the top spot at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. His appointment has been, to put it mildly, controversial. Some say Mister Deitch has blazed a new and exciting path through the contemporary art world scene and breathed new life into a near moribund institution in part by erasing the lines between art and celebrity. Others will hiss that they hear the death knell of art ringing loudly in their ears when his name is mentioned in connection to the museum.

Whatever the case, Mister Deitch needed a place to live in Los Angeles and landed at the far western edge of the star studded Los Feliz neighborhood, just a quick hop from downtown where MOCA is situated. Mister Deitch recently gave Nowness a personal video tour of his nearly unfurnished but art filled house that happens to be just a few doors down from Brad Pitt's ever-expanding compound. It also happens to be where Cary Grant lived with his on-again/off-again man-friend Randolph Scott,

Property records show the house measures a sizable 6,727 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 4 poopers. Records also show the property was last purchased in 2006 for $3,200,000, which indicates that Mister Deitch leases the property. Besides Brad Pitt, Mister Deitch's nearby neighbors include tee-vee producer Keith Addis, Kevin Spacey, choreographer Adam Shankman, Christina Ricci, Mandy Moore, and screenwriter Mitch Glazer and his wife actress Kelly Lynch who live in the speck-tacular John Lautner designed Harvey Aluminum House.

Mister Deitch's house is a bee-yoot and has a "party room" that he's commissioned artist Richard Woods to outfit his "party room" like a "super Tudor-pop" environment where already got Tim Noble and Sue Webster's glitzy Golden Showers piece hanging. We're all goose-pimpled in anticipation of our invitation to the house warming once that Richard Woods room gets installed.

Producer Robert Evans is a living legend around Tinseltown and like all good Hollywood legends, Mister Evans owns a legendary Jon Woolf designed Hollywood Regency style house in Beverly Hills, CA called Woodland.

Seven times married Mister Evans–who produced motion picture history like Rosemary's Baby, The Godfather, Harold and Maude, and Chinatown–hosted and entertained everybody who was anybody in Hollywood, not to mention and a whole lot of nobodies who wanted to be somebody. Henry Kissinger played tennis at Woodlawn, Robert Shapiro celebrated his 50th birthday there and Mister Evans did the bownchickabowbowm with a near endless list of Tinseltown beauties.

The New York Times recently sent a photographer into Woodland to capture some of it's beauty and myth. It's old-school, for sure, but it's magnificent and like Mister Evans, one of the last of its kind. Enjoy. We did.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones Go Country (Plus some floor plan porn for good measure.)

BUYERS: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones
PRICE: $5,075,000
SIZE: 6,300 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: This sunny Friday morning Your Mama's going to piggy-back on a recent report in The Post about the purchase of a country house in the rolling hills of pretty and preppy Bedford, NY by two time Academy Award winning actor Michael Douglas and his one time Academy Award winning wife Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Bedford and the surrounding communities of Westchester County claim a wide array of high profile property owners such as domestic arts tycoon and ex-con Martha Stewart, the soo-blime actress Glenn Close, Matthew Bronfman (heir to the Seagrams booze fortune), aging but still hot to trot actor Richard Gere and his ladee Carrie Lowell, multi-billionaire financier George Soros–breath, breath, breath–Abigail Disney (of the Disney family), comedian and actor Chevy Chase, and fashion fat cat Ralph Lauren whose clothes sort of exemplify the high-nosed horsey vibe of the über upscale semi-rural Westchester County bedroom communities located just north of and easy commuting distance from New York City.

Clarification: Before any of you people start getting sassy and smart mouthed with Your Mama, be aware that we are well aware that there are plenty of areas within Westchester County that are actually pretty trashy or, at least, not nearly as genteel or stiff lipped as some of the more quietly ritzy areas. Okay?

The astonishingly beautiful Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas has been doing the Entertainment Bizness Shuffle since she was just a wee lassie in Wales. In the early 1990s she shot to stardom when she appeared on the British tee-vee dramedy The Darling Buds of May. She got her big break in the U.S. cinema industry in 1998 with The Mask of Zorro. It wasn't until she hooked up with her Hollywood hotshot huzband that her career as a siren of the silver screen really took off like Secretariat out of the gate. Since gettin' with Mister Douglas–in what may or may very well not be a coincidence of timing–Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas has landed plum roles in blockbuster movies such as Traffic, Chicago, Ocean's Twelve, and the upcoming biopic of painter Salvador Dalí in which she's rumored to play Gala Dalí opposite Antonio Banderas as the mustachioed master of surrealism.

The impressive and long resume of the quickly-becoming-an-iconic-actor Mister Douglas includes starring roles in major motion pictures that include the bone chilling Coma, The China Syndrome, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, The War of the Roses, Basic Instinct in which our favorite koo-koo bird Sharon Stone flashes her down there bits for the world to ponder, Traffic, Solitary Man, and the successful but unfortunate sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. We can't help it, we just hate sequels. Why not just leave well enough alone. Anyhoo, in addition to being an honest to goodness movie star, Mister Douglas has done quite well for himself on the boob-toob earning four Emmy nominations, three for the 1970s cop drama The Streets of San Francisco and one in 1998 for playing a leering and creepy but endearing closeted detective who took a sexual shine to Will on Will & Grace.

The first marriage for Mister Douglas–the eldest son of legendary 3-time Oscar nominated dimple chinned actor Kirk Douglas–was with a ladee named Diandra who, as it turns out, has her magnificent and fabled mansion in Montecito, CA–called La Quinta–on the market for a breath taking but not unheard of for Montecito $29,000,000.

Mister Douglas and the first Missus Douglas finalized their dee-vorce, which reportedly cost Mister Douglas around $45,000,000, in June of 2000. In August of the same year, a preggers Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas–who was still, technically, Miss Zeta-Jones at the time–popped out the first of the pair's two children. A couple months later, in mid-November, Mister Douglas made an honest women of Miss Zeta-Jones and hitched his celebrity wagon to her rising star.

There seems to be some dispute and guffawing over just how old Missus Zeta-Jones Douglas actually is; She is officially, professionally and more than likely 41. What is not in dispute is that her father is younger than her huzband. Now listen, butter beans, Your Mama has nary an issue with a May-December fling, romance or marriage but when your father is younger than your huzband you've done pushed on through to something a little more like an icky and ill-fitting February-December sort of thing. You know we're saying, puppies?

Anyhoo, getting back to the real estate matter at hand, as the story goes in The Post, Mister Douglas and Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas leased the house they bought in Bedford for "at least six months" before signing on the deed's dotted line. Listing information Your Mama scared up out of the interweb shows the serene estate, purchased for $5,075,000, stretches across 5.7 acres dotted with mature stands of trees. Surrounded on three sides by a famous horse farm, a long gravel driveway streaks across the plush property to a privately situated 1930s white brick center hall Colonial style mansion with six-over-six sash windows and classic black shutters.

The 6,300 square foot two-story manse, according to listing information, includes 5 bedrooms and 5.5 poopers as well as a separate guest house or caretaker cottage. Inside, past the petite portico entrance, a wonderfully long living room features hardwood floors, a library nook and the first of five fireplaces. The formal dining room, wrapped in wallpaper that like a Gordian Knot depicts a countryside and house that looks suspiciously like the actual house in which the wallpaper is hung, has a discreet corner fireplace.

Much of the seller's day-core reeks of dignified but boring Grandmas and Grandpas but, just as a pimento gets stuck up into an olive, the vintage house contains a country style but contemporary and fully equipped kitchen recently redone to include white Shaker style cabinets, marble counter tops, multiple work zones, two dishwashers, a breakfast bar and built-in desk area where, iffin we lived here, Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's stink-eyed housekeeper Svetlana would sit and yakkety-yak on the phone in a foreign language for hours at a time.

The ground floor also includes a library and breakfast room both with fireplace, a sun room with a row of French Doors with arched fan lights, a powder pooper and a bedroom with private terliting facilities that Your Mama suspects might be a pinched room where the housekeeper or live-in terlit gurl is supposed to live. Upstairs, in addition to the master suite with its Delph blue and white toile covered everything, there are two more en-suite bedrooms and a fourth, the only bedroom with a fireplace, that shares a pooper with an office and the laundry facilities.

A tree-shaded brick terrace off the back of the house steps down to vast swathes of lawn kept green by a sprinkler system. At one back corner of the property, surrounded by trees, a small pond or maybe the swimming pool and at the other back corner what looks to Your Mama might have been a grass tennis court.

Since word of the purchase slipped down the celebrity real estate grapevine, Your Mama has heard two interesting bits of entertainment to supplement our real estate story. The first is that we heard from a well-connected fella' named Imogene Imnotaboy that super star professional baseball stud Derek Jeter bought–or is in the process of buying–a house on the very same street as Mister Douglas and Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas. We're not really sure why Mister Jeter, who reportedly owns homes in Marlboro, NJ and Greenwood Lake, NY, would want or need a house in Bedford too. But children, who are we to question or make sense of the wacky real estate ways of the rich and famous? Mister Jeter currently has his apartment in Manhattan on the market at $20,000,000 and he's currently building a colossal–some might say colossally overbuilt–crib on Davis Island in Tampa, FL.

The other tidbit we heard but can not confirm–which means its just rumor and gossip–was that Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas was recently seen leaving the local discount retail emporium Target with a red basket full of bargains for her and her family's new house in the country. See puppies, even ridiculously famous multi-millionaires like a bargain just as much as someone struggling to put food on the table.

The Douglas/Zeta-Jones Douglas clan reportedly have more than half a dozen homes including a luxury apartment in New York City, where it is Your Mama's understanding they have a significant spread at the Kenilworth, an ornate, 1908 architectural wedding cake of an apartment block on Central Park West built in the French Second Empire style. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are not the only entertainment bigwigs to live up in the Kenilworth. Two-time Emmy winner Dick Cavett owns an apartment in the building as does two-time Oscar nominated and 5-time Emmy winning actor John Lithgow.

Our research shows that in addition to the apartment in the Big Apple and now the country estate in Bedford, NY, Mister Douglas and Miz Zeta-Jones Douglas own (or owned) a home base in the Bermuda, a ski house in Aspen, a cliff-top compound in Majorca, an apartment in Los Angeles' Century City, a large house in her native Swansea (Wales) and a 5 bedroom beachfront hideout on a private island in the Turks & Caicos islands.

Based on Your Mama's rudimentary and wholly unscientific research, we've determined that apartments at the 42-unit Kenilworth building rarely come up for sale. According to Streeteasy, there have been only 4 recorded sales in the building over the last five years plus a fifth transaction that appears to be an intra-family transfer of some kind.
Currently, only one apartment at the Kenilworth appears on the open market: a 3,200 square foot, medium-high floor beauty with 2 actual bedrooms, 3.5 poopers and another a cell-sized staff room tucked up into the back of the apartment behind the kitchen. The unit currently carries a screaming $17,500,000 price tag with painful maintenance charges of $5,500 per month.

Before any of y'all get to conclusion that we're suggesting this might be Mister Douglas's digs, we're not. In all honesty, we don't know who owns this apartment that grandly claims 50 feet of de-voon and deeply desirable direct frontage over Central Park. A small foyer with a couple of coat closets opens into a gallery with intricate dentil molding where a couple of muscular square columns separate the gallery from the formal dining room with its direct park views. Also opening directly off the gallery, a library also has enviable park views. However, the cherry on this real estate sundae is the corner living room with panoramic over-the-tree-top views east over Central Park towards the dee-luxe apartment towers that line Fifth Avenue and south toward Midtown and Rockefeller Center.

The service area was nicely squirreled away at the rear of the apartment and connected to both the public and private quarters by a couple of cleverly placed corridors. The eat-in kitchen has honey colored cabinets with glass-fronted uppers, granite counter tops, a 6-burner Viking range and two Sub-Zero refrigerators. A couple of Parisian café chairs and a two-sided banquette upholstered in a fuzzy beige fabric surround the table for six in the breakfast area of the cookery. To one side of the kitchen, a decent sized private laundry room with service elevator access and, on the other, a slim room better used as a home office than a staff bedroom.

It appears to Your Mama that two smaller bedrooms may have been combined to create a 27 foot long master bedroom with entry vestibule, walk in closet, private pooper, and book-shelf lined sitting room with peripheral southern views of Central Park. Iffin that is indeed what's happened, the original master bedroom became a generous if not huge second bedroom with private facilities, double exposure with western and southern views plus a lateral park view.

photos: (Bedford): Vincent & Whittemore, Inc.
photos (New York City): Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Aussie Actor Toni Collette Snags Tinseltown Pied a Terre

SELLER: Toni Collette and David Galafassi
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $1,330,000
SIZE: 2,236 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms (plus 1 in the pool house)

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: It was recently reported here, there, and every damn where that soo-blime Academy Award winning Australian actor Toni Collette (United States of Tara, Little Miss Sunshine, Sixth Sense, Muriel's Wedding) and her musician man-mate David Galafassi, who already have one two year old named Sage, will soon be proud parents to a second shortie.

It was also reported last week in the Australian celebrity (real estate) gossip columns that Miz Collette and her Mister had applied for permits to allow an expensive renovation of the beach house they bought last year in Tamarama, a swank seaside suburb a few miles east of Sydney.

As it turns out, the upcoming overhaul of their Tamarama residence isn't the only real estate news being made by Miz Collette and her Mister. Thanks to our wickedly well informed tattletale Lucy Spillerguts we've learned that the duo from Down Under recently shelled out $1,330,000 (US) for a home in Los Angeles. It's perfectly understandable they'd want a pied a terre in Tinseltown since the newly preggers Miz Collette, her Mister and their toddler tot Sage spend a great deal of time in Los Angeles where she films and delivers a tour de force performance on The United States of Tara as a suburban housewife with a diverse collection of personality alters that number at least half a dozen.

What endears Miz Collette and her Mister to Your Mama's cold and dark real estate heart is that they didn't feel the senseless need to splash out on a showy, celebrity style estate in the 90210 or even the 90027; That's Bev Hills and Los Feliz, children. Instead they went for the the much more downmarket 90038 zip code, a center of the city locale not normally associated with celebrity residents. While it might more correctly be called Hollywood, many Real Estates might try to call the neighborhood Hancock Park adjacent or maybe West Hollywood adjacent while real estate snobs, the sorts of folks who can't bear to drive their Bentleys east of La Cienega unless it's north of Sunset Boulevard, will consider this neck of Lala Land the 'hood. But it's not. It really isn't. It's a lovely, leafy street in a somewhat unremarkable and un-fussy but well-kept and, generally speaking, safe section of Los Angeles. For what it's worth–and it ain't worth a cookie jar–Your Mama much prefers a residence that leans towards humble rather than big and brassy so we'd live there without complaint.

Although there really are scads of neighborhoods throughout the city where residents can walk to a charming commercial shopping district, true to stereotype and the Missing Persons, nobody walks in L.A., not if they don't have to. Your Mama sincerely believes that many Angelenos would happily chew off their pinky toe to be able to drive from the living room to the damn kitchen. Miz Collette and her Mister have opted for a new nest in a modest if not particularly inexpensive neighborhood where they can–should they have the very un-L.A. inclination to do so– actually walk to a myriad of shops and restaurants. They can easily pop down to Susan Feniger's Street, over to Pizzeria Mozza, and up to DeLuscious Cookies & Milk. Even better perhaps, they're just around the corner from the yummy and quirky Blackman Cruz showroom where faboo furniture and other pocketbook punishing decorative accouterments abound, like a rare and dee-voon Dan Johnson designed Gazelle Lounge Chair that could easily set a person back ten thousand clams.

A little digging around on the interweb and Your Mama learns that the walled, gated and fenced 1924 Spanish casa was purchased as a fixer-upper in March of 2008 for $650,000 (US). As best as we can assess, the house was gutted, given a major re-do and flipped back on the market in January of 2009 for $1,495,000 (US). Over the next 18 months, the property was de-listed and re-listed more times than we care to count and the price slowly shaved down to $1,395,000 (US), the asking price when Miz Collette and her Mister purchased the place.

Listing information shows that Miz Collette and her Mister's Los Angeles, CA crash pad measures 2,236 square feet, includes 3 bedrooms, 3.5 poopers and a wide front porch shaded by a trellis woven with bougainvillea. The customary and expected cluster of rooms in a typical Spanish-style cottage in L.A. have been blown out to create an open plan living space. The sizable living/dining room includes glistening walnut wood floors, prominent but minimalist fireplace, and a classic, arched floor to ceiling window. Directly behind the living/dining room a crisp and clean, white and stainless steel kitchen was did up and done over with concrete colored CeasarStone counter tops and a massive work island/breakfast bar. The kitchen opens into a cozy–which means kind of small–family room where wood framed French doors provide access to a raised deck that runs the full width of the back of the house. The small deck is just spacious enough for a barbecue, a table with a couple of (Panton) chairs and one of those double-wide chaise lounger biznesses that Your Mama loves so much.

Three bedrooms line up like ducks in a row along one side of the house. The master bedroom at the very back, with French doors that swing open to the backyard, has a gleaming white bathroom with spa tub, wide vanity and separate glass enclosed shower that Your Mama thinks might have benefited from a built-in seat or shelf for lining up all the shower gels, body jellies and salt scrubs. Maybe, given the vast number of 90-degree angles formed by the tile work and cabinet construction, something friendlier and less hard edged like a not yet petrified tree stump or an antique hand-carved Chinese stool. Thoughts?

The deck at the back of the house steps down to the back yard where a narrow strip of lawn divides the swimming pool and spa from the one-time garage now legally converted to a pool house with hardwood floors, kitchenette and bathroom. One of those new-fangled "fire ribbon" things separates the swimming pool from a wide and smooth privacy wall onto which movies and slide shows can be projected. We j'adore the projection wall but could have done without the "fire ribbon," a tiresome design trend and cliché conceit that makes Your Mama need a tall gin & tonic to chase down a fat nerve pill.

In addition to their recent real estate acquisition in the United States, Miz Collette and her Mister have also been lightening and switching up their property portfolio Down Under. It was reported in the Australian papers in 2008 that Miz Collette and her Mister pulled in $1,610,000 (AUS) when they divested themselves of an eco-friendly getaway a couple of hours outside of Sydney.

In July of 2004 Miz Collette and Mister Galafassi paid around $5,000,000 (AUS) for El Mio, a sort of Spanish-Mission style mansion compound built in 1928 in the Bellevue Hill neighborhood of Sydney. Your Mama discussed the 5 bedroom and 2.5 pooper property in early August of 2009 when the couple had house on the market for a rumored asking price in excess of $6,500,000 (AUS). Shortly after we worked the place over, it sold for $6,400,000 (AUS). We don't, contrary to popular opinion, think there's any connection to the two events.
Some older reports declare that property rich pair sold a beach house in Sydney's eastern suburb of Tamarama. And maybe they did. More recent reports, however, reveal that Miz Collette and her Mister paid around $4,400,000 (AUS) for a 4 bedroom and 2 pooper property (above) in Tamarama and the latest "news" on their new Tamarama spread is that they've applied for permits to begin an extensive $2,500,00o (AUS) renovation that includes an addition to the back of the house as well as the addition of a swimming pool and spa.

As far as we know the couple still own a home somewhere in Ireland that Your Mama imagines is very green.

listing photos (Los Angeles): Gilleran Griffin Company
listing photos (Tamarama): goodyearDonnelly Real Estate via Domain