Thursday, December 30, 2010

Floor Plan Porn for the New Year: 834 Fifth Avenue

Among the dozen or so white glove co-operative apartment houses that rank among New York City's most expensive and hardest to gain access to, staid, stodgy and solid as a rock 834 Fifth Avenue is the cream of the real estate crop.

The somber and pedigreed pre-war dowager at 834 Fifth Avenue was designed by the much lauded and applauded architect Rosario Candela and erected in 1931 on the corner of East 64th Street directly across the street from the entrance to the Central Park Zoo. The understated and architecturally confident 16 story limestone clad building has a three story rusticated base, a garden courtyard, and just 24 sumptuous and spacious apartments–many of them doo-plexes–serviced by round the clock doormen, concierge and elevator operators.

The imposing building, occupied over the years by some of the hoitiest of New York's toitiest, is on par with other hideously expensive and oddly clannish apartment houses such as 4 E. 66th Street where young hedge hog Chase Coleman paid $36,500,000 to buy the former full floor residence of financially embattled super-socialite Veronica Hearst in July of 2008 and 998 Fifth Avenue where booze heir Matthew Bronfman paid $18,000,000 for former home of the dee-voon Anne Slater in late 2007 and where property mad oil and copper billionaire Len Blavatnik paid $27,500,000 for a fourth floor spread in January of 2007.

As with many of the priciest and aristocratic co-operative buildings in Manhattan, turnover at 834 Fifth Avenue tends towards painfully slow. Since 2005, there have been just three apartments on the open market and a total of six (recorded) sales. 834 Fifth Avenue, sugar beets, is not for the financially feint of heart or–since the building allows no financing of purchases–the cash strapped. If Your Mama busts out our bejeweled abacus and flicks the well worn beads around a bit we discover that the amount of money that changed hands at 834 in the last 5 or 6 years totals a bone shattering $161,644,500 with an average sale price of $26,940,000.

There were two (off-market) sales at 834 Fifth Avenue in 2010 and a third apartment–a high floor doo-plex apartment owned by 21-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer Harold Prince and his wife Judy–remains up for sale where it has lingered and languished since it was first heaved on to the (open) market in September of 2009 with an knee buckling and bank account busting asking price of $33,000,000.

By November of 2010 three chops had brought the asking price of Mister and Missus Prince's two-floor residence down to $24,900,000. Shortly thereafter the apartment was de-listed and ten days later, in late December of 2010, the 11-room doo-plex was re-listed with a new listing agent at the old $24,900,000 asking price.
Listing information and the floor plan (above) show the 11-room apartment, formerly owned by make-up maven Elizabeth Arden, measures (approximately) 4,750 square feet and includes 3 bedrooms and 3.5 poopers plus multi-level staff quarters that contain another two bedrooms and two poopers.

Some of the children may need a nerve pill to quell the shock and awe when they learn that no financing is allowed for purchased at 834 Fifth Avenue and the monthly maintenance for Mister and Missus Prince's fit-for-a-prince pad runs $16,442 per month. A few quick flicks of the beads on Your Mama's bejeweled abacus shows that's a mood altering $197,304 per year.

Floor plan information included with listing shows the stately but not uncomfortably or ostentatiously vast high floor apartment has a much-desired-by-the-rich-and-famous private elevator vestibule. A less than optimal and paltry pair of rooms (plus a terrace) directly face Fifth Avenue and Central Park. On the lower floor the park facing room is a long and narrow solarium that opens to the west facing terrace and upstairs it's the corner master bedroom. The master pooper, it should be noted, also has a spectacular vista of the park from the terlit.

The bulk of the apartment runs down East 64th Street and at least a few of the rooms, we imagine, have oblique park views. The state of the art kitchen complex includes a big butler's pantry, a second, walk-in sized pantry and a small terrace for smoking a pre- and/or post-meal preparation doobie. Behind the kitchen and just off the service entry, staff quarters spread over three floors include one decent sized bedroom with a windowed private pooper on the lowest floor, a mezzanine level mechanical space, and on the second floor a second cell-sized bedroom, large laundry room and another pooper, also a window.

The second floor can be accessed either via the narrow back stair in the domestic staff area or by ascending the dramatic curving staircase in the entry. A powder pooper tucked discreetly under the stairs has not just one but two windows. Do the children see why this Mister Candela guy is the bees knees when it comes to thoughtful and elegant apartments?

The master bedroom sits immediately off the upper landing and has over sized windows that reach almost to the floor, a wall of closets plus a walk-in dressing room and the aforementioned park view private pooper. Each of the two secondary bedrooms, both situated down a long hall and well away from the master bedroom, has at least one walk-in closet and private terliting facilities.

Listing information indicates the sale includes three separate storage rooms.
In January of 2009, the heirs and attorneys (or whomever) for Missus Araxia M. Buckhantz–a cousin of eccentric Armenian born petroleum potentate Nubar Gulbenkian–listed her 13 room spread with an asking price of $30,000,000. The palatial simplex unit, according to listing information from that time, shows the apartment has 12-foot ceilings, three terraces, 4 fireplaces, a library paneled in 18th century George II pine and a 37-foot long living room with George III paneling.

The apartment was listed on the (open) market for less than one month before it was put into contract and in mid-March the sale was recorded for $29,000,000. Property records show the buyer was Loews movie theater heiress Laurie Tisch. Miz Tisch made recent real estate news in early December of 2010 when it was reported here, there and everywhere that celebrity house hunters Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were interested in purchasing her clumsily laid out 8-bedroom doo-plex apartment at 88 Central Park West. The reports were denied. Make of that what you will.

The children will take note of several special tidbits about the Buckhantz/Tisch spread. First of all, observe that there are only two bedrooms in this $29,000,000 apartment and that both bedrooms face east to take advantage of the morning sun. This arrangement leaves more than 100-feet of park view frontage used to best advantage for the living room, solarium, library and formal dining room all of which have access to one of the apartment's two enviable terraces.

A bedroom sized pantry separates the dining room from the kitchen. Note, bunnies, that in addition to the bedroom-sized pantry that joins the formal dining room to the kitchen, Mister Candela also provided a convenient connection from the kitchen to the entrance gallery by way of a closet lined hallway. Behind the kitchen three unforgivably small staff rooms share one pooper and surround a "servant's hall" where, apparently, the domestics are supposed to eat dinner and watch tee-vee when they're not dusting knick-knacks and scrubbing terlits.

Two more items of significance that earn Mister Candela a standing ovation: Firstly, the floor plan master managed to locate every terliting and bathing facility in the apartment where they could have a window for ventilation. Even the staff crapper has a window and the powder pooper off the entrance gallery even has a multi-million dollar view of Central Park. Secondly, live in domestics around the world will appreciate that Mister Candela provided direct access to the servant's hall from the service elevator. This astute arrangement allows the maids and man servants to sneak out and sneak paramours into their private quarters for a little slap and tickle without the master(s) of the house being any the wiser.

One of the more recent transfers at 834 Fifth Avenue was in April of 2009 when Cuban born billionaire and Bill Clinton crony Paul Cejas and his wife Gertie put their fifth floor apartment on the (open) market with an asking price of $18,500,000. By September (2009) the asking price has sunk to $16,500,000 and in May of 2010 the rambling, 10-room apartment sold for $15,000,000 to a Swiss tycoon by the name of Maurice Amon whose fortune derives in great part from the sale of the ink used to print much of the world's bank notes.
Listing and floor plan information (above) shows the 10-room residence has a cute little octagonal foyer, an old-fashioned cloak room, living room sized entrance gallery and monthly maintenance charges of $10,335. The 28-foot long park facing formal living room has 11 and some foot ceilings, intricate dentil moldings and a wood burning marble fireplace. The adjacent mahogany paneled library has built-in bookshelves, a walk-in closet and a pooper with a park view. Original plans for this apartment available on the Avery Architectural Fine Arts Library show the current library was originally planned as the master bedroom which explains, perhaps, why current floor plan information shows a bee-day in large bathroom off the library.

The bedroom wing has a wide corridor lined with walk-in closets and each of the two east-facing bedrooms has a private pooper. A long butler's pantry with built-in breakfast banquette connects the public rooms to the kitchen–which is, we regret to inform, also the laundry room–and the three-room staff suite and pooper at the extreme rear of the property.

Other recent recorded sales in the building include several apartments that appear to have traded without ever appearing on the open market. In April of 2010, San Francisco based Levi Strauss heiress Miriam Haas laid out $12,500,000 to buy a petite penthouse apartment on the 15th floor from San Francisco based financial services bigwig Charles Schwab and his wife Helen.

In the spring of 2007 the trustees of the estate of long time resident Jeanette Solomon put her 8-room spread on the 9th floor of 834 Fifth Avenue on the market with an asking price of $16,500,000. A bidding war drove up the sale price to a staggering $27,700,000. The new owners: Charles and Helen Schwab.

Loida Lewis–the high-powered Filipino widda of African American billionaire bizness baron Reginald Lewis–hoisted her gigantic doo-plex apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue on the market in 2006 with an asking price of $45,000,000, a dumbfounding number later reduced to a still stunning $39,500,000. According to previous reports, the apartment has a 640-square foot living room that overlooks Central Park (as does the master bedroom), 7.5 poopers, 4 wood burning fireplaces and a "restaurant kitchen." Mister and Missus Lewis, it should be noted, were the first “people of color to own an apartment in a ‘Good Building’ on Fifth Avenue,” according to the writer Steven Gaines, author of real estate must reads The Sky's the Limit and Philistines at the Hedgerow.

Mister and Missus Lewis purchased their palatial pad at 834 Fifth Avenue in 1992 from automotive executive John Delorean who had acquired the apartment from Gregg Dodge Moran, a showgirl turned socialite who married into the Detroit Dodges and who reportedly paid just $225,000 for the apartment. Missus Dodge Moran, it may amuse the children to know, briefly owned the 23,000 square foot Dunnellen Hall in Greenwich, CT, the one-time estate of the Queen of Mean Leona Helmsley that was sold in 2010 for $35,000,000 to an unknown buyer.

Anyhoo, Missus Lewis unloaded her big ol' doo-plex at 834 in October of 2007. According to property records and previous reports, cell phone service honcho Mark Rachesky (Leap Wireless) and his wife Jill paid a milk curdling $33,444,500 for the apartment.

The biggest deal to ever go down at 834–and still one of the highest prices ever paid for a cooperative apartment in Manhattan–was in May of 2005 went media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi Deng shelled out an astonishing $44,000,000 for Laurance Rockefeller's 20-room triplex penthouse that reportedly has monthly maintenance charges of around $25,000 per month.

Other residents with recognizable names at 834 Fifth Avenue include (but are not limited to) a couple of heirs of the Johnson & Johnson fortune (that would be Christopher and his brother Robert "Woody" Johnson who live next door to each other), philanthropist, haute couture queen and high society doyenne
Carroll McDaniel Portago Carey-Hughes Pistell Petrie who once lived on the 5th floor and now lives in Pauline Pitt designed digs on the 10th floor, Eugenie and John Radziwell (he's the son of Jackie Kennedy's sister Lee's onetime huzband Prince Stanislas Radziwell), mergers and acquisitions specialist Joe Roby and wifey Hilppa who bought their 15-room spread in 1997 for $12,000,000, famously fat living former "King of Wall Street" John Gutfreund and his very social wife Susan whose live primarily in a plush Parisian apartment they put up for sale in 2010 but still maintain an opulent Henri Samuel designed 16-room apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue that measures in at a hefty hefty hefty 12,000 square feet.

Also in residence at 834, Greek shipping tycoon George and Lita Livanos who own a low floor doo-plex and who also once owned a maisonette in the building where they housed their children and staff, Bing Crosby's son Harry who lives in a maisonette unit formerly owned by Richard and Honey Berlin, the parents of portly Andy Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin, and Judith and Alfred Taubman, shopping mall magnate and former head of Sotheby's who did 7 months in the pokey in 2002-3 for a price-fixing scheme between Sotheby's and rival auction house Christie's and who reportedly have an apartment filled with Modiglianis, Renoirs and Monets. Until recently billionaire biznessman Leslie Wexner (The Limited brands) and his wife Abigail owned a 16-room six-bedroom doo-plex once owned by Rupert Murdoch (who, as mentioned above, traded up for the titanic triplex penthouse in 2007), but a report from early December of 2010 in the New York Observer reveals that the doo-plex–shopped off market for $60,000,000 then dropped to $34,000,000–has been purchased by an unknown buyer.

photo (top): Property Shark
floor plans: Redfin

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Desert Digs for Steven Seagal

BUYER: Steven Seagal
LOCATION: Scottsdale, AZ
PRICE: $3,500,000
SIZE: 8,450 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Martial artist turned action film actor turned law enforcement officer turned reality show eccentric Steven Seagal is on a multi-state real estate merry go round.

Mister Seagal doesn't factor much into the Tinseltown two step anymore his Hollywood heyday being in the late 1980s and 90s when he shook his money maker as the good looking and manly hero of action films that include Hard to Kill, Under Seige, Under Seige 2: Dark Territory and The Glimmer Man. Time has not been kind to Mister Seagal's good looks or his his silver screen grape, which pretty much dried up into a raisin in the mid-1990s. During the early 2000s he released little more than a number of film failures that practically no one has ever heard of and went directly to DVD.

Perhaps due in part to the decline in his action film career Mister Seagal went to the police academy in the early 1990s and currently acts as a Reserve Deputy Chief of the sheriff's office in Jefferson Parish, LA. Naturally, in classic b-list actor fashion, Mister Seagal has a reality program that follows him around as he busts chops and criminals. He is said to own a home in Louisiana, which makes sense but, honestly chickens, we didn't find any (obvious) record that confirms that real estate rumor.

Most recently, along with Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) and Peter Lupus (Mission Impossible), Mister Seagal joined the illegal immigration operations posse of armed volunteers under Arizona's attention seeking, highly controversial, cranky and extremely aggressive Maricopa County Sherrif Joe Arpaio, a man famous for making prisoners wear pink underwear and who has recently came up under the microscope of the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and a Federal Grand Jury for alleged civil rights violations, abuse of power, and racial profiling.

Anyhoodles poodles, a few weeks ago the children may recall that Your Mama discussed Hollywood's second highest paid actress Reese Witherspoon who forked over $6,900,000 to purchase Mister Seagal's very private property in the Mandeville Canyon area of Los Angeles, CA.

Since 2005 Mister Seagal has owned a home just east of Memphis, TN in the tiny town of Eads that he purchased in October of 2005 for $1,500,000. As it turns out the 13+ acre spread in Eads with its brick-faced 5 bedroom and 4.5 pooper traditional (below) has been on the market since at least February of 2010 and is currently listed with an asking price of $1,999,000.
Word now comes slip sliding down the celebrity real estate gossip grapevine that Mister Seagal and his fourth wife–ballroom dancer Erdenetuya Batsukh–have snatched up a contemporary residence on almost 12 acres in the Tonto National Forest near Phoenix, AZ, just north of Carefree. According to information provided on the sly to Your Mama by Sangita Snitcharoo Mister Seagal paid $3,500,000 for the 8,450 square foot modern mansion that sits high on a ridge above the Chiricahua Golf Course with long views over the rolling desert. Listing information indicates that the furnishings were available for purchase by separate agreement and Miss Snitcharoo told Your Mama that Mister and Fourth Missus Seagal did buy some of the furniture.

Listing information provided by Miss Snitcharoo shows that Mister Seagal's new desert digs have 4 bedrooms and 5 full and 2 half poopers. A guesthouse with family room and kitchenette provide extra over night space, which is a good thing since Mister Seagal has 7 children by four different woman so it's probably a real clusterfuck during the holidays.

The multi-level stone, glass and copper residence, built in 2001, has walls of butted and floor to ceiling glass panels that allow the dee-luxe if dated and somewhat hotel like interior spaces to visually merge with the spectacular views and the many private terraces that surround the house. The main terrace wraps around a negative edge swimming pool and spa that spills dramatically into the landscape.

The master bedroom has a walk in closet and a private pooper with jetted tub, a step-down shower with a private view of the gardens and a bee-day for scrubbing down the naughty bits after doing the dirty bizness. Other amenities and luxuries include a 3 car attached garage, and exercise room with sauna, three fireplaces, built in barbecue and a golf room located just off the driveway that is equipped with software and a screen that allows one to golf virtually at a myriad of courses around the world.

Property records indicate this is not the first time Mister Seagal has owned property in Arizona. In April of 2006 Mister Seagal sold a house in the 55 and up Leisure World community in Mesa. Presumably this house was occupied by one of Mister Seagal's relatives.

Property records show that in May of 2003 Mister Seagal picked up a huge amount of mostly undeveloped land in Montague, CA near the Oregon border. Your Mama's rudimentary and not necessarily accurate calculations on our bejeweled abacus shows that there are more than 25 parcels that combined measure in at about 6,352.8 acres. Who knows what his plans for this swathe of land might be.

There are also scads of reports that Mister Seagal owns a dude ranch in Colorado, but just like Prissy in Gone With the Wind don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies, Your Mama don't known nuthin' about any dude ranch in Coloraduh.

listing photos: Prudential Arizona Properties

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jenny Craig Trims Her Real Estate Fat

SELLER Jenny Craig
LOCATION: Rancho Santa Fe, CA
PRICE: $8,995,000
SIZE: 10,029 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 4 full and 3 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to the kindness of Sandy Sandiego, Your Mama recently learned that diet plan diva Jenny Craig has put her posh pad in ritzy Rancho Santa Fe, CA on the market with an asking price of $8,995,000

Miz Craig and her deceased huzband/bidness partner Sidney founded the eponymous Jenny Craig weight loss and weight management system in Austrailia in the early 1980s and in the mid-1980s they exported their weight loss wares to the United States and around the world. In 2002 Mister and Missus Craig's lucrative diet plan enterprise was acquired by a private equity firm (MidOcean Partners) and in 2006 the company was sold to Nestlé in a deal worth approximately $600,00,000. Your Mama does not know how much moolah Mister and Missus Craig pocketed from either transaction, but from the looks of their real estate holdings in the Rancho Santa Fe area, the company and the sale of said company was enormously profitable for the pashas of the low-cal pre-planned meal.

Certainly the Jenny Craig diet plan (or whatever it's called) has helped a lot of people down size their denims but the program is not without critics and controversies. At least one website dedicated to the fine art of dieting claims it costs a person roughly eighty clams to lose every single pound on the Jenny Craig weight reduction regimen. By the rudimentary calculations of Your Mama's bejeweled abacus, iffin a person needs/wants to lose 100 pounds–and there are an unnerving number of people who waddle the streets and clog up the drive-thrus at Mac-Donalds who need to lose 100 pounds–it'll cost them an astonishing eight thousand dollars.

While our opinion ain't worth squat, the one and only weight loss plan Your Mama thinks actually works is to eat less, eat healthy and get up off your big ol' backside and get some damn exercise. All these porcine people who think they can freeze the fat off their asses or–like that bewigged and deluded Kim Zolciak ladee on The Real Housewives of Atlanta–decrease the size of their colossal cabooses by shining some silly lasers on their muffin tops are just wasting their damn dollars and being made the fool. Eat less, eat healthy and get up off your big ol' backside and get some damn exercise. That, butter balls, is the cold, hard truth on the matter.

Anyoodles poodles, let's get down off our dietary soap box, shall we? Jenny Craig–the company–seems pretty popular with the celebrity set or is, at least, well-known for celebrities being paid big bucks to provide testimonial and push the plan on over-weight non-celebrities. Over the years Jenny Craig's spokespeople have included Fat Actress Kirstie Alley who appears on an endless loop of puffing up and slimming down, former presidential mistress Monica Lewinsky, newly svelte actress Valerie Bertinelli, ladee-luvin' superstar musician/actress Queen Latifah and Seinfeld's Jason Alexander.

A peep and a poke around the public records reveals that Mister and Miz Craig scooped up their 3.37 acre Rancho Santa Fe estate in May of 1997. The property was purchased from the estate of Pete Rozelle, former commissioner of the National Football League–from January 1960 through November 1989–who went to meet the great quarterback in the sky in December 1996. Rancho Santa Fe is consistently ranked among the top 3 or 4 most expensive zip codes in California and among the most expensive in all of the United States of America.

The San Diego County Tax Man shows The Widda Craig's crib measures 10,029 square feet and includes 3 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms while listing information indicates there are 4+ bedrooms and 4 full and 3 half poopers in the main house. Another two bedrooms located in the 550 square foot guesthouse share, we presume, at least one more terliting and bathing facility.

The property, rather grandly called The Villa, sits on sloping lot in and un-gated community of similarly sized homes in Rancho Santa Fe and is saddled with yearly homeowners fees of $13,126 per year. Many rooms of the Spanish-Mediterranean mansion, circa 1992, and the backyard overlook Rancho Paseana Farm, a 228-acre thoroughbred race horse training facility that Mister and Missus Craig purchased in 1995 and Miz Craig currently has on the market with a mouth drying asking price of $29,950,000.

Huge wood gates swing open from the street into the first of three gravel motor courts at The Villa. A weave around a planter at the center of the first motor court brings one to the second motor court that has a fountain at the center swings around to the front front of the tile-roofed residence. A sharply curving drive extends off from the first motor court to a third motor court tucked out of site behind the guest house and garage.

Shallow and gently curved stone steps lead from the driveway to a stunning pair of arched antique wood doors that open into an airy, multi-level foyer with wood inlaid terra cotta tile floors. Just off the front door a tightly curving staircase that Norma Desmond would adore has a series of arched windows that march up the the exterior wall and a delicate and sensuous wrought iron banister. The entrance hall steps down into the 33-foot long formal living room with stone fireplace, intricately carved wood ceiling and a vaguely ecclesiastical carved wood chandelier. The nearby formal dining room with antique wood beamed ceiling and over-scaled parquet flooring that reminds Your Mama of the sorts of nightmares we had as a child where everything was in the puzzling, disturbing and extreme opposite proportion as in walking life.

That kitchen complex includes a butlers pantry, gore-may cookery and breakfast room where a floor to ceiling curving glass window frames the view of surrounding hills. The chestnut colored cabinetry has a carved rope detail that matches identically to the rope detailing on the edge of the granite counter tops, an unnecessary decorative conceit we don't particularly care for. Up above rough hewn beams, down below Mexican paver tiles laid at a 45-degree angle and in between sit two work islands, two dishwashers, full-sized side-by side-fridge and freezer and hand-painted vine and the walls around the arched windows.

Other rooms include a vast, stone floored family room with arched fireplace, built in sunken wet bar, a pool table placed at a disharmonious angle in the middle of the room and a gigantic old-school big screen tee-vee. There are three more boob-toobs in the paneled library/media room that features distressed wood floors, wood coffered ceiling, and fireplace with elaborate carved wood mantel. Lowerd people, who watches three programs on the tee-vee at one time? Your Mama's boozy brain can barely follow one program at a time so we'd wind up in the nut house for sure iffin we attempted to view three programs at one once. Just the very idea causes us to need a nerve pill to manage the presumed stress of an attempt to watch three programs at once.

The master bedroom suite includes a private study/office and a 29-foot long bedroom with a hand-painted mural on the ceiling, wet bar and private balcony. Both of the huge his and her poopers have separate showers and soaking tubs. "His" facility has a tee-vee mounted up on the wall like it's a damn hospital room and the "her" facility has a fireplace and more wall and ceiling murals that depict nekkid angels and other crap. Listen, cinnamon sticks, Rule Number 62 in Your Mama's Big Book of Decoratin' Dos and Don'ts states that wall murals in private residences must be approached with extreme caution. There is an impossibly thin line between a tasteful and well-conceived mural and an expensive piece of painted poo that represents a lame and painfully thwarted attempt to imbue a new(ish) house with a patina of age and old money. Although some exceptions can and must be made for wall and ceiling murals in houses of religious worship, any mural in a residential setting that depicts cherubs and/or angels shall arouse previously unknown depths of decorative suspicion and deep cynicism.

Miz Craig's property has a fully-finished 4-car garage/car museum with tile floors and tons of track lighting. Mister Craig, in his life, had a small but exquisite collection of historical automobiles, many of which were previously owned by celebrities. More than a dozen cars from the Craig collection were auctioned at Bonhams & Butterfields in August of 2010 including a 1933 Duesenberg convertible previously owned by William Boyd, a.k.a. Hopalong Cassidy and a 1935 Lincoln K V-12 Phaeton President Franklin D. Roosevelt used in California during his second re-election campaign. Mister Craig's collection also included vintage vehicles once owned by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Clark Gable. Your Mama finds it interesting to note that at least two listing photographs show a Lincoln stretch limousine parked up in the Craig's garage. This leads Your Mama to believe that Mister and Miz Craig actually owned their own limousine which they, presumably, used to ostentatiously schlep around Rancho Santa Fe and San Diego. Having to rent a stretch limo for uppity events is one thing, candy canes, it's another thing to own a damn stretch limo. It's unseemly, really.

Anyhoo, the grounds at the rear of the house include vine shaded terraces, large swathes of very green rolling lawns, heated swimming pool, stone lined circular spa, tennis court and a 1,500 square foot pool pavilion. Your Mama thinks, but is not positive, that the Craig's installed a home fitness room in the pool pavilion complete with treadmill, free weights, punching bag, several other body toture devices and a small hot tub sitting right on the wall-to-wall carpeting, a situation that looks to Your Mama like nothing but a sure-fire recipe for mold.

Your Mama makes no claims to knowing a damn thing about the real estate market in Rancho Santa Fe and/or the value of the Craig's estate The Villa. What we do know from our brief bit o' research on the internets this morning is that the highest recorded price paid for a property in Rancho Santa Fe in the last year (as per Redfin) was $8,500,000 and that, puppies, was for a 21,000 square foot mega-mansion on 9 acres with 8 bedrooms and 10.5 poopers. Make of that what you will.

listing photos: Barry Estates

Monday, December 27, 2010



Thank You!!!!


A huge, huge thank you to all who so kindly donated to the Woodbourne Christmas Wish List.   Together, bloggers and readers raised over $10,000.00!! 

Last year we raised over $6,000, so this year’s increase is all the more special given the poor economic climate. 

Thank you, again, for opening your hearts and wallets.




To read about Woodbourne or to donate, please go HERE

A Little Mish Mash for Mundee

Oh dear. It seems there's another marriage that's done swirled down the Tinseltown terlit of love. This time it's Tish and Billy Ray Cyrus, the parents of Disney's pole dancing and salvia smoking cash cow Miley Cyrus.

As all the children know, a dee-vorce often means the family homestead gets sold and rumors have started to circulate that Mister and soon to be ex-Missus Cyrus plan to sell their mansion in the star studded Los Angeles, CA enclave of Toluca Lake.

The Cyrus clan bought their 8,300 square foot mock-Tuscan mansion brand spanking new in 2007 for $5,838,000 and the gossip juggernaut TMZ says they'll probably ask "for more than $7 million." TMZ also reported that soon to be ex-Missus Cyrus has already been out hunting for a new house and allegedly had a look-see at a $4,600,000 crib in Encino three months ago.

In April of 2009 a very teen aged Miss Miley dropped a very grown up $3,400,000 for a sprawling Spanish style hacienda of her very own that happens to be just around the corner from her parents' pad. Will Miss Miley stay put? Or will she move on to Encino or some other suburban locale in Los Angeles to be near her momager?

The upscale Toluca Lake community claims a plethora of celeb residents including actor Eric McCormack (Will & Grace), Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, not particularly funny comedian George Lopez, former Baywatch babe Brook Burns, actor James Marsden, one of Puff Daddy's several baby mommas, Beverly Hills 90210 alum Jason Priestley, Beverly Hills 90210 alum Jennie Garth and her man-mate Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) who listed their huge house in June of 2010 for $5,995,000, and comedy's reigning king Steve Carell who has long lived in the 'hood, recently shelled out $6,000,000 to buy the old Jonathan Winters house around the corner from his current residence, and quickly tore it down to make way for his own Barbie Dreamhouse.

In early 2010 superstar singer/dancer/whatever Jennifer Lopez and her cantinero huzband Marc Anthony purchased a massive 17,129 square foot mansion in the hot as Hades Hidden Hills community in suburban Los Angeles, CA. The 3-acre estate, last listed for just under ten million smackers, has 9 bedrooms and 12 poopers divided up between the main house and the guest house.

The couple hired celebrity decorator Michelle Workman to work over the interiors of the 2-story country ranch style mansion and recent pictures of the house, photographed for the January/February 2011 issue of Veranda magazine, show a glam 1940s thing all done in a very restrained and sophisticated palette of white, creams, greys and black lacquer.

Miz Lopez, who also owns a 10,000+ square foot traditional mansion on Long Island in Glen Head, NY, has come a long damn ways from the the block in the Bronx where she was raised up hasn't she children?

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich owns scads of high priced and high maintenance homes around the world including a luxury flat at the Bridges Wharf conveniently located near the Battersea heliport, the 420-acre Fyning Hill estate in West Sussex, a villa in the South of France, a house in Tuscany, another in Montenegro, a posh pad in Moscow and a hillside compound in swank St. Barts that he bought last year for a mind altering $90,000,000 (or thereabouts).

Starting in the late 1990s Mister Abramovich started buying up flats in two adjacent London townhouses on Lowndes Square near Harrods and Harvey Nicks that had been split into 9 luxe apartments. By 2008 Mister Abramovich had managed to acquire all nine apartments at a reported cost of between fifteen and twenty million pounds.

The plan is to combine all nine units in the two townhouses into one 30,000-ish square foot mega mansion with five floors above street level and another three below. Submitted plans for the main house show 8 bedrooms each with private pooper, numerous sitting/drawing/living rooms, a cinema/media room, kitchen complex, and a swimming pool, sauna and spa in the the basement. Staff will be accommodated above the garage in the mews building at the rear of the property.

Recent reports suggest that when completed, Mister Abramovich's house will be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of £150,000,000. According to Your Mama's currency conversion contraption shows that's a knee bucking 231,498,000 in American dollars at today's rates.

All the East End gossip rags are all a-go-go about Jersey Shore stars Jenni "JWOWW" Farley and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi house hunting on Long Island. That's right puppies, most of those too tan party hounds on that horrific but very popular Jersey Shore program aren't even from New Jersey. We're not sure why the producers weren't able to find enough liquor swilling guidos and guidettes in Jersey to cast the show, but that's another issue for another blog.

Anyhoo, according to the gals at Real LI, the boozy babes wanted to have a looks at a 5 bedroom and 3 pooper "postmodern Colonial" in East Setauket, NY with a 44-foot long salt water swimming pool. The listing agent for the property told Real LI that the gals requested to bring television cameras to the showing–the owner nixed that–which makes Your Mama think this whole house hunting thing is related to the Jersey Shore show or possibly some kind of spin off with Snooks and WOW as the stars.

Subsequent to the reports Miss JWOWW tweeted or twated or whatever it's called and denied the house hunting rumors. Make of that what y'all will.

Gawd. Who cares, right?

All you little boys out there who desire to don a dress and slap on a pair of high heels shouldn't let anyone tell you that cross-dressing won't get you anywhere because superstar drag queen/author/reality television hostess/MAC cosmetics spokesperson RuPaul is a damn millionaire. Werq!

According to The Real Deal and Streeteasy RuPaul paid $1,095,000 for a 1,490 square foot apartment in New York City's far West Village way back in 1998 and sold the 13th floor pad in mid-December 2010 for $2,400,000. A few quick flicks of the well worn beads on Your Mama's bejeweled abacus shows that even after the fat real estate fees were paid lucky Ru likely took in more than a million clams on her real estate investment.

RuPaul's apartment, which appear to never have been on the open market, was sold to an LLC under the name of Jerry Gorovy. Mister Gorovy, who looks a little too much like Jesus for Your Mama's comfort, is the longtime pal and assistant of the late and great French sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas To One and All

Bristol Palin Get a New House for the Holidays

BUYER: Bristol Palin
LOCATION: Maricopa, AZ
PRICE: $172,000
SIZE: 3,929 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: It's Christmas Eve y'all and shooting out of the real estate gate like a Christmas present is the real estate news that 20-year old Bristol Palin paid $172,000 to purchase herself a house in the unlikely community of Maricopa, AZ, about 35 miles south of Phoenix.

Miss Palin's claim to semi-celebrity is, of course, is that's she's the eldest daughter of political rabble-rouser and Tea Party queen Sarah Palin. She became part of the national discourse when it was revealed during the 2008 presidential campaign–when her mother was the Republican Party's rather unusual and unexpected choice for vice-president–that a teen aged Miss Palin was going to be a mother.

The children will note that the abstinence advocate and unwed teenage mother of one paid for her new crib in cash. That's right, puppies, cold hard cash. We'd say that young Miss Palin must have got a financial leg up from her newly minted millionaire mommy, but somewhere recently we heard (but can not confirm) that the younger Miss Palin earns fifty grand a pop to go talk to teenagers about sexual abstinence. Oh pleeze. How does a young gal who birthed a baby as a teenager, made a huge splash on that stoopid Dancing With the Stars program and has the financial power at the dewy age of 20 to pay $172,000–in cash–for a house in suburban Phoenix have the nerve to get up in front of teenagers and tell them that an unexpected pregnancy could ruin their lives. Honestly. It would be high-sterical if the moral audacity of the thing wasn't so completely unnerving.

Anyhoodles poodles, listing information shows Miss Palin's new digs measure 3,929 square feet and includes 5 bedrooms and 2.5 poopers. There's a three car garage for all Miss Palin's whips and the large, landscaped backyard, according to listing information, is "perfect for volleyball, BBQs and more!" We can't be bothered to discuss the details of the house because, well, there's nothing to discuss. It's just a big ol' beige piece of architectural banality. You can talk it up and tart it up but a pig with lipstick is still a pig.

The ungated Cobblestone Farms subdivision has palm tree lined streets that wind in on each other like a nautilus shell and includes basketball courts, baseball field, soccer field, children's play center, a swimming pool, and a horse shoe playing pit. That's right, horse shoes. Sakes alive. Horse shoes. Lowerd have mercy.

According to gossip juggernaut TMZ, Miss Palin has been telling pals that she may attend Arizona State University once she moves into her mcmansion in Maricopa. Well, good for her. A college education is a good thing.

It may or may not be a coinkydink that Sarah Palin's daughter chose Arizona (and perhaps ASU) since president Obama was snubbed by the top brass at ASU who refused to give him an honorary degree after he gave the commencement speech at the 2009 graduation saying that the president had not yet accomplished enough in his career to warrant the honor. Not accomplished enough? The president of the United States of America? Really?

On that note we're off to slumber with one eye open to see if Santy Claus will be coming down the chimney tonight.

Turn on the Lights!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Before and After Lessons


December is a lonely month for Jewish bloggers.   All the other bloggers are busy showing off their holiday finesse, while we sit in the darkness literally and figuratively.   Who knew that when we signed that covenant with God all those eons ago, we were forever signing away our right to evergreen trees and twinkling lights?    Even though I can’t indulge in the fun, I certainly appreciate its beauty.    One of this season’s prettier, yet very understated and modest holiday displays, was seen in this month’s Veranda.



Poor, lonely Hanukkah Harry!


The cottage shown in Veranda was designed by Lisa Luby Ryan of Dallas, Texas.  An interior designer, Lisa is also the well known owner of the décor shop Vintage Living HERE, and is a designer for Arteriors.   Through the years, Lisa has garnered much press – her own house has been published several times, beginning when she was into the cluttered English Country Manor look.  Today, Belgian and Sweden are her countries of choice.



Lisa Luby Ryan’s Vintage Living features Swedish and Belgian furniture, new and old. 


The Veranda holiday house only shows glimpses of the cottage designed by Lisa  – not nearly enough to satisfy.   The closely cropped photographs leave you wanting to see more of these quietly elegant rooms.   Luck would have it that the Vintage Living web site does show the entire house – before and after – a sort of tutorial as to what to do when remodeling a bungalow with priceless antiques.

The house, built in 1951, is located in Highland Park West, in Dallas, Texas.  It is a mere 1,600 square feet with just one bedroom – a second bedroom was turned into a dining room.   The new homeowner was recently divorced from a man who didn’t like antiques, so this house was her first chance to decorate for herself and herself only.   She chose Lisa Luby Ryan to help after visiting Vintage Living, where much of the furniture and accessories were ultimately purchased.  The pair also took two trips to the South of France in search of antiques.   The change is substantial, only four pieces remained from the homeowner’s previous possessions.    The house also underwent structural changes with a new dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and back porch – along with its own fireplace.   The homeowner is thrilled with her new décor – she stayed at a hotel for a few days while Lisa put it all together for the “big reveal.”    Lisa also installed the Christmas finery at the same time to coincide with the magazine photoshoot. 



From Lisa’s web site:   the bungalow started out with red brick which Lisa painted white.  A wooden gate was added to create a front courtyard.




The Veranda spread opens with a tantalizingly unfocused Swedish desk and chair.




Veranda:  next, this glimpse of a peeling painted Swedish day bed leaves you wanting to see more! 

The tree and presents were color coordinated to the house décor.  Lisa was insistent there be no typical red and green scheme. 

I love the burlap bags and the Tiffany blue boxes – so cute!!!!!




Here is a picture of the entire living room.   Long and narrow, the soothing room is broken into two sitting areas by the Swedish day bed. 

Another pair of matching arm chairs are seen on the opposite side by the fireplace.  

The chairs’ tall backs bring a much needed vertical element to the long horizontal room.




Veranda:  a close up of the blue chest that sits opposite the front door in the middle of the living room.   I love all the holiday flower arrangement – they aren’t the typical usually seen.



The Swedish day bed divides the room into two seating areas.   A large seagrass rug covers the hardwood floors.  At the window are printed fabric curtains – the same fabric is used in the living room and dining room for continuity. 






Here you can see the antique French wine tasting table used as a coffee table.  

The surprise is the modern art work – whose colors are just perfect in this room.




In these pictures you can see exactly what Lisa did to transform the room.  The mantel is an addition, as are the window treatments.  The walls appear to be painting a very light blue. 




The opposite end of the long living room.  Here you can see the dining room through the antique wood doors purchased in France.

The dining room was once a bedroom.     Pictured here are the two other wing chairs, along with a beautiful pair of antique Swedish arm chairs. 

I love the pop of zebra against all the muted colors – Lisa is really great at accents. 




imageVERANDA:   we only got this one small look into the dining room.  

I love the blue and white vases filled with white flowers – such a refreshing change from red and green decoration. 

Notice the framed documents that take up one wall – so interesting.






Here you can see the Belgian styled table with the Swedish dining chairs.

I love the crystal chandelier used with all the rougher elements. 

This room is just so pretty. 




Veranda:  Lisa gutted the existing kitchen turning it more into a room with its beautiful cabinets.  

The rough wood table is fabulous paired with all the white marble.  I especially love the silver Louis Philipe mirror over the sink!

The back wall is perfectly symmetrical  - another great detail Lisa added. 




In this picture you can see more of the layout.   The wood table is so large and is a very important element in the room.

Just beautiful!




The kitchen before.  Here you can see the windows and how they have been changed into doors.   





One more before and after of the kitchen.   An amazing transformation!!





Veranda:   The breakfast room as shown in the magazine.  I just love this!!! 

Here’s another look at the antique Swedish sofa and chairs, along with a marble topped iron table.   Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!





From Lisa’s web site – a view of the breakfast area, before and after.   It is so elegant!




From Lisa’s web site – a view into the lone bedroom in the house.  Simple elegance.




Again from Lisa’s web site, the bathroom is remarkable.  Notice the antique doors that close off the vanity area.

The chair wears a darling slipped cushion with ballet leg ties.  Great vanity skirt. 





The vanity has a sink recessed into a Swedish chest.  Notice the wall treatment – so muted. 




And finally, the bath yard with its fabulous fireplace!!!!!  This is like a room itself.  Just wonderful!  



Lisa Luby Ryan:  Before and After



On Lisa’s web site, there are many pictures from other houses showing before and after.   I really enjoyed seeing these pictures because Lisa is not afraid to make small changes that other designers might let stand and not bother with.  For instance – in this hallway, the décor is fine and doesn’t really need much changing.  But Lisa didn’t agree and went the extra step, which really is much, much nicer:  new lanterns, a set of intaglios, and curtains make a hallway come alive.



In this dining room – the décor was fine, but not to Lisa.  She had the walls painted in a Swedish inspired mural.  She moved the chandelier to another room and installed crystal lights instead.  Next, she slipped the chairs.   The lamps were changed out, as was the screen.   Many designers would have probably kept the dining room as is, but Lisa changed it to bring it up to date. 





In this vignette – she removed the red and blue oriental rug in favor of a muted textured one.  The TV cabinet was changed out for a painted French version.    The hanging screen from the previous dining room was moved to this room.   Notice in the next room, the brown stone was painted cream.  These changes Lisa made really brings this room up to date.  




In this room, Lisa didn’t just redecorate – she changed out the fireplace to make a huge statement.  Then she added antique paned doors.   The bookshelves were updated by adding louvered doors instead of plain cabinet ones.   Many designers would have just changed out the furniture, but Lisa changed the architectural elements to truly make a huge difference.




The same room.   I love her slipcovered furniture.  Notice how she fauxed the cabinets to make them look like Belgian limed wood.




Here  - a new muted rug, a raw wood table, new velvet slipped chairs, new chandelier and curtains – what a huge change!!!!   The new table makes such a difference in updating the look for today.  Notice the wing chairs – how the pointed wings look so much fresher than the rounded wings from the before picture.  A small detail that makes a big difference. 




In this living room – four chairs surrounded an ottoman.  Again, the décor was not bad at all, but Lisa brought it up to date by changing out the rug accented with the zebra.   The framed documents add so much more warmth than the mirror – which I never thought I would say.   The four chairs were moved to the family room – and a sofa and two chairs were added here, along with a Mora clock. 




Another view of the same room.   The fireplace looks so much better without that screen!!!  




Finally, look at the changes in this entry hall.  The wood floor becomes elegant marble tile.   A muted rug on the stairs tones down the contrast.   The plant is changed out for a collection of shells.   The small pictures are removed to declutter the look.   Small solutions that make up a big difference.




Looking at the other wall – this made me really think.   Would I have made the changes that Lisa did?  The console and mirror aren’t bad.  Would I have just let it go because the owner already owned these pieces?   What Lisa replaced the furniture with – a much larger chest that fills out the space much better – a more substantial mirror with sconces – there is no doubt that the space looks much better with what Lisa did.  I would love to see how she presents these changes to her clients:   “what you own is pretty, but I can make it prettier!”    I really admire her work and her skill with her clients.   It’s not easy working with clients, but Lisa certainly knows what to say and knows how to get the job done.  





And finally – we are off to the country to celebrate Christmas with Ben’s family.   Here’s wishing you and yours a healthy, happy and safe holidays!!!!