Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nate Berkus Downsizing in Chicago

SELLER: Nate Berkus
PRICE: $2,650,000
SIZE: 3,980 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: We know we ain't the first person to the prom on this one, puppies, but let's have a look-see anyways shall we? The matter of hotshot decorator and designer Nate Berkus putting his Chicago, IL condo on the market with a price tag of $2,650,000 was first mentioned–as best as we can tell–in real estate gossip Bob Goldsborough's Elite Street column for the Chicago Tribune. Mister Goldsborough, some of the children may recall, used to pen the defunct and much missed celebrity real estate blog Big Time Listings.

Mister Berkus rocketed to fame and fortune in 2002 when he began to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Once The Big O gave Nate Berkus her stamp of approval–wham, blam, thank you ma'am–he was a superstar decorator and darling of glossy shelter publications like Elle Decor. We're not saying that cheery and user-friendly Mister Berkus doesn't deserve his accolades but, let's be honest butter beans, his benefactor has a fan base so fervent she could turn a dried up cob of corn into the world's best selling author iffin she said the corn cob wrote a book. Beehawtcha says jump and half the damn world jumps, you know?

In addition to his eponymous decorating practice that has done up dwellings for celebs who include Billy Joel and his most recent ex-wife Katie Lee Joel, Mister Berkus wrote the cumbersomely named book Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live into a Place You Love, hosted Oprah's Big Give and in 2008 he launched a lucrative line of home products for the Home Shopping Network. Can y'all say kaching! In the fall of 2010 charming and eye-catching Mister Berkus followed in his mentor's foot steps got his own talk show, the timing of which we're certain had nothing to do with the fact that Momma Oprah is closing up her talk show shop sometime in 2011.

It wasn't long after Oprah launched Mister Berkus into the stratosphere that he snatched up some high-priced real estate in Chicago. Property records show that in July of 2003 Mister Berkus spent $1,500,000 to acquire a dignified Gold Coast condo formerly owned by the Block family of Inland Steel and re-worked in the 1950s by renowned International Style architect Samuel Marx.

Listing information shows Mister Berkus's 7-room full floor condo, located in a 1928 apartment building with just 12 apartments and photographed for–natch–Elle Decor in 2008, measures 3,980 square feet and includes 3 bedrooms and 4 poopers all done up in Mister Berkus's signature style that Your Mama might describe as a multi-layered and eccentric (but far from funky) mash-up of a photograph-friendly soft-modern female married to a very rich non-confrontational traditional man who openly dabbles with a whimsical David Hicks in the 1970s mistress.

Mister Berkus, being the nice, gay decorator that he is, put his own stamp on his new sprawler that included according to listing information the installation of hardwood floors and a reconfiguration of the master suite. Much to our delight and his credit, Mister Berkus retained some of the apartment's original architectural and decorative details such as the oak paneling in the library and the a-may-zing silver-leafed wall covering in the office. In a magnificent and commendable stroke of restraint Mister Berkus opted to restore rather than replace the steel kitchen cabinetry installed by Samuel Marks. He painted the vintage cabinets army green set them off with up-to-date and high-grade kitchen accouterments.

The apartment contains an large, airy living/dining room with lots of windows and an 18th-century limestone fireplace mantel. The room's most dominant decorative feature–iffin indeed Mister Berkus hasn't swapped it out for something else since the 2008 Elle Decor photo shoot–is a black and white geometric Madeline Weinrib-designed Buche rug that probably cost Mister Berkus more than Your Mama paid for our big BMW. Word to the less financially fortunate than Moneybags Berkus: You can buy a knock off of Ms. Weinerib's rug at the Swedish retail giant Ikea for under two-hundred bucks.

Although it would look utterly redonkulous in Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's modest abode in the Hollywood Hills our favorite piece of Mister Berkus's furniture selections, a custom-made lemon yellow tufted ottoman, can be seen in his book-filled library where it sits prominently in front of the fireplace. The ottoman, bless it's hard, has been rendered completely useless for sitting by the stacks of books from Mister Berkus's vast and enviable collection of tomes and treatises on art, architecture and design.

There's another fireplace in the reconfigured corner master suite, the third one as far as we can tell. Mister Berkus's boo-dwar includes a decidedly decadent 1930s-ish-style bathroom that's far to Hollywood Housewife for Your Mama's personal taste. What we do like in that there bathroom is the exquisite Jacques Adnet stool Mister Berkus set up next to the bathtub. Were we ever to be invited to Mister Berkus's condo–and we're pretty sure we'll never be invited to any of Mister Berkus's homes–the children can be certain that Your Mama would make a valiant attempt to sneak that stool out in our handbag.

A February 2011 article in Chicago Magazine reveals that the reconfiguration of the master bedroom included snatching half of the original dressing room in order to create an enlarged master bath. What remains is still an impressive custom-fitted walk-in closet with more than enough space for all Mister Berkus's shoes, suits, socks and manties. We could do without the ashy cornflower blue paint on the cabinets and yellow walls always make us feel like we're headed towards insanity but we'd pee our pants with glee if we had a closet that looked even half a organized and Mister Berkus's. Just ask the Dr. Cooter. We do not share closet space, chickens, because Your Mama's closet typically looks like a tornado ripped right through it and it would most assuredly drive the Dr. Cooter into a murderous rage to have to sift through all Your Mama's t-shirts and things just to locate a pair of his shoes.

Anyhoodles poodles, the listing agent for Mister Berkus's Chicago condo told Mister Goldsborough at the Chicago Tribune that Mister Berkus although he spends more and more time in New York City Mister Berkus plans to "keep a presence" in Chicago, presumably something a bit smaller than this suburban mcmansion-sized Grande Dame on the Gold Coast.

It was reported recently that Mister Berkus upgraded his living quarters in the N-Y-C. Or has he? In 2006 Mister Berkus paid $550,000 for a puny pied-a-terre in New York City's West Village. He decorated the wee pad and, natch, it was featured on Oprah's program, in a magazine or two and on scads of shelter and design blogs.

Last year, in May of 2010, Mister Berkus gave the Oprah Winfrey people a brief tour of a swank new spread he referred to as "my apartment" in the multi-faceted Jean Nouvel-designed tower at 100 Eleventh Avenue in trendy West Chelsea. Shortly after the piece aired on Oprah, Jennifer Gould Keil at the New York Post repeated the rumor she heard that Mister Berkus does not actually own the featured apartment but rather that he leases the deluxe digs from much lauded and applauded Peruvian-born fashion photographer Mario Testino. Interestingly, in the aforementioned Chicago Magazine Mister Berkus's New York City crib is described as, "A small condo in the West Village." Of course, we don't know a cork board from a skate board. Maybe Mister Berkus lives in a starchitect-designed apartment he may or may not own in too-trendy West Chelsea or maybe he lives in a bantam one-bedroom in the leafy, lovely and lavishly gentrified West Village.

Mister Berkus used to share an apartment in Milan–that's in Italia, kids–with his former man-friend Brian Atwood, a sultry male model turned ladies shoe designer. The quondam man-couple had their fourth floor walk-up residence in a 1920s era apartment building photographed for the April 2009 issue of Elle Decor. The swell photographs depict the top floor apartment features such decorative choices as a Farrah Fawcett poster, palm leaf print wallpaper identical to that in The Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel–which Your Mama has to admit was a deliciously campy selection–a Pedro Friedeberg hand chair and a lot of shimmery chrome and brass things that evoke that 1970s David Hicks thing Mister Berkus likes so much. Mister Berkus announced recently that he's two years into a relationship with an unnamed architect, which indicates that he and the dashing shoe designer parted ways quite some time ago. Since the apartment in Milan was occupied by Mister Atwood before he and Mister Berkus hitched their gay wagons we're guessing that Mister Berkus no longer makes use of the apartment. What we really want to know, of course, is if Mister Atwood scrubbed the fancy flat clean of the Nate Berkus designed day-core. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Your Mama recently heard through the real estate gossip grapevine that Oprah Winfrey is getting sick and damn tired of her frequent commute from her fifty-million dollar estate on Montecito, CA to her new OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) offices in Los Angeles' Miracle Mile District. It seems like it'll only a matter of time before Oprah looks to buy a crash pad in Los Angeles, don't it? Your Mama humbly suggests she consider the star-packed Sierra Towers building on the Sunset Strip where The Big O can ride up and down the elevators with all those other a-list ladies who own condos in the building like like Cher, Joan Collins and Elton John. Just a thought. Wherever The Big O alights in Los Angeles, Your Mama wonders if her protégé Nate Berkus will snag the gig to do up the day-core? We'll just have to wait and see.

photos: Pieter Estersohn/Elle Decor via Apartment Therapy (all interiors); Coldwell Banker (exterior)

Weekend Wrap Up

American ex-pat actor Johnny Depp and his French baby momma Vanessa Paridis are reported to have picked up the Palazzo Donà Sangiantoffetti that overlooks the Grand Canal in Venice. Mister Depp, who reportedly outbid an Arab royal, paid around £8,580,000 for the fixer upper. That's 13,599,800 at today's rate in American dollars.

Did y'all know that tennis queen Venus Williams thinks she's a decorator?

New York Yankee Derek Jeter's new department store-sized mega-mansion on the Davis Islands in Tampa, FL is finished and, hunnies, it's an architectural damn doozy, a real hot mess of the highest magnitude.

The art- and book-filled Upper East Side penthouse of legendary New York City restaurateur Elaine Kaufman has hit the market with an asking price of $2,995,000. The petite two bedroom and 2.5 pooper penthouse has a wood burning fireplace in the living room, a gigantic wrap around terrace and is so far east it might as well be Brooklyn.

We are definitely not down with Miz Kaufman's choice of Southwestern print sofas in the living room, but we'd probably walk buck-nekkid through a ring of fire for the abstract impressionist painting in the dining room and we suffer even greater humiliation for the painting in the entrance hall that may or may not be a Franz Kline.

Ms. Kaufman's eponymous restaurant on Second Avenue near 88th Street has been a mecca and institution for the literati, glitterati and celebrati for decades.

The folks at Curbed had a little conference call chit-chat this week with the real estate boys from Million Dollar Listing. The season 4 premiere is February third. Your Mama is not being paid any money for plugging the show–hello!–but we did get an invite to the premiere party and plan to drink our payment in numerous gin & tonics at the open bar.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Inspiration on the Skirted Roundtable This Week!


The latest trend in magazines is online publishing.   Even trendier is starting your own online magazine – no paper issues, just digital issues.   Fueled by all the print magazines that have folded during this economic downturn, everybody it seems is taking the plunge to digital.     Some of the new online-only magazines are just a few pages long with not much content or effort put into them, while others rival the best of the print versions.   Armed with professional photographers and stylists, these editors fly from coast to coast taking pictures of unique houses and shops.  On the whole, the digital versions are hipper and fresher than most print magazines and target the X and Y generations.   Most appealing is their immediacy and clickable links, along with being environmentally friendly.   The first big online splash was made by Lonny, which was favorably compared to domino magazine.  Last year, Twitter was busy spreading the word about a new online magazine’s release: RUE.   And soon, another promising blogger driven magazine, Houston –based High Gloss, will be released.  



Singer Alison Sudol is featured on this Rue’s cover this month.

The newest mag, Rue, is just three issues old.  It is filled with page after page of décor and fashion.   The editors of Rue are keenly tech savvy:  they used social networking to spread the word and their first issue was a smash hit.   There were so many subscribers they were able to attract high class advertisers.    Last week, we welcomed the two founders of Rue to the Skirted Roundtable.   These girls are driven, smart, energetic and talented.   They are going places and so is Rue.   Their zest is infectious.   If you are stuck in a rut or bored or just listless, listen to these two for some much needed stimulation.  I felt like an old, worthless slug after talking with them!   The third issue of Rue has just arrived this week and it is filled with story after story; the issue is impressively huge at 267 pages!    How they put this together and kept up their daily blogs, I will never understand!    Here are a few of my favorite photos from the new Rue:



My favorite story is about Brooke Giannetti from Velvet and Linen.  Here, in a picture from Brooke and Steve’s shop Giannetti Home,  is a chair from their furniture line which Steve and Brooke design.  I LOVE, LOVE this chair!!!!!!  Velvet and Linen is one of my favorite blogs, a daily must for me.



Another great story centers around entertainer and photo stylist’s Annette Joseph’s aesthetic.  Loved this tablescape in her Atlanta home.



Tarama Kaye-Honey’s house is innovative and fresh.   Cute dog!



It’s not all about house décor in Rue.  There’s a lot of fashion.   Beautiful photograph. 



Another favorite story is about Susanna Salk’s lakeside house.  Here, her breakfast room caught my eye with that great island and orange and white upholstered furniture.



I love  Susanna’s kitchen with its Shaws sink and marble countertops.



Her bedroom is  casual trendy.   Love the headboard and the long console doubling as a desk.



The two founders of Rue, Crystal Gentilello and Anne Sage, were both bloggers when they decided to launch Rue.  They had never even met face-to-face until several weeks into their partnership.    A true story of the new century, it’s all about high tech and social networking.  To listen to this inspiring interview, go HERE.  To read the latest Rue, go HERE.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Rose McGowan Leaving Los Feliz

SELLER: Rose McGowan
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $1,849,000
SIZE: 4,278 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Yesterday, while sipping an ice cold gin & tonic scoping out all the new listings in The City of Angels we ran across a particularly fetching abode in the Los Feliz area that set off all of Your Mama's highly-tuned celebrity real estate sensors. A short spin through the interweb and a few ringy-dingy's on our bedazzled Princess phone turned up two snitches who confirmed the house, listed with an asking price of $1,849,000, belongs to sultry actress, Boston Terrier advocate and sartorial daredevil Rose McGowan.

For better or worse and likely much to her chagrin, Miss McGowan will likely go down in Your Mama's (entirely subjective) version of Hollywood history for three things for which she might rather not be remembered: Her long-running role on that hare-brained tee-vee show about sister-witches Charmed, her 3.5 year relationship with Goth-rock provocateur Marilyn Manson and her sensationally ribald walk down the red carpet at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards in little more than a handful of beads that did nothing to conceal neither her booty nor her boobies. In an inexplicable nod to modesty, some of the children may recall, Miss McGowan did sport a sparkling pair of beaded thong panties that covered her (probably hairless) baby maker. Nowadays the Miss McGowan works her thing a far less scurrilous but still vixenish Betty Page-inspired sort of style mirrored in the day-core choices made in her house.

Anyhoo, Miss McGowan hung on to Charmed until it went off the air in 2006. A few of her more recent professional engagements include Brian de Palma's Black Dahlia, Quentin Tarantino's double-feature Grindhouse, Fifty Dead Men Walking and a stint on the boob-toob program Nip/Tuck with the also happy-to-be-expose-my-kiester-on-television Julian McMahon. According to her resume on the Internet Movie Data Base, Miss McGowan will appear in three movies in 2011 including a in the action-babe flicks Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja.

Property records show that Miss McGowan scooped up her walled and gated residence in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles in July of 2004 for $1,850,000. That's exactly one thousand dollars more that the property's current price tag of $1,849,000. Even with a full price sale–an unlikely event in today's still tough real estate times–Miss McGowan will be faced with a wham-blam to her pocketbook.

Old listing information Your Mama scared up out of the internets shows that Miss McGowan snapped up this house after just one day on the market. Listing information from that time also shows the house was priced at $1,749,000, which suggests that Miss McGowan paid about $100,000 more than the asking price. That was way back in 2004 when the market was sizzling. We doubt Miss McGowan will be so lucky but, chickens, iffin Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter were in the market for a nearly two-million smacker house in Los Feliz, we'd be all over this place lickety-split.

Listing information shows the muted coral-colored villa, an intriguing and exquisitely patinated melange of Spanish, Moroccan, Moorish and Andalusian architectural elements, was built in 1928 and spans 4,278 square feet. The house contains a total of 4 bedrooms–one located on the lower floor–and three bathrooms. Listing information indicates–but isn't entirely clear–that one of the upstairs bedrooms may have been converted to a walk-in closet/dressing room for all of Miss McGowan's many pairs of shoes and vintage dresses.

The front door, set dramatically into an elaborately carved stone threshold, opens into an impress-the-guests-style entrance hall with tile floor, double-height ceilings, stained glass window, decorative iron banister, minstrel's balcony and a trio arched doorways that lead to the living, dining and family rooms.

The sizable and architecturally swoon-worthy but not cavernous living room has peg-and-groove hardwood floors, a high pitched ceiling with exposed trusses, carved stone fireplace, classic arched window and four sets of French doors the open into courtyard-like gardens. While it certainly won't be to every one's liking, Miss McGowan's quirky personal style shines through in the living room that's done up with moss colored velvet Art Deco furniture, shimmery orange curtains (a bold statement that Your Mama loves but isn't fully effective here, and a burled wood credenza over which hangs an original lighted sign from the legendary Brown Derby restaurant that used to be at Hollywood and Vine. This may not be what we'd do with this house decoratively speaking but Your Mama would far more look at day-core that is an overt reflection of the occupant rather than to peep at the sterile decorative perfections that have been washed free of any personality and are often seen in most of the glossy shelter publications.

Miss McGowan wisely kept things basic in the nicely-proportioned formal dining room where a complicated geometric tile floor–that we hope and imagine is original to the house–takes center stage. The fab tile floor continues out a wide bank of French doors to a grassy and private part of the yard. A glorious and very shallow groin-vaulted ceiling graces the kitchen that opens to the dining room and is renovated in a manner that both preserved the original aesthetic of the house–note the lattice front lower cabinets–and added high-grade modern conveniences. The tile floor is an identical pattern to that in the dining room except with a tweaked color combination that swaps the red in the dining room for the yellow in the kitchen.

A family room with a coffered ceiling that mirrors the coffered detailing of the front door has hardwood floors, fireplace, built-in bookshelves filled with actual books–it seems Miss McGowan reads–and a big-ass flat screen tee-vee mounted on the wall above a streamlined Art Moderne cabinet. Like in the living room, Miss McGowan opted for Art Deco style furnishings–this time clean-lined black leather with white accents. Your Mama feels the room could benefit strongly from the introduction of a playful and richly colored antique Art Deco-style area rug with a rounder, more female pattern that plays off the hard edges of tile floors in the kitchen and dining room.

Miss McGowan's boo-dwar includes a bedroom with wood floors and French doors that open to a covered balcony with beautifully lathed wood columns and a perfectly period Jack-and-Jill-style pooper with spectacular lavender and black tile and historically accurate (and possibly original) fixtures.

While there does not seem to be a single large expanse of outdoor space there are several intimate courtyard-style terraces and patios that ring the residence and provide plenty of room for Miss McGowan's Boston Terriers or, perhaps, a couple of long bodied bitches like Your Mama and the Dr. Cooters' Linda and Beverly.

Miss McGowan's Los Feliz home has a long list of celebrity neighbors who include January Jones (Mad Men), Jon Hamm (also from Mad Men), Laura Prepon (That 70s Show), director David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club). A bit farther away are all the celebs that line the streets of the gated Laughlin Park community who include preggers Natalie Portman (Black Swan), pop star Natasha Bedingfield, Jenna and Bodhi Elfman, Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix, and Black Eyed Pea

Previous to living in Los Feliz, Miss McGowan owned a Spanish-style casa in the historic Whiteley Heights 'hood in Hollywood. That house, interestingly, has had a slew of subsequent celebrity owners. Records show that Miss McGowan sold the house in July of 2004 for $1,235,000 to actress Rachel Bilson (The O.C.). Miss Bilson quickly caught a case of The Real Estate Fickle and sold the house in December of 2005 to the dee-voon Busy Phillips (Cougar Town) for $1,349,000. As far as Your Mama knows Miss Bilson still owns and occupies an abode in Los Feliz records show she bought in the fall of 2006 for $1,880,000.

Miss Busy and her rom-com screenwriter husband Marc Silverstein (He's Just Not That Into You) moved to bigger digs nearby they bought for $2,100,000 in March of 2008. In January of 2009 Miss Busy sold the 2,204 square foot house in the hills as a short sale for $1,075,000. We were told by the always knowledgeable informant Lucy Spillerguts that the house was acquired thespian turned tee-vee star Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) who recently became engaged to actor Joey Kern.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comedy Writer Bruce Vilanch Lists Nichols Canyon Crib

SELLER: Bruce Vilanch
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $1,150,000
SIZE: 2,399 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Tinseltown is nothing if not a Botox-induced wrinkle-free fairyland of illusion and make-believe. It's a wacky world in which oodles of beefy waiters drive Range Rovers and Maseratis paid for by their older man-friend benefactors and glammy middle-aged grandmothers have tramp stamps and porn star-style boobs. It should come as no surprise then that many of the entertainment industry's most famous funny folks don't actually write their own bon mots and witty repartee. For decades, the job of making celebs seem hilarious or, at least, droll has fallen to the Bruce Vilanch, a La-la Land legend who recently put his long-time Los Angeles, CA home on the market with an asking price of $1,150,000.

Think of Mister Vilanch as a kind of Wizard of Oz. He's the man behind the curtain pulling the joke levers. His snappy way with words has earned him a special brand of fame. He was a regular on Hollywood Squares, lost 75 pounds on Celebrity Fit Club and he recently popped up on RuPaul's Drag Race dressed as a somewhat slovenly Santa Claus. He even had a documentary made about him called Get Bruce!

The campy and disheveled appearing overweight homosexual–who typically sports Sally Jesse Rafael-style eyeglasses, ironic t-shirts and a tussled blond shag that he probably pays Sally Hershberger $800 to cut–clearly does not adhere to Hollywood's rather limited perception of beauty that tends toward fake tans, fake pecs, fake lips and fake every damn thing that can be made fake. He is, none-the-less, a beloved, witty, charming, self-effacing, flamboyant, over-sized, over the top, sharp and funny funny funny showbiz treasure.

Mister Vilanch actually started out as a journalist, in Chicago. In the mid 1970s he somehow hooked up with Bette Midler and wrote her Clams on the Half Shell Revue for Broadway in 1974. He's been penning ditties for The Divine Miss M ever since. He relocated to Los Angeles to write for the Brady Bunch Variety Hour–an idiotic but delightful piece of tee-vee trash, for sure–and was soon began to provide quips and funny bits for legendary entertainers and comedians who include Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Roseanne Barr, Elizabeth Taylor, Dolly Parton, Donne and Marie Osmond, Barry Manilow, Paul Lynde, Betty White and Robin Williams. Since the late 1980s Miz Vilanch has written gags and what-have-you for the presenters and the hosts of the the Academy Awards and in 2000 he was named head writer of the self-congratulatory awards program. He has Emmy awards and nominations up the wazoo and a close examination of the listing photo of the living room turns up a couple Emmy statuettes up on the built-in entertainment center thingamabob in the living room.

It's not clear when Mister Vilanch purchased his dingy-looking wood-sided post-and-beam home in the semi-rustic Nichols Canyon neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills but, according to someone Your Mama knows who's friendly with Mister Vilanch, he's lived in the house for decades. Listing information for the two-story cabin-style crib shows it contains 3 bedrooms and 3 poopers in 2,399 square feet.

The Mexican paver floors start in the entrance hall and continue into the living room that features an exposed wood beamed ceiling and a stone fireplace and is furnished with a pair of rose-colored swivel bucket chairs that make Your Mama's heart come to a complete stop. And not in a good way, ramekins. Clearly and contradictory to common belief, as the children can see from this decorative hot mess, not every gay gets the decorating gene. Shiny copper-colored pillows on the tan sofa do not make up for the grievous error of the geometric rug. The worn pavers continue through the house to the ho-hum but far from horrid galley style kitchen complete with up-to-date stainless steel appliances, white-tile back splash, blue counter tops and sky light. Mister Vilanch's kitchen in its current state ain't going to win any style awards, but it's 10-14 times better than all those over-wrought and over-corbeled "gourmet" kitchens they install in thousands upon thousands of suburban-y mock-Med mcmansions all over Los Angeles.

The stairs that lead from the upper to the lower floor are carpeted wall-to-wall but beige shag. Gawd. Your Mama loathes carpeted staircases. Unless you can afford to hire a minimum wage gurl whose only job is to fluff the shag on stairs, carpeted staircases just get nappy and matted and quickly look like nasty ol' crack house carpet. Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter are, in fact, gearing up to replace the nasty carpet that lines the stairs in our house. (Don't blame us, chickens, it was there where we moved in.) The master bedroom, also with beige wall-too-wall carpeting, includes built-in cabinetry, a bank of sliding glass doors fitted with shoji screens for privacy and light modulation, and a built-in platform bed buried in a fur blanket and matching fur pillow shams. We know there are a lot of people who enjoy wrapping themselves in dead animal pelts, but Your Mama genuinely hopes those creepy bed things are faux.

The house opens to series of tree-shaded decks that hang over the bucolic seasonal crick that runs through Mister Vilanch's canyon property. Say what you will about the somewhat distressed condition and questionable day-core of this house but how amazing is it to live right in the center of the damn city and have a crick run through your yard?

We're not sure why after all these years Mister Vilanch has finally opted to pack up his whoopee cushions and move but Bruce, doll baby, Your Mama has a message for you: Please give us a shout when you get moved to your next crib and we'll come help you pick out a sofa and dining room table because you can not–do your hear Your Mama?–you can not move all that crappity-crap-crap furniture to another house. Iffin you don't want to deal with Your Mama–and we can understand why you might not want to–we sincerely hope you'll utilize your deep connections in in West Hollywood to find and hire a nice, gay decorator who can do up your new house in a manor more befitting a man of your professional stature. We're not saying you ought to occupy an Architectural Digest-ready superstar-style mansion in Beverly Hills like Jennifer Aniston. But even a more modest residence could benefit from the insane talents of a young gun color maverick like Rafael de Cárdenas who worked over the New York City apartments of supermodel Jessica Stam and indie film royal Parker Posey. We just think you need an exuberant and colorful house to match your exuberant and colorful personality.

listing photos: John Aaroe Group

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Did Putin Get a Palace?

Did Russian's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin get a pricey new palace that over looks the Black Sea?

It seems nobody knows for sure–or at least no government official will confirm–but a Russian biznessman named Sergei Kolesnikov who has professional ties to Mister Putin claims that a palatial residence under construction in the Black Sea resort town of Praskoveevka is being built with "dubious funds" for the personal use of Russia's frequently shirtless and all but hairless prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Mister Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, publicly declared that the prime minister has no connections to the obscenely large residence on the Black Sea but Mister Kolesnikov claims that Mister Putin regularly visited the site to supervise the construction and furnishing of the massive mansion.

After Mister Kolesnikov's claims were made public a 2009 article materialized out of the interweb in which a journalist for Novaya Gazeta reported that he swam up to the beach behind the property and spoke to a construction worker who snitched that Prime Minister Putin visited the site regularly. It wasn't long before an anonymous man who declared he worked on the construction of the building publicly alleged that many illegal Chinese workers were employed at the site. Oh dear.

After Mister Kolesnikov let the cat out of the bag about Mister Putin's (alleged) new palace in Praskoveevka, a couple of photos taken by tourists surfaced that show the sprawling roof of the civic center-sized structure and the beach side entrance to a tunnel that (allegedly) leads up to the palace on the bluff above.

Finally, about a week ago a clandestine cache of photographs was leaked by an anonymous individual and posted on Ruleaks, a website that publishes Russian translations of documents posted on Wikileaks. The photos show a bulky and colossal Neoclassical structure built around a symmetrically designed interior courtyard ringed by arched colonnades.

Photos of the interior spaces show heavy and intricate architectural details that include lots of pilasters, hand-painted murals on the walls and ceilings, car-sized chandeliers, shiny marble floors with inlaid patterns, unrestrained gilding, heavy drapery, paneled and gilded walls, antique commodes, dining room sets and and desks that tend towards the Baroque. Prairie-sized terraces and formal gardens filled with topiary, surround the palace that reportedly includes a private casino, fitness spa, tea house, amphitheater and a pad for not just one but three helicopters.

While there's a very real possibility this mansion does not belong to or in any way have anything to do with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, what is clear is that there is still some serious money in the hands of oligarchs willing to spend a truly shocking and–let's be honest chickens–scandalous billion bucks or more on a seaside vacation house.

photos: Ruleaks

Radio Hostess and Heiress Alexis Stewart Marks Down Penthouse Price

We know we're a little late to the rodeo on this bit of real estate bizness it having already been discussed on Curbed. None the less, we've been following this real estate saga for some time and quite simply can't control our impulse to weigh in on the matter. Plus we're sort of smitten with the idiosyncratic pluck of radio hostess and heiress Alexis Stewart. Iffin you already know this crap and don't want to hear about it again just move along like good little doggies and Your Mama will have another celebrity real estate bone for you soon.

With housekeeping honcho Martha Stewart's radio co-host daughter Alexis ensconced in her elephantine triplex in one of the celebrity-packed Richard Meier towers on New York City's bizzy bizzy bizzy West Side Highway, it seems she might finally be getting serious about unloading her previous penthouse pad located atop The Ice House building on TriBeCa's North Moore Street.

Property records show Miss Stewart–presumably with some money from mommy–purchased her loft-like duplex penthouse at The Ice House in May of 1999 for $2,953,000. She first tried to sell the 3,884 square foot aerie in September of 2007 with an asking price of $12,400,000. Nine months after first appearing on the open market Miss Stewart's apartment at The Ice House was taken off the market and seven months after that it was re-listed with a notably higher price tag of $12,950,000. By November of 2010 the price had plummeted to $10,450,000 and in mid-January 2011 Miss Stewart and her Real Estates slashed the asking price to $9,500,000. Perhaps finally selling her old penthouse is sassy Miss Stewart's New Year's resolution.

Miss Stewart's real estate white elephant at The Ice House includes private elevator access, 2-3 bedrooms, 3.5 poopers, a living room with fireplace and dramatic pitched-glass ceiling, a gore-may kitchen even a domestic dervish like her mother Martha could appreciate and a 500+ square foot terrace. Listing information shows the common charges and taxes total $6,590 per month.

Miss Stewart's current crib is a collection of contiguous apartments on three floors that were bought for a combined cost of around $35,000,000. No babies, that is not a error. Miss Stewart's digs actually cost her–or, more likely, her mother–around thirty-five million smackers, a blood curdling amount of moolah that does not include the many millions more spent on the combination, renovation and decoration of the super-sized condo.

Miss Stewart's penthouse at The Ice House was done up by nice, gay decorator–and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia employee–Kevin Sharkey and although we have no inside information or hard evidence to prove it, Your Mama would bet our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly that it was Mister Sharkey who did up the day-core at Miss Alexis's new mansion in the Meier-designed tower.

Probably not coincidentally Mister Sharkey lives in a lavish spread in a recently-debuted-to-the-public apartment in the very same Richard Meier-designed building as Miss Stewart. While we're having trouble sorting out the property records it appears to Your Mama that Mister Sharkey's apartment is contiguous with Miss Stewart's multi-unit spread and might actually be one of the five apartments purchased by Miss Stewart and (allegedly) paid for by her momma.

Among the many dazzling photos of Mister Sharkey's apartment, one in particular caught Your Mama's eye. The photo shows Mister Sharkey and Miss Stewart, both in cocktail party attire, sitting on the tile floor of a bathroom with a bathtub full of Veuve Clicquot champagne and a frameless glass shower stall stacked to the ceiling with dozens and dozens of iconic orange Hermès gift boxes. While we love love love the color orange and we adore all things Hermès, Your Mama just doesn't understand the impulse of a certain kind of design queen who feels compelled to display Hermès gift boxes as if they are day-core. We happen to think Mister Sharkey is a talented and accomplished gentleman but bitch, pleeze. Really? The only reason we can conjure to explain why a person would use Hermès boxes as "day-core" is that they want to–as George says in Edward Albee's brilliant play Who's Afraid of Virginia–"impress the guests." The whole thing is a little unseemly and, quite frankly, it's even more unseemly to stack and "stash" dozens upon dozens of orange boxes in an all-glass shower in a feeble attempt to look like you don't care that much about them even though their careful arrangement screams another something else entirely.

Say what you may about Big Bad Martha Stewart but for where Your Mama sits she's an undeniably generous parent whose vast fortune allows her only daughter to live like a modern day tsarina and an unusually magnanimous (if notoriously persnickety) boss who pays at least one of her favored employees enough dough-ray-me to live in one of New York's most illustrious and exceedingly expensive buildings.

We should all be so damn lucky.

floor plan: Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate via Streeteasy

Brittney Murphy's House in the Hills in Foreclosure

Actress Brittany Murphy (King of the Hill, Clueless, 8 Mile) died suddenly and surprisingly in her house in the hills above the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, CA in December of 2009. She reportedly went to meet The Great Director in the Sky due to a case of acute pneumonia and severe anemia.

Property records show that Miss Murphy purchased the four story residence during her professional salad days in June of 2003 for $3,850,000. She bought the 8,000-ish square foot hillside house from another famous and famously troubled Brittany, Britney Spears. After her death Miss Murphy's rather odd widower Simon Monjack continued to live in the house along with Sharon Murphy, his mother-in-law.

In March of 2010 Miss Murphy's house was heaved on to the market with an asking price of $7,250,000. Mister Monjack rather creepily told gossip juggernaut TMZ that once the house sold he and Sharon planned to move to New York. Together. Ew. Listen bunnies, Your Mama don't know an earth shoe from a cork trivit and we certainly don't know a damn thing about the inner workings of the former Miss Murphy's family structure. None the less it's quite inexplicable and just plain creepy that Miss Murphy's mother would plan to relocate to New York with her dead daughter's shady-seeming widower.

Anyhoo, Miss Murphy's many-quoined crib was mysteriously taken off the market just a month after it was listed and about a month after that Mister Monjack was found dead in the house by his roommate/mother-in-law Sharon. He reportedly perished from acute pneumonia and severe anemia, the very same causes reported to have killed his wife.

Miss Murphy's house suddenly reappeared on the market this week with a new, much lower and probably far more realistic asking price of $4,995,000. A quick and dirty peep and a poke around the property records reveals that Miss Murphy's house is–gasps all around–in foreclosure. According to the records Your Mama accessed a Notice of Sale was recorded on January 10, 2011 that scheduled a public sale of the property on the 31st of January with a minimum bid amount of $4,035,666.

Use your heads, sweeties, and recognize that it's quite possible Miz Murphy managed to pull the house out of foreclosure and that the property records just haven't been amended to reflect that. Whatever the case, this seems like last ditch effort by Miss Murphy's mother to unload the house tout de suite..

listing photo: Rodeo Realty

A Few Cute Apartments In Paris

A typical Chez Vous apartment, designed by Myra Hoefer.  Chez Nous has the best looking apartments for tourist rental.
There are so many furnished apartments available for short time lease in Paris, one wonders are there any apartments left for the Parisians?   Myself, I love staying in a hotel – the more stars the better, but the ability to do that does depend on how good business is that month!    There’s nothing better than room service, high thread count sheets, marble bathrooms, and newly refurbished décor (unless you are talking about NYC with its bedbug infestation!  Yuck!!!)     Still, apparently lots of tourists prefer to stay in apartments while visiting Paris.   The reasons vary but mostly, you feel like you actually live in the city as opposed to being an obnoxious tourist.   Prices for the better apartments aren’t necessarily cheaper than a hotel, but room service charges can add up quickly, turning a reasonable hotel rate into one that rivals the national debt.   Staying in an apartment alleviates that problem.
I love looking at the available apartments, there are so many that you can quickly kill an entire day fantasizing about which apartment would be the one you would choose.  Some are fabulously beautiful.   The rental company, Chez Vous, has without a doubt the prettiest ones – decorated by San Francisco interior designer Myra Hoefer – their apartments are cuter than most of our houses with their flowing, luscious taffeta curtains and clean, slipcovered sofas.   Go here to pick out your favorite  Chez Vous home away from home.
Other good sources are Paris Perfect, Paris Prime Rentals, Paris Luxe Apartments, and Alacarte Paris Apartments.    While there are thousands of available furnished apartments for tourists – beware, most are not fabulous or even pretty!   The furnishings in many are awful, old, and just not appealing - they are desirable solely because they are in Paris.  Just like looking at real estate listings in the states, you have to wade through much ugliness to find the good Parisian apartment listings.    . 
Despite looking at a lot of mediocre rentals,  I did find quite a few I loved.  Unfortunately, most I liked had photos that are too small or blurry to show here, but I did find a nice selection with larger images.   Below are some of those apartments that made me want to go pack my bags and fly over this weekend.   Enjoy!
Yes!  I love the icy blue/gray interiors in this grand apartment with its beautiful hardwood floors and elegant moldings.  This listing is from Haven in Paris, which has quite a few luxury listings.

I love the beautiful taffeta curtains.  Three bedrooms and bathrooms – at just 5,ooo Euros a week.

Lots of white washed furniture – you can tell it was recently remodeled.  I love the grand entry hall.

I guess someone could sleep on the day bed too?

One of the three bedrooms.  

This studio apartment is located on Ile Saint Louis, an island in the middle of Paris.   Special Apartments has the listing. 

The building is 18th century (my favorite!) and the stairs make me wonder if there is not an elevator?  Many buildings do not have elevators, so if that is a concern, be sure to check that detail.    Other important details to confirm – washer dryer, dishwasher, WiFi connection, and television.

This is a really cute studio which was remodeled a few years ago.   The wall between the bedroom and living room is open. 

I love the original stone walls and the windows are beautiful.   Notice the niche shelf in the stone wall.    The sofa is a sleeper.

Nice for a couple or a single person traveling alone.  

Remodeled by an architect/decorator, this one caught my eye because it seems so authentic looking.  Listing HERE.
The building in on the Right Bank and is 17th century!  The décor is really attractive.
Beautiful taffeta curtains and antiques, such as the armoire.   Love the fireplace.
There is only one bedroom, but the sofa is a sleeper and there are two bathrooms.
The courtyard. 
This is actually not an apartment, but a private hotel!  Located in a 15th century house, it sleeps 10 people – so bring the whole family.   If not, the bedrooms can be individually rented.  Totally refurbished and restored,  the house is filled with French antiques.  It is located on Rue de Montmorency in the Marais district. 
That fireplace!   I love all the antiques!  A chef comes with house, as does WiFi.
Beautiful tapestry.   Notice the old marble floor. 

The iron bannister is beautiful.

Another bedroom.
There are a total of five bedrooms in the house.
Another bedroom with antique rugs and venetian styled wallpaper.
One of the modernized bathrooms.  For more information, go HERE.
This apartment is located in a 17th century house that was once owned by a noble family and is now an historical monument.  Listing is HERE.
Gorgeous stairs with marble floors.  The apartment is on the nobile floor – or the 2nd floor.
It is filled with French antiques and is very elegant, not trendy at all.   There is no gray painted furniture found here.
This is what I think of when I imagine how a French family lives. 
A glimpse into the bedroom through the open doors.  Love the chilled champagne waiting!
There are three bedrooms.  This is probably truly the dining room.
The other two bedrooms are in a loft area – not quite as grand, but still charming.
Wow.  The view of the River Seine from one of the smaller bedrooms.   Does it get any better than this???
Many of the apartments are furnished with trendy painted faux antiques –  furniture from Blanc d’Ivoire for example.  This apartment has recently been decorated with the trendiest of the trendy.  Still, it is very cute!
The apartment is located on the Left Bank.  There is one bedroom and elevator access.

The kitchen opens to the living area. 

It is all very tastefully done and is very clean looking.    When looking at pictures, be sure to check if there is carpet rather than flooring.  Carpet tends to get dirty looking quickly.

The bathroom is incredible with its curved, tiled wall.
Breakfast outside!  More information is HERE.
Are all the views in Paris this good?  It seems like it!!!
This elegant apartment is large.  A third bedroom can be rented as a studio. 

This apartment is located on the Ile Saint Louis and is surrounded by the Seine.   It has been recently updated. 
Overlooking the elegant dining room.
I love how all the dining rooms have fireplaces – so romantic.   This is so French looking!
One of the large bedrooms.   Gah.  Sooooo pretty.
A fireplace in the bathroom!  Wow.
This bedroom can be rented alone as a studio. 
  I could be happy with just this room!   Notice the balcony over looking the Seine.   The link to this apartment is HERE.

And finally, last July, I showed you this apartment for rent in Paris HERE.
Filled with antiques and gray  painted faux antiques, the apartment is charmingly decorated.   A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader who actually rented this apartment after reading about it here.   She and her mother went to Paris – and she was kind enough to send me photos from their trip.
The reader took this picture of the café right near the apartment.

The nearby flower shop she and her mother visited.  

A snapshot of the bedroom in the apartment.   Thank you so much for sharing these!!

If you happen to book one of the apartments shown here, please send your photos – I would love to see them.