Friday, April 29, 2011

UPDATE: Jennifer Aniston

It's such a lovely day Your Mama thought the children might enjoy a little afternoon picture pretty in the form of newly released listing photos of the Beverly Hills, CA mansion that sitcom and romcom actress Jennifer Aniston has on the market for a mouth-drying $42,000,000.

The new photos show previously unseen areas of the house such as both of the master bathrooms plus a dressing/sitting room and the all stainless steel galley-style kitchen that looks more like a machine for cooking that a cozy gathering place.

As many of the children surely already know, according to all the tabs and gossip glossies Miss Aniston plans to her bags and move from L.A. to N.Y.C where the always tanned and well-turned out Miss Aniston (allegedly) has in contract , as we type our fingers to the nubbins, two small apartments in New York City, one directly atop the other.

The one bedroom and one bathroom lower apartment, in a plum pre-war full-service dowager in the West Village, was last on the market for $1,800,000. Very high but not unheard of for a well-configured high-floor apartment with a dining nook, fireplace and stunning city views.

The second unit Miss Aniston is said to be acquiring is the itty-bitty jewel box-like penthouse pad directly upstairs. The apartment, also just one bedroom and one bathroom, is owned by hair honcho Sally Hershberger, a crafty gal who will pillage your pocketbook for close to a thousand clams to cut your hair. The eensy-weensy but painstakingly renovated apartment became quite well-known last summer among New York City real estate watchers after the well-heeled scissor sister heaved her downtown aerie on the market with an audacious, but apparently not unrealistic, price tag of $5,900,000. Miss Sally knows more than hair. Beehawtcha knows that the higher you price something, the more desirable it becomes to those who can afford it.

Your Mama expects that Miss Aniston will hire smart architects and nice gay decorators to combine the two units into a pristine duplex penthouse. We've already sketched out a possible plan for Miss Aniston's merger in the West Village but we'd love to know what her people come up with.

listing photos: Coldwell Banker Previews International

Ed O'Neill Is A Thoroughly Modern Man

BUYER: Ed O'Neill
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $3,050,000
SIZE: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Since the early 1990s and until 2004 or 2005 actor Ed O'Neill (Modern Family, Married With Children) owned a house on the canals in Venice, CA. At that point he and the family swapped the gritty urban density of Venice for peaceful Sullivan Canyon, a decidedly rustic but none-the-less uppity area of Los Angeles nestled on the border between Brentwood and Pacific Palisades.

Records indicate that Mister O'Neill, a black belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year, acquired his Sullivan Canyon crib in February 2004 for $2,600,000. The Los Angeles County Tax Man shows the privately situated residence measures 3,165 square feet and includes 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a swimming pool.

Recently Mister O'Neill and Catherine Rusoff, his lady-wife of 25-ish years with whom he has two youngish daughters, snatched up a second house in Sullivan Canyon. The new house, a modestly scaled but architecturally significant house on a thickly treed lot, is separated from the O'Neill's current crib by two driveways to two other homes.

According to the property records Mister O'Neill paid $3,050,000 for a 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom modern ranch house originally designed and built in 1953 by much-coveted and ballyhooed California architect Cliff May as his personal residence. Mister May, for all those who live under an architectural rock, is the man responsible for the classic California contemporary ranch house that are typically designed to engage in a taut but intimate dialog with the surrounding landscape that results in a barefooted and seamless integration of indoor and outdoor living.

The house, which the Los Angeles County Tax Man says measures 1,944 square feet, sits on a lush .26 acre. Busted-looking brick pillars mark the entrance to a tree-shaded gravel driveway that rises gently to a large gravel motor court where the low profile, single story wood, stone and glass residence extends discretely into the natural landscape.

Say what you will about Los Angeles and its overly cliché and over-played plasticity, but real estate-wise there aren't a lot of other major urban centers in the world where a person can live in the middle of the city in serene circumstances that feel downright rural.

The understated board and batten exterior disguises airy and–dare we say–dramatic interior spaces that–bless the hearts of every previous owner of this home–still retain original architectural features that include a magnificent 23-foot long sky light that runs along the peak of the beamed and vaulted ceiling. Smooth grey terrazzo floors run throughout the entire house that was recently refreshed by west coast starchitecture firm Marmol-Radziner. The pre-fab promoting architects remained rightfully respectful of Mister May's original design-spirit of the house while they re-worked, updated and upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms and installed miles of lustrous, meticulously custom-crafted and utterly delicious walnut cabinetry.

A stone wall with extra-wide fire box gives necessary anchor and spatial order to the living room area of the vast open room that opens itself wide to the outdoors via a full wall of sliding glass doors. At the other end of the room the open, center-island kitchen not only has clean-lined walnut cabinetry but chunky solid walnut cabinetry so delectable Your Mama just wants to get up on counter and roll around nekkid. The kitchen, warmed by all the wood, is also a multi-tasking and hard-working state of the art kitchen with breakfast counter, top-end commercial grade appliances, two sinks and a glimmering stainless steel tile back splash. We love love love the sharp glint of the stainless steel tile back splash against all the walnut wood but, in all honesty, Your Mama could have done with something else, something still brilliantly luminous but in a more organic color range.

Irresistibly caressable walnut paneling and banks of walnut-faced closets envelop both of the bedrooms. The smaller bedroom has a built in desk and the much larger master suite has a built-in entertainment center, glass doors that slide open to a private terrace perfect for a post-coital smoke, a dressing room lined with walnut cabinets and built in dresser, and a surprisingly well-scaled bathroom with double vanity, soaking tub for two, a separate marble-lined and glass-enclosed shower and, yes, even more walnut cabinetry.

Every room in the house opens through over-sized sliding glass doors to a variety of terraces and patios that surround the house. In addition to the aforementioned post-coital smoking terrace off the master bedroom that's shaded by mature trees and surrounded by ferns and other shade loving foliage, there's an an intimate courtyard-like area off the living room bordered by a towering wall of bamboo and at the front of the house large concrete pavers define an outdoor dining terrace that looks over the sloping and untamed front yard. A sliver of a patio–a path really–runs alongside the secondary bedroom and a concrete pad on the hillside high above the house takes advantage of a sunny clearing in the trees.

While we can appreciate and even swoon over a worked over garden, we rather love how the simple mass of the house works in both opposition and harmony with the rugged and mostly undomesticated landscaping. If this were Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's house we'd probably consider the installation of a simple swimming pool but otherwise we admit to a rare ache of real estate envy.

Since we don't really know a Easter egg from a Girl Scout cookie, we can only speculate why Mister and Missus O'Neill purchased a house very close to but not contiguous with their current residence. Perhaps it will be utilized as a guest house or maybe as office space for their personal staff. We like Mister O'Neill. Well, we like the characters he plays on the tee-vee. We do not, of course, know him personally. Therefore we have to hope and pray to to all the real estate and decorating gods out there that Mister O'Neill is not the sort of fella who will use this sensitively updated mid-century jewel box as a–gulp–man cave. Oh lowerd, somebody get Your Mama a nerve pill. It gives Your Mama the honest-to-goodness heebie-jeebies just to think about the word man-cave and we fall immediately into a catatonic state iffin we ever run across a description or picture of one of those places. That, hunnies, is a freaky modern-day decorative theme that Your Mama feels we are better off pretending just doesn't even exist. In fact, Rule No. 47 of Your Mama's Big Book of Decorating Dos and Don'ts declares that theme decorating of any kind–even in children's rooms–must be approached with extreme caution. These so-called man caves are all too often a perfect example of why themed decorating can be dangerous and disturbing in the wrong hands.

The O'Neill's nearby neighbors in Sullivan Canyon include Emmy-nominated actress Barbara Bosson who was married for nearly 30 years to prolific and successful writer/producer Steven Bochco and who records show paid $6,250,000 in September 2009 for her bucolic 8.5 acre spread. Next door to Miz Bosson is the the late Bea Arthur's Cliff May-designed house, currently available for lease at $32,500 per month.

listing photos: Michael Andrew McNamara for Sotheby's International Realty Beverly Hills

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Your Mama Hears...

...that another big real estate deal has just gone down in Los Angeles that makes the $23,000,000 sale of tech entrepreneur turned art collector and philanthropist David Bohnett's sprawling mansion in the flats of Beverly Hills, CA look like child's play.

According to both Our Fairy Godmother in Bel Air and another well-placed Platinum Triangle property yenta we know–let's call her Bernice Belairresident–Your Mama has learned that financial services widow and philanthropic powerhouse Iris Cantor has, finally, at long last sold her exceedingly opulent and profusely gilded Bel Air mega-mansion for $40,000,000.

In cash.

Brenda Belairresident snitched to Your Mama that the new owner of Miz Cantor's (approximately) 35,000 square foot pile she dubbed La Belle Vie is a filthy rich financier but she was unable (or unwilling) to name the buyer. Our Fairy godmother in Bel Air suggested that the buyer may be a certain athletic mergers and acquisitions specialist from Goldman Sachs who looked at the house and another well-connected informant–let's call this one Johnny Jabbermouth–told us that he heard Indonesians connected to the powerful and controversial Suharto family toured the property "several times."

Miz Cantor, a Brooklyn-born former model, was married and divorced twice before she became a stock broker, a lucrative gig through which she met and married Bernie Cantor, the now-deceased co-founder of the influential investment services firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

Mister and Missus purchased the gated 18th-century style pile in the early 1990s for an unknown price when it was only half completed. The well-heeled and lavish living pair dropped several more pretty pennies, dimes and millions to have architect Michael C.F. Chan and New York-based designer Bebe Winkler complete and decorate the civic-center-sized 9 bedroom and 21 bathroom behemoth that's crafted from Texas limestone, priceless marble, twenty-two carat gold leaf detail, carved paneling and elaborately crafted iron and gilt bronze fittings. This is a house so correct that even Marie Antoinette would wet her bloomers over it.

Miz Cantor first attempted to unload her elegant real estate white elephant in 2000 when she listed the humongous house squeezed on to a tight lot with a $45,000,000 price tage. After 2.5 years on the market, the property was de-listed only to appear on the open market years later, in early 2009, with a much higher asking price of $53,000,000.

Although Miz Cantor stuck to her real estate guns and never lowered the published asking price for her unrepentantly decadent digs, Your Mama's bejeweled abacus shows that, in the end, the (alleged) forty million dollar purchase price was roughly and substantially 25% less than the fifty-three million she wanted.

Neither property records nor online listing information reflect a transfer of ownershp. In fact, listing information currently available online shows the status of the property as "active." and available for showings. However, according to Miz Belairresidnet, the deal is done and all the necessary docs have been signed on the appropriate dotted lines.

If case any of the children wondered or were worried, the child-free Miz Cantor is far from homeless. In late 2009 the high-society doyenne traded in a nearly 4,000 square foot penthouse on New York's swank Central Park South that she never reportedly occupied for a recently rehabbed six story townhouse on East 74th Street (just off Fifth Avenue) that she'd acquired earlier in the year for $18,125,000. She also maintains a water front spread in Westhampton, NY–known in some snobby circles as the Wronghampton–that she picked up in November of 2000 for $2,650,000 and it appears that the wealthy widow also keeps a posh place in Palm Beach, FL where prop records show her name attached to a property with Intracoastal Waterway access that was bought in May of 2002 for $8,635,000.

No doubt this over-sized transaction will no doubt send electric ripples of glee up and down the spines of all the Real Estate and home owners in Tinseltown who deal and dwell in residences priced at the tippy-top of the market. Given Miz Cantor's real estate good fortune, maybe it doesn't seem so far-fetched then that Jennifer Aniston may get close to the $42,000,000 asking price for her Bev Hills mansion or that Ellen Degeneres could find a deep-pocketed buyer willing to edge up close to the $60,000,000 at which she's (allegedly and according to multiple sources) shopping her Bev Hills compound?

We shall see, puppies, we shall see.

photo: Bing

The West University Home Tour - 2011

+After being on hiatus for several years, the West University Home Tour is finally back!   The 2011 tour, benefiting the West University Elementary School and chaired by Holly Cauble and co chaired by Carlin Morstead, is this Sunday, May 1, from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.  House stalkers take note: seven of West U’s most interesting houses will be open to the public.   This is one of the better tours in Houston since the houses are chosen because they are wonderfully decorated as opposed to being just the biggest or the newest house in the neighborhood.  Most houses this year are either  owned by interior designers – or were decorated by one of Houston’s premier designers.    I’m partial to the West U Home Tour because I live here and have attended it many times.   One year the tour was particularly costly for me.  After going through a beautiful Kurt Aichler house that had all white slipcovers, I came back home and of course, hated my fabrics.   The following day, I sent all my upholstery out to be covered in white linen slipcovers too – and I’ve never looked back.     I know I’m not the only one who takes inspiration from this tour – just listen to what the people next to you are saying!  

As you might imagine,  I was thrilled when Holly asked me to take pictures of all the houses – it was like giving me a free pass for major house stalking!!    Today, I’m just going to show one room from each house – sort of a teaser to get you motivated to come out this Sunday.  After the tour is over, several of the homeowners are allowing me to show their entire house for those readers who don’t live in Houston.    Enjoy!!



1.  Sally and Mark Wheat – 2642 Tangley.




The first house is no stranger to Cote de Texas readers.   Ever since I first showcased this house, Sally’s kitchen has inspired countless kitchen remodelings.   The first time I went to Sally’s house it was all Belgian and French inspired with lots of gray and linen.  I was slightly amazed to see how much the house has changed since then.  Sally has completely redecorated her downstairs, using such mid century iconic pieces such as Milo Baughman dining room chairs and a Serge Mouille inspired lighting fixture in the living room.   The changes are striking and so fresh for today.  The only room that remains unchanged is her famous gray kitchen!!




Yes, this is Sally Wheat’s newly decorated living room.   David Hicks fabric covers two Parson styled chairs and a Serge Mouille light fixture replaces a table lamp.  I’m crazy over the art work of Queen Elizabeth – it really sets the tone for the entire house.  If you are inspired by Sally’s kitchen – now is your chance to see it live and in person!!



2. Linda and Bob Walker – 2931 Albans




The Walker’s house stunning steel window and front door set this stucco house apart and hint at the sophisticated design that is inside.   The house is filled with a lifetime collection of antique furniture and accessories.  Flowing from the front door is a center hall that runs throughout the house and ends at the spacious family room.  A large garden that doubles as an outside room lets light flow throughout the first level.   The breakfast room sits in a window filled space that becomes part of the garden.  It is across from the totally remodeled kitchen.  Linda’s sister Ann Andrews helped with the interiors.  My favorite room is the dining room which doubles as the library.   This multipurpose space has floor to ceiling bookcases which create a welcoming atmosphere.    The house has great ideas for empty nesters to incorporate into their own home.




The family room in greens and blues is an eclectic mix of antiques and contemporary pieces.   The gorgeous fireplace is 18th century French and the rug is 21st century Jonathan Adler.




A Rose Tarlow print covers the sofa in the second seating area of the elegant family room.  I really loved this house – it’s so elegant and pretty and bright!



3.  Mary Jane and Mike Gallagher – 2631 Barbara Lane.




The Gallagher’s ivy clad house is an original to this street, built in the 1930s.   The house is filled with beautiful antique furniture and large, oversized accessories that become focal points.   Mary Jane is an interior designer and she favors a sparse European look in lieu of the English cluttered look.  The rooms flow together visually and aesthetically.   Though the house is quite stunning on its own,  it’s the newly built guest house casita in the back yard that steals the show and is worth the price of admission!  Designed by Houston great, Kurt Aichler, the casita features a dramatic, two story dining room which overlooks the gardens and the main house.  I have a feeling that everyone is going to rush home to see if they can build a casita like this in their own backyard!  Not to be missed!!



Mary Jane’s living room is sparingly furnished – she lets the accessories, like the oversized concrete statue, take center stage.   A study in browns and white, this color scheme runs throughout the downstairs and even into the casita.  I am in LOVE with that painting!!!



I just love this house.  Here, is the other side of the living room.  I soooo wish I could show you the casita too!   It’s fabulous!!




4.  Mary Lynn and Dave Mannon- 2708 Pemberton




This house is located on the one of the prettiest boulevards in West University, a reminder of a more gracious time when large houses were built on estate sized lots.  The Mannon’s house was totally restored by architect Kirby Mears, while designer Eleanor Cummings has created its magazine-worthy interiors.   It’s colors are in soothing grays and creams which act as a backdrop to a beautiful collection of antiques.  Despite its graciousness, the house is a family home to four young children and reaffirms that kids and antiques can co-inhabit.   This house is creating a lot of buzz as no pre-tour pictures are available.   I’m so sorry there aren’t interior pictures, but everyone has told me this house is a knock-out.




5.  Margaret Ann and Chad McEver – 3928 Marlowe St.




Margaret Ann, interior designer, and her husband Chad bought this 1992 rather typical West U house and turned it into something quite special.   She added a front entry hall where there was none and put in a steel front door that completely updates the façade for the new century.   The kitchen was totally remodeled as was the master bathroom.   The house is decorated with touches of Mid Century modern mixed in with European antiques.  I loved touring this house and looking at all the touches McEver has added.   Everywhere you turn, there are ideas to take home to update a house.   Margaret is a great talent – she’s young, but her portfolio is already incredible.




Margaret installed this steel door and placed antique wood doors inside for privacy, when needed.  These steel doors makes such a huge difference to the exterior and interior both.  They are stunning!




The living room is a nod to Hollywood glam.  Filled with contemporary art work and a collection of chairs from different eras, it sets the tone for the rest of the house.   Bring a pad to write down all the ideas you could incorporate if you are looking to update a builder’s West U home from the 90s.  This house is filled with them!



6.  Laurie and John Pearson – 3415 Albans




The Pearson's house, located on a double lot, is the largest house on the tour.  Laurie, an interior designer, moved here with her husband and children from New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina.   Today, they are completely settled into their new life in West University.    The front door opens to a two story entry with a gracious winding staircase.   The public rooms are dressy with luscious silk taffeta curtains and an array of beautiful fabrics.    The spacious house has a nice spread-out feel to it, something that is quite rare for the typical town sized lots in West. U.   The remodeled family room and kitchen, done in a deep taupe,  overlooks a southern styled screened in porch and swimming pool.   The master bedroom is especially beautiful in all cream and ivory with hints of celadon.    The house is wonderfully decorated with an amazing attention to detail, there is so much to see here and admire.





The living room, though dressy, is inviting and warm.   Laurie has an unerring eye for detail – note the sofa with its scalloped trim and nailheads.  The curtains are luscious silk taffeta.  Here, and throughout the house, color is found in contemporary art work and in the area rug.




Looking at the other side of the living room, a piano sits in an attached niche.  Everything is so beautiful – there is elegance everywhere your eye falls. 



7.  Heidi Dugan – 2735 Arbuckle Street




Popular Houston real estate agent Heidi Dugan wanted her new stucco house to have a decidedly Provencal atmosphere.  Judging from the façade alone, Heidi got the French inspired look she wanted.  Interior Designer Ginger Barber used authentic architectural elements such as antique lanterns and shutters, wood beams, and European floors to create this European aesthetic.    The interiors are beautifully furnished with an array of casually slipcovered linens mixed with elegant antique furniture and accessories.   The standout is the back yard by Thompson Hanson with its limestone fountain, swimming pool and dining area.   This becomes an extra room and will, no doubt, be a favorite on the tour.   




  I couldn’t decide which room to show you from Heidi’s house – each one is prettier than the next.  But – her dining room is especially beautiful with its crystal chandelier and trumeau.  I love the fabric on the chairs and all the gilt!  Soooo gorgeous.  You are going to love, love, love this house!!!! 


I hope you have enjoyed seeing a glimpse of all the houses.  I am just dying to show you all the rooms!   Each house is prettier than the next and each has so many ideas to take home with you!   Look here in the coming weeks for more pictures of these houses.  If you are in Houston, be sure to attend this Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.  


$25 advance tickets are available at Rice Epicurean Markets Information Desk, Antiques & Interiors on Dunlavy, ABEJAS and the West University Elementary School office.

Tickets will be sold at all seven homes on the day of the tour for $30.

For more information, contact: or






  And finally, in other words, I just got word today, that fellow blogger Brooke Giannetti and her husband, architect Steve Giannetti’s book “Patina Style” is now available for pre-orders.  I feel so proud, like a mother hen!  Brooke’s blog Velvet and Linen is one of my personal favorite – a go to each time she posts.  Her lifestyle is so beautiful – her houses are gorgeous, her children are adorable and their business is successful.  But of course!  The two of them, Brooke and Steve, are such a talented pair.  If you want to preorder Patina Style, just click on the picture which will take to the Amazon web site.   Wow.  If the cover is any indication of what the book is going to look like…  I mean, what a gorgeous cover!!


To preorder, click below on the written “patina style” to the right of the picture:


'House' Actress Olivia Wilde Sells House

SELLERS: Olivia Wilde and Tao Ruspoli
PRICE: $3,095,000
SIZE: 3,011 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: In early February it was revealed in the tabs, blogs and gossip glossies that increasingly in-demand actress Olivia Wilde and her hubby Tao Ruspoli called off their marriage of nearly 10 years. By mid-March they'd listed their gated and recently renovated residence in nitty-gritty and arty-farty Venice, CA with an asking price of $3,095,000.

After just two days on the open market, the status of the listing on Redfin was changed from 'active' to 'pending.' That's right, hunnies, this house had a deal within days.

Miss Wilde, who currently stars on the self-consciously quirky Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated hospital drama House M.D., was born a Cockburn. The well-educated siren hails from a family thick with impressively accomplished, globally-concerned and socio-politically minded journalists who include Leslie, Andrew, Patrick and Alexander Cockburn. Look them up, people, they're every one the real damn stuff.

At the dewy age of 18, freshly graduated from the rigorous and exclusive Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, Miss Wilde ran off to rural Rappahonnock County, Virginia where she eloped with Tao Ruspoli, a documentary filmmaker, Flamenco gee-tarist and founder of The Los Angeles Filmmakers' Cooperative with aristocratic familial roots; He is an Italian count or a prince or something noble-sounding like that whose drug-addicted playboy father Allesandro "Dado" Ruspoli–the 9th Prince of Cerveteri–lived a famously hedonistic life and palled around with the likes of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Orson Welles.

The erstwhile couple, card-carrying members of both the blistering L.A. art scene and the bohemian demi-monde, called it quits, according to one inside source, "for the typical Hollywood reasons. Her career has exploded and she saw being married is not as much fun." The snitchy source went on to tell the folks at Us magazine that young Miz Wilde's career is on the upswing and being hitched "was weighing her down."

Records show that Miss Wilde and Mister Ruspoli only purchased there Venice digs in January of 2010 for $2,325,000. Current listing information shows the 3,011 square foot contemporized crib, located on one of Venice's super-charming walk streets and conveniently just walking distance to the funky Abbott Kinney shopping district, was originally built in 1920 with recent renovations by mcmansion-detesting Los Angeles architect Adam Wheeler.

The house itself has what Your Mama calls a "mullet thing" going on, all business up front and party at the back. Although partially shielded from view by thick foliage and a tall fence, from the front–the façade that faces the walk street–the house presents as a boxy and quotidian clapboard-sided Colonial. (Listing information called it Cape Cod but we're pretty sure it's a Colonial). However, around the back, the large for the area but unconventionally trapezoidal parcel required a significant chuck of the house be lopped off at an angle that in uninspired hands might have easily resulted in an architectural disaster.

A glassy extension off the side of the house, clad in what looks to Your Mama like reclaimed wood siding that's been installed vertically, introduces a visual tension between the original, horizontally clapboarded portion of the house and the more modern addition. At first, each of the conjoined masses appear defiantly dismissive of each other. A closer inspection of the listing photos reveals that Mister Wheeler the architect acted as a real damn justice of the architectural peace and married the two opposite-seeming sections with identically-pitched roof lines.

The addition contains the living room that unfortunately does not have a fireplace–which would be delicious for taking the edge of damp and misty sea side mornings–but does have a vaulted ceiling with exposed trusses, a bleached-out wood floor and at least one large panel of glass that disappears into the wall and unites the room with the grassy outdoor area that's completely fenced and tree-ringed for privacy.

The hexagonal Mexican paver tiles in the large sky lit dining room extend into a cozy library-nook lined with shelves chock-full of actual books and into the sleek but stylistically warm galley-style kitchen turned out with white oak cabinetry, mesquite counter tops, open shelving, discrete high-grade appliances–there's even a built-in microwave–and a sweet built in breakfast banquette. We do so love a banquette. In fact, Your Mama is at this very moment, as our pudgy fingers fly across the keyboard of our trusty laptop computer, sitting in the built in breakfast banquette in our kitchen.

A wooden staircase in the central hall leads up to the second floor master bedroom, a long room with coffee-colored distressed wood floors, crisp white walls and a vaulted ceiling. The attached bathroom, an odd triangular shaped space that might have bedeviled any number of architects and designers, has a vaulted wood ceiling with exposed beams and trusses, a floating mesquite wood vanity topped by a pair of simple white vessel sinks that look like cereal bowls and a free standing soaking tub for two. At one end of the room, where the walls converge in a narrowing space that a more prosaic architect may have relegated to a linen closet, Mister Wheeler the architect created a sexy open shower cubby with two shower heads.

The house opens up to the yard through a series of French doors and the aforementioned sliding glass panel in the living room. According to listing information the lush grounds were worked over by renowned Los Angeles landscape designer Jay Griffith. A deck runs long the front of the house and steps down to a tree-shaded dining and entertainment terrace where Christmas lights are hung wonderfully willy-nilly in the trees and a hodge-podge of gigantic decorative medallions cling to the fence. We understand that these medallion things provide visual texture and movement to the intimate eating area spot but, in all truth, we hate them.

While we find the three different floor coverings (tile, smooth bleached wood and dark distressed wood) a real disappoint and we're never thrilled with vessel sinks–or that silly orchid someone set next to them in the listing photos–overall Your Mama is rather covetous of this house and appreciative of Miss Wilde and Mister Ruspoli's particular brand of down-to-earth boho-chic day-core that's pretty specific to cultured and affluent hipsters with artistic bents.

We don't have any idea where either Miss Wilde or Mister Ruspoli will set up there bachelor and bachelorette pads but should Mister Ruspoli want to go back to Italy to lick his relationship wounds he has access to at least a couple of historical and deluxe family properties, the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome and the Castello Ruspoli north of Rome in rural Vignanello.

listing photos: Deasy Penner & Partners

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Scott Baio is Forty-Something and Buys New House

BUYER: Scott Baio
LOCATION: Woodland Hills, CA
PRICE: $1,850,000
SIZE: 6,312 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Thanks to a communique the other day from The Bizzy Boys at Celebrity Address Aerial and later confirmed with property records, Your Mama has learned that former teen idol turned reality tee-vee denizen Scott Baio and his Missus Renee Sloan recently put their toddler daughter in a papoose and decamped suburban Encino, CA for the even farther-flung Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills where they paid $1,850,000 fr a large house in a guard-gated community.

At sixteen, just a slim little thing with a Dorothy Hamil hair-do, Scoot Baio was baby-faced and fantastic as Bugsy in the 1976 film Bugsy Malone that featured only child actors. If any of the children have not seen the movie, do. It's really quite a hoot. Young Mister Baio rocketed to the top of the Teen Idol heap with his next role as Chachi Arcola on Happy Days. After that there was the Happy Days spin off Joanie Loves Chachi, the proto-Skins film Foxes with Jodie Foster and a couple of Emmy nominations for lead roles in made-for-tee-vee movies (Stoned, all the Kids Do It). Then came Charles in Charge, an insufferable sitcom on which he portrayed a manny–that's a man-nanny–that somehow ran for five seasons.

After Charles in Charge closed up shop in 1990 Mister Baio's showbiz career in front of the camera kind of hit the skids and he began doing a little directing (The Wayans Bros., The Jamie Foxx Show, The Parkers). Sure, there were a couple of short-lived series (Diagnosis Murder) and a slew of small parts on various boob-toob programs (The Nanny, Veronica's Closet, Touched by and Angel) but, really kids, in all honestly, by the mid-1990s Mister Baio was all but washed up in Tinseltown. It wasn't his fault, really. No matter how hard he worked or talented he may have been, the public, his still moistened and turgid fans, clung to their Teen Beat fantasies and didn't allow Mister Baio to become a full-grown man-actor.

In 2005 Mister Baio secured a recurring and well-done role on Arrested Development but, like so many others on the shady-slope celebrity nowadays, he quickly veered towards reality tee-vee. He did not, to his credit, attempt to revive his career on that disturbing but outrageously popular Dancing With The Stars program. Instead he opened the doors to his own "real life" on Scott Baio is 45...and Single on which he's portrayed as a slightly bitter golf-playing commitment-phobic lady's man in his mid-forties with a girlfriend who wants to marry him. The girlfriend finally gets her heart's desire to be betrothed to Mister Baio in November 2007, about a month after the birth of the baby they made out of wedlock.

A bit over a year ago Your Mama discussed Mister Baio's long-time home, a gated mini-estate in Encino, CA he bought in 1994 for $1,385,000 and had listed with an asking price of $2,895,000. Property records show the single-story 4 bedroom and 4.5 pooper pad sold in late September 2010 for $2,500,000. Two months later, according to records, the couple closed on their new crib in the Westchester County Estates, a gated community in hot as Hades Woodland Hills. Oh, pleeze property developers. That has to be about the most mind-boggling and stoopid name for a gated community in California that Your Mama has ever had the misfortune of coming across. All the children who passed sixth grade geography will already know that Woodland Hills in in Los Angeles County in California and that Westchester County is a (mostly) upscale and bucolic bedroom community just north of New York City.

Anyhoo, listing photos for Mister and Missus Baio's new 5 bedroom and 4.5 bathroom mock-Med digs shows a couple of lonely and precarious-looking balustrades that flank the front walk that streaks across the slim yard and passes through an archway into a covered porch. The front door opens to a predictably "classic" mcmansion-style impress-the-guests entry with double-height ceilings and a curved staircase that attempts but fails to project wealth and stateliness. Instead it screams, "I'm a really boring suburban mcmansion!"

Since listing photos of the 6,312 square foot mcmansion reflect the impossibly bland decorative taste of the seller Your Mama is refrain from any discussion of the agonizing lack of color throughout the entire house, nor will we speculate on how it came to pass that a Shabby Chic-y and hat-festooned armoire wound up smack in front of a pair of French doors in the master bathroom. And do not, children, even get Your Mama started on that miniature grand piano in the living room or all the furniture that was set unnecessarily catty-wompus like the desk in the office/library and the hand-painted armoire stuck up into an awkward corner in the master bedroom.

Adjacent and open to the entry, a sunken formal living room has "dramatic" double-height ceilings, perfectly lovely if slightly under-scaled herringbone-patterned wood floors, a fireplace and a pair of towering arched windows. A set of French doors with side lights connects the formal living room to the formal dining room that has a mirror installed on the ceiling that, we imagine, allows diners on one side of the table to peer directly down into the décolletage of a female diner on the opposite side of the table.

A bedroom suite with private facilities on the main floor gives guests or a live-in domestic a modicum of privacy. The main floor is completed by an office/library with some built-in cabinetry, a powder pooper, laundry room, three-car garage, family room with fireplace and a commodious center-island kitchen with a view of the backyard and an–ach!–sensibly neutral beige tile floor installed on the bias.

Upstairs three family bedrooms share two bathrooms and the expansive master suite features an acre of pale beige wall-to-wall carpeting, a raised sitting area with fireplace, French door that open to a narrow balcony, dual walk-in closets and a sizable but unimpressive bathroom with separate tub and shower.

A set of double doors, also upstairs, lead to a home theater room with milk chocolate brown leather reclining seats with cup holders conveniently built into the arms, a built-in snack counter and an eye-popping 123-inch screen.

A thick ring of trees surrounds the backyard of the .41 acre lot and provides privacy for the swimming pool, spa, Mexican tile terraces, various grass patches and a sunken dining terrace shaded by a hip-roofed canopy held up by classical-ish column that are in direct architectural vernacular combat with the (faux-) Mediterranean-style mcmansion.

Your Mama can't fathom why a person would trade a gated mini-estate in Encino–already far more suburban than we care for–that has a long celebrity-style gated drive, a wide swathe of lawn, elevated swimming pool, spa, gazebo with home-theater equipment, barbecue area, Koi pond with waterfall and a lighted damn tennis court for a big ol' beige "Mediterranean" mcmansion with fewer amenities on less than half the land in downmarket Woodland Hills. Such are the ways, butter balls, of the rich, the famous and the "famous."

listing photos: Sotheby's International Realty

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Whoopi Goldberg Getting Out of Vermont

SELLER: Whoopi Goldberg
LOCATION: Marlboro, VT
PRICE: $2,300,000
SIZE: 6,100 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: The smock-wearing, always outspoken and passionately opinionated comedienne and chat show hostess Whoopi Goldberg has been much in the news the last few weeks for taking publicity-seeking possible presidential candidate Donald Trump to task on The View for his relentless obsession with the circumstances of president Barak Obama's birth.

While all that is as fascinating as it comes, what currently concerns Your Mama more than the hilarious spectacle of Mister Trump's political posturing are the real estate doings of the Oscar, Grammy, Tony, (Daytime) Emmy, Golden Globe, Image, Kid's Choice and People's Choice award winning actor/activist/agitator/comedienne/writer/producer/talk show host Whoopi Goldberg.

Sometime in 2004 Miz Goldberg snatched up a sprawling farm in the rural and gorgeous Green Mountains near the southern Vermont community of Marlboro. Marlboro, about four hours north of New York City, may seem like Hicksville or Bumfuckegypt to some city sophisticates but the rolling hills are no stranger to high-culture: The world-famous Marlboro Music Festival is held in, well, Marlboro. Iffin Your Mama is being honest–and we always are–we'd confess that we really haven't any idea how much cash Miz Goldberg coughed up for her country hideaway, often referred to in online marketing materials as the Robinson-Winchester Farm.

In the fall of 2009 the dread-lock tressed Miz Goldberg–born the much more prosaic Caryn Elaine Johnson–listed her 3,600 square foot Wooster Street loft in New York City's SoHo with a price tag of $3,990,000. The 2 bedroom spread, filled to the gills with a stunning collection of artworks by African American artists–sold more than a year later in January 2010 for $2,985,000 to Emily and Ben Lerer. We don't know a damn thing about Missus Lerer but we do know that Mister Lerer is a budding internet media mogul who founded the deeply metrosexual cool-hunting site and happens to be the off-spring of Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer.

Right about the time Miz Goldberg listed her loft in lower Manhattan she laid out $2,800,000 for a stately mansion with 8 bedrooms and 6 full and 2 half bathrooms in the historic and exclusive Llewellyn Park enclave in West Orange, NJ.

All went quiet on the Whoopi Goldberg real estate front until two days ago when a gal named Vernice Vermontite directed our celebrity real estate attentions to Miz Goldberg's country bolthole in southern Vermont she has on the market with an asking price of $2,300,000

Big Momma ur-gossip Cindy Adams reported back in 2009 that Miz Goldberg owns "an 8,000-acre farm in Vermont." And maybe she does. However, the Vermont property Miz Goldberg currently has on the market near Marlboro spans, according to listing information, 745 acres and includes 640.7 acres of conserved land–that means it can never be developed–67 acres of pasture land, 15 miles of groomed horse and buggy trails and a 22-acre sugar bush. A sugar bush is not, contrary to how it sounds, a naughty lady part but rather a stand of trees tapped for the production of Vermont's famous maple syrup.

Portions of the farm's main house date back to the late 1700s and the original structure–a simple two-room cabin–has been added on to several times. The Colonial crib, with it's plain but dignified exterior, now measures around 6,100 square feet and includes, according to listing information, 4 bedrooms and 3 full and 2 half bathrooms. Listing information states that the house was "meticulously renovated by Whoppi [sp] Goldberg in 2004." The residence was taken down to its bare bones and rebuilt in a manner that added up to date conveniences and preserved original details such as the two-sided fireplace with beehive oven believed to be part of the original cabin.

The main floor of the residence has wide-plank wood floors, rustic rough-cut wood beams, exposed posts and 12 over 12 paned windows that stretch down from the ceiling almost to the floor. The open-plan space has a well-equipped galley-style kitchen and several physically comfortable-looking but decoratively uninspired sitting areas that present a visually confusing and psychically disharmonious hodge-podge of furniture "styles."

In addition to the historic main house the property includes, according to listing information, multiple pole barns, an indoor riding arena, a beautiful heated horse barn with tack rooms, two run in sheds with water, a two bedroom bunk house with kitchen and living room and a two story cement barn used as a wood working shop.

As far as Your Mama knows, in addition to her mansion in West Orange, NJ, Miz Goldberg continues to own a small house in Berkeley, CA she bought way back in 1985 for $335,000 as well as a 5 bedroom and 6 bathroom mansion she bought in 1993 for $2,547,525 in the same Pacific Palisades, CA neighborhood where other high-profile property owners include Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg, mouthy comedian Bill Cosby, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard. She reportedly also owns real estate in upstate New York and in the Hamptons but we don't nuthin' about either of those alleged properties.

listing photos: Palmiter Realty Group

Your Mama Keeps Hearing...

...from well-placed peeps in the Platinum Triangle real estate scene that dancing chat show hostess Ellen Degeneres and her actress wife Portia de Rossi (Arrested Development, Nip/Tuck, Better Off Ted) have their secluded Beverly Hills, CA compound quietly on the market with a mind-bending price tag.

Your Mama first discussed this celebrity real estate rumor way back in mid-February but it seems to be bubbling back up to the surface and, indeed, twice yesterday we heard about this again from a couple of contacts who tend to know about these things. One of our better informed sources snitched to Your Mama that the numbers being batted around Beverly Hills are $49,000,000 for the main house (which includes a detached guest house, staff quarters and an underground garage) and a buckle-your-seat belts-ballsy $60,000,000 for the entire compound (main house plus two adjacent residences purchased as a privacy buffer).

When queried about the sky-high price, one of our more eloquent informants, let's call her Miss Formerly Seductive Realtor Sally (who–it should be noted–needs an honest head shot), hissed and snorted that the Sapphic couple's "absurd desire for $60 million" is pie in the real estate sky, partick since the compound is not in Beverly Hills proper but, "It's BH POST OFFICE for God's sake."

The distinction between Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Post Office may not be clear–or matter–to anyone who does not live in either Beverly Hills or the Bev Hills Post Office but the issue becomes abundantly clear when it comes time for residents to call the po-po or send their precious children to public school. Beverly Hills is a city all of its own where residents in need of the law call the fast-responding Beverly Hills Police Department and have the option of sending their off-spring to the well-regarded and high-testing Beverly Hills High School. The Bev Hills Post Office, on the other hand, is part of the City of Los Angeles–rather than the city of Beverly Hills–and as such residents have to cough up the cash for private school or send their kiddies to lackluster and economically starving public schools and they have to call the notoriously slow-responding Los Angeles Police Department when they need an armed officer.

Anyhoo, Missus and Missus Degeneres–it seems Portia took Ellen's name making it quite clear who wears the pants in that family–started to cobble together their compound above Coldwater Canyon in late 2007 and, before they'd put away their checkbook, spent a combined (and approximate) $48,000,000 on the multi-acre and multi-parcel property.

Missus Degeneres–Ellen–is notoriously fickle when it comes to real estate, rarely staying put for more than a few years at a stretch. In the last 5 or 10 years Missus Degeneres has owned scads of contemporary cribs in Los Angeles, several ranches in the Santa Ynez Valley and an historic George Washington Smith-designed mansion in Montecito, CA.

As far as Your Mama knows–and we really know so little–in addition to their up-for-sale compound in the Bev Hills Post Office, Missus and Missus Degeneres's only other real estate holding is a ten million dollar horse farm in the scrubby hills outside Westlake Village, CA and a two bedroom condo in a boring Beverly Hills building bought in late 2010 for $835,000.

We really have no idea where Missus and Missus Degeneres might go when–and if–they sell their Bev Hills Post Office compound. Ages ago we heard through the celebrity real estate gossip grapevine that Hollywood's most famous property-luvin' scissor sisters were poking around in the equestrian-friendly and guard-gated Serra Retreat in Malibu but we shall see, children, we shall see...

Monday, April 25, 2011


Since I got behind on writing about the Skirted Roundtable, I am trying to catch up, first last week with Jamie Drake, The King of Color – our first “live” interview, and now, this week with Joe Ruggiero, The King of All Trades!  If you are like me, you first became acquainted with the warm and very friendly Ruggiero through HGTV.   He had numerous shows that ran on the channel, but the most popular was probably Homes Across America where he presented some of the most beautiful houses that ever were seen on that channel.  Each week, with a sweater on his shoulder, he gave his viewers a history lesson and a design lesson, all tied into one. 



Remember his trademark sweater?  I must have liked it because for years I never left the house without one slung over my shoulders!




Joe, today, sans the sweater!


Talking with Joe about his start in the design business could take hours.  He’s done so many different things –  worn so many different hats, it’s remarkable.  He was in advertising and then ended up at Ethan Allen for 15 years which he followed up with a stint as editor-in-chief of Home Magazine.   He was also a national spokesman for  Glidden and Kohler.  After working on This Old House, he landed on HGTV where his national profile skyrocketed.   Now he has his own company The Joe Ruggiero collection where he designs furniture, fabric, lighting, and even art work. 





Joe’s upholstery line is all covered in his own sunbrella fabrics.  I really like that fabric on the ottoman – reminds me of the trendy feedbag look!





The Barrymore – I love this chair in Joe’s line.    This one fabric amazed me that it was sunbrella.  It looks like a silk. 

This is such an elegant chair – it looks much more than it costs.




Love these Carrington chairs and especially the ikat sunbrella fabric.




The Tribeca sofa is really nice.  But, the price points are even better.  Everything is so reasonable!!





This picture featuring the sofa, the Litchfield, reminds me of an interior Alessandra Branca once did.  I really like the table – this is his design too, as well as the lamps.




I really love that striped sunbrella.  His sunbrella damask fabric also covers the screen.





But without a doubt, the chair and ottoman was my personal favorite!   Love love love it!!!!!  Soo cute.



If you haven’t already listened, please do.  Joe was really inspiring, plus he was so very, very nice, very encouraging and extra warm! 

After talking with him, it’s understandable why he’s been so successful.  He just has that “it” factor.


To listen to Joe Ruggiero on The Skirted Roundtable, go HERE


To visit Joe Ruggiero’s web site, go HERE.