Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Actress Brooke Smith Lists L.A. Abode

SELLERS: Brooke Smith and Steven Lubensky
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $1,649,000
SIZE: 2,878 square feet, 4-5 bedrooms, 2.75 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: The other day, as we aimlessly sifted though some of the newer listings in Los Angeles, Your Mama ran across a (somewhat) modestly scaled and urbanely-dressed two story traditional listed with a $1,649,000 asking price that set off all our celebrity real estate bells. A cursory tuck into the property records left us stymied but our freakishly well-informed friend and informant Lucy Spillerguts told Your Mama—and we later managed to confirm with a more careful if roundabout perusal of the property records—that the house in question is owned by television and movie actress Brooke Smith and her arty-farty Russian-born cinematographer husband Steven Lubensky.

Miz Smith might not be a household name like Blackman Cruz shopping romcom/sitcom star Jenny Aniston or pop music matron X-Tina Aguilera but, children, she has a downright proper Tinseltown pedigree. Her mother, Lois Smith, was a beloved, quietly powerful—and retired—Old-School publicist to the stars who—may she rest in peace—very recently died in a freak accident whilst staying in a bed and breakfast in Maine. Her long roster of superstar clients included—as per her recent obits in The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times—Marylin Monroe, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Martin Scorcese, Liza Minelli, Whitney Houston, Rosie O'Donnell and Warren Beatty. This lady was serious Hollywood business, we tell y'all.

The younger Miz Smith, Brooke, grew up in and around New York City and—so the story goes—was once roommates with indie-cult favorite musician Jeff Buckley who drown in a Memphis (TN) river in 1997 at just 29 years old. Daughter Smith—that's Brooke—started up her ladder of Showbiz fame in the late 80s and in 1991 she landed a plum role as the young woman at the bottom of the well in The Silence of the Lambs with that skin-suit sewing and organ eating Hannibal Lector played by a pitch-perfect Anthony Hopkins. Remember that? A few years later she appeared in the splendidly bleak 1994 Louis Malle film Vanya on 42nd Street, which happens to be the very first film Your Mama ever saw in a movie theater in New York City. More recently Miz Smith has had recurring and/or prominent roles on a slew of television programs (Six Feet Under, Law & Order, Crossing Jordon, Weeds and Grey's Anatomy) and will soon be seen in the upcoming silver screen drama Labor Day with Kate Winslet and James Van Der Beek.

Anyhoodles poodles, property records reveal Miz Smith and her Russian hubby paid $1,643,000 in August 2008 for their margarine-colored residence located on a leafy, tree lined street in the Hollywood- and West Hollywood-adjacent Sunset Square neighborhood of Los Angeles. We happen to love this particular neck of L.A. quasi-urban fabric but we've heard more than a few high-nosed real estate snobs we know over-dramatically poo-poo the 'hood as being too, well, 'hoodish. We just roll our boozy eyes at them because—pleeze—this taint the 'hood, children. It's not East Gate Bel Air, but it's hardly Compton, okay?

Current listing information shows the completely updated and upgraded abode sits tightly on a compact, .16 acre lot, was originally built in 1921 and measures a roomy but far from large 2,878 square feet with 4-5 bedrooms and 2.75 bathrooms.

An intimate foyer and stair hall joins the deeply inset front porch to the sparely furnished and internationally flavored "formal" living room that's nicely outfitted with wide-plank peg and groove hardwood floors, a bookcase flanked fireplace and two sets of magnificent floor-to-ceiling French door style windows that—when the curtains are pulled open—expose the room to just about anyone who might be stroll or roll past on the street or sidewalk.

Your Mama is pleased to report that someone had the smarts and took the time and effort to design—or re-design—the main floor living spaces to connect through perfectly aligned double-wide doorways between the living and dining room—where there are more floor-to-ceiling French door style windows—and between the dining room and kitchen. The enfilade-style alignment injects an elegant architectural formality to the decidedly casual and lightly funky but very purposefully curated and decorated main floor living spaces.

The chestnut-colored wood floors in the living and dining room switch to a bright, blood red stain or paint in the galley-style eat-in kitchen. While this isn't exactly our "style" it's none-the-less, by our utterly meaningless estimation, a well-conceived and nicely executed kitchen with beamed and vaulted ceilings, snow white Shaker style cabinets topped with swanky Carrara marble, top-grade commercial style stainless steel appliances and a built-in corner breakfast banquette nicely juiced up with a Eero Saarinen designed Tulip table...or maybe it's the not half bad and considerably less expensive Ikea knock off. Whatever the case...

There's a second built-in banquette in the adjoining, main floor den/library/family room where Miz Smith and Mister Lubensky—and/or their lady or nice-gay decorator—installed a dark patterned wallpaper, played an abstract painting off a simple still life and filled the floor-to-ceiling book shelves with actual books.

A main floor bedroom with direct access to the backyard and easy access to a three-quarter bathroom makes a private guest or domestic space and the four other potential bedrooms upstairs spoke off around a spacious central landing. Two bedrooms—plus a third currently used as an office—share a vintage-style bathroom with black and white diamond-checked tile floor, a single pedestal sink and a white-tiled tub/shower combination.

The Master bedroom itself isn't particularly large but it does have a closet lined and privacy promoting entry vestibule, lots of windows including a Juliet balcony, a bedroom-sized walk-in closet/dressing room and an attached bathroom with marble topped double sink vanity, separate glass-enclosed stall shower and a jetted tub for two set into a window- and sky-blue tile-lined niche with palm tree views.

Several main floor rooms, including the kitchen, open to a T-shaped and bougainvillea draped covered porch that really couldn't be more charming if vine-draped covered porches float your real estate boat. A tree shaded grass patch over looked by a tree house separates the back of the house from a trellis shaded outdoor dining area at rear of the property with built-in brick barbecue station.

The slim, gated concrete driveway that runs up along side the house stops short of the detached two-car garage at the back corner of the property that may or may not currently be used for parking cars.

Where the Smith-Lubenskys plan to decamp—they have two small children—isn't known. Until the lat few years they maintained East Coast outposts but, as far as Your Mama can tell they don't currently own any property in New York and it. In May 2008, right about the time they bought the house in Los Angeles they now have for sale, the couple sold a small property in High Falls, NY to actor Willem Dafoe for $393,000 and in December 2010 they sold a renovated and updated two bedroom and two bathroom co-operative apartment in a dignified pre-war building on Riverside Drive for $1,250,000.

listing photos: Sotheby's International Realty

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Few New Book Recommendations



One of my favorite blogs is The House of Edward, written by interior designer Pamela Terry.  Pamela started her blog a year after me, so she’s been at it for over four years now.  Although she is an interior designer by trade, her blog is filled with essays instead of design pictures.   The essays cover all topics – some sad, some poignant, others  wistful, or just plain funny.  Recently, Pamela collected her favorite essays and put them in book form – accompanied by illustrations of her big fluffy white dog Edward and herself – done by Amber Alexander.  



“From The House of Edward – Essays by Pamela Terry”



Pamela and her muse, Edward.  Below, please enjoy an essay from her book!  Be forewarned – after reading the essay you will be yearning to host a fall dinner party for a few dear friends:


After the Dinner Party

The guests are all gone and the dishes are done.  The cottage speaks only in whispers now, in the muffled tick tock tick of the old clock in the bookcase, in the now and then crackle of the diminishing blaze still slightly aglow within the stone fireplace.  Edward dozes at my feet as I sit comfortably curled like a cat, deep in the arms of the orange velvet chair, sipping a toddy that is warm and so sweet. The playful personality of the midnight wind has changed since the arrival of November.  It sounds more serious somehow, moving through the black leaves outside with a purpose, sending shadows through the window panes, muted grey dancers that silently waltz round the candlelit walls.  I watch them move and imagine the music only they can hear.  Surely, this is the essence of contentment.  It had been the best sort of day.  One spent chopping and slicing, stirring and tasting; a day decorated with antique china and pink flowers, old-fashioned music and red, red wine, happy dog snapping under the chairs of happy dinner guests.  The cottage had been redolent with the cozy fragrances of fresh apple pie, crusty bread, boeuf bourguignon simmering in a fat red pot – the menu I had promised for the first truly cold weekend of autumn. There had been spirited talk of books and of movies, music and Christmas, of Italian landscapes, bagpipes and Renaissance art.  Cooking for friends, making them welcome, is such a satisfying occupation at any season of the year, but especially just now.  When the nights become longer and the temperature drops it seems that a spirit of merriment knocks at the door, a woodland sorcerer clad in robes of crimson leaves and cardinal feathers whose talent is pure hospitality.  I am happy to serve as his apprentice.  An elegant soul, he is a bit more formal than his counterparts of summer, those alfresco fairies of barefoot spontaneity and pink champagne.  No, he seems to prefer dressier occasions - richer colours, richer foods.  He is all red roses and tapestry, mulled wine and dark chocolate - his candles are scented with chestnuts and pomegranate, and he hides the recordings of Debussy, preferring to fill the house with Mozart instead.  A most convivial fellow, I highly recommend giving him free rein in your household all season long.  I promise you shall have even more fun than your guests.


To order Pamela’s book of essays, please go HERE.    The beautifully styled book would make a perfect Christmas gift for that special someone who loves to read novels or poetry.   Enjoy!!


Next -



This book – all about Fortuny fabrics – is drop dead gorgeous.  Gorgeous!   The cover alone is to die for.  It’s filled with pictures of interiors that used Fortuny’s stunning fabrics – and one page is prettier than the next.  



The interiors are beautiful and luscious.




In Malibu, Fortuny is unexpectedly mixed with rough woods.  Love!




Blue and orange mixed together – one of my favorite pictures from the book.




Just a few touches of Fortuny.



I love this picture because it shows my favorite transferware pattern – yellow and black.   I’m lucky to have one plate of it!




Walls lined in Fortuny – what could be better?

If you are a fan of the fabric, the book is a must have!

Order by clicking below:




If you are a fan of opulence, you will love this book, the latest by the prolific Diane Dorrans Saeks.   I knew I had a lot of books by Saeks, but until I was alphabetizing my design books for the new library – I had no idea how many books of Saeks I actually owned!   She has really written a lot of great books through the years.  Her latest book captures interiors by Ann Getty – her own and those for designed for others.  The interiors are worthy of royal families – I’m not sure even they live with such beauty.  Each accessory, painting, fabric, furniture is the finest available.  It’s a real treat to immerse yourself in spaces like these where everything is just magnificent. 




A desk, made in the 1700’s for a Medici Pope, now lives in Getty’s bedroom.   This is my favorite room in the book.  It’s incredible.   




In a house designed for a young couple, a gorgeous red chinoserie desk is mixed with pink toile.  That chair!  I love how the exquisite desk is mixed with a common textured rug. 





Another personal favorite – that silk velvet tiger fabric was custom made.  Of course.  To die for!  The gilt shelf with oriental accessories – whoa.  Gorgeous. 


If you like to dream….this is for you:






Kathryn Ireland’s fourth and latest book is now out.  It features 8 houses that Ireland designed.




One of the eight, is this California house that reminds me a bit of her Ojai house!  Love the curtains separating the two living rooms.




Typically Kathryn:  relaxed, warm and inviting interiors.




Love this dining room she designed using two different fabrics on the chairs. 




This four poster is just amazing.


AND on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators is BACK!!!  YEAH!!!  I think this is my favorite TV show EVER!!!  Everyone from the first season is back, except for poor Nathan Turner!  Awww.   I wonder why he’s not returning?  AND, it appears that Mary McDonald and Kathryn Ireland teamed up on a project with disastrous results.  I can’t imagine why they even tried – their styles are SO different.  To get a sneak peek at the new season – watch this video HERE.  Fireworks!!!!  Can NOT wait!!!!!!!

To order Kathryn’s newest book, click below:


Until next time!

Ice-T and Coco To Make a Move in New Jersey

BUYERS: Ice-T and Coco
LOCATION: Edgewater, NJ
PRICE: $2,199,000 (list)
SIZE: 4,200 square feet (approx.), 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms

NOTE TO THE CHILDREN: In light of the devastating effects of the psychotic storm Sandy, Your Mama thought maybe today we should just give it a damn rest. "Who needs this kinds of stoopid celebrity real estate frivolity at a time like this?" we said to The Dr. Cooter as he scooted out the door at the crack of dawn. For Chrissakes. We can be a real beotch, but we are not heartless. Sometime in the late mid-morning, having touched based with most of our East Coast people who all—thankfully—made it through rattled but unharmed, we grew weary of the non-stop cable news coverage. We needed a break and thought that maybe a little celebrity real estate dish could maybe be a momentary respite for one or two of the children. We sincerely mean no disrespect to anyone who grappled with and/or continues to deal with the destructive seriousness of Sandy. Okay? Onward we go now...

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Your Mama does not (regularly) watch the reality program Ice Loves Coco but iffin we did we'd know that Grammy-winning rapper-actor Ice-T (Law & Order: SVU, New Jack City), his Showbizzing wife Coco and her SUV-sized backside recently acquired a very contemporary—and still under construction—single family residence just across the Hudson River from Manhattan in the river side community of Edgewater, NJ.

Before we set our celebrity real estate sights on their new digs, let's have some background education and a short go at their current crib, shall we?

The couple legally hitched their life and love wagons in 2001 and in August 2003 they sold Ice's long-time bachelor pad in Los Angeles, a nearly 4,000 square foot roost high above the Sunset Strip on sexy and dangerously curvy Sunset Plaza Drive. Property records show Ice had owned the house since at least the mid-1990s and unloaded it for exactly $2,000,000 to a gentleman who owns—or once owned, we're not sure if he still owns it or not—a high profile nightclub in West Hollywood that caters primarily to homosexuals and those who like to pal around with them and where a whole gaggles of those shade-slinging painted ladies from RuPaul's Drag Race* perform every Monday night at 10:30.

Anyhoo, the sassy, brassy and suh-waggy yet genuinely likable couple decamped for the East Coast—Ice was raised up in Newark and Alpine, NJ—where they settled into a penthouse rental on the Upper West Side with a glorious view of the Hudson River. At some point, we don't really know when because we don't actually know them, Ice T and Coco decided they were ready to plant some real estate roots in the New York City area.

After they decided they could not or did not care to spend the vast sums of money required to purchase a Manhattan apartment of the size, quality and location they desired** the couple shifted their search to the other side of the mighty Hudson River. In September 2005 they found their real estate nirvana and shelled out, according to property records we peeped, $1,500,000 for a 2,161 square foot duplex penthouse atop a boxy and glassy contemporary building in someplace called North Bergen, NJ, between the Hudson River side communities of Edgewater and Guttenberg, the proud home of the insanely amazing Mitsuwa Marketplace.

We have no idea how the tri-terraced penthouse looked at the time of their purchase but we do know from at least one video easily accessible on the internets that they made the decoratively inexplicable decision to cover the Brazilian hardwood floors with plum-colored wall-to-wall carpeting, added custom built-ins for the flat screen and audio/visual equipment and—natch—put in a big ol' fish tank that glows blue at night.

They converted one of the three original bedrooms into a walk-in closet/dressing room for Coco and her extensive collection of high-heeled shoes and kitted out a windowless, bathroom-sized space hidden behind a paneled wall in the living room as an office/music studio—ahem—"man cave" for Ice.

Somewhere in there they installed—brace yerselves, butter beans—a goddamn stand-up tanning booth that ever-tan Coco uses to keep her skin that unnatural tawny tone she seems to prefer. Well, bless her heart. Doesn't she know that a lot of doctors, scientists and researchers surmise that tanning beds might have something to do with the uptick in melanoma rates, particularly with young women? Let's call her warned.

Other notable features of the top floor duplex include a living room area with soaring ceiling and sweeping river and city views, a separate dining space, an open-concept kitchen, a master bathroom with separate shower and jetted tub and a state-of-the-art home automation system that controls the lighting, window treatments and a/v equipment. The boutique building offers doorman services, a residents only fitness facility and on-site parking—there are two covered spots deeded to Ice T and Coco's penthouse, according to listing information.

Although the couple's penthouse does not appear to be listed on the open market, as of early August (2012) it was shown on the the website of the couple's camera-friendly real estate agent as being available for private showings with an asking price of $979,000.

A few quick clickety-clacks of the well-worn beads of Your Mama's bejeweled abacus reveals that even with a full price sale—it could happen, right?—Mister Ice T and his lady Coco are still faced with a jolting loss of $521,000, not counting carrying costs, improvements and customizations and the attendant real estate fees.

The couple have used their reality show to showcase their decision to sell their penthouse and purchase a new and larger residence where they'll have more room for man-caves, shoe shelves and guests, like, say, one of Mister Ice's children or grandchildren. That's right, hunties, Coco is the step-grandmother of two young children. Imagine that! That really takes the cherry off Your Mama's step-grandmother story. Ours was a worldly and wickedly smart, Mercedes-driving professor of economics who happened to deal a little dope on the side. Swear. To. God. Ask Sister Woman.

Anyhoo, last November, Ice and Coco's real estate agent posted on her blog in November 2011 that "Law & Order star, Ice T and his entrepreneurial muse Coco" had "unexpectedly found their perfect home" in a not-yet-completed contemporary under construction on the cliffs of Edgewater (NJ). The blog report showed a photograph*** of a sun splashed open-plan living/dining/kitchen space (above) with fireplace and wall of nearly floor to ceiling windows through which can be seen a slender, negative edge pool and an unimpeded view across the Hudson River towards the always spectacular, sky-scraper strewn New York City skyline.****

According to listing information squirreled out of the interweb plus a few tidbits revealed by their real estate agent on her blog Your Mama surmises that, when completed sometime near the end of this year (2012), Ice and Coco's new crib in Edgewater will sit up a gated—and heated—driveway and have about 4,200 fully customized square feet on four floors with an elevator and a 12-zone geothermal heating and cooling system "plus a 'man cave' for him (a six car garage) and a 550 sqft closet for her, which Ice affectionally [sic] calls the 'bitch cave.'" Now that's, klassy with "k," ain't it?

To be honest, puppies, Your Mama hadn't given any of this Ice and Coco real estate bizness more than a fraction of a second of thought until we heard from those Bizzy Boys at Celebrity Address Aerial who snitched to Your Mama that, after a great deal of research, they managed to locate Ice and Coco's new house in Edgewater, even though the various property records data bases they make use of do not yet reflect their ownership of said house. Listing images still accessible online are, however, a dead match to the one on Ice and Coco's real estate agent's blog. Make of that what you will.

A few minutes additional poking around by yours truly and we determine the couples contemporary new home is well sited for privacy near the base of the palisades that shoot up along the the western shore of the Hudson and was designed as a mirror image (above in rendering) of the one directly across the shared driveway.***** We also discovered the house sits at the tail end of a nondescript, up sloping cul-de-sac lined with—well—let's be nice and say it's lined with much more prosaic, ordinary and less expensive-looking single family houses.

Their real estate agent promises in a November 2011 blog post that the couple's brief property search and their first tour of the house they actually bought will be chronicled on the second season of their show, Ice Love Coco, and Your Mama presumes that should there be a third season, the new house and it day-core will be prominently featured. Well, at least in the hideous aftermath of Sandy we have that to look forward too, don't we?

Back in November 2011 their real estate agent revealed, again on her blog, that Ice and Coco also maintain residences in Arizona and Florida. Your Mama doesn't find any immediate evidence they own any property in Arizona. That doesn't mean Ice and Coco don't own any property in Arizona, only that we could find no evidence of such a thing.

They actually sold their three bedroom and three bathroom penthouse in Sunny Isles, FL—that's due north of South Beach just south of Golden Beach—back in June (2012) for $1,290,000, a significant amount less than the $1,530,000 they paid for the place back in August 2007.

UPDATE (Next day): It seems the couple have yet to move into their new crib yet as Coco posted a video on the YouTube of her (and her colossal cleavage canyon) standing in the wind and pelting rain on the balcony of their Edgewater penthouse as Sandy barreled ashore.

*Neither Your Mama nor The Dr. Cooter will apologize for thinking that the world is a better place with RuPaul's Drag Race in it. It just is.

**We have no information at all about the couple's current or previous financial capabilities and they very likely opted to live in Jersey for any or many reasons that may may not have had anything to do with their pecuniary position.

***It might be a rendering, we're not sure.

****At least it's "always spectacular" to those who feel urban vistas.

*****The two adjacent homes that share a gated driveway and garage apron may or may not be exact mirror images when completed although they appear that way on the online available listings and marketing materials.

exterior photo (North Bergen): Google Maps
listing photos (Edgewater): Liberty Realty via Zillow

Monday, October 29, 2012

Maroon 5's Adam Levine Buys in Beverly Hills

BUYER: Adam Levine
LOCATION: Beverly Hills, CA
PRICE: $4,380,000
SIZE: 6,539 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Its no surprise to anyone in the celebrity real estate gossip game that tatted-up and famously promiscuous model-squiring Maroon 5 lead singer turned televised singing contest judge (The Voice) has been on the hunt for new digs in Tinseltown.

Back in early September, in fact, our trusted informant Butty Butterlips tattled to Your Mama that Mister Levine was allowing one of Tinseltown's more successful real estate agents to quietly shop his house—a low-slung, contemporary art-filled one-bedroom bachelor pad perched on a private hillside above Bronson Canyon in the star-studded Los Feliz area—with an asking price in the high three millions and back in March 2012 the property was featured in a glossy and adoring article in Architectural Digest, often but not always a sign a celeb-owned home is or will soon go up for sale.

What did come as a bit of a surprise, at least to Your Mama, was an covert communique we received today from an inside source who snitched that Mister Levine has already quietly acquired up a new crib in the Benedict Canyon area of Beverly Hills. Redfin agent Corina Galen says, "Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills is a great area for celebrities. There are a lot of homes with spectacular views and plenty of privacy, which makes it a hot spot for high profile clients."

A quick perusal of property records confirms that Mister Levine, through the same trust that shows up on the deeds and documentation for his home in Los Feliz, paid $4,380,000 for the so-called Benedict House, a 3.66 acre gated estate on a canyon view ridge in a small, gated enclave high above Bev Hills called Wallingford Estates.

Listing information shows the sprawling, single story ranch house was originally built in 1940, measures in at 6,539 square feet and contains a total of six bedrooms and seven bathrooms. Although "meticulously maintained," listing information suggests there's more than enough room to custom build a monstrous 20,000 square foot house. As he did with his previous home, Your Mama fully expects Mister Levine will bring in Mark Haddawy—or some other equally skilled and well-compensated lady or nice-gay decorator-designer—to doctor up transform the undeniably deluxe but decoratively anemic ranch style residence into something more befitting a sexed-up rock star. However, we don't have any reason to think he'll knock the house down to make way for a behemoth Beverly Park-style faux-French chateau or massive mock-Tuscan extravaganza. That just doesn't seem his style but, then again, what do we know? Nuthin', that's what.

Anyhoo, a long, gated driveway adds to the property's serene sense of privacy and seclusion as it sweeps across the property to a large motor court partially girdled by the main house, attached two car garage and separate studio space suitable for conversion to a screening room, guest house and/or music studio.

Pegged wood floors in the small, lackluster entrance hall continue into the formal living and dining rooms as well as into a spacious den/office complete with a fireplace and a wide bank of windows that reach from the floor almost to the ceiling.

The open plan informal living space(s) include a roomy center island kitchen with granite counter tops, ordinary white raised-panel cabinetry, a pair of dishwashers and a freakishly expensive range. A high breakfast bar separates the kitchen from a wood-floored family room with vaulted sky-lit and wood-beamed ceiling, a built in entertainment center, fireplace and French doors to the outdoor entertaining areas. An adjoining home office/craft space has a wrap-around built-in desk and cabinetry.

The back of the house opens to a tree-ringed backyard with multi-level, brick-accented stone terracing, a flat grassy pad, a vaguely piano-shaped swimming pool spa and an elevated circular spa. Set mostly out of view below the driveway towards the front of the property, a lighted championship-sized tennis court overs over the canyon in the tree tops.

As of today, based on a quick study of various property record data bases, Mister Levine continues to own his Los Feliz area residence that is not listed for sale on the open market.

listing photos: Rodeo Realty via Redfin

Leontyne Price Lists Worn Out Downtown Townhouse

SELLER: Leontyne Price
PRICE: $5,000,000
SIZE: 2,800 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Over the weekend Your Mama received an unexpected missive from a musically-inclined informant we'll call Ari A. Appreciator who thoughtfully let us know that word had begun to make its way though the international opera community that the New York City townhouse of the near-peerless soprano Leontyne Price has popped up for sale with a $5,000,000 price tag.

Miz Price, long retired and now in her late 80s, picked up her downtown townhouse located in the bustling SoHo adjacent southern flank of the West Village way back in 1962 for an unknown amount of money that we can all be assured was a slim fraction of its current asking price. This real estate acquisition would have been the year after her legendary debut at The Met in January 1961, a debut, children, that brought down the damn house with a electrifying ovation that lasted 35 minutes—or 42 minutes, depending on what one reads. Either way, people hooted, hollered and clapped 'til their palms burned and throats went hoarse with adulation and adoration for Miz Price's rare, richly fluid and diligently controlled vocal acrobatics.

Among her many subsequent accolades and accomplishments, Miz Price sang at the 1965 inauguration for and 1973 state funeral of President Lyndon B. Johnson and, in 1978, at the invitation of President Jimmy Carter, she gave a nationally televised recital at the White House. She was selected as a Kennedy Center honoree in 1980, was given a prestigious National Medal of the Arts in 1985, and in the late 1990s wrote a children's book version of the Verdi's Aida that Elton John and Tim Rice turned into a Broadway musical of the same name. She maintained a recital and concert career well into her 70s and earned herself 13 Grammy Awards plus a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Oh, and did Your Mama mention Miz Price is black? It might seem like an unnecessary detail to mention nowadays but, children, when Miz Price rose to the pinnacle of the operatic mountain top in the 1950s and '60s and bought herself a townhouse in New York City, Jim Crow was still the law of the land in the United States. Think about that for a moment, because what Miz Price achieved both on and off the stage was, quite simply, extraordinary.

Anyhoo, current listing information shows the fairly unassuming and clearly down-on-her-heels red-brick Federal style townhouse was originally built in 1829 and asks prospective buyers to note that the "faded beauty" sits within a designated Landmarks District. Its Landmarks District location will require the next owner(s) to seek and obtain permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in order to repair and/or alter just about anything and everything both inside and outside the house. Some people might find the requirements and restrictions of the LPC to be cumbersome and constricting, but preservation-minded people might suggest to those folks they simply ought not buy a building in one of the city's numerous landmarks districts, thereby sparing them that particular headache and hassle.

As depicted on the floor plan included with current marketing materials, the four-story townhouse measures in at about 2,800 square feet with three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, at least 4 fireplaces that may or may not be in working order, four over-sized storage rooms and an unusually deep but pitifully neglected backyard.

The parlor floor living room—with mirrored fireplace flanked by built-in floor-to-ceiling book cases and some truly tawdry, olive green wall-to-wall carpeting that looks like it saw its better days two decades or more ago—is hardly huge but at 24-feet long does stretch almost the full depth of the house. At its rear end, the living room connects to a puny, nine-foot-square study that overlooks the un-tended backyard. Also on the parlor level, just off the foyer that, like the living room, elegantly extends the full length of the house, there's a privately located half bathroom for guests and a large, walk-in storage room.

Along with a somewhat useless vestibule and a street-side dining room with a fireplace, the kitchen—miniscule such as it appears on the floor plan—is located in the partly below street level basement. There's also an over-sized utility room and, tucked way way way in the back and accessed only through one of two walk-in storage rooms stuck like warts to the back of the house, there's a supermodel slender bathroom that has, as far as Your Mama can tell, just two redeeming qualities. The first is that it exists at all—an inconveniently located closet size pooper is better than none at all—and the second is that it offers a wee window for ventilation.

Miz Price's private chamber—the exact same size as the living room as per the floor plan—occupies the entire third floor and offers a fireplace, four closets plus a linen closet in the hall and a separate dressing room. The master bathroom, with separate tub, shower and street view, appears on the floor plan to only be accessible by exiting the bedroom and crossing the stair landing. This is, obviously, not ideal and—with an o.k. by the LPC, natch—would require immediate remedy should Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter buy this house, which—of course—we aren't.

There are two more bedrooms and a walk-in storage room tucked tightly under the eaves on the top floor. No doubt due to the sloping roof lines, the lone bathroom on the top floor is only—and unfortunately—accessible to occupants of one bedroom by passing through the other.

It's not difficult for Your Mama to see how a smart architect—a whole lotta money and the LPC's approval—could maintain and enhance the architectural integrity of the structure and transform Miz Price's worn out and chopped up townhouse into a well-organized if somewhat petite townhouse that meets with the demands and requirements of a wealthy New Yorker who isn't looking for a 12,000 square foot Beaux Arts behemoth with a swimming pool in the sub-basement and a hot tub on the roof.

We have no inside intel on where Miz Price plans to decamp but Your Mama hopes she will realize enough proceeds from the sale of her long-time New York City residence to keep her comfortably for the rest of her life.

listing photos and floor plan: Brown Harris Stevens

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Original Aidan Gray House


As you know, we are having an Aidan Gray contest – looking for two houses to act as hosts for the new Aidan Gray catalogue.  I received many wonderful entrants – from all over the United States.  Since then, I arranged them according to states, and picked out 25 houses that I thought had the most potential and sent them off to Randal Weeks, the owner of Aidan Gray.   Randal has had the finalists for a few weeks now while he and his wife Sally have been poring over the pictures.  Yesterday he informed me he had made a decision, but didn’t tell me what it was!!  So, I am just as anxious as all of you to find out who the two winners are!!  Hopefully – we will know very, very soon.

In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in this story about Randal Weeks. I received an email from a reader who currently lives in the house that Randal and his wife used to live in – here, in Houston.  Apparently 15 years ago, way before Aidan Gray was even a gleam in his eye, Randal was working for Bruce Hardwood Floors.  He found a house for sale in north Houston that he thought would be the perfect place to raise his as-not-yet born children.   The house, built in 1960,  was an original Better Homes and Gardens house and had had only 1 owner.  Those owners were currently living in a RV in the back yard because TWO years prior, a pipe had burst upstairs and flooded the house – destroying the first floor ceiling.  Randal toured the house, and drew up a floor plan for the remodeling and addition, which he then presented to Sally who, of course, thought he was perhaps a little crazy. 

They ended up buying the house and tore it down to the studs – putting in an entire new wing and back wall on the house.   The water damage was extensive – when they ripped out the hardwood floors – the concrete underneath looked like it was moving.  Instead, it was a million cockroaches that had taken up residence under the water logged floorboards.  As Randal told me, “Gross!”   After much hard work, some of which they did themselves, they moved in, planning to raise their children there.  As luck would have it, just two years later, Randal was transferred to Dallas and none of his children spent a day in that house!   Four years after that, Aidan Gray was born.

When Randal learned that I had current pictures of his former Houston house, he graciously sent me photographs from the original remodeling.  The house, as it was then, was all original carpet, avocado appliances and countertops – “a real time warp.”  Today, it’s hardly recognizable as the same house.     It’s interesting to see what Randal did with the house, which was his first stab at designing, before he went on to start one of the most popular to–the-trade furniture companies. 

So, today, let’s first take a look again at Randal and Sally’s house where they now live, as it looks in the Aidan Gray catalogues:



The entry – steel doors on both ends of the entry hall, with a large skylight overhead.  The walls are beautifully bricked-lined.



I love how they used portieres to accent the arched doorways that lead off the entry hall.




The living room has a high ceiling and a beautiful fireplace.  I love the Aidan Gray day bed instead of a second sofa.




The dining room – styled for the catalogue.  Great table and chairs!




So many of y’all loved their kitchen when I last showed it.   It has two large marble topped islands.  The X motif is seen throughout the house, including on the ceiling beams and the transoms over the windows.




The cooktop with its mantel-like hood.




The kitchen has two  large islands, each with an Aidan Gray crystal chandelier over it.  Love the limed wood floors.  Notice the ceiling beams.




Love the fireplace screen!





Down a hall with a barrel ceiling and lanterns. 





A peek at the master bedroom – filled with current Aidan Gray furniture.  So pretty!



The gorgeous pool and stone house.



And inside the pool house – decorated as an outdoor dining and living room.


Now that we’ve seen what Randal’s style looks like today – let’s take a look back 15 years ago and see if we can find a touch of an early Aidan Gray look:



 Here is the house as it was when  Randal bought it.  It was an original Better Homes and Gardens house.  After a pipe burst, the house remained empty for two years, flooded out. 



 Green front door and yellow bricks.  The room to the right of the front door was once a bedroom and bathroom.  Randal opened up the wall between the bedroom and foyer and turned the bedroom into the dining room.   To the left of the front door, the kitchen was also opened up to the foyer.  Before – you had to walk all the way around the great room in the back of the house to reach the kitchen.  Today’s owner says she can’t imagine how dark the foyer used to be before Randal made these two important changes.



BEFORE:  The great room – at the back of the house.  Once this floor was removed, millions of cockroaches made the foundation look like it was moving!   The staircase remained where it is, as did the fireplace.  The entire back wall was removed to expand the room by a few feet.




 The back of the great room – with its two bay windows.  To the right is the garage.  Here you can see where the foundation was extended.



And the new foundation of the two story wing is poured, along with a few feet added to the great room.




The extension goes up on the left side, while the ceiling is removed over the great room.




Inside the great room – after it was taken down to the studs and the floor removed, along with the water damaged ceiling.





Progress!!  The new wing on the left is up, and here, the back of the house is removed.  You can see the stairs and the fireplace, along with the balcony - totally exposed to the elements.  Scary!!!!




 New ceiling in the great room is up, along with the few feet that were added to the back of the room.




And, almost done!   The new two-story wing on the left, and the closed up great room with its arched French doors, on the right.




Here’s the new foyer as Randal designed it, with its new glass paned front door.   On the left, the former bedroom is now a dining room – opened to the space with columns.  Across the foyer is the kitchen.




And the new great room!  Fifteen years ago, and six years before Aidan Gray was started, I do see the beginnings of Randal’s style with the white slipcovered sofa.  And notice on the staircase –  Randal added an X motif, which is present in current house too!!



And looking the other way – the console table has an Aidan Gray look, as does the urn, for sure!   Notice the French chairs – that is also certainly a current Aidan Gray look.




 In the kitchen Randal and Sally painted a mural of a Parisian street on one wall.  Notice the painted X-motif on the transom! 




A before shot in the kitchen – the brick alcove which housed the stove.




 And after – another mural handpainted by Randal and Sally above the stove.  Randal said that they were so house poor, they ate out of a toaster oven for months until they could afford to install the cabinets.  Wait until you see what this arch looks like today!




And in the back  yard, they installed a fountain and gravel walkways.




 And after:  what the façade looked like after Randal and Sally remodeled.  They painted the brick a taupe color, added the glass paned front door, along with new windows.  So pretty! 


As I told you, I received an email from a reader who told me Randal Weeks had lived in her house and had remodeled it before she bought it from him.  Chris, the reader,  had just recently updated her kitchen and thought the readers would like to see it.   I asked her if I could show Randal the pictures of the house.   Just as I thought, he was so excited to see his old house again.  He couldn’t believe how good it looked.  Randal then sent me the above pictures of his renovation, saying it brought back such great memories of the fun he and Sally had had transforming this house.

Here’s how it looks today:


Totally different, again!  A beautiful front drive and landscaping was installed, along with a new front porch and a bay window on the left side of the house.   


The new owner, Chris, bought the house from Randal 13 years ago, when his wife was pregnant with her first child.  Over the years she grew familiar with the name Aidan Gray but thought nothing of it, until she read in my blog that it was owned by Randal Weeks!  She had no idea that the owner of Aidan Gray ever lived in Houston, much less in her own home!!!   Such a small world.  She told me that he had faux painted the kitchen (which we saw) and a few rooms upstairs, along with the nursery.  Since Chris was also pregnant at the time she bought the house, the nursery was put to good use.  

Chris wrote me:   “When Randal first bought our house, it was a basic salt box style home built in the 60's, and he proceeded to add on and redo everything. He did a lot of the work himself, and our neighbors marveled at his work ethic and creativity. After reading his story and knowing all that he did to our home, it doesn't surprise me that he has become so successful.”




Here’s the foyer today.  Remember when Randal designed it, it had dark hardwoods and wainscot paneling on the walls.  Chris had it all removed and put down limestone  on the floors.  Not sure if it is, but that lamp could certainly be an Aidan Gray. 




And to the right of the front door, in the former bedroom, is the dining room.  Chris removed the columns that Randal installed.  And she removed the hardwoods here too, replacing it with the limestone for a seamless look.  The wainscot paneling was also removed, and she added the two large lanterns. 



The great room today – so pretty!!!  Chris installed wall to wall seagrass over the hardwoods to lighten up the room.  She also installed the seagrass up the stairs.  I love the railings with Randal’s X motif and am glad she kept those the same.  The ceiling fans came down and were replaced with lanterns.  The room is so warm and inviting.  I love the way the doors are painted black – just a nice accent.   Notice the armoire on the left wall.  That is attached to the wall and was built and faux painted by Randal – years and years before Aidan Gray was even an idea in his mind!  Chris loves that she has what is probably the original Aidan Gray piece of furniture, but it doesn’t hold a large flatscreen – remember, it was built 15 years ago.  She would like to get a bigger TV, but is reluctant to part with her  “original.”   



And looking the other direction, Chris installed a row of cabinets and bookcases along the back wall.  You can see the armoire better in this picture. 



And here is Chris’s new kitchen.  She added on some space and built a completely new kitchen with new cabinets, appliances and flooring.  Since the kitchen is open off the foyer, the same stone was used throughout.  She also raised the roof in the addition and added the three lanterns.




Remember the new bank of windows on the front façade, these are those windows.  So beautiful!!!!  Chris told me she was sorry to lose the hand painted murals that Randal and Sally had added to the kitchen, but they kept some of his art work upstairs.




And looking the other direction – you can see how the kitchen leads off the foyer, across from the dining room.  In the former kitchen space, there is now a breakfast room.  And, remember the brick arch that housed the stove??



Chris turned the brick arch into a banquette.  Great idea!!  I love how she used the lanterns as sconces and  I love the mini subway tile backsplash on the bar area. 





Chris raised the ceiling over the new kitchen and added beams and lanterns – creating an architectural element in the room.  And the new bay window with its side lights is really beautiful.  It  adds so much to the kitchen.




Notice the open cabinet shelves filled with white ironstone and dishes.  Chris mixed stained cabinets with painted white ones.  The granite picks up both the light and dark shades of the cabinets.




Here is the master bedroom with its antique bed – notice the charming X-motif transom above the bathroom doors.  I am going to assume Randal installed that window, since he likes the X decorative element so much!!!




Here is the backyard today.  Not sure if Randal or Chris added the covered porch along the great room.   The new pond was built, incorporating Randal’s original fountain.




Here you can see the fountain – it’s on four different levels!




And finally – the outdoor pavilion  that Chris added on the opposite side of the great room.  It has a fireplace and a cute metal roof. 


I hope you enjoyed this peek into the beginnings of Aidan Gray and how Chris took Randal’s designs and expanded on them!  There certainly were glimpses into what was coming in future. 





A few months ago, I was talking with Randal about lanterns.  I love my two lanterns, which are reproductions, but I can’t find any others similar to them for a reasonable price.  I told Randal that I thought if Aidan Gray made a lantern like mine that wasn’t expensive, they would sell a lot of them.  (As if I really know anything about business.)  But, to my surprise, Randal really did listen to my suggestion.



A few months later, I was shocked to get pictures of a prototype for a lantern that Aidan Gray was designing.  They used the antique lantern on the left as a guide for the new lantern, on the right.  Randal sent me several pictures, asking me what I thought of the design – as is.  Wow.  Looking great!




And, just a few weeks later, came a picture of the final product!!  Love!!!!  I hope it makes it into the next catalogue and I’ll be curious to see what the price is.   All in all it looks like a winner to me – at least I hope so!!!  What do you think?


And, a few changes around the house, AGAIN:


A few weeks ago I showed you my new cabinet doors that I had added to the family room shelves.  Inside, the shelves were nailed in and not movable so Raul talked me into just leaving the shelves the way they were instead of raising or lowering them.  But as you can see, the top shelf looked so short compared to the rest of the shelves.  See – how there is hardly any space between the top shelf and the arch?   I was really unhappy with the way it looked, but decided to do what I tell my clients to do – live with it for 48 hours and see what you think then.  It usually takes the eye a few days to adjust to change.  Well, after 48 hours, I was still bothered by it and Raul came back to lower the top two shelves on each side.  It was a pain, because everything had to come out again and the shelves were then taken down and nailed back in and then repainted.  But, it was worth it.




Here is how the shelves look today.  Notice the top shelves have been moved down, as were the next shelves too.  It looks so much more balanced,  plus the arch looks better this way.




And here’s one more view of the new shelves.  Lesson learned – do it right the first time and stick to your guns. Don’t let your contractor talk you out of what you really want, just because it will be easier.   I am thrilled I went ahead and corrected it because I know it would have driven me crazy for the next few years.  Now I don’t even notice it.




And, while Raul was here, he needed to repaint the bathroom doors black, so I thought I’d have him paint my bannisters black too.  Of course I got my inspiration from the last reader’s kitchen with her pretty staircase HERE.  My bannisters were brown before and now they look just a bit more richer. Of course my daughter said, well now you have to redo the floors.  I know, I know.  I’ve needed to that for five years but the thought of it makes me so nervous!!!




A few years ago, I showed you this book, written by Dallasite – Jennifer Pickens, called Christmas at the White House.







The talented author, Jennifer Pickens, has just come out with a new book:




Pets at the White House!



Awww, the Kennedy children with their pony, Macaroni.


The book tells the stories of all kinds of pets that have called the White House home.  With a forward by First Lady Barbara Bush, it includes a lot of pictures….



The Reagans’ with Rex, their Cavalier, King Charles Spaniel…..




And Barbara Bush with Millie and her puppies – English Springer Spaniels, just like our Georgie!




And of course, President Barak Obama with his gorgeous Portuguese Water Dog, Bo. 


If you are from Houston,  Jennifer will be in town this Tuesday October 30 at Berings for a book signing.   Also, that morning, she will be St. Martins Episcopal Church at 10:30, speaking on Christmas.   If you are able to attend, your presence will be very welcome!!!  For exact times and addresses, please email: for more information.


To purchase Jennifer’s two books from Amazon, simply double click on the pictures below:


Until next time!