Thursday, January 31, 2013

Keyshawn Johnson Re-Lists Calabasas Albatross

SELLER: Keyshawn Johnson
LOCATION: Calabasas, CA
PRICE: $10,500,000
SIZE: 11,746 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Yesterday Your Mama discussed the Pacific Palisades mansion that Miami-based professional basketball player Chris Bosh bought late last year for $9.4 million and currently has up for lease at $45,000 per month. Today, much to our own surprise since we're not very athletically inclined, we've decided to continue in the professional athlete real estate vein and discuss the Calabasas, CA estate listed in early December 2012 for $10,500,000 by former professional footballer turned television commentator Keyshawn Johnson.

This isn't, as it turns out, the first time at the real estate rodeo for Mister Johnson and his custom built Calabasas crib. In fact, the Superbowl winning former wide receiver has been trying to unload his real estate albatross in Calabasas since at least March 2011 when it was unsuccessfully heaved on the open market with an asking price of $11,995,000. By late 2011 the price tag had plummeted to $9,500,000 but, alas... In early 2012 the hard-to-sell estate popped back up on the open market with a surprisingly higher $10,995,000 asking price that ten months later was dropped to it's current $10.5 million.

The difficulty Mister Johnson has had selling his big ol' house in the guard-gated Oaks community isn't even the most interesting part of the story though, children. Property records show Mister Johnson purchased the then vacant 1.86 acre property in April—or maybe August—2004 for an undisclosed amount of money. By early 2007, according to online documentation we perused, Mister Johnson had secured at least six million dollars in mortgages against the property, presumably for the construction of the residence.

For reasons Your Mama can't possibly know or fathom, especially since he surely earned many millions during his 11 seasons as a professional pig skinner, by late 2009 Mister Johnson fallen enough behind on his mortgage payment(s) that his lender began the ugly foreclosure process. The property was scheduled to be auctioned on the third of June 2010 but sometime before that happened, Mister Johnson must have made good on mortgage because by late June the foreclosure wolves had been called off with a Notice of Rescission recorded on the tenth of June.

Anyhoo, while Your Mama might describe it in less flattering terms, current listing information describes the 11,746 square foot Richard Landry-designed residence as a "Contemporary, Mediterranean" that was completed in 2011 and includes six bedrooms and seven full and two half bathrooms.

The double-height foyer, study/library and formal living and dining areas are complimented, according to listing information, by less formal family quarters that include a colossal and contemporary double-island kitchen that opens to a spacious family room, a media/game room, home theater/multi-purpose room, a bonus room and a home spa and exercise room set up with sauna.

Additional amenities listed in marketing materials include an elevator, a gated driveway with garage space for four cars, various fruit and shade trees, guest/staff quarters and a whole house sound system.

Steel framed windows and doors connect the luxurious interior spaces to the expansive outdoor entertaining spaces that include a wide terrace that hugs the back of the house, a covered veranda with outdoor fireplace and long views over the surrounding mountains, a broad free-form lawn area, a built-in barbecue center, a lighted sunken basketball court, an extra-long rectangular swimming pool with inset spa and plenty of sunbathing space and and adjacent cabana/gazebo.

Far be it from Your Mama to place any kind of value on a property—all property is worth, of course, as much as someone will pay for it—but a few minutes research on the interweb indicates that Mister Johnson and his extremely successful real estate agent(s) may have a tough time getting someone to cough up more than ten million clams for his Calabasas mansion considering it's current price tag is substantially higher, according to the peeps at Redfin, than any other sale in Calabasas in the last three years.

In the last three years, according to Redin, there are only four recorded sales in Calabasas above six million dollars, all of them in gated enclave known as the Estates at The Oaks where—lucky for him—Mister Johnson's mansion is also located. In July 2010 professional baseball pitcher Jeff Suppan and his wife Dana scooped up a 10,816 square foot faux Italian macmansion with six bedrooms and seven full and two half bathrooms for $6,250,000.

Property records (and previous reports) reveal the following January (2011) chat show host Phil McGraw and wife Robin shelled out $6,575,000 for an 11,127 square foot mansion on more than three acres. So the stories go, the six bedroom and 8.5 bathroom pseudo Tuscan villa was purchased for their television producer son Jay McGraw and his former Playboy Playmate wife Erica Dahm.

In April 2012,18-year old bubble gum pop super star Justin Bieber paid $6.5 million for a very grown up 1.28 acre spread with a 9,214 square foot mansion that includes six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, six fireplaces, two three-car garages, an elevator, a movie theater, a second floor game room, a family room with wet bar and wine cellar—somewhat ironic since he's not even close to being old enough to imbibe booze legally—and a poolside guest casita with outdoor living room and a complete indoor kitchen.

The most recent and most expensive purchase in the Estates at the Oaks enclave occurred just last November (2012) when a wealthy businessman paid an abnormally high $9,200,000 for a single story architectural pastiche of a mansion with seven bedrooms and seven full and two half bathrooms in 11,649 square feet. The seller, according to property records we peeped, was tax consultant Ramin Salari. Mister Salari's name won't ring a bell for most of the children but Los Angeles-based real estate watchers may recall Mister Ramin reportedly paid $185,000 in bribes to L.A. County Tax Assessor John Noguez in exchange for reduced property taxes for his wealthy clients. But that's another sordid real estate story for another blog...

Your Mama, who does not know a pencil from a pinhead, has no idea if Mister Johnson lives in this house or if he ever even intended to occupy the premises. What we do know based upon a care perusal of property record data bases is that he maintains some sort of ownership in at least one other luxurious Los Angeles area residence including a 6,549 square foot house in Tarzana that he bought way back in December 1996 for $1,143,000.

Propety records also reveal that back in December 2004 Mister Johnson sold an 11,206 square foot mansion with six bedrooms and nine bathrooms in the guard-gated Beverly Ridge community for $10,500,000. The modern Mediterranean mansion is currently back on the market for lease at $75,000 per month and for sale at $11,750,000, reduced from $13,750,000. The house was later (and very briefly) owned by Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis and was used as the Esquire House by Esquire magazine. It's also just down the street from the massive mega-mansion recently completed by Showbiz tycoon Tyler Perry.

listing photos: Prudential California Realty

Some News to Share!



The newest edition of one of my favorite magazines “Antique Shops & Designers” is now available on their web site.  I know a lot of readers aren’t in the areas where this magazine is sold, so I like to post it when it goes online.  The magazine was a little late going online with this issue, but it’s here now and filled with wonderful stories, photographs and beautiful ads, as usual.  To read the magazine, go HERE.




One of my favorite stories this issue is by Leslie Sinclair of Segreto.  She writes about the color Blaygeen, which is a combination of blue, gray, and green!  Isn’t it a gorgeous color?  And that bathroom!!!  To die for, it was designed by Cindy Witmer.   BTW, Leslie’s book is still available for sale on the left side of my blog – at top.  It’s one of my favorite design books – ever!! 




Another favorite story is about Marilyn Phillips’ house.  If the name sounds familiar – it’s because she is the daughter-in-law of famous interior designer and author Betty Lou Phillips.  Marilyn is also a very successful interior designer living in Houston.  I am crazy about that rug by Stark!!  So pretty!!   Check out Phillips’ web site HERE to see her beautiful portfolio.





The cover story is about Chateau de Deulin  - a castle located in Belgium.  Here in the drawing room, notice the gorgeous wallpaper, and the threadbare rug.  So beautiful!   I love when rugs are worn like that.  And I love the cane settee.  Beautiful interiors – especially for a castle which sometimes aren’t always decorated with great style.




There is a large spread on Houston interior designer Michael Dale’s eclectic house.  It has the most gorgeous steel windows.  Notice the arched steel window in the entry hall which is lined up with the arch that leads into the living room.   The house is an L-shape that wraps around a courtyard.




Notice the steel door on the left that opens onto the gravel covered courtyard at Michael Dale’s Houston house.   Instead of a back yard, the house wraps around this central courtyard.  So pretty!





And as usual, I love the advertisements in Antique Shops & Designers!  They are as beautiful as the stories.  This one by Julie Blailock really caught my eye.





The other day I received an early Valentine’s Day present from LoveFeast Shop – wrapped in blue and red ribbons:




Inside the package with the blue ribbon were two darling velvet pumpkins – in two colors turquoise/lagoon, one large, one smaller.  These pumpkins are heart shaped, making them the perfect Valentine’s Day present for that special someone!  

It totally hit me that these would make such a great pin cushion too!    I’m going to take a set up to my closet for all the straight pins that have no home. 



The second box with the red ribbon contained two heart shaped pumpkins that were cherry/coral.  The packaging is so cute with the matching color coordinated cards.  Called the “2013 Limited Edition HeartGram Set,” the custom designed postcards are by artist Annie Barnett of Be Small Studio.



As usual, the heart shaped pumpkins come in different colors, like these white ones.


The Valentine’s Day special comes wrapped in a decorative box ready for giving.  You can order it in different configurations of one large or one large-one small heart shaped pumpkin. 

To order these adorable Valentine’s Day gifts, go here:




And finally:



Don’t forget that the following weekend (NOT this weekend!) is the Urban Market Houston Antique Fair.

February 9, 2013 - 3pm-6pm
February 10, 2013 - 9am-4pm



The NEW Location: 9401 Knight Road, Houston, Tx 77045

Just South of 610/Reliant Stadium

For information on
The Urban Market Houston Antique Show,
please go to their web site HERE.




Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Professional Hoopster Chris Bosh Puts Pacific Palisades Mansion Up for Lease

OWNER: Chris Bosh
LOCATION: Pacific Palisades
PRICE: $45,000 per month
SIZE: 10,755 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: All the children know that Your Mama don't know a football from a baseball bat. So, when our magnificently prolific informant Yolanda Yakketyak sent over a covert communique to tell us that the resort-like mock-Med mansion in Pacific Palisades, CA that professional basketball player Chris Bosh and his new-ish missus Adrienne quietly purchased late last year for $9,400,000 has popped up for lease at $45,000 per month we said, "Who da hell is Chris Bosh?"

Well, turns out six-foot-eleven inch Mister Bosh is really somebody in the professional basketball world. The native Texan started out his professional hoopster career with the Toronto Raptors back in 2003 but he currently dribbles shoots and passes for the Miami Heat.

The eight-time NBA All-Star is reportedly set to earn $17,545,000 for the 2012/13 season, not counting any endorsements he may have. Well compensated Mister Bosh's annual salary is scheduled to rise to more than $22 million for the 2015-16 season so, make no mistake butter beans, the towering power forward can well afford a nearly $9.5 million dollar house in Pacific Palisades not to mention the very contemporary $12-plus million bay front mansion he already owns in Miami Beach. (More on that manse in a minute.)

Property records reveal the seller, Korean-born steel tycoon Steven Koh, Ph.D., purchased the 1.73 acre knoll-top estate, located at the tail end of a gated cul-de-sac and not very cleverly dubbed Villa Cielo, in September 2005 for $12,500,000. That means, according to the well-worn beads of Your Mama's bejeweled abacus, that Dr. Koh took a punishing $3,100,000 financial gut punch when he sold the lavishly fitted mansion to Mister and Missus Bosh.

Listing information kindly provided by Yolanda shows the two-story, tile-roofed Mediterranean-ish mansion was built in 2001, measures in at a substantial 10,755 square feet and contains a total of six bedrooms and eight full bathrooms, a count that Your Mama thinks but isn't sure encompasses the fully equipped staff quarters.

A double-height rotunda entry with a sweeping, wrap-around staircase leads to the many and various living and entertaining spaces that include a formal living with fireplace, a formal dining room with an upsetting tented ceiling, a sky-lit center island kitchen with all the commercial-style stainless steel appliances money can buy and a large library/office with book shelf flanked fireplace, partially paneled walls and a built in aquarium that surely requires a part-time expert to take care of.

An open-concept built-in wet bar separates the living room from the billiard room and a small but expensively equipped movie theater has a state-of-the-art sound and projection system and plush, burnt caramel-colored leather recliner seats with built-in cup holders.

The master suite takes up the entire second floor, according to listing information, and includes an over-sized bedroom with sitting area and fireplace, dual bathrooms and an exceptionally spacious fitted walk-in closet/dressing rooms, a fully-equipped adjoining gym and both indoor and outdoor spas. The master suite opens to a crescent-shaped private terrace with panoramic views of the mountains and mansion-dotted canyons that tumble down to the glittering Pacific Ocean.

The back of the house opens up to deep shaded verandas, at least one of which has an outdoor fireplace. The various verandas and tented pavilions ring a gigantic infinity-edged free-form resort style swimming pool complete with a sunken palapa-covered swim up bar, a super-sized circular spa and a sunken banquette-surrounded fire pit set in the middle of the pool. There's also an outdoor shower and a large outdoor eating area with full outdoor kitchen with pizza oven.

We're not sure why Mister and Missus Bosh would spend nearly ten million bucks on a fancy mansion in Pacific Palisades only to turn around and try to lease it out for $45,000 per month, but if Your Mama has said it once we've said it ten thousand times: It's generally frustrating and futile operation to try and makes sense of the wacky real estate ways of the rich and famous.

Presumably Mister and Missus Bosh live primarily in Miami Beach where in September 2010 they coughed up $12,333,000 for a gated and glassy 12,368 square foot modern mansion (above) with—according to old marketing materials still available online—seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a water-side negative edge swimming pool, a spa with adjacent outdoor fireplace, a pool side pavilion with built-in outdoor kitchen and a private dock for parking the water craft.

listing photos (Pacific Palisades): Sotheby's International Realty
listing photos (Miami Beach): London Realty Group (via Zillow)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Irving Azoff Shakes Up Real Estate Portfolio

A well-connected real estate canary we'll call Aston Martin recently sent Your Mama a covert communique to let us know that word on the Platinum Triangle real estate street is that music industry veteran Irving Azoff and his missus Shelli are in the mood to shake up their extensive property portfolio.

In case any of y'all don't know, Mister Azoff was named by the folks at Billboard as the most powerful person in the music industry for 2012. Not only has he represented the professional interests of an almost endless list of high profile recording artists and groups such as Christina Aguilera, Guns N' Roses, Morrissey the Eagles, Seal, Van Halen, Neil Diamond and New Kids on the Block, until the end of 2012 he was the Executive Chairman of the music industry juggernaut now known as Live Nation Entertainment.

Mister and Missus Azoffs recently sold an ocean front house on swanky Carbon Beach for $10,000,000 to an obviously very successful attorney and now—according to our Mister Martin—the couple are seriously considering coughing up around $16,000,000 to acquire a one story contemporary villa next door to the Playboy Mansion in the hoity toity Holmby Hills 'hood. The property is currently listed at $18,500,000.

The reason for the purchase, according to our Mister Martin, is that the pecunious pair need a plush place to temporarily reside while their posh primary residence—a hulking, 12,600-plus square foot Tudor-style pile in Beverly Hills*—gets a multi-year make over.

Listing information shows the 9,632 square foot contemporary Mediterranean villa the Azoff's are thinking of acquiring was originally built in 1932, sits on 1.49 meticulously manicured acres and has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms including a master suite with dual bathrooms. Listing information goes on to indicate there's a staff suite and an attached wing that contains a family room, office and three more guest bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. The property also has a full-sized gym with bathroom, swimming pool with pool house and a separate guest house with living room and kitchen.

Property records reveal the seller is businessman John Pourmoradi who earned his fortune primarily distributing wholesale merchandise to discount, drug and dollar stores and purchased the property way back in August 1998 for $4,000,000.

A little peeping and poking around various property record data bases shows that in addition to their 1932 Tudor in Beverly Hills Mister and Missus Azoff's fat property portfolio still includes—but is not limited to—a 12-plus acre spread in the mountains above Malibu, a couple of houses in La Quinta, CA including a recently erected 17,000-plus square foot residence on 1.52 golf course fronting acres in the guard gated Madison Club community in La Quinta, CA and a ski chalet on six-or-so acres in Snowmass, CO.

Now children, use yer noggins. We haven't any reason to doubt the intel provided by Aston Martin but for now this ain't nuthin' but some high-priced conjecture and rumor at this point, okay?

*Fun but useless real estate tidbit: It was at Mister and Missus Azoff's Beverly Hills estate where Khloe Kardashian wed L.A. Laker Lamar Odom in September 2009.

listing photos: Coldwell Banker

Peter Morton Does It In Trousdale Estates

BUYER: Peter Morton
LOCATION: Beverly Hills, CA
PRICE: $9,800,000
SIZE: 5,367 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms

NOTE FROM YOUR MAMA (01-03-13): Your Mama posted this a week or so ago but we mistakenly deleted it. Here it is again in case anyone was missing it.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Property gossips around the globe went hog wild in October 2012 when a single story French Regency meets mid-century modern style residence high in the terrifically trendy Trousdale Estates 'hood in Beverly Hills hit the open market with at asking price of $12,995,000.

The hoopla and hoo-ha wasn't just because the gated residence occupies a highly desirable 1.18 acre lot on what is arguably one of the better streets in Trousdale Estates where some of the other homes are owned by folks like celebrity photographer Steven Meisel but rather because the house is loosely known in real estate circles as the west coast Graceland. That's right, back in 1967—the year they were married—hip-swiveling music industry icon Elvis Presley and his then new bride Priscilla purchased the house for $400,000.

Property records shows the old Presley pad was sold in mid-December 2012 to a corporate entity for $9,800,000. Everybody Your Mama talked to—including our well-informed confreres Yolanda Yakketyak and Helen A. Hightower—snitched that the buyer was high-end property flipping former restaurateur and hotelier Peter Morton.

Mister Peter Morton—not to be confused with his prolific property flipping restaurateur son Harry who owns the lewdly named Pink Taco eateries in L.A.—made the bulk of his (estimated) half billion dollar fortune in 1995 when he sold his co-founding interest in the Hard Rock Cafe chain for $410 million and in 2006 when he sold the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for $770 million to boutique hotel magnate Ian Schrager's Morgans Hotel Group.

Your Mama does not have any idea how long The King and his bouffant-haired bride Priscilla owned the house in Trousdale Estates but we do know that for many years—and even still—fans and fanatics alike scrawled and scribbled messages to their rock-n-roll idol on the mini-estate's front gate (above). We can only hope that Mister Morton preserves the front gate for posterity or donates it to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame or something like that.

Anyhoo, listing information shows the existing, single-story residence was originally built in 1958 and includes four bedrooms and five bathroom in 5,367 square feet of interior space, plus an attached guest house with additional private bathroom.

The low-slung sprawler, recently upgraded and renovated according to listing information, contains a spacious formal living room with fireplace, a formal dining room, family room, office, media room and a newly installed eat-in kitchen that looks to Your Mama like it belongs in an upscale but uninspired suburban mini-mansion.

Floor to ceiling windows and sliders throughout flood the house with natural light and allow for long vistas down the canyons and—on a clear day—over the glittering lights of Los Angeles all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The walls of windows seamlessly integrate the inside and the outside living spaces that include various terraces and patios, a flat patch of grass for the pooches and a free-form swimming pool and spa. Out front, there's a gated motor court and a four-car car port

Your Mama's been told by someone in a position to know that the house remains remarkably intact from the time Mister Presley and Miss Priscilla owned it in the mid- to late-sixties but that's probably no matter since the scuttlebutt on the Trousdale real estate street is that Mister Morton plans to raze the existing residence to make way for an all new house that he'll no doubt sell at an enviably enormous profit.

Certainly buying, knocking down and building anew seems to be the growing trend on this particular cul-de-sac. Back in August (2012), budding real estate baller—and mid-priced handbag purveyor—Bruce Makowsky quietly paid $12,650,000 for an almost 7,000 square foot house directly across from the old Presley pad that's he's already razed in preparation for what will surely be a bigger and sleeker new house that Your Mama imagines will eventually wind up on the market with a fat eight figure asking price. Next door to the house Mister Makowsky recently tore down movie producer turned property developer Nile Niami paid Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Shampoo, Mission Impossible franchise) $9,800,000 for a nearly six thousand square foot house that rumor has it he too will tear down to make way for a bigger and slicker house that will also—no doubt—eventually turn up for sale with an eye-popping eight figure asking price.

Mister Morton has bought and sold more pricey properties in some of the more expensive zip codes of Los Angeles that Your Mama cares to count, including a hulking Tudor style pile on 4.1 private acres in Beverly Hills that he bought in 2006 for $18,500,000, never lived in and sold—at a substantial loss—in the spring of 2011 for $16,190,000 to property-collecting Oscar-winning superstar actress Sandra Bullock.

As far as Your Mama knows—and we really don't know a ham from a gold fish—since the mid 1990s Mister Morton's primary residence in Tinseltown has been a 13,000- plus square foot mansion on 1.3-plus gated and landscaped acres in a particularly plum section of the Holmby Hills that he bought from entertainment industry executive Robert A. Daly for $9,250,000.

Mister Morton also maintains an elegantly contemporary Richard Meier-designed mini-compound with a total of seven bedrooms and seven full and two half bathrooms on two—or maybe three—prime ocean front lots on Carbon Beach, Malibu's most expensive stretch of sand where some of the other homeowners include endlessly rich trophy property amassing titans of industry like David Geffen, Michael Milken, Paul Allen, Eli Broad and Larry Ellison.

listing photos: Coldwell Banker

Monday, January 28, 2013

Your Mama Hears...

...from Bob N. Weave, a well-connected real estate tattle tale who has provided us with accurate intel in the past, that tool and die tycoon Eric Smidt and wife Susan are fixin' to hoist their big ol' compound-like estate (above) in the garishly swanky guard-gated Beverly Park community on the market with an asking price somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000,000.

Mister and Missus Smidt's sprawling two-parcel compound comprises more than six acres and, as best as we can tell from a perusal of various property record data bases, the couple picked up the first of their two Beverly Park parcels July 1995 from ice hockey honcho Wayne Gretzky for an undisclosed amount of dough. They subsequently scooped up the the adjacent parcel, in November 1999, for just over three million smackers.

The L.A. County Tax Man indicates the seven bedroom and ten bathroom multi-winged main mansion was built in the late 1990s and, at 11,204 square feet, is actually quite modest by the famously steroidal standards of Beverly Park where a fair number of the super-sized single family abodes top 25,000 square feet. Property records also show the compound includes at least one other secondary structure with an additional two bedrooms and five bathrooms in 3,863 square feet of interior space.

That Mister and Missus Smidt would like to unload their custom-built compound in Beverly Park should come as no surprise to Platinum Triangle property watchers who are well aware the lavish living couple also own The Knoll, the storied Beverly Hills mega-estate they bought from oil baron turned Showbiz tycoon Marvin Davis in February 2005 for—according to the folks at Blockshopper—$39,352,500.

The L.A. County Tax Man shows Mister and Missus Smidt—who spent years and Lord only knowns how many millions on a soup-to-nuts renovation that reportedly changed the original 25,000-plus square foot Georgian mega-mansion into an even larger white brick Regency style pile—shelled out $472,540 and eighteen cents in property taxes in 2010.

The Knoll, one of Los Angeles' most illustrious homes was originally built in the 1950s for Lucy Doheny Batson—the wealthy widow of oil heir Ned Doheny—and was later owned by Italian-born movie producer Dino De Laurentiis who sold it to country music king Kenny Rogers in 1980 for $14,500,000. It was Mister Rogers who sold The Knoll to Marvin and Barbara Davis in 1984 for $20,250,000.

Mister and Missus Smidt also maintain an ocean front residence a few doors down for Pierce Brosnan on Malibu's quickly disappearing Broad Beach that they snatched up in early 2003 for $14,950,000.

Now children, keep in mind that at this poing this is all just just high-priced real estate rumor and gossip; We're just passing along a tidbit we heard from someone who plays in the same sandbox as all the Platinum Triangle real estate big mommas and mack-daddies. We wouldn't bet money on it but for all Your Mama really knows Mister and Missus Smidt plan to keep their Bev Park property to house their domestic staff.

aerial photo: Google

Jude Law Lists in London's Maida Vale

SELLER: Jude Law
LOCATION: London (Maida Vaile), U.K.
PRICE: £4,350,000
SIZE: 4-5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms*

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: About two years ago, two-time Oscar nominated British actor Jude Law and his on-again/off-again/on-again gal-pal Siena Miller picked up a £7-plus million property in North London's hoity-toity and star-studded Highgate neighborhood.

We don't know when or if Mister Law (and Miss Miller) moved into their big new house in Highgate  where some of the neighboring residences are owned by folks like supermodel Kate Moss, actor Clive Owens, pop star George Michael and veteran rock star Sting and wife Trudy Styler but thanks to an English informant we'll call Bree Tish we've learned that Mister Law has listed his four-floor, Grade II listed Georgian style house on the border between London's natty Maida Vale nabe and the even more posh St. John's Wood 'hood.

Online listings forwarded by Miss Tish show the asking price set at £4,350,000. A few quick clicks on Your Mama's trusty currency conversion contraption shows that equals $6,869,910 (U.S.) at today's rates.

According to Miss Tish, Mister Law's walled and gated residence sits on a very busy thoroughfare across from a high-rise social housing complex. Not the most elegant location but as anyone who'se ever lived in a major metropolitan area, urban living sometimes pushes the privileged up against the less financially fortunate.

Anyhoo, a good-sized gated and graveled motor court with what appears to be a single car garage in front provides enviably generous off-street parking and the rear garden extends a unusually deep 144-feet.

Listing information indicates the raised main floor contains an entrance hall with powder pooper and a double reception room, both filled with all sorts of interesting unusual objects like an over-sized Pez dispenser, an under-sized Foosball machine, a classic Eames lounger, lots of artwork both on the walls and leaning against the walls and scores of books stacked on just about every flat surface. The children will note that the decidedly eclectic decorative chaos is cleverly balanced by matching circular mirrors mounted above the simple fireboxes that anchor the outer wall of each room.

As best as Your Mama can tell from listing information, the partially subterranean lower ground floor contains a guest/staff bedroom, utility rooms, a family room with blood red walls and an all-glass garden view conservatory-style dining room furnished a giant farmhouse table. Also on the lower ground floor—we think—is a U-shaped kitchen with a country house meets city living vibe that's expensively outfitted with slate tile floors, crisp white Shaker style cabinetry, gleaming black granite counter tops, a white porcelain farmhouse style sink and high-grade stainless steel appliances. Regrettably the cabinets stop just shy of the ceiling, a ugly situation that creates a hard-to clean space ripe for growing buffalo sized dust bunnies.

Marketing materials and listing photographs suggest there are two guest/family bedrooms that share a bathroom/shower room plus a master suite with attached dressing room and en suite facility. It's not the low ceilings or the deep burgundy-colored walls in the master bedroom that make Your Mama most squeamish but rather all that stuff tucked up under the bed. If there's anything we loathe more than a lethal-looking pot rack in the kitchen it's a bunch of visible shit shoved up underneath a bed.

The affluent and centrally located Maida Vale neighborhood has long attracted high-profile Showbizzers. Some of the past and present residents with recognizable names include actor Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Victoria Secret bra and panty model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, wacky Icelandic singer Björk, brilliant comedienne Jennifer Saunders, The Cure's lipstick wearing front man Robert Smith and iconic actor John Inman.

*We're not 100% sure the actual count is four-to-five bedrooms and three-point-five bathrooms. We've come up with that number based on a careful parse of somewhat vague online marketing materials which aren't—as it turns our—terribly specific abotu such things.

listing photos: Ian Green Residential

Sunday, January 27, 2013

DEAR MISS COTE DE TEXAS: Help Me Find The Perfect House!!

  And, today, we have another question from a reader:
  Dear Miss Cote de Texas: thought I would reach out to you and perhaps inspire a post or even a series of posts, which selfishly might help me out :).
My family and I are going to be relocating to a new city. Yes it can be stressful but at the same time extremely exciting to think about the possibilities that await in a new home.
We are currently home owners, so it won't be our first time at the rodeo, but as an avid CdeT reader over the past few years I would love to get your thoughts on what to look for in a home. When we bought our current house a few years ago, I was pregnant with my first child and we were in a bit of a hurry to get settled. After looking at what felt like a million houses, we ended up buying a house that was right for the moment but one that we have grown out of as our family has gotten bigger and our children have gotten older. While I love this house for the many memories it has given us during the past few years, I have always felt ambiguous about it. Like I have never really been in love.
I am absolutely hoping to avoid that this time around and would love your advice on how to look and wh3t to look for. We constantly hear about the need for "great bones" and I know their are many cosmetic things that can be turn-offs or turn-ons. So what is really important? Once we get past the big things like neighborhood and mechanicals, where should we put our energy?
I thought this might be a question a lot of people could be interested in.  What makes a house have “good bones?”   
First – what you like in a house or why a house appeals to you is something very personal.  So, it’s hard for me to say – “buy this house” or “look for this in a house” – when it’s my taste and not yours.  Still, there are some things that I think are worth contemplating before buying a house. 
Do you want a new house or an old house?   I love older houses built in the 30s and 40s.  I love the smaller room sizes and that older houses aren’t open concept.  I love the kitchen not being in the middle of the family room.  I love a separate dining room and a nice entry hall.   And I love the mature landscaping that comes with an older house.  Yet, everything I described is exactly opposite of what I live with!   
If you want to buy a new house, I think there are some features that you should be careful to avoid if possible, which I will outline in detail.  And there are drawbacks to buying an older house – especially if  you prefer the open concept living which most older houses don’t have.  With an older house – unless it has been extensively renovated – you will have more maintenance issues than you would with a brand new house.  So, there are give and takes with each option.
 You seem to know about neighborhoods and schools, which are two of the more important factors when buying a house, although, as far as schools are concerned, there is always carpooling.  We never lived anywhere near where my daughter went school, and I carpooled her for years until she got her drivers license.  So, schools can be a flexible situation when buying a house.   But location or neighborhood is not flexible.  The wise man says, always buy the least expensive house in the most expensive neighborhood as opposed to buying the most expensive house in the not-so-ideal neighborhood.   For investment purposes, this is probably a good adage to follow. 
Once you find a neighborhood you like, the choice of a new house versus an older one will be made for you, unless you plan to buy a tear down and rebuild.  I looked around at houses for sale in Houston to find some that would appeal to me – from the outside, at least.
Look for a house with clean, simple lines and classic windows and doors.   I always am drawn to Georgians because they are so symmetrical looking.    Like this:
You can’t beat a house like this – with beautiful, classic proportions.  The windows are nicely placed and aren’t overwhelming.  Great front porch and mature landscaping.  A brick house is almost maintenance free, which is another thing to think about.  Here, the brick has been painted white – which is so pretty.    An older home is hard to beat from the outside. 
Another classic house with pretty windows.  It’s very symmetrical with an asymmetrical wing on the right that only adds to the charm.  Half wood shingles, half brick – the upkeep would be more labor intensive than an all brick house.  Pretty landscaping.
Gorgeous classic house, with beautiful wood windows.  It’s mostly brick, but there is some wood siding that would need painting every so often.   A house that looks like this is really hard to top.
This house is brand new but it is built to look old.  The proportions are excellent, the placement of the windows is perfect – and – unusual in a new home, no front loading garage!
Another brand new house that truly looks old.  Try to buy a house that an architect designed.  I would choose a house like this one above any day over a typical new one in the suburbs with much more square footage.   In so many of those new houses in the suburbs, they look like an architect never touched the plans.  Windows and doors are placed everywhere and anywhere with no sense of design.    The builders throw every element in the house, rather it’s appropriate to the design or not.  And, the houses end up a mess.   Worse, there’s no thought given to furniture placement.   This  house above is never going to “go out of style” or look like the decade in which it was built.  It will always look like a house in New Orleans.
Ranchburgers from the 50s and 60s can be wonderful.  Notice how symmetrical this design is.  Since it’s older, there is great curb appeal.  Such a pretty house!
While the door is a little off center (it makes me wonder if this was actually once a duplex and the other front door was removed) – this authentic bungalow has great appeal.  Isn’t this charming?   All wood, it would require maintenance, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from having a wonderful house like this.
Well.   This is a perfect example of a new suburban house built without much thought given to classic design principles.   There are some pretty things about this house, like the stone and brick, but there is just too much going on here.  It’s so off balanced looking – even the garages looks a little strange.  There’s a tin roof and a shingle roof and the window over the garage also seems off balance.  Instead of the front door being the focal point, the garage is.  This looks like two houses smushed together.  And it’s such a shame because this really could have been a beautiful house – if only it were more symmetrically designed and less lopsided looking.
Try to avoid turrets, especially those that make no design sense.
Many new houses have front loading garages.   So does my house.  I would give anything to not have it, but it is what it is.   This house is all garage.  If you have a front loading garage, try to make it more attractive and less a focal point.  Is there even a front door here?
Look at the non descript façade of the canal house that Brooke and Steve of Velvet and Linen bought.   The front loading garage was the focal point of the house.  But with a little ingenuity – the house was dramatically changed:
Yes, it’s the same house.  Pea gravel replaced the concrete driveway and carriage style garage doors replaced the plain, boring one.  Old shutters lead to the front door on the right.  New stone lined flowerbeds add to the curb appeal.   Just beautiful!  I showed this to Ben, hint-hint. 
Now that we’ve looked at the outside of houses – what constitutes “good bones” inside?
I like symmetry inside with a nice entry and a center hall, separate dining room and living room or library with a wood tread staircase to the second floor.  Ceiling height should be at least 9’ or 10’ or up to 12’ in a large house.  Any higher and you lose that intimate human scale that makes a house cozy and welcoming.     Surfaces can be changed – but if you don’t want to remodel or update a house, look for wood floors or a very neutral stone.   Tile floors can really date a house and wood is the most classic choice.   Try to find a house with one floor covering that runs throughout the main level.   If you choose a house with a classic façade, most likely the inside will be classic too – with lots of wall space and not a lot of superfluous windows everywhere.  
With kids, it’s great to have the master down and the children upstairs.  The most ideal set-up is a little study by the downstairs master that can first be used as a nursery if you are still in the baby stage.   A library or office is nice for children to have a place to do their homework in and keep the rest of house neater.  A laundry room is a must, as is a mud room where the children can keep all their coats and boots in one place when they come in from school.   A bathroom for each bedroom is a plus and will add to the value of your house.   Teenagers require their own space, so a playroom for little ones one day will give teens needed privacy. 
Here are some things to watch out for and avoid:  I would nix this above house for several reasons.  First, look how many different floor coverings there are in just this one area – carpet, stone and hardwood and tile!  Four!!!  Unless you plan to totally remodel, avoid this kind of situation.  Even if you did rip it all out it would cost a pretty penny to fix this if the slab isn’t flat underneath all these different floor coverings.   Try to find a house with  just one floor covering throughout the downstairs.   Look how jarring the stone looks against the wood – it cuts off the large entry, making it appear smaller.  This house would look so much better if it was just all wood.      Additionally, the stairs are carpeted.  With kids, this carpet would have to cleaned or replaced often, otherwise it would look terrible after a few years.  Look for stairs with wood treads.  AND, even if you take the carpet off, you still don’t have wood under this.  It would cost a fortune to redo these stairs, since the treads are plywood.   With small kids, it just best to find a house with wood treads.     Finally, notice the large niche above the built in.  Avoid houses with these kind of niches.  They are just dust collectors and serve no purpose at all. 
I would avoid a house like this – first, the tile is way too trendy looking. In a few years, you would probably get tired of it.  Look for quieter finishes – like wood or stone floors.  And notice the stairs.  Instead of leaving the risers wood, they installed a busy tile that fights the floor tile.  Another thing to avoid, those niches on the walls.   The only thing you would do with these niches is to place a series of paintings or prints there.  Avoid houses that dictate your interior design!   And finally, the open balcony over the entry – this would become an loud echo chamber.  ALWAYS avoid open balconies this large, especially with noisy children.
A pretty, classic entry.   Timeless.  Pretty front door.  Hardwood floors and stairs.  Simple iron railing.   Classic molding.  This is a room where nothing would need to be changed before you moved in. 
Look for – simple iron or wood railings.  Wood stairs and painted wood floors.  This entry is so much prettier with all the simple choices – instead of different flooring materials and busy looking stair rails.   Beautiful!
This is something I would avoid at all costs:  the upstairs overlooking the downstairs family room as shown here.    If the ceiling was just high or pitched, it would be nice – but with the open balcony like this, it is a disaster with active children or music loving teenagers.  The house will be an echo chamber.  I had a client with this situation and we had to go back in and close off the balcony at great expense to quiet the noise - and they only had two children.    They didn’t realize the issue with the noise until the night they moved into their beautiful new custom designed house.  The husband started looking at new houses one week later!!!  It was awful.  But, once we walled off the upstairs balcony, the sound level was tolerable.    Avoid a open balcony with a double height ceiling at all cost.   Don’t ask for this trouble if you can avoid it!!!!
And here we have the window issue – how would you hang curtains here?  Again, in a house with “good bones” you wouldn’t have this problem with the windows.  A house with good bones has pretty windows that were designed with thought.  I can only assume this homeowner was clueless how to hang curtains since there aren’t any.  I really wouldn’t know how to hang them either.  This is very important:  before buying a house – look at ALL the windows and ask yourself if you would know how to cover them.   If you can’t figure out what to do with the windows, walk away or bring your designer in to give an professional opinion.  I can’t tell you how many emails I get with pictures of windows like this – saying what do I do????
  Another house with bad windows.   Terrible windows actually.  What is that horizontal window over the fireplace for?  And windows over a fireplace?   Where’s the chimney?    Again, before buying a new house – look at all the windows.  And look at the walls.  Be sure there is enough room along a wall for your bed or sofa.    And if you have a lot of art work,  make sure there is enough wall space to hang your pictures. 
Classic wood windows and French doors are so much prettier than walls of plate glass windows.   Here, the raised ceiling isn’t too high and the beams help the room remain human scaled.   Compare this high ceiling with the high ceiling in the house before.   Which room looks friendlier, warmer, cozier?    This house is the epitome of a house with “good bones.”   From Classic Casual Home.
Here, again, the open balcony.   Imagine you have friends over and the kids are upstairs running up and down the hall with their friends.    Disaster.  This balcony is pretty, but avoid this unless you are a empty nester.    Again, this ceiling is so high, the room seems cold no matter how warm the decorator tries to make it.   It would be hard to feel cozy in this room.     Another thing to think about is the flatscreen.   Be sure you aren’t limited to putting your flatscreen only above the fireplace. 
Human scale.  This is a pretty house – with nice white walls and nice, dark hardwoods.  Yet, the ceiling is so high in this room, I can only imagine the echo in here.   Double height ceilinged rooms can be so hard to feel comfortable in.  There’s no sense of warmth or coziness in a room like this.  And, again, you have the open balcony that will carry all the upstairs noise right down into your family room and kitchen.  A classic house will have ceilings that relate to the human size. 
Not all high ceilings are bad.   Compare this room with the one before it.  Notice how the planks on the ceiling warm up the space and make it seem cozier.   Simple wood railings and treads – so pretty.  Also, there isn’t a large balcony overlooking the room, creating an echo chamber.  Instead, there is only a small section of landing.
When looking for a house, look for a more traditional fireplace mantel.  This would be expensive to remove and it’s a real eyesore.   Avoid gimmicks like this built in niche.   The simpler, the better.
A pretty wood mantel with marble surround is classic and tasteful.   Avoid the gimmicky looking mantels pretending to be either antique or from a ranch.
Pretty windows are things that make a house have good bones.  And French doors are hard to beat.  Also,  the ceiling in this family room is probably 9’ – instead of a two story ceiling.  The room is warm and inviting.   High ceiling rooms can be hard to furnish and they tend to make people feel more uncomfortable.  Cozy rooms are great for families to sit around, watch tv and cuddle.
Cozy family rooms with bookshelves, curtains, French doors, and normal ceiling heights.   Much more desirable than a large, cavernous room with high ceilings and balconies overlooking the space.  Pretty doors and windows. 
Make a library out of any room by flanking a sofa with built in bookcases.  Again, warm and inviting and cozy.   Pretty windows and woodwork.  Rooms don’t have to be huge.   Smaller scaled rooms invite a closeness that is missing in the massive rooms found today in many newer houses.   Think human scale.
The wood on the walls and ceilings is so warm and cozy looking.    These ceilings are tall – maybe 12’ – but the beams and wood planks keep it in scale with the human form.  Gorgeous doors. 
 Instead of regular doors – interior French doors are a charming and classic looking touch.  And instead of a home theater, chose a library where the children could work on their computers and study. 
Such pretty doors and nice wood paneling.  
  When looking at new houses, beware of the gimmicks thrown in to entice you.  Home theaters are great, if you have plenty of extra square footage.   But with young children – this space would be better suited as a study or a playroom.  Try not to be swayed by gimmicky rooms in new homes, like wine cellars or home theaters.   Look for studies and libraries and laundry rooms and mudrooms.  Rooms that you know you will use!
Unless you are a true wine connoisseur, don’t fall for the wine cellar or wine tasting rooms.  It’s a waste of space.  Think of the built in bars from the 50s and 60s that no one ever uses anymore.    You would use a wine cellar even less. 
Juliet balconies.  Avoid.  I love how the builder designed this.  Kidding.  Just awful.
  The dreaded tray ceiling.   I’m not sure when these got so popular, but so many of the new houses have these.   I have one in my master bedroom.    Try to limit your tray ceiling to just one tray, instead of two or three.   And if you have all of these trays, don’t draw your eye to them.   Paint them the same color as the walls, not a dark accent color.   That’s all you notice in this bedroom – the ceiling!!!   And again, the windows.  How in the world would you cover those 3 windows over the bed and what is the purpose of them?   Think about waking up each morning to the sun blaring down on your head.    And windows like these are low enough to interfere with your headboard choice.  Again, don’t limit your decorating choices before you even move in.  Take a good look at ALL the windows in the house before you buy a new house.  A classic house, with good bones, wouldn't have those windows, nor that ceiling. 
image  Pretty windows are the basis of “good bones” in a house.  These windows are perfect for the space.   They are well thought out and covering them with curtains is an easy task.
Disguise less than perfect windows with shades and curtains – like I did in my bedroom.  This is one long, but short window here.   Terrible.   By adding four drapery panels and one textured shade, I made it seem like there are three pretty windows here.  
Go for simple in the kitchen.   You’d get so tired of this stone and tile after a few years. 
Choose a quiet granite and backsplash over one with so much movement.    Keep the backsplash simple otherwise you’ll tire of it quickly.  No need to get fancy with backsplash designs.  A nice subway tile is classic.
A white kitchen with white marble and hardwood floors is so classic and soothing and beautiful.   You’d never get tired of this kitchen and hopefully, it’s timeless enough to last. 
This classic, old fashioned looking kitchen would look good forever.  Notice how both these kitchens took the backsplash up to the ceiling.  Don’t skimp on a pretty backsplash.   This beautiful subway tile makes the kitchen so luxurious as opposed to just a few rows of tiles.
If you don’t like all white – go for black countertops.  This Santa Fe kitchen is so beautiful.   There is a simple backsplash that doesn’t overpower the space but ties in the tiled floor.   The owner could have gone for a kitschy Santa Fe kitchen, instead she went for classic but with a southwestern vibe.  Love!
A kitchen doesn’t have to be huge to be functional.  Again, just a bit of design in the backsplash limited to behind the stove.   If your backsplash is busy looking, limit it to a small area.
This was a reader’s kitchen she sent in.  Black granite, white marble and subway tile – so classic and pretty.  You would never tire of this look.
Butcher block countertops and open shelving.  Timeless and ageless.
By adding a sitting area near the kitchen, this space is so inviting for children to do homework while mom cooks. 
Older homes often have enclosed sun porches which make good studies or play areas.  When the kids are teens, a space like this is perfect for offering them privacy with a friend or date. 
Instead of stone floors – think brick for warmth and a classic look.  And beams add so much warmth.  
Again, human scale.   Turn your dining room into a room that your family might use on a nightly basis instead of just once or twice a year.  Beams add such a wonderful touch.   If you can find a house with pretty beams, don’t pass it up.   Classic touches like these are hard to find.
Nooks and landings add charm to a house.   Most new houses have gotten away from spaces like this – but what a pretty landing.

This landing was turned into a study/tv room.   Again, perfect for teens who need a more private space away from parents.

Instead of that wine cellar – make sure you have a dedicated laundry room.   The bigger the better as far as I am concerned.  What a dream room!!  You’ll have better luck finding a big laundry room in a new house rather than an older one.  Just make sure the house has one.  Some new houses put the laundry on the second floor – you should figure out if that is something you would like when searching for your new house.    I’m more inclined to think a laundry room should be on the first floor, with a door to the outside.   Then, you can incorporate the mud room in with the the laundry room if need be.  You can also make the laundry room a pet center, a place to put the dog beds, bathe the pets in a big farm sink, keep their dog food there, etc.   And the laundry room, if on the ground floor, could double as a place to pot flowers and wash off after working in the yard, or for the kids – playing outside. 
And on the other side of the laundry above shows its large sink, a must in my opinion.  A big farm sink would be great for washing pets if you have them.    The table is for folding clothes and towels. 
Nice.    I would do anything for a big laundry room!  If you put in extra cabinetry, it could double as a butler’s pantry if you need one.  Put in an extra refrigerator to hold soft drinks for the kids. 
Miki Duisterhof 5
The laundry room can double as a potting shed.  Isn’t the vintage sink wonderful with the brass faucet with its patina??
Built in crate for the puppies is a good idea in the laundry room.  Though I don’t recommend crates!  Poor baby!!!!!!
If you have the room, add a separate mud room for the kids’ coats and shoes.  I like the idea of a sink in the mud room – to wash up before they come inside with dirty hands.  It looks like there is a built in step to the sink for the little ones.
These individual doors instead of open cubbies keep the mudroom clean looking.  This mom is really organized.  It looks like there’s a bulletin board of each locker for notes.
Each child gets his own space, hook, shelf, drawer, and basket.
Use individual lockers if you don’t want a cluttered look in your mudroom.  This is a great idea.   You could also buy a row of old school lockers to do the same thing.
Here instead of that home theater – create a room for your kids to study in.   Velvet and Linen turned a home office into a special place just for their children.   And again, a space like this could do double duty for a play space for friends when the kids are younger and teen aged.   
 It sounds like you have a lot of children, so I thought I would add pictures from a favorite blogger who homeschools.  She has the coolest “school” in her house that I’ve ever seen.   Her blog is August Fields here and I featured her kitchen a few years ago.   She has six children – 4 boys and 2 girls – and she is a real inspiration.   Here is the door to the homeschool.  It’s an old one that she cleaned up – love the bell and the lettering on the door. 
And, here is the main room!  Isn’t this adorable!?!!   She started homeschooling with her eldest child, who is now 11.  Even if you didn’t homeschool,  isn’t a room like this so much more valuable than a home theater?   It would make a wonderful playroom too.  Great ideas to think about when house hunting - vinyl floor for easy upkeep and cleaning, lots of storage space and shelves.   And notice the beautiful windows.  What a difference they make.     
Next to the front door is a wall of built-ins to hold all the school books. 
There’s a sink for easy clean-ups.  Great idea for home school rooms and playrooms.
Another great idea.  There’s a secret pass through in the kitchen backsplash that allows mom to peek into the school room.   Good idea for a playroom too.
AND - this is the most amazing thing – a water fountain for the kids!!   Mom says the kids love it and drink from it all day long, especially during the hot summer months.
  And finally, here’s one last idea from August Fields.  Her kids all share rooms – a girls room and a boys bunk room.   Here is the boys room with four bunk beds.  Each bed has its own light and shelf for books and toys.   These striped duvets are from West Elm, and Target carries them too.
The bunkrooms are something to think about.  I have no idea how many children you have, but bunking them together according to sex is a good way to save on space.  Instead of six bedrooms for all her kids, this mom uses just two bedrooms. 

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought when you go house hunting!    Send us some pictures when you get settled into your dream house!!
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