Sunday, June 30, 2013

RIcki Lake Lists Long Time L.A. Residence

SELLER: Ricki Lake
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $8,750,000
SIZE: (roughly) 5,226 square feet, 5-6 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Looks like somewhat newly (re-)married actress, Emmy winning daytime chat show hostess, and Dancing with the Stars alum Ricki Lake is on the move and has listed her long time home in L.A.'s tony Brentwood area with an asking price of $8,750,000.

Property records show Miz Lake purchased the Plantation-style residence in October 2002—just shy of a year before she and her first husband, Rob Sussman, parted romantic ways—for $5,600,000 from producer, sitcom star, and celebrity house flipper Courteney Cox (Friends, Cougartown).

Although listing details don't specify the square footage, the L.A. County Tax Man puts the low-profile two story residence at 5,226 square feet, a figure that may or may not reflect its actual size. Listing information also indicates there are six bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms, while the Tax Man shows six bedrooms and five full bathrooms. Listing details go on to show the existing house, all but hidden behind lush and mature semi-tropical foliage, high walls, and double driveway gates, was originally built in 1949 on a flat, .81 acre parcel on a famously star-lined street in Brentwood.

The central foyer has an ill-advised and unusually—uh—whimsical, lavender-toned polka dot paint treatment. Old-fashioned polished parquet wood floors extend in to the main living spaces, an interconnected clump of rooms that include a compact library, a narrow and essentially windowless central formal dining room, and a roomy formal living room that features a wood burning fireplace, a raised ceiling that may or may not be silver leafed—we can't tell, and several dramatically over-sized nine-over-nine sash windows.

A wide bank of paned glass panels glide open and disappear into the walls to connect the dining room with a sky-lit, open-concept family room and kitchen with dark wood floors, a carved stone (or poured concrete) fireplace mantel, several sets of French doors that open to an outdoor living room area, and a vaulted ceiling with deliciously chunky exposed wood beams. We're quite smitten with how Miz Lake—or her nice-gay or lady decorator—color coordinated the spines of her book collection in the built-in shelves that flank the fireplace since, well, Your Mama has a OCD-ish tendency to color coordinate the spines of our always expanding collection of mostly paperback books, too.

The family room merges with the spacious center island kitchen that appears upgraded and well-equipped with dark chocolate colored wood cabinetry, stone colored counter tops of unknown material, and the usual complement of high grade stainless steel appliances. However, that quilted stainless steel breakfast island with the glossy wood counter top and the quartet of sculptural, Eames/Brâncusi-esque stools? We're afraid all that amounts to a brazen breach of decorative good taste in Your Mama's utterly meaningless opinion. Anyways...

There are five bedrooms in the main house, according to listing information, including a second floor guest bedroom provided with a private exterior entrance that makes it ideal for staff, in-laws and/or house guests who, like our  our boozy b.f.f. Fiona Trambeau, have a rude tendency to sneak newly met paramours in the their host's home. A sixth bedroom is used by Miz Lake as a home office, as per listing details, and the spacious master suite is complete with sitting area, two fireplaces, and a luxury bathroom with twin sinks, stall shower, separate soaking tub, and radiant heated floors.

It may be a bit cliche to say but the grounds really are pretty park-like with lushly landscaped courtyards, broad sweeps of verdant lawn dotted with mature shade trees, and an open air dining pavilion with built-in outdoor kitchen/barbecue.

The swimming pool and spa are set well away from the house along with an itty-bitty cottage that could be used for any number of purposes including housing gravely flatulent house guests. Listing photographs indicate Miz Lake utilized the free-standing hut-like cabana as an fitness room with a few free weights, a couple of body firming exercise contraptions, a yoga mat, and a portable dry sauna that barely looks big enough for  one person let alone two or more.

Miz Lake's mini-estate sits on one of the more coveted lanes in quietly but decidedly affluent Brentwood where other home owners include Maria Shriver, Arianna Huffington, Lindsay Buckingham, and Betty White. Property records show Tobey Maguire and his Tinseltown pedigreed jewelry designer wife, Jennifer Meyer Maguire, still own the still vacant lot just down and across the street for Miz Lake's spread that they scooped up in early 2008 for $10 millon.

listing photos: Partners Trust

Friday, June 28, 2013

In Case You Didn't Hear: Lady Gaga

According to the celebrity gossips at Life & Style via the hard-charging kids at Curbed, international pop music entertainer Lady Gaga has inked a deal to rent a deluxe duplex penthouse on New York City's high-fallutin' Central Park South. The aerie, atop a decidedly luxurious but unassuming 1940s gray brick apartment block, was last listed at $22,000 per month and has unobstructed views that sweep over the entirety of Central Park.

Listing details show Mother Monster's new—if temporary—crib in the Big Apple has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two wood burning fireplaces—living room and master bedroom, and four terraces in 1,935 square feet. There's a step-down living room with balcony, a separate dining room also with balcony, and a small but expensively-outfitted U-shaped kitchen. The lower level bedroom links through to a compartmentalized guest bathroom and the upper level master suite includes a good-sized private bathroom, a walk-in closet, and direct access to spacious pair of park and city view terraces.

Several months ago the property gossip gal at the New York Post revealed that at least three other Showbizzers have previously occupied the penthouse: disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tony winning Broadway bigwig Michael Bennett, and Liza "with a Z" Minelli.

The full-service luxury building does not have a private health club but it does offer its well-heeled rental residents an attended lobby with full time doormen and concierge services and a private, on-site garage, a rare feature in Manhattan that was—no doubt—quite desirable for a gal who's frequently if not always trailed by a band of fervent Little Monsters and snap-happy paps who would—no doubt—gleefully follow their pop cultural leader into the damn stirrups if they could.

exterior photo: Kate Leonova for Property Shark
listing photos and floor plan: Essential New York Real Estate

Adam Levine Quietly Unloads in the Hollywood Hills

SELLER: Adam Levine
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $3,550,000
SIZE: 2,045 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Your Mama has twice now heard—first from an anonymous tipster and then from The Bizzy Boys at Celebrity Address Aerial—that tatted up Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine—who moonlights as a coach on The Voice—quietly unloaded his Mark Haddawy decorated bachelor pad above L.A.'s Bronson Canyon to a couple of non-celebs for $3,550,000.

Property records show the three-time Grammy winning singer/songwriter picked up the property in November 2005 for $3,195,000. If the children put on their thinking caps they may recall that way back in September (2012) our uncannily connected informant Betty Butterlips snitched to Your Mama that Mister Levine had furtively floated his completely re-worked 1940s ranch style residence in the Hollywood Hills on the off-market market with an asking price in the high three millons.

In case any of y'all missed it, the house and all its sophisticated fittings and impressively pedigreed mid-century modern furniture was featured in the March 2012 issue of the increasingly celebrity-centric Architectural Digest.

Listing details from 2009 when Mister Levine put the modestly sized 2,045 square foot house out for least at ten grand a month describe the house as having three bedrooms (plus a separate guest unit) and four bathooms while the A.D. article reveals the most recent overhaul by Mister Haddawy reduced the bedrooms in the main house to just one. For the record, the L.A. County Tax Man shows the property has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. 

A terrace that meanders along the back of the house has an outdoor fireplace and sweeping views over Hollywood. A curvaceous stairway twists and turns down the hillside to a roomy, semi-circular terrace where Mister Levine replaced a glorious and quintessentially Tinseltown oval-shaped swimming pool with a much smaller, plunge-sized rectangle pool and adjoining spa.

Last October (2012) the 30-something year old model-dating playa dropped $4,380,000 for a gated mini-compound in a discreet gated enclave above Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills (CA). Your Mama has repeatedly heard Mister Levine immediately embarked on a significant overhaul of the house and property and iffin we were the betting type—and we most certainly are not—we'd wager both our long bodied bitches, Linda and Beverly, that the renovations wear spear headed once again by Mister Haddawy.

photos: Roger Davies for Architectural Digest

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Owlwood (semi-)Officially Listed

Last July Your Mama repeated the white hot and quietly wide spread Platinum Triangle real estate rumor that the famous Owlwood compound in Los Angeles's supremely hoity toity Holmby Hills area was surreptitiously being shopped to qualified buyers with—according to our well-connected informant Lenny Lemmetellya, at least—a knee-knocking asking price of around $150,000,000.

Well, children, thanks to a eagle eyed snitch we'll call Ben d'Yourear, it's come to Your Mama's attention that the undeniably epic Owlwood compound has popped up on The Agency's website with an asking price that is "On Request" and a link to a password protected virtual tour. Your Mama requested the asking price and password from lead listing agent and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills husband Mauricio Umansky* but we have a sneaking suspicion he's not to keen to cough up the digits and details.

Whatever the actual price, the 10-ish acre, triple-gated and fully-landscaped estate includes a newly built gate house on Sunset Boulevard capable of monitoring the entire estate. The approximately 12,000 square foot Italian Renaissance-style main mansion was originally designed by noted architect Robert Farquhar and built in 1936 for Florence Quinn, the well-to-do ex-wife of department store magnate and real estate mogul Arthur Letts, Jr.

Owlwood was later owned by a long list of Los Angeles luminaries including 20th Century Fox founder Joseph Schenk, oilman William Keck, and actor Tony Curtis. Curtis sold the house in 1974 for about $750,000 to Sonny and Cher who flipped it to a carpet tycoon in 1976 for about $950,000. The carpet tycoon sold Owlwood in the late '70s to a flamboyant businessman named Ghazi Aita.**

Mister Aita acquired the estate next door, often referred to as the former home of water baby Esther Williams and where the estate's swimming pool and recreation complex are now located. After several years on the market Owlwood was sold in 2002 to Mister and Missus Arnall. The real estate balling couple simultaneously acquired a third adjacent estate, originally built for crooner Rudy Vallée. The mansion was later owned by pin up babe Jayne Mansfield and beau-hunky actor Mickey Hargitay, the parents of Law & Order queen bee Mariska Hargitay. It was Miz Mansfield who gave the mansion it famously pink paint job. Mister and Missus Arnall, who bought the house from singer Engelbert Humperdinck, razed the Pink Palace and in its place put a mini-mall sized parking lot.

We're not entirely sure how much Mister and Missus Arnall paid for the three properties that comprise Owlwood but most reports and online resources put the total somewhere between 30 and 35 million big ones. We may not know what the Arnall's paid for Owlwood, but public records reveal the Widda Arnall shelled out a stroke inducing $470,553 and 64 damn cents in property taxes in 2012. And that, children, doesn't even include the extraordinary sum most certainly required to maintain and operate an estate of this magnitude.

What Your Mama wants to know is why hasn't Formula One Racing heiress and 20-something year old real estate baller Tamara Ecclestone already snatched this trophy property up? Sure, the main house isn't but a fraction of the size of her younger sister's Petra's 56,000 square foot behemoth around the corner that she bought from Candy Spelling for $85 million. But, at least as far as Your Mama is concerned, the pedigree of Owlwood alone more than makes up for its smaller size. Are we wrong?

Any of the children who want more dish, dirt and details about Owlwood should have a look-see at the above video from when the estate was on the market in the early Aughts and/or snag a copy of Michael Gross's exhaustively researched book Unreal Estate.

*In addition to Mister Umansky, Owlwood is being repped by Agency agents Ann Dashiell and Jeeb O'Reilly

**The Hollywood Reporter described Mister Aita as "shadowy" and this blog, maintained by Mister Aita's former estate manager, claimed in 2009 the "shadowy" Mister Aita was "Hawking Cigars and Jewerly [sic] online." 

listing photo: The Agency

Model Niki Taylor Lists Bucolic Spread in Brentwood, TN

SELLER: Niki Taylor (and Burney Lamar)
LOCATION: Brentwood, TN
PRICE: $1,450,000
SIZE: 4,719 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Model and spokesperson Niki Taylor may have grown up in Florida and traveled the world many times over during her salad years as a model and spokesperson but for more than a decade she's called a couple of the more affluent and star-studded semi-rural suburbs south of Nashville, TN home.

A wholesome, all-American looking professional model since the age of 13, Miz Taylor appeared on the cover of Seventeen at 14, at 15 she popped up on the cover of Vogue, and at 16 she was named to People magazine's list of 50 Most Beautiful People. She went on to shill for CoverGirl, prance the cat walk for scads of top designers like Chanel and Calvin Klein, and pose in skimpy bathing gear for several Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. As a well-compensated spokeswoman, she's shaken her tall, svelte and famously beauty-marked money maker for a slew of high profile brands such as Liz Claiborne, Gap, L'Oréal, and Pantene. In 2005 she opened a now shuttered fashion boutique (Abbie and Jesse's) in Franklin (TN) that she named after her two pooches; in 2008 she was a judge on the first season of Make Me a Supermodel; and in 2011 she popped up on The Celebrity Apprentice.

In October 2004—about the time she busted up with flat ironing country king Keith Urban—Miz Taylor paid $1,325,000 for a bucolic, six-ish acre spread in Brentwood (TN) that a local birdie recently chirped to Your Mama is up for sale with an asking price of $1,450,000. As it turns out, Miz Taylor and her second husband, NASCAR driver and airplane pilot Burney Lamar, have had the fenced and gated property with its red brick Cape Cod Colonial style home on the market since at least last August (2012) when it was listed with an in-hindsight rose-tinted $1,750,000 price tag.

The two story home, located on a picturesque country lane about 20 minutes south of downtown Nashville, is approached along a long, gated driveway that makes a sinuous curve up to the front of the house and around to the side where there's an attached three car garage. Current listing information shows the two story residence was built in 1997 and measures 4,719 square feet with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.

There are dark wood floors—and rather upsetting flesh-colored walls—throughout most of the lower level public rooms that include a grand, double-height foyer and formal living and dining rooms, the former with built in book cases that flank a red brick fireplace. A well-equipped eat-in kitchen has custom cabinetry that stops short of the high ceiling, high quality stainless steel appliances, and a copper pot laden pot rack that hangs ominously over a center work island.

The master suite is on the main floor while the upper floor has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a loft lounge and a gigantic, 600-plus square foot recreation room above the garage.

The back of the house opens to a deep screen porch that overlooks a plaza-sized brick and concrete patio where there's a built-in barbecue station tucked under a shed roof. The patio gives way to a broad swathe of open land ringed by mature trees. There appears to be some sort of fenced livestock pasture but there does not appear to be a barn or—somewhat surprisingly—a swimming pool or spa.

Listing photos show the house has been entirely cleared of the Taylor-Lamar family furnishings and personal belongings. Presumably Miz Tayler, Mister Lamar and their two toddler children—Miz Taylor also has 18 year old twins from her first marriage—have decamped to a single story farmhouse they custom built on a much smaller piece of property just about 800 feet down the road from their old house. Property records show Miz Taylor acquired the vacant property back in 2009 for $390,000.

In 2006 the Miz Taylor sold the 47+ acre estate Franklin, TN she once owned with Keith Urban for $1.2 million and, in addition to her current Brentwood residential holdings, property records show she still owns a modest 1,193 square foot townhouse-type residence in Franklin, TN that she picked up in May 2002 for $127,000.

listing photos: Brentview Realty Company

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

UPDATE: Bill Gates

SELLER: Bill and Melinda Gates
LOCATION: Hobe Sound, FL
PRICE: $6,600,000
SIZE: 9,458 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: It was South Florida-based celebrity and society gossip Jose Lambiet who first let the real estate cat out of the bag about zillionaire software super-mogul Bill Gates and his wife Melinda shelling out $8.7 million for an equestrian estate in a gated enclave in the horsey community of Wellington, FL.

Well, children, turns out the horsey spread in Wellington isn't the only Sunshine State property that Mister and Missus Gates currently own. At least not according to a well-connected snitch we'll call Wendy Whistleblower who whispered to Your Mama via covert communique that in August 2009 the Washington State-based couple quietly coughed up $5,000,000 for well-maintained mini-mansion in sleepy but swanky Hobe Sound, FL.

Lo and behold, using an address supplied by Miz Whistleblower, Your Mama almost immediately discovered the Hobe Sound residence in question, the one Miz Whistleblower says is owned by Bill and Melinda Gates,* is actually for sale on the open market—and has been since January 2012—with an asking price of $6,600,000.

Current listing details describe the single story mini-mansion as a "Spectacular European villa" that sits on 5.24 mostly mangroved acres with 200 feet of direct frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway. Listing details go on to indicate the mansard-roofed manse was built in 2003 with four bedrooms and seven full and two half bathrooms in 9,458 square feet of recently refreshed interior space replete with sand and terra-cotta-colored checkered marble floors, high ceilings with thick crown molding, and an impressive amount of custom cabinetry and mill work **

A center hall foyer flanked by a wood-paneled library and a formal dining room stretches deep into the house where it opens in to an immense, stone tile floored formal living room with a weirdly wee fireplace. Three sets of wood-framed glass doors open to the outdoors and another set opens in to an airy, window-ringed room with a soaring wood plank lined ceiling and a dark-bottomed indoor swimming pool. Terraces, patios and loggias that line the rear of the residence give way to a flat patch of grass sliced by a brick path that leads to a raised wooden walkway that becomes a permanent dock as it extends out over the shimmering Intracoastal. Other notable features include an expensively equipped center island kitchen, a spacious laundry room with dual washers and dryers, and a water view master suite with dual bathrooms.

Some of the children may recall that, as of yesterday, Your Mama was only aware of two private homes owned by Mister and Missus Gates: the newly purchased horse place in Wellington and their 50,000 square foot lake front super-compound in Medina (WA). Since then it's come to our attention that Mister and Missus Gates maintain a healthy handful of high-maintenance luxury properties.

The couple has been widely reported to belong to the Yellowstone Club, a frightfully expensive,*** members only golf and ski community in Big Sky, MT where other members include the likes of politicos Dan Quayle and Bill Frist, Beverly Hills businessman Burt Sugarman and his celebrity gossip journalist wife Mary Hart, parking lot mogul and much-maligned former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, and media, entertainment, and tech world power player Peter Chernin, to name but a few.

Since the summer of 1999 the the Gates have also owned a sprawling 13,573 square foot residence on 1.33 acres that backs up to a Tom Fazio-designed golf course at the guard-gated and ultra-posh Vintage Club in Indian Wells, CA. Property records and other online resources indicate they paid $12.5 million for their deluxe desert digs through a trust that familiarly links back to Mister Gate's father's law offices in Kirkland (WA). According to property records and other online resources, some of the other big-rich home owners at The Vintage Club include: influential businessman Kent Kresa; Texas-based beer and banking tycoon Bud Dillard's widow, Kay; Louisiana energy mogul William Doré; bajillionaire industrialist and conservative political activist Charles Koch; French paper pasha Jacques Lejeune; the late Austrian industrialist Friedrich Flick's multi-billionaire widow Ingrid; agro-industrialist Cargil MacMillan's multi-billionaire widow Donna; and Las Vegas casino owner Faye Johnson.

*For the record, Your Mama can't link Mister or Missus Gates specifically to the Hobe Sound estate in question but a perusal of property records reveals the posh pad is indeed owned through a corporate concern that, like many of Mister and Missus Gates' real estate holdings, links directly back to Mister Gates' father's law offices in Kirkland, WA. The same corporate entity, as it turns out, also owns a whole mess of ranch land—several hundred acres, at least—north of Denver along the Front Range Urban Corridor in and around the communities of Berthoud and Loveland. 

**For the record, the Martin County Tax Man shows the house has five bedrooms and six bathrooms in  7,278 square feet.

***The New York Times reported in June 2009 that members cough up a minimum of a quarter million dollars to join the club, spend another $5-35 million to buy and/or build a house, and are saddled with what otherwise sounds quite reasonable $20,000 in annual dues.

listing photos: Waterfront Properties and Club Communities

Cote de Texas VS Anonymous


One of the most discussed and frustrating aspects of this blog has been the Comment Section.  Judging by the numbers of people who read the blog (over 88,000 per month) by far, the great majority of you never leave a comment nor even read the Comment Section.  But, there is a small group of people who do frequently comment – loyal readers all, some of whom leave a comment on every single blog story.    After last week’s story – where over 150 comments were left – some of which were quite rude – I received many emails asking about what can be done to stop the rudeness and the bullying. 

So, I thought I would tackle this discussion once and for all and hopefully, we can all move on from it.

There are several ways to leave a comment – some readers are registered with either a gmail account or their registered name.  But for those without a gmail account, the easiest way to leave is a comment is by being “anonymous.”

Many of these anons will actually sign their name at the end of their comment so that we will know who they are.  But,  there are others who sign in as Anonymous, leave no name and they remain truly Anonymous by choice.

And there in lies the problem. 

Most of those who are Anon are great commenters.  They are respectful and kind, leaving words of encouragement, thanks, and appreciation.  But, there are the very few Anons who aren’t respectful nor kind, nor thankful, nor appreciative.   These few Anons can be downright mean, condescending, and ugly.   They are rude to homeowners and guest designers who are nice enough to show their houses on the blog and they are rude to me – about my house, my family, and my aesthetic.  The truth is, they don’t really bother ME.  My skin is thick and I can take the criticism from them, but, it’s the homeowners and guest designers that are disrespected here which truly bothers me and other readers. 

Understand this - there is only a handful of Anons that are the issue. 

Many have asked  – why do I allow it to continue?  The answer is there is no simple solution.  If I banned Anonymous comments, I would ban an awful lot of totally innocent people who just don’t happen to have a gmail account or who don’t wish to leave their name.   To ban all of the many innocent people who post under Anonymous just because of the very few troublesome Anons is just not fair.  

I could moderate the comments – in other words - not allow any comments to be posted on the blog until I have read them first.  I have been reluctant to do this for this reason:   If I got only a few comments – moderating would be an easy task.  But, usually the comments average at least 50 a story and sometimes as many 150 and even over 200.   Moderating a busy Comment Section would be a full time job, which I just don’t have the extra time to do. 

Another solution would be to just delete the nasty comments after they are posted – but by the time I would catch them, many have seen the comment and responded to it, thus rendering the deletion moot.   Again, if I got only a few comments a day, deleting would be a viable choice.  But then, there would be accusations of censorship.

And there is this – as bad as the few nasty Anons can be – they are also smart and quite humorous at times.  Many times they have good suggestions and they can be quite entertaining. Sometimes they say things or complain about something that we probably all agree with, but won’t say aloud.   As much as I would love the nasty Anons to disappear altogether, they do challenge me and keep me honest and in check.  They have a BS detector and when it is directed at me – it can be quite valuable.   But other times – when they are rude to guest decorators and homeowners – I want to round them up and give them a spanking or wash their mouths out with soap!

 I have also been asked why I don’t just block these mean Anons or why I haven’t “outed” them if I know who they are, since I have hinted at this for a while.   First, I can’t block individual people.   Second,  I do have a way of tracking who visits the blog and who leaves comments – through their IP Address.  So, if I know who they are, why not “out” them?    Because while I am convinced I know their correct identity, IP addresses are not infallible and there is a chance I could be wrong.   That’s why. 

The nasty Anons can be like schoolyard bullies – once they get our attention, they start to show off and can misbehave, badly.    Yet, most days, these same few obnoxious Anons can be quite well behaved.  They usually tend to get rambunctious when I show a house by a young or unknown designer – and then all hell breaks loose.   These two or three or four Anons will post comment after comment after comment – enraging everyone with their words.  Sparring with them only spurs them on and makes them leave even more comments.   It’s best not to engage them, not to answer them.  Like the playground bully, if you don’t interact with them, they will go somewhere else to get the reaction they crave.   Still, I admit, I am the most guilty of this interaction and answer them too much.   Usually, I just want to set the record straight or I want to defend the guest designer and homeowner.

Why am I talking about this at all?   Like I previously said,  all the mean commenting by a few Anons came to a head  last week.   I showed a house done by a relatively new local designer.  I LOVED the house.  LOVED it.  And most of you did too.  But, the few mean Anons really outdid themselves.   Over 150 comments were left – most of which was everyone arguing with these Anons.  Enough is enough.

I ask ONE thing of all commenters.  If there is a guest designer or a homeowner on the blog – PLEASE be respectful.   Imagine that you are touring the house with the designer or homeowner – don’t leave a comment that you wouldn’t say to their face on that home tour.   That’s all I ask!! 

I don’t mind, and I even encourage you to ask questions about the design process.   By doing so, we can all learn something.   I only ask that you be respectful.    There’s a nice way and a rude way to ask a question or to state an opinion.  





For example –last week there were questions asked about the dark beams in the entry hall ceiling dome.   Some readers asked why the beams were added and why they were so dark.  The homeowner was gracious enough to answer these questions. 

She wrote:

 As for why the ceiling beams are dark...we actually contemplated making them a weathered lighter wood vs the dark that they are, but if you come to visit you will immediately agree and understand why we choose the darker wood...we have large double wood front doors in the same color scheme as well as other accents in the home such as the family room fireplace mantel and kitchen island that are the same.”


The questions and comments about the beams were valid.  I don’t mind AT ALL when people question design decisions that we can all learn from.   And this was a perfect example of that.   The question was asked and answered – both respectfully.



There were also comments about the settee in the entry hall – some wondered if there was enough head room for a person to sit there.  Again, the homeowner answered:


“For the settee, you will not hit your head sitting on it unless you are a giant ;) Amanda did a wonderful job making this a home, that we now love, to raise our family in.”


 Again, question asked and answered, respectfully.



Things got out of hand over the  discussion about the use of Restoration Hardware’s  “capital” tables versus antique ones – which Ginger Barber had used in a similar way – as I showed in a picture.   The Anons really hated that the designer had used Restoration Hardware furniture.  Here are a few of the comments about the RH tables:


“Yes, they are expensive, shockingly so for what they are. For the same money, the homeowner could have bought a more timeless piece rather than one that in a few years will be declared passe' like all of the other junk being hawked by RH at the moment. Perhaps the owner wanted RH. That piece of information has not be established. If, however, the young decorator recommended it, then the homeowner got poor advice. Now if one wanted to put a moat in their living room so that children can run around playing on it, then the capitals might have been the right idea.”


Again the homeowner kindly answered:


“My husband and I are in our early 30's and when we traveled we were still saving money to pay for school instead of collecting antiques as I wish. We also have two young children who still love to do cartwheels, draw on furniture, and play sword fights so I'm sure if we had antiques displayed they would be in crumbles in a matter of seconds ;)”


Though the question about the tables WAS a valid one, the Anon was very rude, yet, still the homeowner politely  answered.  The discussion about RH didn’t stop with her answer.  It went on and on with rude comments made about her children.    It did get me thinking though – is it true that if “the young designer recommended ‘RH' tables, then the homeowner got poor advice?”

Really - why - I thought?  Is it poor advice to recommend Restoration Hardware furniture to a client?  I had a real problem with that.  First, those RH tables are solid and functional, while the ones that Barber used, the true antiques, don’t seem nearly as functional as coffee tables, nor as safe for young children to be around. 


I commented:

“ I buy a lot of things from RH and so do Big Named Designers. You don't like those tables, I get that. Ok I do.   The owners do. That's why people's houses look different.”


Well, Anon didn’t like that answer one bit!!!

 He challenged me: 


“Name one "big name designer" that would put their name on anything currently in the RH catalog? Name one! You can't.”


So, I answered:

“Oh, I certainly can. I was told about this house where the source for the sofas was RH. I can't say who it was - call me a liar. I wouldn't have said it without having proof.”


So, he called me a liar because I didn’t want to the name the “Big Name Designer.”  Actually  - I was given pictures of a house designed by a “Big Name Designer” where the sofas were indeed from RH.  I just didn’t feel right about naming the designer, since he hadn’t sent me the pictures himself.  But, that wasn’t good enough for Anon.


He told me:  


“Indeed you can't name one or you would. So we are to trust your say so here because you are desperate to make a point. If you truly know a "Big Name Designer" as you referred to them who uses RH, please tell us who that designer is or don't make up convenient truths..”


A few people stuck up for me (thank you!) and talked about a house that was just shown in House Beautiful where indeed a “Big Name Designer” had used Restoration Hardware.  Even that wasn’t good enough for Anon.  He raised the bar higher.  Even though he said I couldn’t name one “Big Name Designer” who would ever put their name on something from RH – Shubel’s was an exception for a myriad of reasons that he cited below: 


“The Stephen Shubel house was lovely, but what you failed to mention and what is evident from the pictures is that Shubel did not use catalog and on line sources exclusively. He has used a bare minimum of these pieces in rooms where they are sat amongst finer pieces of furniture, beautiful wall coverings, fabric and rugs. Therein lies the difference. For instance, he pairs beautifully the Crate and Barrel dining chairs, with a pair of antique chairs and the West Elm cube benches draped in simple linen are featured in front of a beautiful window treatment as well as wall treatment. This is both a clever and wonderful way to incorporate pieces that a homeowner has selected not only for style but to minimize cost. What Shubel did not do is deliver a truck load of exclusively catalog and online sources and say "job done."


But – the truth is - neither did THIS designer.  She mixed in things both new and things old that the clients had, like their mirror and the dining room table.  It wasn’t all bought from a catalogue, nor was it all bought from RH.  And the homeowner didn’t want antiques. 

Still, I thought more about this issue.  I know a lot of designers DO use Restoration Hardware.  I know I do, but I’m not a “Big Name Designer.”  So I decided to look at House Beautiful’s recent issues and see exactly if other designers used RH or do they only use custom furniture - hand made pieces designed only for their client, along with priceless antiques.   Because – let’s face it – unless it’s handmade or custom or antique – it comes from a catalogue on a truck and most companies now take orders online.

And, let me say this – I was surprised how easy it was to find Restoration Hardware pieces in House Beautiful stories, also in Elle Décor and Architectural Digest.    I even found the dreaded “capital” tables!

So, Anon, here are just a few “Big Name Designers” who readily put their name on items from Restoration Hardware.




You may remember this beautiful house shown in House Beautiful last September.  Designed by the “Big Name Designer” Benjamin Dhong, the house is located in San Francisco and is owned by a single Englishman who wears bespoke suits and drives an Aston Martin.  Dhong says he loves contrasts and he likes houses that mix the high with the low.  He finds rooms filled with only expensive and pretty things to be “vulgar.”    Yet, his designs – even with a plethora of online sources – look exceeding luxe. 



The dining room is a mix of high and low – as are all these rooms.  Here, pricey wallpaper hangs on the walls, while carpet remnants!! stitched together cover the floor.  Vintage chairs from Tara Shaw sit with a Knoll table top and Julian Chichester table base.



The table? Antique?  Nah – it’s just Oly Studio – a company defined by its online accessibility.



Let’s take this room.  The guest room.  The bed is new, made to look like a Chippendale design – from Ceylon et Cie.  The carpet?  Inexpensive seagrass.  The table?  Inexpensive catalogue Jonathan Adler.  The wallpaper – the most expensive there is – De Gournay.  The chair?  Yep!  The dreaded Restoration Hardware. 




Another picture of the glorious guest room. 




The living room in the house has expensive wallcovering and a Starke rug.




And along one side of the living room, there is a Tara Shaw repro Swedish chair hidden underneath a – horrors! –Z Gallerie throw!  (I actually bought that same throw for my niece’s bedroom.)




And, here, the main seating area of the dressy living room,  is the slipcovered Restoration Hardware sofa with two copies of the famous Egg chair.  Gosh! Restoration Hardware in the living room?????  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Antique chair is mixed with a desk from – Restoration Hardware!




Oh lord!!!!!!  Oh no!!!!!!!  The dreaded Restoration Hardware “Capital” table.  I had to laugh when I saw this picture.  This table – which the nasty Anons ridiculed to death – shown here in House Beautiful, in a house designed by the uber chic Benjamin Dhong – a highly regarded and respected “Big Name Designer” – well, well, well.  And two RH chairs flank the Capital table.   In the breakfast room, there are chairs from Design Within Reach.  The rug?  West Elm. 

Hmmm.  Did Dhong just order a truck load of furniture from catalogues and have it delivered?  Well yes.  But he did add some expensive wall treatments and art work in the mix, along with a few pricey vintage pieces – all easily affordable to the bespoked dressed Englishman.  Maybe a family, not quite as liquid, could start out with the basics and add to it over the years?    Is that a lazy designer – who provides a good solid base for the family to grow into as children age and bank accounts grow?   For shame, Anon!!!



Another view of the family room and the Capital table and chair from RH.  I think Anon owes last week’s designer and homeowner an apology.  Don’t you????




Here is the living room shown last week with two of the RH Capital tables – which I love.  Will the homeowners and designer add more to the room as time goes by?  Maybe or maybe not.  They might like the room just as it is now, or they may want to add a pricey antique chair or table in here one day.  I like the room just as it is.


And another house:


This month House Beautiful showed two houses with Restoration Hardware merchandise, but one was not designed by a “Big Name Designer” – and I already showed it a few weeks ago.  The second house WAS designed by the VERY “big name designer” Stephen Shubel which was discussed earlier by a commenter.  The house is on a few acres in the Sonoma wine country.    According the Shubel, the owner found cheaper versions of furniture he had picked out.  Much was bought online and from catalogues.  NO!!!!!!  What a LAZY designer!!!!  The chandelier here is from Curry and Company – the same company that our guest designer, Amanda Carol, used in her designs.  The sofa – Restoration Hardware.  The white table by Oly Studio is a homage to one by John Dickinson – which Shubel probably wanted, but  this was a cheaper version of that.  While the original table probably cost over  $8000, the copy is so much cheaper.  Do you really need the original to get the same look?  Shubel obviously didn’t think so.  Hmmm.  Really?   Use a copy instead of the original?   What BAD advice Shubel gave these homeowners!!!  They should ask for a refund!!



Another view of the living room – shows Restoration Hardware’s copy of a French chair – upholstered in both a print and a plain fabric.  Wow!  Just what Amanda Carol did with HER client’s chairs.  Amazing.  Pillows are both custom and Z Galleries.  Mirror tables from West Elm.  Actually – there is nothing antique or pricey in this room at all.  It’s all new and mostly inexpensive.   Much was ordered from catalogues and came delivered on a truck.  And yet- here is the house, shown in prestigious House Beautiful.



Dining room chairs are a mix of vintage and Aidan Gray.  Chandelier – Oly Studio.




The guest room has bedding by Z Gallerie and nightstands from Aidan Gray.  The stools are 19th century – the only pricey item in the room.




The master bedroom has stools from  Wisteria and the bed is from, yes, Restoration Hardware.  Mixed with a Stark rug, the room looks more custom than catalogue – yet besides the rug it IS all catalogue.  So lazy.  Such bad advice!  Why did House  Beautiful even publish this house???? 

I hope you realize I am using sarcasm here.



In the garage turned into pool house – Serena and Lilly ottomans mix with the Restoration Hardware sofa and Shades of Light chandelier.

So, is Shubel a lazy designer for turning to catalogues and online stores?  No!  But our guest designer was called that for doing the same exact thing.  Go figure.



And yet another:


In House Beautiful last November “Big Name Designer” Thom Filicia showed off his lake house.  Most was decorated using his own very reasonably priced furniture line – for Vanguard.



But he filled in places with Restoration Hardware – like this light fixture, which I love!




And this light fixture.  He also used a RH mirror over the fireplace.


And yet, another example:


In November 2011, “Big Name Decorators” and hot duo Parrish Chilcoat and Joe Lucas used Restoration Hardware’s leather chair in this living room owned by a professional hockey player. 



For his outdoor living space, Restoration Hardware provided all the seating, except for the Ikea deck chair.  Ikea??!!!




My favorite blogger and designer Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen chose Restoration Hardware curtains in this house she decorated. 



and in the living room too  -  Restoration Hardware curtains.



And in the fabulous dining room – Restoration Hardware chairs  - hosts in leather.  Gorgeous!   Don’t the basket lights make the room?




And in this dining room shown  last week – the host chairs remind me of the ones Brooke chose.  Beautiful!


And so, I think we can put to bed the comments about ordering from catalogues and Restoration Hardware – and whether “Big Name Designers” order from   RH too.  They do.  I can’t tell you how many times Restoration Hardware was sourced in all the major magazines.  It doesn’t mean you are lazy or unimaginative to use sources like these.   If you like the Capital table – then order it! 

And one last point on this subject – an Anon wrote in making fun of me for calling it a Capital Table instead of Capitel.   I looked up Capitel – there is no such word in the English dictionary – it is Spanish.  But, under Capital, you will find:


Definition of CAPITAL

the uppermost member of a column or pilaster crowning the shaft and taking the weight of the entablature


Just saying.


And then, there was this comment from Jamie:


“Amanda is a great designer. People forget when looking at a designer’s work that the client has the ultimate say.  As designers we don't get everything we want for a client's home.   We compromise. Many clients don't like antiques, so we compromise. Or they decide that they want draperies but those are expensive so woven shades under the draperies aren't worth it.   So we compromise.    That's how it goes.”


Anonymous used this minor point about shades to put me and my aesthetic down, by responding:


“Jami, woven shades under draperies is an invention of this blog. You are not likely to see this treatment in many places in other parts of the country except Texas. I personally can't think of a better way to ruin the look of expensive fabric and beautiful windows than to put those cheap looking shades under them. Ask yourself a question and truly answer it honestly. Would you really use these hideous shades had you not first seen them here?”


The comment is of course directed against me since I like textured or bamboo shades under curtains in certain circumstances.   His comment made me laugh – as IF I invented using bamboo shades under curtains – or as IF they are only used in Texas.  “Hideous” shades.   True, I do like to use shades – I like that look – but even more, I like to use to shades to hide imperfections in windows, such as short windows, or unbalanced ones.  And I like to use shades to cover the “dead space” between the rod and the fabric. 


bedroom 029

For instance in my bedroom – I used a long shade to hide the fact that there is really only one very short and very long window here.  Instead, now it looks like there are three  perfectly balanced and proportionally placed windows.  By placing the rod at the molding, the window appears taller and the room, in turn, appears taller.  It’s a smooth, clean line.



Notice these windows – to make them appear taller, the rod was placed at the ceiling.  Yet, there is the dead space between the rod and the window that tells you how tall the windows truly are – your eye is not fooled.  If they had raised the shades up to the rod – you truly wouldn’t be able to tell how short the window really is.  And this is just a messy look – to me.  By raising the blind you would get a cleaner, less fussy, look.




Again- the dead spot.  How much more graceful and pretty the window would be if the shade was raised to the rod to cover the dead spot.  No one is fooled that the window is taller than it is.  Still, a very pretty room!




For this client, I used the shades to bring the windows up higher than they actually are.  By placing the rods and curtains higher than the window frame and then adding the shade, it fools the eye that the window is taller.  Additionally, I like the contrast of the dark shade against the ivory fabric. 



Sometimes, like in my family room, I use shades just because I like the look of the shade and how it adds to the color scheme and brings needed texture to the room.



Sometimes, like in my living room, I don’t use shades at all. 


Still, the Anon got me thinking – am I really the only person who uses these hideous, cheap looking shades?  Or are they only found in Texas?



I looked around for “Big Name” Houston designers who use shades – and had trouble finding any.   Here, though, Jane Moore used very expensive and beautiful Conrad shades under silk curtains.  Hideous?  No.



This picture shows a beautiful living room, NOT in Texas, with shades and curtains. 




In a Chicago townhouse, Alessandra Branca used bamboo shades and curtains.




And in an apartment in Rome, Italy, she used shades and curtains.




In this beautiful bedroom, Conrad shades used under curtains – again, not in Texas.




In California, shades and curtains.




More luxe Conrad shades and silk curtains.



“Big Name Designer” Suzanne Kasler used shades and curtains in this living room.




And Nate Berkus used shades and curtains.





Love this look in a Charleston house, though I would have raised the shade above the molding.



And again in California – curtains and  shades.  So hideous, I know!




I love the ikat curtains mixed with bamboo blinds here.  I love the texture they add.




And here, paisley mixed with Conrad shades.




 And in this family room – curtains and shades – not in Texas and not hideous.

Would the anon apologize for his comment?  I doubt it.

 Last week, when I begged that the Anons please be respectful, this is answer I got back:


“Joni, no apologies required. If one is not ready for prime time, one should not publish their designs. It's really that simple. You insult your readers by requesting that they ignore some of the obvious mistakes. You have a sophisticated readership, both homeowner and professional and to require that we dish out praise where it is not warranted is simply hypocritical and disingenuous at best. I won't do it, so sue me!!”


To this I say – not everything I show will be ready for “prime time.”  Many houses, including mine and my client’s are not ready for House Beautiful or Architectural Digest, but they are pretty enough to be shown on a BLOG.  This is a BLOG, not a magazine.  It is FREE.  If you had to pay to look at houses shown here, then you might have a point. 

I am constantly asked by readers – why do you only show expensive houses?  Why not show houses that we normal people live in?  And – I do try to do that – as often as I can.   I don’t show houses to insult the sophisticated reader.   I show houses that all readers – sophisticated, wealthy, older, younger, or unsophisticated – can enjoy.  Not all readers are the same and not all readers will enjoy each and every house. 

Additionally, I don’t ask that you dish out praise, whether it is warranted or not.  I encourage your questions about design choices.   I only ask ONE thing – that you be respectful of the guest designers and homeowners.   That’s all I have ever asked of you.    Notice I am not included in that description. 

I hope we can all move on and try to be respectful to each other from now on.  I hope I have answered all your questions about  this subject, but feel free to ask them if I haven’t.  Like I said previously – even the Anons add to the discourse.   I don’t want to silence them or ban them because everyone, even them, bring some positive aspects to the comment section.  I only ask that they be respectful.   Is that too much?