Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Former Domino Magazine Creative Director Lists New York City Townhouse


SELLERS: Paul and Sara Ruffin Costello
LOCATION: New York, NY
PRICE: $12,950,000
SIZE: 4,290 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Listen chickens, it's all jackhammers and power tools around Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's house today so we're a bit rattled in the head and our morning booze drip has yet to settle in. Therefore we're a wee bit scattered and out of sorts but we're going to try to work our way through this none the less so here goes...

Once upon a time there was a shelter magazine called Domino, and it was good. It wasn't good in the way World of Interiors is a-may-zing and it didn't have the creepy perfect polish of Martha Stewart Living. But it was good. It was really good. In fact, as far as Your Mama is concerned it was one of the better shelter publications. Unlike some of the other glossy magazines that depict real estate and decorating porn, Domino felt accessible to design oriented and savvy folks who don't have the financial wherewithal to hire Alberto Campo Baeza to design them a weekend getaway, 47,000 bucks for a sofa and/or a few hundred grand to spend renovating the kitchen.

Then along came the financial fracas and economic meltdown of 2008. Print publications, those old-school hand held paper things that some believe just might be a thing of publishing past (we, however, hope not), began to drop like flies, victims of a perfect storm of internet nimbleness and pecuniary calamity caused by toxic financial instruments so complex that even Wall Street people can't explain how to untangle them.

The creative director of Domino was a clever gal named Sara Ruffin Costello who is married to and makes babies with well known interior and fashion photographer Paul Costello. Thanks to a heads up by Hot Chocolate, Your Mama has learned that Mister and Missus Costello have recently put their Federal style townhouse in New York City's once bohemian West Village on the market with a not very bohemian asking price of $12,950,000.

Property records show the creative couple paid $2,650,000 for their 25-foot wide, four floor residence in November of 2003. Listing information shows the townhouse measures (approx.) 4,290 square feet and includes 5 bedrooms–we count 4 plus a 3rd floor playroom/bedroom–and 4.5 poopers. Listing information states the recent "full-scale" renovation included adding new structural beams,re-pointing the brick facade, insulation, new roof, new plumbing, electric and HVAC services, security system, new windows and French doors, custom mill work in the pooper and cooker, all-new polished nickel hardware on doors and cabinets, and in wall speakers.

Mister and Missus Costello and their real estate people must be under the impression all that renovations and an exploding (and then shrinking) real estate market make for a near 10-fold increase in value the townhouse. And maybe it does. What do we know? In January of 2010, telecom tycoon and trophy property collector Michael Hirtenstein snagged a gut renovated townhouse on nearby Charles Street for $13,580,000 and in December of 2009, catwalking new mommy (and real estate size queen) Giselle Bundchen sold her Barrow Street townhouse for $12,950,000.

Floorplans for Mister and Missus Costello's crib reveals a surprisingly sensible and livable program. That is if the owner has the fortitude and heart health to climb up and down all the damn stairs all day long. That's right, for all the big-shit renovations, there is not an elevator. There is a garden level office/guest house with private pooper, and the parlor floor sweeps front to back in one essentially open space with chestnut colored and herringbone patterned hardwood floors. At the front a formal living room with an antique fireplace surround, in the middle a small media room/library, and at the back an all white proper sized kitchen that is open to both the "formal" dining area and the breakfast room. The back yard is accessible through a row of floor to ceiling French doors in the breakfast room. We're not thrilled with the location of the powder pooper that opens on to the breakfast area nor are we fond of the blue and white day-core, but the children will note the generous pantry and pet shower tucked behind the kitchen and staircase that in our mind makes up for that somewhat klutzy bathroom situation. See puppies, a wee secret is that Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter would shove a baby off a cliff for a separate pet shower to bathe our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly.

The second floor has a modest sized master suite with fireplace, adequately sized bathing and terliting facilities and an enviable dressing room/closet. Personally speaking, Your Mama could never get a good night's rest in a room so cacophonous with complicated patterns. We've got an twiggy situation on the wallpaper, an Ikat sort of print on the rug and a black and white toile chaise hidden by a Valentine's Day red throw and topped with a red and white toile pillow. It's visually engaging and sort of kooky in a way that we can appreciate but we could just never go there in a bedroom. Ever.

Another bedroom and pooper complete the second floor. It appears that a small closet in the pooper of the second bedroom contains a stacked washer and dryer. This is not good. Yes, it is better than having the laundry facilities on the basement/garden floor–it's far more sensible to have the laundry facilities located where the bulk of the laundry is actually located–it's more than a little awkward for for our house gurl Svetlana to have to storm through a guest bedroom and into the pooper to snatch up the clean linens. In fact it's downright horrible. But in an otherwise well conceived layout, maybe this is just splitting hairs?

The top floor contains two bedrooms, a pooper and a playroom that spans the full width of the house. This could be, of course, converted to another bedroom and pooper (the plumbing is all there) but it's sort of nice as a quasi-public space that opens to a terrace through three French doors. What's nice about that is that an exterior staircase climbs up to the rooftop terrace. Although not shown in any of the listing photos we found, listing information indicates the Costello's rooftop terrace with redwood spa, a "pool house" with kitchen, a wisteria wrapped pergola, and fully grown grape vines for the urban oenophile.

Property records show the dee-ziney duo also own an upstate getaway on Copake Lake in Columbia County that they bought in 2001 for $375,000.

We're not really sure what Missus Ruffin Costello is doing now that Conde Nast closed Domino's doors nor do we know what Mister Costello is photographing now that his bread and butter job–snapping interiors for his wife's now defunct magazine–has evaporated. Hopefully they're both moving on to bigger and better things, right?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too love the floorplan for this townhouse, but considering the price, agree they really should have incorporated an elevator into their renovation plans. Had they done that, in addition to creating a much more back friendly and I'm sure saleable arrangement, it would have provided more flexibility with regard to addressing the layout flaws you mentioned Mama.

The Preppy Pauper said...

Beautiful townhouse in the delicious West Village, which makes the master bedroom stick out even more like the proverbial sore thumb. That wall paper is a Tim Burtonesque nightmare and the bed looks like an after-thought. Headboard anyone? I'm just being a picky bitch though, because this is one Ge-Hor-Geous home.

Anonymous said...

Like the floorplan, but feel like the decor is lacking something...like maybe, my furniture...

Anyhoo, my first thought when I saw the master bedroom photo was "What have they done with the walls?", my second thought was, "What is that grey lump on the right...oh, the bed...".

Lynn said...

I'm frankly shocked by the fact that two 'creative types' could afford a nearly $3M house. I didn't realize a magazine editor and photographer could make that much coin. Unless there's a trust fund I don't know about...

Btw, normally I love that flowering quince wallpaper in the bedroom, but I think it's better up close than from afar.

Anonymous said...

Call me old fashioned, but for $13 million, may I please have a foyer?

Crystal Allen said...

Absolutely delicious, Mama. And a wonderful antidote to those steroidal nightmare mcmansions of yesterday!
My gripe? That bathroom is straight out of Manhattan Dentention Center!

Anonymous said...

Let me guess... they are moving because being an unemployed creative director does not pay the bills on such an expensive house? Heck, even being an employed creative director would not pay for such house. My gut feeling is that they have severely overstretched themselves. The house appreciated well, however, I would not be surprised if they had taken money out of it. Now comes an attempt to sell it for more than it's worth.

Anonymous said...

Momma has a sharp eye: 'full-scale' is conditional, or at least vague, and means the renovation was something less than top drawer. At least 3 things point to a modest renovation budget: retention of the ugly fire escape at the back out the house (seen outside Play Room/Bedroom window); retention and patching of the old floors in the same room (the wood was painted not replaced); and the DIY back stairs to the garden. None of this would matter at a more reasonable asking price - the house is charming - but no discerning buyer is gonna return for a second look, let alone nibble, at a hair under $13 mil.

Madam Pince said...

I miss Domino too, Mama. It was a great magazine, and I felt certain it would weather the storm.

Anonymous said...

What's with the dead cows everywhere?
Are they from Texas?

Anonymous said...

Betcha that thing's been HELOCed to death.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the deeds and mortgages that are available through ACRIS and you all would be wrong about the HELOC thing. As far as I can tell, there are two, maybe three mortgages amounting to a good sized monthly nut but they total substantially less than the owners originally paid. I'm guessing the secondary loan(s) was for renovation costs. There's really nothing there that looks like they were living out of their equity.

Mellie said...

I really hate those unenclosed shower-bathrooms, where the whole room is like a sink. I don't want to get my socks wet when i go brush my teef.

Anonymous said...

Like the living room and dining room but get away from me with that wackadoodle master bedroom!

Stan said...

$5 million - tops

Anonymous said...

Best townhouse floor plan ever!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Mama there's a reason why you live in L.A. That master bedroom has chic written all over it. Just don't get it do ya?
Kisses from NYC.

Anonymous said...

"As far as I can tell, there are two, maybe three mortgages amounting to a good sized monthly nut but they total substantially less than the owners originally paid. "

You mean, less than $2.65M? I kind of doubt that a little. Even if they kept their financial ducks in a row and only have a $2M mortgage, their payment is probably ~$10K a month, plus taxes and fees of... I don't know NYC that much, lets say another $3K/mo, and that comes to $156K a year. That's not the end of the world, but you would need at least $300K annual income to afford it in NYC. Given that missus unfortunately lost her job last year, owning this house may still be a financial burden on these people - and since financially responsible people don't usually like to bleed money, I am not surprised, they would like to downsize. If they truly only owe $2M, they will come out of this deal with a good kitty, and will be able to buy a nice size apartment outright, and probably have some left. Not perfect, but not horrible, either.

Anonymous said...

As for the couple's $$$ - I was under the impression that Sara is the daughter of Phillip Ruffin who at $1.85 billion worth is ranked by Forbes as the 193rd Richest American.
Sara appeared on the cover of Town & Country in the 1990s.

Anonymous said...

Sara Ruffin is not the daughter of Phillip Ruffin, whoever that is. I know this couple and they are very savvy investors. I don't think this move is about not being able to afford this house, I think it's about a lifestyle change. They are both incredibly talented and have a lot of things going on! Keep on gawkin' just too bad you don't always get it right!

Anonymous said...

They're moving to New Orleans. They're tired and bored here since they are without jobs. They feel the move will be a nice change of pace and allow them to refall in love instead of sleeping with all their best friends' spouses. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Nasty jealous comments from nasty jealous people are unecessary, and didn't your mamma ever teach you not to count other people's money.

Anonymous said...

Yes WTF is miss May 12 comment's point? Guess somma musta been a jilted or otherwise have major jealousy issues with these folks. And I and plenty of other folks know these folks to be good 'uns. Watch yer stone-throwin' missy.

"Good Riddance" to your participation. Ever heard of manners?

Anonymous said...

Mr. and Mrs. Costello have a lot of issues to work out. Let's hope New Orleans provides the sanity for them that NYC could not. I pray for their children. They shouldn't have had to witness the revolving door of infidelity.