Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dominick Dunne's Petite Penthouse

SELLER: Estate of Dominick Dunne
LOCATION: 155 E. 49th Street, New York City, NY
PRICE: $1,450,000
SIZE: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom
DESCRIPTION: Extremely charming penthouse that belonged to the late Dominick Dunne. Wrap planted terrace, small study, living room has wood-burning fireplace. Window in bath and kitchen. Beveled glass French doors to terrace. Very bright and cheerful.

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Who doesn't love a little kismet, partick when it extends itself to a little celebrity real estate? About a week ago, Your Mama received a dee-lishus little parcel in the mail from a clever little friend in Manhattan who was kind and thoughtful enough to forward an advance copy of the manuscript for the late high society story teller Dominick Dunne's latest, last and not yet published novel Too Much Money, due to be released December 15, 2009. Some of his other scandal filled novels include The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us, and An Inconvenient Woman.

Your Mama spent the long Thanksgiving weekend curled up on a Our Mama's big comfy couch trying to tune out Sister Woman's loud children and reading Mister Dunnes thinly veiled literary poker that does little more than take aim at a handful of New York City's dowager doyennes. The lead character, a vastly wealthy social climbing widow named Perla Zacharias whose husband died in a conflagration at the couple's villa in Biarritz, is clearly and unquestionably based on international socialite Lily Safra. Lo-ward have mercy children, Mister Dunne clearly had it out for the Widda Safra and he really lets her have it in this book. Other real life people Your Mama easily recognized in the book were the legendary and late Brooke Astor, a comatose (and now dead) Sunny von Bulow, congressman Gary Condit, biznessman and convicted felon Dennis Kozlowski and his wife Karen–who we think were co-mingled with Blackstone billionaire Steven and Schwarzman and his wife Christine–and Upper East Side real estate maven Alice Mason.

If Your Mama is being honest, and we always are, we'd say that Mister Dunne's last novel really isn't very good. It's annoyingly repetitive, poorly and seemingly hastily written and, at best, the story line floats on a wisp and a prayer. It's also fa-sih-nay-ting. Of course, Your Mama does not play in the high society sandbox that is the Upper East Side of Manhattan and therefore we haven't any idea what parts of this novel are true, which parts embellished and which parts completely fabricated by Mister Dunne. In many ways, what's true or not true matters little because the point seemed to be for Mister Dunne to get the last word. And the last word he did get chickens because who are all these real people he skewers–and make no mistake, he skewers them royally–gonna go after now? A dead man?

Anyhoo, Mister Dunne, whose regular column in Vanity Fair magazine was screamingly popular and who was both cherished and reviled by the social world in which he orbited and wrote about, was taken to meet the great editor in the sky in late August of 2009 at ripe old age of 83. Shortly after Mister Dunne was done, his mini-estate on Ferry Road in Lyme, CT was listed with an asking price of $2,100,000 and now listed at a significantly reduced $1,495,000. The rather fussy day-core of the architecturally insignificant 3 bedroom and 3.5 pooper house includes a bedroom bathed in traditional red toile–wallpaper, shades and bed linens–and a vermilion-colored and book shelf lined den with an over-stuffed sofa done up in an over-scale print of vermilion and light pumpkin and a bay window shelf littered with breakable collectibles.

However, as much as his house in Lyme provides a picture into Mister Dunne's decorative aesthetic, it's his jewel box of an apartment in Midtown Manhattan that Your Mama would like to discuss today. Late last week, Your Mama received a covert communique from Manhattan Manny who pointed our beady little eyes to the listing for Mister Dunne's East 49th Street penthouse pied a terre which is currently listed with an asking price of $1,450,000. Certainly this penthouse, located in an undistinguished Midtown building, was previously discussed by the folks at Curbed or the good people at CityFile, but we've yet to find–okay, we confess, or look for–that link yet.

Although the 11th floor aerie is entered through a foyer barely big enough for Your Mama to turn our fat ass around in, it does serve the valuable purpose of dividing the picayune public spaces from Mister Dunne's inner sanctum, comprised of a bedroom, several standard, closets, a decent sized walk-in, and a claustrophobic bathroom whose only attribute worth mentioned is that it's blessed with a window for ventilation.

To the left of the itty-bitty foyer is the penthouse's primary living space, a modestly sized living room with a fireplace at one end and two sets of French doors that open to the dee-voon terrace that wraps around three sides of the picayune penthouse. For reasons unknown and unfathomable to Your Mama, Mister Dunne had the living room painted the sort of mint green color we would fully expect to find in the psych ward of a reasonably well funded public hospital. On one wall, an emerald green chesterfield holds two loose cushions sewn from the same fabric as the two armchairs opposite the chesterfield which are sewn from the same cornflower blue and cream colored floral fabric as the drapery. This sort of uniform textile convention is customary in a certain sort of east coast upper crust day-core. Therefore, we can and will accept the matchy-matchy fabric on the cushions, armchairs and drapery. But the laundry-room appropriate beige tile floor desperate to be concealed by a dizzying blue and cream patterned rug is another and inexcusable matter altogether.

For reasons even more shocking and unfathomable than putting that mint green paint in the living room, is that Mister Dunne and his nice gay decorator continued that awful color right into the window wrapped study, which could easily be converted to a diminutive dining room iffin you could stand to eat with the color surrounding you. Although we can't abide by the wall color, we'd punch a cop and go to jail in order to have that blue toile armchair to put in our guest room where it would look a-may-zing and all kinds of wrong, wrong, wrong in all the best ways next to our orange plastic side table that Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter bought–we're not embarrassed to tell you–at Target. Behind the study, which opens to the largest section of the terrace, is the baby blue and beige kitchen.

Your Mama realizes that suburban real estate size queens who have never lived in Manhattan are going to faint at how impossibly tiny this kitchen is. The fact is, like it or not and for better or worse, that this is a pretty ordinary sized kitchen in a small New York apartment, regardless of the million dollar plus price tag. At least this cooker has some counter space and a window. For 8 glorious years Your Mama lived in 4-room, 4th floor walk-up in a Lower East Side tenement with a kitchen half the size of Mister Dunne's that had absolutely zero counter space. None. Not even enough room for a damn toaster or a drawer for take-out menus. New Yorkers are, if anything, creative users of miniscule spaces. But we digress. Moving past the small size, which little can be done about, the real issues here as Your Mama sees them are those coffee cup sized copper pots hanging from, horror of horrors, a plate rail with actual plates on it. Just say no, children, just say no. Really. Say no.

The bedroom is swimming in a woozy dark and light blue vertical striped wallpaper that is enough to make a life long drunk run like the wind to their first AA meeting and includes a couple of west facing windows with a window installed air conditioner. These ass-uglee cooling contraptions precariously screwed to the window framer are a common visual nuisance all over New York City including in some of the most expensive apartments in some of the most pristine pre-war buildings. You get used to them. You don't like them, but you get used to them disrupting and contaminating the view.

Mister Dunne's slice of Manhattan real estate is really all about the tremendous wrap around terrace. Even though there's not a square inch of the 850+ square foot terrace private enough to sunbathe nekkid and it's entirely surrounded by office towers, ain't nobody gonna tell Your Mama that it wouldn't be dee-lishus to have more space outdoors than most people in Manhattan have indoors.

The truth is there's little here that can't be overcome by a hard working cleaning crew and a nice gay decorator in order to make a penthouse like this a near perfect pied a terre. The only real and serious issue we have is the lack of a powder pooper. It's one thing to live in a 1 bedroom apartment that has only one pooper discreetly located in the hallway between the living room and the bedroom and another thing entirely to have to route guests through the bedroom, where all the bowm-chicka-bow-bow happens, in order for them to use the damn terlit.

On that note, Your Mama is going to make us a nice Bloody Mary and a piece of dry toast for lunch and spend a little time figuring out how to wedge a guest terlit into this penthouse. We suggest the children do the same.


Anonymous said...

The terrace is to die for!

Anonymous said...

Mama, you crack me up. Thank you.

Mrs. Stephen Haines said...

fabulous. but it needs to be de-wasped. i am picturing white walls and chocolate wood floors. however, the powder pooper problem perplexes. I see no alternative other than a port-a-potty on the terrace! As for the lilliputian kitchen, all we make in Manhattan is drinks and reservations.

Grrrowler said...

A powder room looks possible by extending the wall between the kitchen and study. The entrance could be in the tiny hallway that leads to the study so anyone using it isn't dumped right into the living room when they exit. Plumbing could be an issue however...

Anonymous said...

The terrace looks great but it is terrible that you have to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom.

Half Bath Hattie said...

methinks Grrrowler has a good idea. There is plumbing in the kitchen but one would need to find out where the waste products would go. You'd be intruding on the living room space but it seems big enough. There's that little closet by the fireplace (even has a window) but it's not big enough and not near any plumbing. Then there are all those little closets on the way into the bedroom, but once again, looks small. Maybe this is a good penthouse for somebody with absolutely no friends or guests. Like a writer!

Anonymous said...

Its interesting, for a single person who never entertains and never eats in. With all those south-facing windows its going to get brutally hot in summer. The terrace is fab, but it can only be used a few months in spring and fall.

Anonymous said...

Nobody cooks in Manhattan anyway so the kitchen is big enough to make coffee and store the booze. I don't know why you up there don't think this terrace can't be used in the's hot, but it's not that hot every day that it can't be enjoyed in the summers. and this apt. but for the bathroom, is an amazing space to entertain as long as you can open up the rooms and let people mingle on the huge terrace.

Village said...

Mama, how can you not know that color is celadon, a color favored by the very rich for centuries. Although rose colored walls have replaced celadon as a more comforting color, celadon is highly prized.

I am more concerned with that hideous blue in the bedroom. YUCK. It's not even the color of the sky, as I look out my wall of windows overlooking my terrace. Nope, that is not a color present in nature.

No half bath is a problem. I can assume he didn't entertain at home.

One more note. I just moved out of a house with a study the size of his, overlooking a stream and pond. Small rooms are very comforting, but it's surprising to see such a small study for such a big writer.

StPaulSnowman said...

Considerate, well-mannered folk of Mr. Dunne's sort would certainly relieve themselves before coming to tea......or be thoughtful enough to sport a leg bag. I am feeling blessed to have read an insanely witty post with the words "chesterfield" and "dry toast" so well used. I am sure that there is room in this kitchen for some bakelite napkin rings and a patinated copper collander....nothing more is needed.
I appreciate the advance review of this book as I would have feverishly visited Amazon. After Mama's comments..........I will rember Mr. Dunne for "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles", which was a joy to read.

stolidog said...

I confess to not knowing a thing about New York building codes, but couldn't you build out onto the terrace behind and between the kitchen and the study and put in a small guest pooper? The existing door to the terrace between kitchen and study would become the bathroom door and the plumbing from the kitchen would be right there.

StPaulSnowman said...

ps........Five years ago, the terrace alone would have sold for two million. A chintz upholstered futon, a pooper scooper for the pidgeon guano, a folder full of carryout menus and a large golf umbrella would take care of life's other necessities.

stolidog said...

p.s., get rid of (or greatly reduce the size of) the walk in closet in the bedroom and expand the bathroom...there are already closets leading into the bedroom.

Anonymous said...

I find the place sweet and comforting; I could get in that bed and sleep for ten hours.

Thanks, Mama, for the tip on the paint colors; I was gonna use a mint color in a vintage desert rental I have to brighten things up a bit. Thanks for saving me from a decorating disaster.

I hope wherever the spirit of Mr. Dunne is he has reconnected with his daughter who passed in such a brutal way. It's a parents worst nightmare to outlive their child.

Ingrid said...

Oh, looks like the janitor's place from my building !!
Too damn small !!
I would NEVER buy such place for that amount of money !!

Madam Pince said...

Mama, I love this little jewel box, tiny kitchen and all. I also love that a poster of son Griffin's breakout movie, An American Werewolf in London, hangs in the bedroom. I'd buy it as-is and not change a thing.

And like Anon 6 p.m., I hope Mr. Dunne has been reunited with Dominique, as well as his brother, John Gregory Dunne.

Viva! said...

Dominck Dunne was just terrific. It's not a surprise that his last novel reads like he wrote it like a college student pulling an all nighter...he was dying of cancer, he knew it and he was desperate to finish the book. I'm sure it's no different than a novel by James Patterson, Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins (love all 3 by the way).

The apartment needs to be redecorated because it sceams WASP, but the terrace is awesome. My suggestion for the powder room would be to knock out the bookcase in the study, push that wall out a bit and wedge the powder room between the kitchen and study. I'd then use the study as a small dining room.

That said, for an extra $200,000 I'd buy Linda Dano's fabulous pied a terre penthouse on West End Avenue which is decorated superbly and manages to have a bathroom that can be used by all!

Muffin said...

I have a feeling Mr. Dunne did not actively live in this apartment. The listing says it belonged to him. I can see him possibly just writing here and having an actual entertaining-worthy apartment somewhere else nearby. Surely the man entertained at home. How else would he get all the gossip on all the dastardly people he wrote about?

Lady Leonie Bairstow-Eves said...

This penthouse is fine, indeed suitable for British Royalty in my opinion. Visit any stately pile in the UK and the rooms are all dressed like this.

Without the dinky kitchen of course.

It is delicious as is.

Josie said...

He did live there, at least part of the time. I used to live in this building and would see him often in the lobby. The building is small, and used to have a manually operated elevator. It's since been converted to electrical, but you would often see people waiting in the lobby for the elevator/doorman to get back. I loved living in that building, and I love his apartment too.

Anonymous said...

What an ugly job the decorator did! Makes me want to fall asleep and/or buy something that matches something else in the room. The terrace is wonderful and also the only redeeming thing about this apartment.

Anonymous said...

Looks like apt. in the 7 year itch.

CockHound2009 said...

Tell ya what I'd do, Momma:

I'd swap the study and kitchen for the bedroom and bathroom. Yup, sleep out there in the midst of the terrace, and have a bigger bathroom. Then I'd make the current bedroom/bath into a kitchen/dining room.

I know, I know, you can't put a bathroom stack onto a kitchen stack . . . but I can dream, can't I? Momma?

Anonymous said...

That last paragraph is priceless.
I love you more each day.

Gonzalez said...

fabulous. but it needs to be de-wasped. i am picturing white walls and chocolate wood floors. however, the powder pooper problem perplexes. I see no alternative other than a port-a-potty on the terrace! As for the lilliputian kitchen, all we make in Manhattan is drinks and reservations.

Unknown said...

You really are hilarious mama! I love the details you include, half the stuff I wouldn’t even notice if left to my own devices but they are so obvious once I read what you say about them! The décor is terrible; it just seems so twee for a guy, even if he is gay! He should have hired the services of a good looking plumber and sorted that bathroom access out!