Monday, December 16, 2013

Epic and Epically Opulent Manhattan Townhouse Listed for $114+ Million

SELLERS: Vincent and Teresa Viola
LOCATION: New York City, NY
PRICE: $114,077,000
SIZE: (approx.) 20,000 square feet, 4-7 bedrooms, 6 full and 3 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: As was first reported over the weekend by the fine folk at The New York Times, Brooklyn-born financier Vincent "Vinny" Viola and his wife, Teresa, have heaved their humongous, regally-minded, and liberally-gilded 40-foot wide townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on the open market with a very serious and publicity ensuring $114,077,000 asking price.*

We don't know the full history of the house—maybe one of the children can enlighten us?—but listing details show it was built in 1884 and, at at some point, the double-wide townhouse was converted to medical office suites and much of the original ornamentation was stripped from the elegantly austere limestone facade, which is just about the only thing austere about the house. Indeed, as per The New York Times, Miz Viola, described by the New York Times as an interior designer, used to take her kids to the pediatrician in the building and that's—so the story goes—how she found out it was for sale.

Miz and Mister Viola, a West Point graduate who currently owns his own high frequency trading and market making firm, acquired the urban mega-mansion in 2005 for $20,000,000 according to property records. They immediately embarked on a multi-year gut renovation and residential reconversion with the result being a money-is-no-object Versailles-ification of the now proudly palatial single family residence house. The children might find it amusing that for the first three years of the renovation the Viola's shacked up—no doubt at great expense and one imagines like royalty—at the ritzy and aristocratic Waldorf Astoria.**

Listing details describe the townhouse, just off Fifth Avenue on swanky East 69th Street, as "tastefully redone by the current owners." Hmm. We're not sure if tasteful is how Your Mama might describe the interiors of this house. Luridly lavish? Yes. Hilariously overwrought? Sure. Savagely opulent? Why not? Turgidly ornamented and giddily gaudy in its unrestrained grandiosity? Absolutely! But tasteful? There is no question in Your Mama's un-trained and booze-soaked brain that the fittings and kittings that adorn this house were painstakingly sourced at unimaginable cost by Miz Viola and her team of architects and decorators but it really goes to show that good taste, like beauty, really is entirely subjective, isn't it? Anyways...

Digital marketing materials show the fully rehabbed 19-room behemoth measures somewhere around 20,000 square feet on six livable floors with ceiling heights between 12 and 32 feet and radiant heated floors throughout. Your Mama gleaned from the official listings and floor plan (above) that there are at least four fireplaces; two laundry rooms—one is really just a laundry closet just outside the master suite; front and rear staircases; an onyx-sheathed elevator that services all six floors plus the roof terrace; and a high-tech home automation system that controls state-of-the-art heating, lighting and security systems.

Even though they surely have domestic help to take care of such mundane tasks, the sidewalk and front steps are heated for easy snow removal. A short stoop leads to glass and wrought iron front doors that open to a trio of spacious and immodestly finished vestibules that form a gold-trimmed enfilade. At the rear of the piano nobile a ballroom sized formal living room was expensively and extravagantly fitted by Miz Viola with intricately patterned inlaid walnut floors, a monumental Brazilian travertine fireplace mantel, and a coffered ceiling. A small, south-facing semi-circular balcony terrace provides just enough space for cocktail party guests to step out for a cigarette or liquor-fueled tete a tete.

The upper level of the cavernous, book shelf-lined double-height library opens off the middle of the of the three entry vestibules and has a ceiling mural painted by an Irish artist and a two-story stencil of a Rudyard Kipling poem hand-done by an artisan who's also—lah-dee-dah—designed Christmas cards for the White House and the Vatican.

One may ascend to the upper level living spaces via the aforementioned onyx-lined elevator or the curved or the Italian granite central staircase that has a custom-milled mahogany balustrade. (There's also a rear staircase in the service hall behind the main staircase.) At the rear, directly above the formal living room, a banquet hall-sized formal dining room was finished in a manner obviously directly influenced by Versailles.

On the street side of the third floor, a super-sized eat-in kitchen has brick and field stone walls, two work and service islands, and four mahogany-trimmed windows that overlook 69th Street. The kitchen itself has at least two of every major appliance (refrigerator, range, dishwasher) plus a separate coffee station and a pizza oven. If the children look at the listing photo of the kitchen closely, there appear to be three or four penguins skittering across the floor that was, according to The Old Grey Lady, fashioned from reclaimed railroad ties that were'"sliced like bologna."' How kooky is that? In addition to the main kitchen, there are two additional and windowless kitchenettes, one off the formal living room and the other off the formal dining room.

Online listings show there are 7 bedrooms and six full and three half bathrooms but Your Mama counted just four bedrooms on the floor plan, including two 900-ish square foot guest/family bedrooms on the fourth floor, each with walk-in closets and a small private bathroom. (Each of these two bedrooms could be divided to make four smaller but still generous bedrooms with en suite facilities and good-sized walk-in closets.)

A third, smaller but still commodious guest/family bedroom shares the fifth floor with the 1,500-ish square foot master suite comprised of a spacious (if uncomfortably formal) sitting room and an adjoining bedroom that, besides the infernal exercise bike in the middle of the damn room, might easily suit a grand dame like Marie Antoinette or Catherine the Great. The master suite also includes and a pair of bathrooms—hers slathered in imported rose quartz—and two custom-fitted dressing rooms, each as large as a typical studio apartment in lower Manhattan. One of the dressing rooms, the one that faces 69th Street, is hard wired on a separate system so it can, if necessary, double as a panic room.

A pull-down staircase, inconveniently located in the walk-in closet of the fifth floor guest bedroom, leads up to a full floor mezzanine for storage and mechanical systems and both the secondary staircase and the onyx-lined elevator climb to the approximately 2,000 square foot, three-tiered roof deck with outdoor shower and oblique Central Park view.

The partially subterranean ground floor has a separate, under-the-stoop entrance hall flanked by mud and powder rooms. The hall opens into an obviously roomy but unfortunately windowless family room with hulking field stone fireplace. Also on this floor, as per the floor plan, is a small recording studio, the lower level of the library, and the upper balcony level of the double-height media room/home theater.

The basement contains the lower section of the sound-proofed home theater that was designed after a movie house in Queens of which Miz Viola has fond childhood memories and is finished with red velvet seats and red cherry paneling with inset flocked damask panels. There's also a fitness room and adjoining game room with wet bar—an extremely convenient set up for those like Your Mama who don't mind a mid work out pick me up cocktail, and a 32-foot long, heated saltwater swimming pool and an adjacent, blue lapis and glass tile-lined bathroom with both a steam room and a dry sauna.

Mister Viola, who already owns a substantial stake in the Brooklyn Nets professional basketball team, recently paid a quarter billion dollars to acquire the Florida Panthers, a professional ice hockey team based in unlikely locale of Sunrise, FL, about 35 miles north (and a wee bit west) of South Beach. So, according to the property gossips at The Old Gray Lady, Mister and Miz Viola plan to relocate to South Florida. Although it's still more than 200 miles by car, perhaps Mister and Missus Viola will opt to—ahem—upgrade their living circumstances and acquire the (in)famous and still not finished 90,000 square foot Windermere, FL mansion of time share tycoon David Siegel and his bizarrely naive wife Jackie. Anyways...

We're not sure exactly how many private homes besides their monstrous Manhattan mansion that Mister and Missus Viola currently maintain but we did find evidence that before they moved to the Waldorf Astoria sometime in 2005 or '06, Mister and Missus Viola owned and occupied a 4,999 square foot, 1930s Colonial on .88 acres in leafy and affluent Chatham, NJ that property records show they bought in June 1994 for $1,177,000 and sold in June 2006 for $3.2 million.

Until February of this year (2103), when they sold it for $375,000, the couple maintained a small-ish, 32nd floor condo at the upscale Turnberry Place complex in Las Vegas, NV that they bought in December 2007 for $950,000. (Y'all read they right; They paid about 2.5 times what they sold it for.) Property records also suggest the couple plunked down $3,284,400 in June 2010 a 2 bedroom and 2.5 bathroom condo on the 45th floor of the posh Mandarin Oriental. Your Mama found clear evidence on the internets that the couple gutted the 2,755 square foot space that they had on the open market for several months earlier this year (2013) as raw space with an asking price of $3,450,000.

Your Mama's quick and utterly unscientific research shows the couple also maintain an extensive portfolio of what would appear to be investment properties, including (but not limited to) land holdings in Delaware County, NY, and Van Alstyne, TX, as well as a rotating handful of properties on the West Coast, mostly but not exclusively in Malibu and Beverly Hills.

In June 2005 they laid out $3.4 million for a contemporary residence on Bowmont Drive in the Beverly Hills Post Office area (above) that they listed in October 2009 for $3.6 million and finally sold at a significant loss in March 2012 for $2.28 million and it looks to Your Mama like the Violas still own a small cottage on 1.76 acre ocean front acres next door to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett in the Paradise Cove area of Malibu and that they picked up in October 2006 for $11 million.

In May 2007 they shelled out $3.27 million for a multi-story residence (above) on Rambla Vista in Malibu that they sold (at a substantial loss) last December (2012) for $2.2 million and they also still appear to own a five-unit ocean-front apartment complex on Carbon Beach that they scooped up in September 2007 for $7 million and had on the (open) market as recently as October (2013) with an asking price of $8.9. million

*We don't know or even pretend to have clue why the extra (and somewhat meager by comparison) $77,000 was tacked on to the $114 million listing price but there it is. Anyways...

**Your Mama assumes without any real evidence that the obviously pampered Violas shacked up in one of the apartments at The Towers, a collection of small and large apartments with five-star hotel services on the upper floors of the Waldorf Astoria with that are available for short and long term rental. To give the children some idea of what it might have cost Mister and Miz Viola to live at the Waldorf for three years, a 3,500 square foot three bedroom and three bathroom apartment on the 33rd floor is currently available at $75,000 per month and, when available, Cole Porter's former digs, a 6,000 square foot six-bedroom sprawler, can be had for a head-spinning 140,000 (or so) clams per month

listing photos and floor plan (New York City): Corcoran
listing photo (Beverly Hills Post Office): Coldwell Banker
listing photo (Malibu): Coldwell Banker


Anonymous said...

Are the penguins trying to escape before their eyesight is permanently damaged?

Anonymous said...


Are you fooling with us? Those penguins are not in the NYTimes photo. I think someone go into some photoshop after a few drinks.

Please explain to me why one would buy a place, live in a hotel for 3 years while they renovate it, move in, talk about what a dream it is, then put it up for sale not long afterward? The sacrifice of temporary living conditions isn't offset by the amount of time lived there....

#shadyblahblah said...

their eyesite may or may not be permanently damaged, that remains to be seen, but its all good because rumor has it that they are getting COntacts ;)

lil' gay boy said...

Riotously vulgar, it makes the sets from The Great Gatsby look positively demure...and the Horowitz place downright rustic.

I am oddly enamored of the stone wall in the bath by the shower -- I don't think I've every seen such intriguing veining before -- reminds me of the basement showroom at the old Vermont Marble Company in Proctor, VT.

Despite its undeniably unique "style", they will probably find some potentate to turn a profit from.

doug-g said...

double-wide townhouse

Very fitting! :)

Anyone remember the Beverly Hillbillies episode where Jed and Granny are in NYC and (I think it was a character played by Phil Silvers) was trying to sell them Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge? The show would have been even funnier if this nightmare of a home were thrown into the mix. I can just hear Jed saying, "well, doggies" as he looked in shock at what was laid before him.

Anonymous said...

I look past all the questionable choices, because it's done. All the hard work and new everything, make me a fan. If you have the kind of money to buy it, you can fix the booboos in weeks. That's what makes it extremely attractive. No years of planning, permits and contractor craziness. This place can be world caliber in weeks, not years. For that alone, I can see it sporting a sold sign real soon.
What an exciting property, even as is. With a little more work, I get shivers.

Bartrasha said...

All that lime green paired with red is burning out the rods and cones in my eyes and that egg tub is lurid.

Anonymous said...

Yucky yuckdom of yuck.

Such horrifying nimietous nimietiness.

Petra's said...

It's less than 1/3 the price, and I'd much rather live here:

Anonymous said...

An outdoor shower? Really?? Sometimes having it all is way too much.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly certain the Malibu place they sold for 2.2 was on Million Dollar Listing...Madison represented the buyers. The NYC place does not even deserve comment. Total mess

Anonymous said...

Maybe he is thinking Joel Horowitz will buy it, now that Joels house sold. I find it odd that the outdoor space has two dead plants in a planter. Why would you not stage it?

Sandpiper said...

Beautiful bones. Ghastly decor. To single out one remodel crime (tough in this case), it's that marble bathroom explosion. Hard to maintain laughter, especially noting 110 dollars worth of cheezy "Home Depot" (real?) wood (bad call) to anchor the bazillion dollar carved tub.

Intended spending a minute to see if any property-related details were out there. My hunt turned into a glimpse of more than just a property, so I pressed on a bit.

A January 19, 1913 NYTs piece on real estate transfers discussed the townhouse in nice detail:

$350,000 Deal for Private Dwelling

The four-story dwelling 12 East Sixty-ninth Street, on a lot 40 by 100.5, has been sold by Edwin A. Richard and Evelina Richard to a client of Pease & Elliman, for occupancy ... The house was erected in 1883 by day's contract by the late August Richard.


At this point my fascination reeled.

August's penchants went beyond architecture, as chronicled by The Art Directory, 1898-1899, a national publication listing known art armatures and buyers of art objects. Good for him.

And I love this NYT August, 1903 yummy piece that discussed some serious jewelry willed to Mrs. R by a lady friend. It could have been even more fun if they included caret weights.

The will of Mrs. Emma Matthiessen: to her "dear friend," Mrs. August Richard of 12 East Sixty-ninth Street, one of her emerald rings, her three-stone diamond ring, and her ruby and diamond ring;

Really quite touching. Mrs. Richard et al. and pic supported the Seaman's Church Institute during its campaign to fund the "new" building in NYC. She sponsored construction of one bedroom as a memorial to her son, according to the 1911 SCI periodical.

Seems this couple lead a full and meaningful life. They later moved on to Fifth Ave. Why not!

Sandpiper said...

1913 Townhouse transction/NYT

Anonymous said...

Foreign investor? But, there aren't any views. It's hard to imagine someone with the means and horrible taste required to buy this place.

lil' gay boy said...

Thanks for the history amuse bouche, my fine feathered friend; you know how I love it!

FWIW, my uncle worked at Vermont Marble since they bought grandpa's company; I remember the showroom (giant, 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith-like slabs) because the salesman always liked showing how the surface temperature of marble was always 11 degrees lower than the surrounding air...

...of course the samples weren't nearly as colorful as these...

Sandpiper said...

Have come to know a lot about your elders over the years, but a marble entrepreneur?! Intriguing. Love that. (Nana's side?) Or dare I ask more?

lil' gay boy said...

Nana's husband -- I actually never understood why they bought a canning machine factory, though...

...except, perhaps, for the crimped bottle top patent.

Sandpiper said...

Nana was never lost for a good story. The cap patent is a dilly. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Seems like an obvious effort to scoop up some Asian flight money.

Anonymous said...

For all the talk in the Times article of the owner traveling the world seeking the perfect shade of Venetian onyx, the fact is that if one plugs "onyx bathtub" into Google one sees any number of Chinese manufacturers offering exactly the tub in that green master bathroom. That particular type of tub is known as "Beijing Style" (or "Peking Style") in the chop-a-block trade. Further, they are not all that uncommon among Chinese rich folks nor are they all that expensive, although they run a good deal more than the Home Depot plastic versions (which also often come from China). One sad thing here is that the tub could anchor a beautiful bathroom ... if it were in a restrained (say, soft white) setting, not placed on an altar, and allowed to be the single focus of the room.