Viewers who tuned in to Bob Vila’s last installment of Home Again on CBS saw the master do-it-yourselfer show how to install “sidewall shingle” on the back of a “modern Colonial” house his staff was busy working on.
But some well-heeled New Yorkers got a peek at something rather less provincial this week: the home guru’s own 14th-floor apartment in Tribeca’s Franklin Tower, which just went on the market-for $5.25 million.
Now that’s home improvement: Mr. Vila took over the already-prime real estate just two years ago. And while it’s not as extravagant as Mariah Carey’s triplex penthouse directly above, Mr. Vila paid just $3.386 million for the place, so he stands to make a substantial profit.
Mr. Vila, whose primary residence is within the rather more tweed-and-flannel confines of Cambridge, Mass., is giving up a Manhattan place that boasts four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and a corner living room that measures close to 800 square feet. The Home Again star didn’t return calls from The Observer asking whether he would still be meeting for business lunches at downtown hot spots.
Mr. Vila’s apartment is no Victorian revival, either. The walls are festooned with contemporary art (Pop and minimalist, from the looks of it); the master bedroom has an Asian-style bed that rests a foot off the floor, its wide frame lined with a dark, velvety material. The master bathroom contains an old-fashioned free-standing tub and a weathered wooden chest.
In the formal dining room, Mr. Vila created an interesting effect by standing two stained-glass window fixtures about a foot in front of large, clear windows-thereby retaining the natural sunlight while backlighting the colored glass.
Other amenities in the apartment include a wood-burning fireplace (that “modern Colonial” is getting the gas-burning variety), Sub-Zero appliances, a wood-paneled private dressing room, and a seemingly endless supply of Bob Vila do-it-yourself books.
Robert Browne of the Corcoran Group and Helene Luchnick of Insignia Douglas Elliman have the listing.
Bob Guccione’s East 67th Street mansion is going up for auction on Nov. 15, in an effort to get the $40 million Upper East Side place he calls home off his ailing company’s hands-fast.
“This is news to me, man!” a Penthouse spokesman told The Observer when asked about the deal, before attempting to reach Mr. Guccione. He was not available at press time.
“I’m just sick,” said a Penthouse veteran and Guccione confidante, reacting to news of the auction. “This is really upsetting. It’s too sad.”
The company has contracted Keen Consultants, a Long Island firm that specializes in auctioning bankrupt and cash-strapped companies’ real-estate assets, to sell the place. The principal of Keen Realty was on a plane and unavailable for comment.
Keen Consultants recently began working with Warren Buffet-to sell six shuttered Fruit of the Loom factories in Alabama and Kentucky-and has sold properties for Warnaco (which ran Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren-Chaps outlets) and Cosmetics Plus. In the past, they’ve worked for Long John Silver, Caldor, Fayva Shoe, Herman’s Sporting Goods, Kmart and Merry-Go-Round.
Now they’re selling one of the largest private residences in New York-not to mention the headquarters of Mr. Guccione’s crumbling Penthouse empire.
Mr. Guccione put the house at 14-16 East 67th Street on the market for $40 million in April to help stanch the flow of dollars out of Penthouse ‘s purse. Its last listing price was down to $37 million.
The building’s 30-plus rooms stretch over six stories of a double-wide townhouse plot; the total 20,000 square feet includes a marble entry gallery with grand staircase, a ballroom with a hand-crafted wood ceiling, and a 35-foot-long Roman-style indoor pool straight out of Caligula in the basement.
Mr. Guccione bought the place in 1975 for $650,000, and spent until 1981 renovating it.
upper east side
520 East 90th Street (Gracie Gardens)
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op.
Asking: $560,000. Selling: $525,000.
Maintenance: $1,491; 50 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: two weeks.
FOR THE DOGS When these Upper West Siders started their apartment search, they told their broker that they wanted more space for less money-in a prewar co-op building that would allow two 60-pound dogs. “At first I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,'” said the broker, Mickey Cohen, of Charles H. Greenthal & Co. But the buyers were prepared for a tough negotiating act. She’s an attorney who works in the Manhattan D.A.’s office; he’s the co-owner of some hip downtown bars and restaurants. “I showed them 20 apartments before taking them to Gracie Gardens,” said Mr. Cohen. They settled on the six-story building off York Avenue because the neighboring Carl Schurz Park would give their children-and dogs-room to stretch their legs. “Sometimes the loved ones include the two-legged and four-legged types,” said Mr. Cohen. Their 1,200-square-foot apartment has classic prewar details, a large entry foyer and partial garden views.
303 East 49th Street
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo.
Asking: $699,000. Selling: $670,000.
Charges: $900. Taxes: $1,050.
Time on the market: nine months.
SELLER’S REMORSE: $8K Some city-dwellers take a while to adjust to the demands of maintaining a country house. But when the owners of this 1,400-square-foot apartment near Saks Fifth Avenue moved to their country house in upstate New York permanently some years back, it was the city place that suffered. And the buyers they finally found for the place almost didn’t notice. “On the first signing day, we found a leak from the terrace into the living room, so we had a price adjustment based on that,” said the buyers’ broker, Renee Bross, a managing director at Ashforth Warburg. “On the second signing, we found out none of the appliances worked, so we had another adjustment for that.” According to Ms. Bross, the owners had a hard time owning up to the conditions at their Manhattan abode. “We were dealing with a seller who felt he had a triple-mint-condition, pristine apartment. It was a very difficult deal to get through.” Ms. Bross’ clients were willing to stick it out, however, because they loved the apartment’s proximity to Saks, where she’s an executive. The apartment’s owners also slowed things down by trying to include their 50’s-era modular furniture and A/V appliances in the deal. “We’re talking built-in TV’s and old stereo equipment that my people didn’t want,” said Ms. Bross. And to top it all off, Ms. Bross’ lawyers discovered the maintenance and tax charges were $300 more than had originally been quoted. “Every time we were about to go 10 steps forward, we instead went five steps back,” said Ms. Bross. The sellers ended up making out an $8,000 check for the water damage and appliances.
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom coop. Asking: $829,000. Selling: $837,500.
Maintenance: $1,470; 64 percent tax-deductible.
Time on the market: two hours.
the two-hour miracle The broker who sold this apartment hadn’t had the listing more than two hours before her clients got their first offer. Corcoran vice president Victoria Terri-Cote said she wasn’t even planning on showing the apartment at 176 Broadway until April 21. It’s a 1,827-square-foot, mint-condition loft a few blocks north of Ground Zero. But as soon as Ms. Terri-Cote submitted the information to her company’s listings database, two would-be buyers noticed the apartment on the Corcoran Web site and decided they wanted to see the place. “The one who was relentless and made an offer over asking got the apartment,” said Ms. Terri-Cote. While processing that deal, the buyers asked her to appraise their old apartment on West 80th Street. “It looked like a fairy-tale block,” Ms. Terri-Cote said. “All those beautiful old brownstones, where the architecture is old and quaint; it felt like you were in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale street.” She set a price and put the new listing in the computer-this time with a note saying that she wouldn’t start showing the place for two days. But a few hours later, a vigilant fellow Corcoran broker saw the listing and made an offer that Ms. Terri-Cote couldn’t refuse. “It was this totally incredible situation,” said Ms. Terri-Cote. “What I loved is that no one felt like they were overpaying.”