Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, may prefer diners to power-breakfast spots, but he is certainly no everyman, jetting around the world in his own private plane and giving away hundreds of millions in charity. And when it comes to real estate, his tastes are rather heightened, especially with two of his properties — a town house on East 79th Street and one in Cadogan Square in London — and, perhaps soon, a $20 million Georgian mansion in Southampton, a 35-acre estate known as Ballyshear.
Throughout his tenure, the mayor has taken pains to protect his private life, refusing to divulge his traveling whereabouts, blocking aviation Web sites from tracking the movements of his private planes and swearing reporters to secrecy before granting access to his homes. Yet examples of the grandeur in which he lives had, until Monday, been in plain sight on the Web site of his longtime decorator, Jamie Drake, who is known for exuberance and has overseen rooms for Madonna as well as restorations at Gracie Mansion and City Hall.
The photographs represent a strikingly public display of his most intimate spaces: one image captures his workout room, another shows a brown commode with a pink orchid nearby.
Labeled only “Townhouse, NYC,” and “Townhouse, London,” without naming their owner, the images offer a virtual tour of two of Mr. Bloomberg’s residences, filled with artwork and expensive antiques in the English Regency style.
“It’s certainly not a budget-deficit look,” said Marian McEvoy, an author and former editor in chief of House Beautiful and Elle Décor. “This is not somebody who is interested in appearing less successful than he is, and rightly so. He appreciates, obviously, fine furniture and good art.”
Indeed, the houses are Old World and lavish, in stark contrast to the sleek, glassy modernism of the headquarters of the company he founded, Bloomberg L.P. The houses have plenty of space for the frequent parties Mr. Bloomberg gives for members of the social, business, cultural, academic or political circles that can help advance his agenda.
The mayor’s chief spokesman, Stu Loeser, declined to discuss the properties or their furnishings, and Mr. Drake did not respond to phone or e-mail messages seeking comment. Mr. Loeser would not say whether Mr. Bloomberg was aware that the photos were online, but they were removed from Mr. Drake’s site Monday afternoon.
In the New York town house, the photos show that visitors are greeted by what appeared to be, in the eyes of one antiques dealer, a Dutch old master painting, an English Regency table that could be worth $90,000 and sconces that could go for $40,000 each. In another room sits what the dealer said was a $1 million Georgian Chippendale couch beneath what appeared to be an 18th-century portrait by a prominent painter like Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough, which might be worth $450,000. Throughout the house are more sconces and chandeliers valued in the five or six figures, the dealer said.
Another room holds an antique snooker table that is worth at least $50,000, another expert said. Billowing drapes, an Egyptian marble foyer and French Savonnerie carpets all add to the centuries-old opulence. Three bathrooms, each appointed in a different fashion, are pictured.
“Michael wants to live large, like a 19th-century railroad baron,” Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine and a longtime friend of Mr. Bloomberg, told The New York Times in 2001. “He sees himself as very much like the Carnegies or Mellons.”
Still, some who have been to the house say they quickly became adjusted to it because Mr. Bloomberg is so comfortable there and such an engaging host.
“You don’t realize you’re in a very expensive town house — by the time we had dinner and conversation with people it was like being anywhere else, like a friend’s house,” Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said of his one visit there. “I’ve had breakfast with him at the Viand coffee shop, and this was a step up.”
In London, where Mr. Bloomberg’s house sits on Cadogan Square and features a spiraling, filigreed central staircase, mahogany doors and marble columns, the overall feel is similar, with expensive Georgian furnishings and fixtures. Mr. Drake, on his Web site, described his approach to the design without identifying the client: “For the across-the-pond residence of a New York-based businessman, we reveled in the possibilities of eclecticism. Iconic, American contemporary art jolts awake the international mix of exquisite furnishings.”
There is a portrait of Benjamin Franklin over a fireplace that an expert said could be by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (although others said it could be a later copy), but some of the art is much more contemporary, including a Marilyn Monroe work by Andy Warhol and a double flag and series of numbers by Jasper Johns, representing a divergence from how he described his taste in 2001.
“I like lots of old masters,” he said then. “I have some portraits, Italian. I don’t like the ones, when you’ve got a head on a plate, no, that medieval religious stuff that is so serious and so overdone.
“Would I prefer to have Jasper Johns and de Kooning and Warhol stuff all around? I don’t know. That says less to me.”
Whether Mr. Bloomberg’s style will continue to evolve is not yet clear, though the Southampton house he is said to be buying, with 22,000 square feet, could offer an opportunity for change. He has also been buying up apartments in the building next door on 79th Street and combining them with his house, and one friend said he might eventually modernize both properties.
But, as physical manifestations of Mr. Bloomberg’s personality, they all are likely to remain lavish. Winifred Gallagher, a behavioral science writer and the author of a coming book, “New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change,” described the town houses as shown on Mr. Drake’s site as statement homes, saying they were “strong expressions of identity and very strong signifiers of status.”
She said that it was “a sort of postmodern version of the 16th-century Italian merchant prince or maybe the 19th-century American robber baron,” and that the owner was “someone who can afford to express his wealth and taste and bold personality with the best that money can buy, the best art, the best design.”
Judging by the furnishings and layout, she said, she would expect the person living there to be a chief executive type: confident, extroverted, decisive, optimistic, independent-minded and preferring company to solitude. “This,” she said, “is not the broody, artistic Abraham Lincoln type.”
Source: NY Times