COTE DE TEXAS: Lessons From An Auction.

Lessons From An Auction.

Last week the contents of the late comedienne Joan Rivers’ New York City penthouse were auctioned off by Christie’s.  Besides her jewelry and clothes, the auction consisted mostly of the French furniture and antique accessories she had collected over a lifetime. 

French design is not exactly trending right now, so I was curious to see what the final auction prices for her furniture were.   Is this a good time to buy some wonderful French antiques at a steal?   And, in addition to this auction, in 2014, Christie’s auctioned off the contents of Joan’s country house in Connecticut.  Together, there are some lessons to take from these two auctions. 

Although Joan Rivers was known for her both her sense of humor and her addiction to plastic surgery, she surprisingly had a love of French antiques, which makes me love her just a little.  A lot, really.  I’ve always admired Joan because she was never afraid of anyone or anything and she was a hard worker, to the very end.I remember when I first saw Joan’s antique filled New York City penthouse, I was shocked at how dignified it all was.  It was not at all what one would expect from a “loud mouthed comedienne” like  Joan. 

Her apartment was the penthouse in an original mansion, located right off Fifth Avenue and Central Park, a short stroll to the Plaza Hotel.    Her penthouse was spread out over three floors, and her daughter Melissa stayed in the bottom floor which was a guest apartment.  Last year, the opulent penthouse sold for $28 million to an Arab sheik who is said to be gutting it.  Gutting it????

The heart of Joan’s triplex, which was built in 1903 for the Gilded Age Millionaires Alice and John Drexel,  was the ballroom and music room of the original mansion.  These two opulent rooms had all the original gilt and moldings that Joan had had painstakingly restored by artisans.

  Gutting it?  Why????

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#1 E. 62nd Street – The Drexel mansion - now known as The Spencer Condominium, where Joan had lived since 1988, the year after her husband Edgar died.  The mansion was converted into 12 apartments in 1930 and for a time, Ernest Hemingway lived here and even wrote The Snows of Kilimanjaro here.   The mansion is just 47’ wide and 7 stories tall.

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An early photo of the mansion – without the top two floors with the curved windows that Joan lived in.  These rooms must have been added either by Joan or a previous owner.  Notice the contemporary building, today a synagogue, to the right of the mansion which replaced the original house that was once there.

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Close up of the top floors with the curved windows that were added later, along with the terraces.   The  three windows right below the two floors of curved windows is where her daughter Melissa and grandson Cooper stayed, in the ground floor of Joan’s apartment.

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This book is filled with all the important Gilded Age mansions that architect Horace Trumbauer built.   He also designed the mansion where Joan’s penthouse was.

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Joan’s fans left flowers at her front door when she fell ill.

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The Front Lobby

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The grand staircase.  Joan’s 5100 sq. ft. apartment had 11 rooms, including 4 bedrooms and baths and 5 wood burning fireplaces.  Joan also served as President of the condo’s board and was even embroiled in a lawsuit with a condo owner at the time of her death.


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Joan with her three dogs in the Ballroom of her penthouse.  I love this picture of Joan and think she looks so pretty here.
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The floorplan shows the three floors, with 3 staircases, 2 mezzanine balconies, and over 20 closets including a cedar walk-in and another, just for the china – of which she had many sets.

   Screenshot (4251) - Copy.png There are no pictures of the private elevator lobby at the front door of her penthouse – so I screen capped this photo of Joan and a friend in her foyer.  She had decorated it in painted murals that showed houses and gardens.

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And here, a hidden jib door leads from the private elevator foyer to Joan’s Music Room.

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You enter off the left of the glorious Music Room, above.  This room is located between the dining room and the library and the Ballroom.  On the left there is a window seat and there is a fireplace on the right.  Above, is the mezzanine level with bookcases that looks down on the Music Room.   At the back is the dining room.  The library is to the left of the dining room, through a hidden jib door.

The auction held last week at Christie’s had a final sale total of $2,199,125 – a portion of which went to two of Joan’s favorite charities.Here’s a look at some of the item’s sold from the Music Room:


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This bench is George III, 1780, and it went for $10,650 on a value estimate of $3,000.

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The view from the upper mezzanine, looking down towards the ballroom with the tall columns.  The parquet is Versailles pattern.   Joan lived here for almost 30 years and she had never really changed a thing.


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Looking towards the Ballroom with the columns.   The painted clouds on the ceiling is really a dated touch – from 1988.   A plain ceiling would look so much better, IMO, but I’m not surprised that Joan never updated anything here.  The apartment has a timeless, classic design, not one that you would update with blue tufted velvet couches that are all the rage today. 

The early 20th century Aubusson rug went for $8,125 with a value of just $6,000.

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The window seat in the music room with two bergeres.  Above is the mezzanine level.

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Perfume burners, Malachite, the lamps sold for $9,375.00, 19th century.  These are gorgeous.  The estimate was $8000, so this final price is close to market value. 

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These chairs are from 1780 and went for only $7,500.   The estimate was $6,000, so these held their value.  They are really a beautiful pair with the bow detail on top.

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This French table, not old, 20th century, went for $10,650 – it’s estimate was $15,000.

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This pair of sofas, NOT antique, went for an outrageous price of $37,500!!!!.  They were valued at only $5000.  This price was driven up by the sentimental value that Joan Rivers owned them – something you have to be very careful when buying from a celebrity auction.

If you want to own a piece of the celebrity, choose something small and personal – a hand mirror, a brush, a perfume bottle.  But big sofas that aren’t antique?   You could buy these new for a 10th of this price.

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Night view of the Music Room, with the dining room door closed – it’s mirrored French doors.  Wow, I really don’t like that painted cloud ceiling!  Especially when the hidden lights are turned on.

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Joan entertained a lot.   Each Thanksgiving she held a large dinner party where a long table was set up in the Music Room.  Her surprisingly good friend shock-jock Howard Stern attended each year and would talk about how gorgeous an event it was.  It looks like everyone got a red wrapped gift.

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Here, the jib door to the library is open – to the left of the dining room. 

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Joan collected model chairs – and used them to hold books – in each room, especially bedrooms.   Here is a painted French chair that is just adorable.   In the tall cabinet is Joan’s Faberge collection.  These small items ended up being the most valuable and most anticipated items in the Christie’s Sale.   For example:

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This frame went for $245,000 on a $60,000 estimate!!!  This Faberge frame was the most expensive item in the entire sale.  Wow.  The frame was given by Queen Victoria to her daughter Queen Louise of Denmark.  The frame had last been owned by Queen Anne of Romania.All these frames below are also Faberge:

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This sold for only $100,000, with a value at $150,000.

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$68,750. valued at $30,000.

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$60,000.  estimate $70,000.

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$50,000.  valued at $40,000.  There were even more Faberge items.  So, these pieces were some of the best investments Joan made, although we don’t know what she paid for them and some didn’t sell for their estimate.   The lesson though is buy Faberge, if only you can afford it!!!


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This early 20th century Russian Karelian birch box with a sapphire clasp was a whopping $7,500 with a 3K value.  Interestingly, Joan herself bought this in an auction in 2002.


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The library through the jib door.   The clock was listed in the catalogue, but not on the final sale tally.

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In this video, Joan is bragging that she is friends with Prince Charles and Camilla and each year they send her a hand addressed Christmas card.  She said she likes to keep it here on this table, very nonchalantly.  It was so funny the way she said it!   Then she said her friend who was on her way over was sure to notice the card.   AND, since there are no pictures of the staircases, you can see a tiny bit of the bottom stair at the left of Joan, to the right of the dining room door.  These stairs lead up to her bedroom and the mezzanine and the help’s bedroom.  The stairs down, lead to the guest apartment where Melissa and Cooper stayed.

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And here, to the right of Joan, is the second set of stairs that lead up the help’s quarters.

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Night view from the mezzanine looking towards the Ballroom.  At the right, the door is open that leads to the private elevator foyer.

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These crystal candelabra went for $8,195 but the value was just $3,000.   The mud men were not in the sale.  Perhaps Joan’s daughter decided to keep them?

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Looking from the mezzanine into the Ballroom.

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The Ballroom has large windows on both sides with a crystal chandelier and piano.  The rug, which is 19th century, went for only $7,500. but I’m not surprised, Aubussons are not in big demand now.  Someone got a great deal on the rug which is a classic. 

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This pair of French chairs, 19th century, sold for $5600.  These would be so pretty with new fabric.

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The 19th century German malachite clock sold for $6,875, with a 5k value.   The side pieces malachite, 20th century, went for $6,000.  The mirror went for $7500, with a $8000 estimate.  All accessories – and all held their value.

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This chest was the 2nd highest item in the sale.   By Francois Linke and Leon Message, 1905.  It went for $160,000, assessed at $150,000.  It truly is a beauty.  I would love to know what she paid for it. 

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Beautiful quartz crystal chandelier – this was not in the sale. 

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This chair is Russian, 18th century, and went for $13,750. which was a little over its appraised value.  Wow.  Russian furniture is expensive!!  Who knew???  No, I knew, but you don’t see much Russian furniture in Texas. 


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These two sofas and ottoman went for a whopping $21,500 – the value was $4000.   Someone got really ripped off!!!  Again, this price was driven by sentimentality, not value.  The sofas are 28 years old – there is no value in that.   Plus, they can’t be pristine clean – she had 3 dogs.  Oh well  - my advice is don’t buy custom upholstery at a celebrity auction. 



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Looking the other way toward the Music Room.

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The Ballroom was set up for conversation with its deep sofas and window seat.

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Nighttime view of the ballroom.   I can imagine that these rooms look best at night in candlelight and low lamp light.  Joan was like me and disliked bright overhead lighting.   When she stayed at Melissa’s house in California, she would turn down all the lights.

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This chair is 18th century and went for $2750, a really good price for that age of a chair.

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Night view of the ballroom’s bay window.


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This set of chairs in front of the window went for $4,000, 19th century, valued at just $3k.   These are quite pretty with the painted finish and would go well, mixed with Swedish antiques.


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In this room, the large rug is early 19th century, and was valued at $12,000.   It sold for just $7,500, again because these rugs are not quite as popular today.  Someone got a great deal on this beauty.

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The piano was not included in the sale.

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The dining room, off the Music Room.


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This Regency table, went for just $6000, with a $9000 value!  19th century – someone got a good deal!!!

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Night view out the windows to the terrace.  To the right, the opening leads into the kitchen.  This early 20th century Aubusson rug went for $16,250 with an appraisal of just $4000 – so this rug was highly valued – more so than the more traditional rugs in the Music Room and Ballroom.  This is a pretty one – and much more unusual than the others – which probably accounts for the high price.

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This room is a bit too busy with the patterned rug and curtains and the decorated boiserie.  I would have used plain curtain fabric instead.

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The wall panels in pink and gilt boiserie are 18th century.   The set of six chairs, 20th century, were quite a bargain.  They sold for just $2,125 – valued at $3,000.  Still, that’s a lot of chair for 2,000!!  They are pretty, too, in silk velvet with trim.


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Set of mostly Tiffany tea set, 19th century.   It went for $27,500, value of $25,000.   I’m loving this collection.  Really pretty.   The Tiffany and Faberge held their values.  Names and brands are worth it judging by the values in the auctions.

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This 20th century corner chinoiserie cabinet went for $4,375. with a $3,000 value.

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There are no pictures of the kitchen, but I found this in a video.  The kitchen needs major updating, but the tiled floor is pretty, as is the hanging shelf.  I’m sure the Sheik is building a fabulous kitchen!!

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This 20th century Tiffany bowl engraved with Spike – Joan’s dog’s name - went for an amazing $13,750 on just a $500 value.  WOW.  This was definitely a fan buying this for sentimental value!!!!


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Off the dining room and the library is the terrace.  At the end of the terrace, Joan put a mirror on the wall that gives the illusion that the terrace is larger.

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The same view – in winter.

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The view from the dining room windows framed this statue.


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The library with the curved glass – looking over the street.  You can see there are a few original mansions left on the street.


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The library – it was changed around a bit in different photographs.

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George III, 1760, $12,000 value – sold for $10,000.  The English furniture seems to have held its value, more than the French.

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I spy a beautiful collection of antique tortoise shell tea caddies that were not at the auction – under the coffee table.  Someone decided to keep these, probably Melissa?  As much as was sold at auction, there are still masses of things not at the auction. 

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The desk and chair, 20th century, with a value of $1500 went for a huge $12,500!!!  Again, English, but not an antique.  This was another sentimental purchase from a fan who wanted this well worn chair and desk used daily by Joan.  But again, the English pieces went for higher prices.


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I think the library and the bedroom above it were added on either by Joan or possibly before her.

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Even her phone was pretty!

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This bench, George II, 1745, went for $5,250. – estimate was $9,000.   Whoa.   That is a surprise.  This is an original George II – from before we were even a country!!!!!   Up the steps is the Music Room. 

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Above the dining room  - on the mezzanine, is the foyer to the master bedroom. 

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On the mezzanine floor – the master bedroom foyer with its domed ceiling and marble floor.

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The bedroom is ultra feminine with a lace canopy and hand painted pink wallpaper – probably Gracie.  Even the ceiling was wallpapered.   Through the door is the foyer which overlooks the Music Room.  And further down is the master bath.

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Joan gave an interview in her lace canopy bed.

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The bathroom was all marble and silk.  You can see Joan’s easel at the far left.  She painted in here.  She claimed it was because the light was good, but probably it was the only place she was able to paint and not ruin anything!


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Joan collected French chair models, or children’s chairs and used them to hold books and magazines in bedrooms and bathrooms.   The trio are gorgeous – to die for!  They sold for $9,375 – valued at just $1500!!!   One is 18th century, the other two, later dates.   The green chair is shown in her bathroom.  The one on the right was in the Music Room, remember?  So cute!!! 


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Joan used her bathroom as a quasi office.  She painted in here and did other work, like made posters.

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The apartment had 20 closets.  Apparently she saved many of her clothes.   Attached to each dress was a ziploc bag with information of where she had worn the gown and with what accessories.   She was obviously a Type A personality who never stopped moving.  Here is a close up of the pink hand painted wallpaper in the bedroom.   Quite beautiful. 

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Downstairs is the two bedroom apartment where Melissa and Cooper stayed when they came to visit Joan.  Totally different from the upstairs penthouse, it is still quite nice, though a bit dated. In the corner is the trendy beaded crystal ship chandelier.

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One of the bedrooms.   This really needed an update. 


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Besides the NYC penthouse, Joan also owned a country house in tony Litchfield County, Connecticut that she bought after visiting Bill Blass’ country house.  She loved this house and visited often, but she ended up selling it in 2014.  At that time, she had another sale at Christie’s which is really, really interesting.   The house was furnished in country French and country English manor style and the furniture was very casual – quite different from the penthouse in every way.  When she bought the house, it was a modern ranchburger that Blass called the ugliest house in Connecticut.  Joan said it was a “Frank Lloyd Wrong”  and she called it “Denny’s.”   She hired Joe Cicio to remodel the house completely.  He added on 2,000 sq. ft., and 4 stone fireplaces with wood ceiling beams and wood and tile floors. 


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The front of the house with the newly remodeled front door, now a double French door. 

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In 2003, Architectural Digest took pictures of the house which was very long and wide and then ten years later, real estate photographs were taken which shows the house in a different light – much used and with changes.   The Christie’s sale which happened when she sold the house in 2014 must have been a huge disappointment to Joan.   The auction prices were abysmal.   Antique armoires went for $650.  Yes.


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The new terrace that takes in the incredible views.

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A low stone wall surrounds the terrace.

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This vista is what sold Joan on the 84 acre property.

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Away from the house is the pool and fountain. 


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The back side of the house – the main living room is in the center – with its raised ceiling. 


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Joan visited summer and winter.  She would pack her three dogs in the car and drive out each weekend she was home. 

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2014 Real estate photos:  The double French doors open to the foyer with its cozy fireplace.  LOVE! This reminds me of Michael Smith’s old house with the fireplace in the foyer.  I love that.  There is a skirted table, and to the left is a library, with books piled on a library stairstep.   Down the hall on the left are murals of friends’ houses.

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And the view to the right with another bookcase – AND – a console custom made for Joan by Thomas Messel.

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A night time view of the foyer. 


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And another view of the foyer at night. 


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Joan bought this charming antique painting of Snow, the dog – and kept the frame which had the dog’s name on its plate.  It sold for $2750, rather high – and above its $1000 value.  But it is charming and sweet.   The starburst mirror and two sconces, new, sold for $1,250. 


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This 19th century relief – found above the door – went for $1375. 


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This pair of 19th century side tables were valued at $3,000 but sold for just $875!!!!!   I love these – they are a great substitute for a small side table or garden stool, especially in a library or family room. 


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The Victorian mirror went for $3,000 – valued at $7,000.



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Joan used library stairs to hold books and magazines.  These 20th century library steps and bench went for $2,000.  BUT…. 



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In this week’s auction, these 20th century steps went for $3000 – valued at just $1200!   And, without the bench too.   You can see that when the “star” has passed, the sentimental value adds so much to the bottom line.  Better to avoid celebrity auctions, especially those that have passed.  The deals were all found at Joan’s first auction.  After she passed away, the next auction had higher sale prices. 


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These 18th century French chairs went for just $2750, valued at $6000!    You pay more for a reproduction – but these are 18th century!!!! 

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BEFORE:   The living room.  All sliding glass and weird modern ceiling. 


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BEFORE:   The opposite side of the room with the stone fireplace which is what Joan loved in the house.


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AFTER:  2003, Architectural Digest.   All French Country ala 2000s.    Back to back sofas with a large console table between.  Beautiful upholstery, all pricey fabrics.    Hard to believe this is the same room as the Before picture!!! 


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AFTER:  2003 AD.  The second seating area, facing the fireplace with its new wood mantel.  Bookcases were added to the sides of the fireplace and the two doors on the side of it – were made smaller and arched.  I notice in the bottom shelves – the terracotta figures which ended up in the penthouse’s auction this week.  At some point, she must have moved them back home to NYC. 


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2014:   Real estate photo – the room looks like it remained the same, except for more books and “stuff.” 


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From Christie’s catalogue – the second sofa was removed to make room for this coffee table.  The new beams are so beautiful.   The house is really so pretty compared to how it was before.   Joan did have good taste. 


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Sitting on the yellow sofa for Architectural Digest.What you can’t see in any pictures is one really beautiful detail in the family room:  a wall of birds.  I took pictures of it from a video.


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On the right side, you can see a collection of framed bird prints, set over a cream chest.   But, the left side of the room was never photographed. 


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And here it is - on the opposite side – over the same type of chest is a mirror with sconces holding porcelain birds. 


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Here’s a close up of the sconces and birds.  Wish there was a better picture!!  But I love this – what a great idea. 


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What is most interesting is this set of 8 French & German birds from the 19th and 20th century were sold in this week’s Christie’s sale, as opposed to 2014.  The price was $6,875 on a value of $6,000.   Had they chosen to sell these in 2014, they probably would have sold for $1,000.  Another set of birds were perched in the high window sill in the Connecticut family room.  They were also sold this week for some reason. 



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This 19th century cartoon went for just $750, valued at $1500.   This was a great deal.  $750!?! 


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19th century Chinese lacquered pigskin trunks – went for $1000.   Valued at $3k.   One of Joan’s yellow sofa went for $2750, the other went for $3250. - good prices considering the high prices that people paid for her sofas in the penthouse, but still expensive for 10 year old used sofas.   The two orange chairs and flame stitch ottoman all went for $3250, which seems high for the age.

   Buying nice custom new upholstery is very expensive, so I guess if you were going to recover the fabric, you might have saved just a little, but not much.   All the other upholstered chairs went for around $1500 each, which is about what you would pay for one new, custom, plus fabric.  Again, not a great deal, just a break even.  But, still less than the prices went last week at the penthouse sale. 


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This painting went for $1000. – it’s value.


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BEFORE:   The dining room – Joan turned it into a connecting room with the country kitchen. 


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2003:  For Architectural Digest – the same room, after.  A Country French dining room with a skirted table and French chairs.   New wood floors and beamed ceiling, along with new windows and fireplace.  Amazing transformation.


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This set of six, 19th century French chairs – went for $750!!!!   OMG.   Seriously?????   Wow.  This is a steal!!!!!   Chairs at World Market aren’t that cheap. 


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This 19th century Dutch table.  Guess?   $625.  Unreal.   These prices must have really upset Joan!!! 


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2003:   For AD.  Off the dining room is the stunning kitchen.  Gorgeous!   Extra tall, large portraits were placed up high to accentuate the ceiling.  Gorgeous light fixture.


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2014:   The dining room fireplace is at the left.


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And another view of the range and island.


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This 19th century Victorian scale went for $350.   Yep.   A steal!!!  Valued at $1500.   The group of 9 crocks went for $250.  Gulp.  9 crocks. 


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This gorgeous collection of vegetableware went for $5,250, valued at $3,000.   The large lettuce is incredible.


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The white lettuce went for $6,875 – estimates were $1,800.   Obviously – collecting lettuce is a sure fire winner.


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This large canvas, from the 19th century, went for a measly $875!   It was estimated to be worth $5,000.  Granted, the frame was not included for some reason, but wow!  I would love this for $875!!!   Another great buy.



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BEFORE:  This dark contemporary hall became a show stopping area of the house.  It’s amazing what they did to this hall! 


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AFTER:   2003, AD.  Off the foyer, down a few steps, this tiled hall was opened up with a wall of windows.  On the opposite side, a set of mirrors reflect the sun and view.  In between the mirrors are murals of favorite houses:  The Prince of Wales, Melissa’s house in California, and Blaine Trump – sister in law of The Donald.  Blaine is very active with the charity God’s Love, We Deliver, which Joan also was active in.


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2014:  Real Estate view of the mural hall – her own Hall Of Mirrors, Joan said, just like at Versailles. 


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BEFORE:   Master bedroom.


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AFTER:   Joan’s famous pink bedroom.  This was all auctioned off.   The bed frame went for $750.  The two club chairs went for $4,000 – high or 10 year old chairs, for sure.  The tole lamp went for just $500 – granted it wasn’t an antique.

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The secretary was custom made for Joan by Thomas Messel.  It sold for $9,375, with a value of $3,000.



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Another piece custom made for Joan by Thomas Messel – it went for just $750!!!!!!!  Whoa!   Why, the book bindings alone were worth a lot more!  Wow.  Whomever bought this piece got a fabulous buy and a fabulous piece!!   This one probably really upset Joan.  It would have me.  Bigly!  As Trump says!!!



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The 20th century palm trees ended up being the most expensive item at the 2014 auction – the final price was $15,000.  The estimate was only $5,000. 



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2003:   For Architectural Digest.  The painting over the fireplace looks like Joan and Melissa.   I’m noticing that back in 2000s, Architectural Digest would photograph interiors with the lights turned on – which I have always loved.  Today, most magazines don’t.  But compare the bedroom without the lights on, below: 


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2014:   The Real Estate photograph.  No lights.   Looks dull without the lights on.    And….the bedspread is now gone, probably ruined by the dogs?


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See?   Joan on her bed with the dogs. 



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The master bath.  Interesting, the statue never showed up in the auctions.  It was probably thought to be too sensitive for the sale. 

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2003:   For AD:   There were three guest rooms – with upholstered walls.  The green velvet chair was sold for $750.  And there is the tiny chair model – holding extra books, just like Joan loved.


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And 11 years later.   For just $250, someone bought the headboard and six pair of curtains!


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In 2014:   In the blue & white guest room:  this headboard and four pairs of curtains went for $1250. – much more than the other guest room.  The two club chairs were $1625.


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19th century.  This beautiful painting, in the frame, went for $7,500, valued at $5,000.  So pretty. 


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This 19th century mahogany games table went for $625.   Valued at $2000.   A steal!


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And a bit earlier, with the chair showing and cleaned up.  Interesting that the stone and wood in this room is painted white as compared to the wood stain in the other part of the house.



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2014:  The sitting room in one of the guest rooms:   The wallpaper fragment, 19th century from France sold for $1375.  The sofa sold for $1250.


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This pair of chairs went for just $750, under a $3000 value.  This was probably another disappointment for Joan, but not as much as these:



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This 19th century linen press was $750, valued at $5,000.   Another great value for the buyer but a disappointment for Joan.


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18th century, French.  It sold for only $625.   Why?   Why wasn’t I there?!?!?!?  $625????


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And my favorite – this 18th century! trumeau mirror from France went for just $375!!!!!!


What to learn from these two auctions?   French furniture is not in demand right now – if you are in the market for some, try auctions rather than antique stores to save money.    English, Russian and Swedish are more pricey at auction.  Buy Fabrege!  If only you can afford it! 

But, really – brand names seem to hold value best, names like Tiffany and Cartier, etc.   Don’t buy old upholstery at auction, it’s a ripoff and not clean.   Don’t buy at auctions of famous people – you will pay higher prices driven up by fans.

           To see ALL the auction items and the final sales – from both the 2014 and 2016 auctions, go HERE. 



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AND, finally -former domino editor and co-founder of Lonny, Michelle Adams is having a private sale on One King’s Lane. HERE




36 comments :

  1. This is quite an education. I have come into possession of a big collection of French antiques, and seeing Joan's place really helps to see what I can do with them. As you say, she didn't change anything, nor did she need to because it was classic and timeless.
    I don't understand how the carpets didn't get more interest. Everybody seems to have the same white with black Beni Ourain rugs. Joan's carpets have many more lives left in them.
    I also love how she completely changed that country house. She clearly had a vision of how she wanted to live.
    Fascinating post!

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    1. The rugs were still expensive, but they were so large and they seemed a good buy to me. Things do trend. Including carpets. And I do have to say that I've had many clients with rugs that just went in the closet - they had no value. the Beni's are going to be so hard to sell to anyone in a few years.

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    2. I buy regularly at auctions and estate sales. The really big rugs are usually the best buys, prefer over wall to wall carpet Need to have a great rug specialist clean them it's worth it
      Kris in Seattle

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  2. Joni, a masterful post as usual. I live at auctions and have seen the same prices swings you're noting here. I'm not surprised those fabulous Aubussons went so low, and I'm sure it had to do with size. Very few people looking for "mansion sized" rugs these days. The one that did sell was a more popular and manageable size.
    I'm also not surprised Joan was friends with Howard Stern. They had so much in common--both comedy pioneers, both great business persons, and both devoutly Jewish. Those Thanksgiving dinners must have been fabulous!

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    1. you know, you are right about the rug size - the one in the dining room was much smaller. ok - i'm a huge howard fan and I loved the days JOan would come in and he would kid her about her surgeries. Actually, Howard isn't really religious, but his daughters are incredibly religious. Very very devout. Very religious. He is a very complicated man.

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  3. A "rip off" is a fraud or a swindle. While I agree that the 20th century pieces sold for extremely high prices, they weren't "rip off" as the bidders were not fooled into buying these items.

    2014 was a different time and Joan was still alive. That makes for very different results.

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    1. no, they weren't forced into buying upholstery at extremely ridiculous prices.

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  4. WOW this confirms what I've seen recently about French furniture. We have a lot of it and our current 40 year old daughter has no interest in inheriting it! Would rather have pottery barn so sad. This makes me wish I had been at the Conneticutt sale that's my style dressed country French. Loved her country home how she remodeled it. I heard it sold for a shockingly low price must be due to the economy then.
    Wonderful educational post

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    1. she might change her mind. in my 20s i was the same way, but changed in my 30s. Maybe she will see the light? I hope so!!! :)

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  5. This is probably one of my favorite posts ever, and I can't imagine the amount of work that went into it--thank you! That CT house was gorgeous when she got finished with it and you found several photos of the Manhattan apartment I'd never seen. Wonderful post!

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  6. Wow, her career and home was amazing! But, the kitchen cannot be the kitchen!! : - ) Still looking at all that makes me think about this...

    Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14



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    1. "It all just disappears, doesn't it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror." -Doctor Who

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    2. omg! y'all are so depressing!!!! really!!! dust to dust. a blink of the eye. I always think about how you were already dead before you were born - the eternity before. ugh. thanks!!!! haha.

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  7. LOve that she knew what she liked! I'll never understand NYC - people pay aburd prices for one apartment when the one next door is 1/10th the price and even larger -and then turn around and gut it. NYC is the number one place for gutting things needlessly, quickly followed by Atlanta from what I can see. I don't get it. Why not work with what you have and your investment? I miss Joan and her quick wit and hilarious comedy. Loved her on fashion police!

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  8. My favorite post of yours ever! Such opulence! ~sigh~

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  9. When reading this wonderful post, what stands out to me is how quickly a life can be extinguished. Her home of 30 years so painstakingly assembled and uniquely a part of her identity, her comfort and refuge, was disassembled by the piece, sold or donated to end up in unknown places. This was brought home to me when my father died last January and it took only an hour to haul all of his clothes and personal belongings out of the house and sent for donation or given to family. His car quickly sold. Except for a few pictures, you would never know he ever existed. It was astonishing. Life is short, in fact fleeting and there is no way to slow the ultimate disassembling of all that used to be "us". The only place we can live on, in this life, is in the hearts and memories of those who loved us (and we them). I miss him every day.

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    1. Donna, my heart is with you. You have beautifully described the feelings of "closing the house". It is another little trauma.

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    2. omg!! another one. i am so depressed! hitting 60 is the worst. i've never even cared about my age, but now.....it all goes in a blink of the eye. oy. poor Joan. I really loved her.

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    3. Joni, I turned 60 this year, too. Of course it's a shock, but consider the alternative. I try not to say, "Mom died at 79" then mentally tick away how long I might have left. Isn't 60 the new 40? Maybe a corny phrase, but I do think it's true. Watch vintage tv, and when they give an age for someone that you think is 70, and they say, "50" you can see how we're a younger looking population. Not trying to be snarky, but if you begin to really watch your health, what you eat, and stay engaged with mental activity, it's not so bad. Keep posting, keep digging, it's good for your brain, and we love to read your posts!
      M.

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  10. Wow is all I can say - what a dream - what a life - I wish she was still here to enjoy all her hard work.

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  11. Thank you for this post Joni - it was so detailed and so interesting. I can see how much work it was.
    Belongings are such a fascinating glimpse into someone's private persona. Joan obviously loved reading, art, antiquities, history.... not something you saw so much in her public face.
    I love purchasing at auction for the reasons you've highlighted here. Unique pieces at prices so much better than equivalent brand new imitation pieces. I'm often scratching my head wondering why people buy a new chest of drawers from Pottery Barn (for instance) when you can get a solid piece, beautifully made in the same style for half the price at auction. Plus patina, and gravitas which Pottery Barn doesn't really offer... everything has a place, but Auctions are such a great resource if you have the patience to wait for things. And perhaps that's the thing - Joan's houses were assembled over time searching for the right things. A lot of people just want things decorated and done in 6 months, which means those auction bargains are going to pass you by.

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  12. great comment! I have never bought at an auction because i was always scared to for some reason.

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    1. Give estate sales a try too you can negotiate some of the best neighborhoods have professionally managed estate sales take a look in estate sales net and zero in on Houston
      Kris in Seattle

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  13. AS ALWAYS~ I adore your posts......I, however , have a different opinion about some of it! Yes; there were many bargains....the antiques.... (the brown ones are giveaways right now!) However; I think you are entirely wrong about upholstered furniture! The upholstered furniture that Joan had.....are about 1,000 times better than anything available today at most places. These were made by the finest upholsterers (De Angelis) being one of them.......they would cost 10 times or more what they sold for in this auction. There are very few upholsterers making this level of upholstery today. Most of them in New York......a few in Los Angeles.....nowhere in between

    Those were the biggest bargains in my view! Just my opinion!

    Some real treasures there.......the other thing is....the could painted ceiling...."dated"??? Are you kidding? 17th century and beyond!! The only thing I thought was dated in that beautiful living room was the gilded trim! The cloud ceiling is a classic that will NEVER be dated! Just my opinion! A plain white ceiling in that enormous high ceiling room would have been an enormous "faux-pas"!!!

    Again....just my opinion! She had amazing taste...and hired people who knew how to do it! That ski house is the most amazing transormation I have seen. I could move into most of her houses with my toothbrush! Exquisite....cozy and fun! I did not see one dated thing in the whole three houses.....but you and I differ on "dated" and" trendy"! And I love you! We just agree to disagree!!!!
    You are one of my very favorite blogs on the internet.....and you are the most educational!
    you are so right about young people buying Pottery Barn.....it is tragic to me.

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    1. I agree with Penny would buy Joan's upholstery pieces at those prices I bought at estate sale 1960s henredon upholstered sofas and 4 club chairs for $500 and pent about $15k getting them recovered and repaired with fresh down filling. Went to the best shop in Seattle and they aren't at the level these NYC showrooms are plus her Fabric is exquisite. Just hire a great furniture cleaner and if really scared get cushions reshuffled.
      Kris in Seattle

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    2. I also agree with Penny about the ceiling and I wouldn't change a darn thing in her apt or house very well done and timeless
      Kris in Seattle

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    3. Penny ... you are so right on about the cloud painted ceiling. When I saw the photo it seemed like a room that you could actually breath in. Maybe it is because we (you and I) live in Southern California where the outdoors are such a big part of how we live.

      As for auctions, yes, yes ,yes! If you know what you are doing and realistically know what you are willing to pay, you can get some wonderful things. I got a 1928 Baldwin Parlor Grand for just $2,000. At another auction I bought a box of silver plate trays for $35. The top 2 were easily worth $35. The bottom of the box contained three large and absolutely gorgeous footed trays. Apparently no one else had bothered to look. I had them re-plated for $100 and they are show stoppers!

      Howard Stern is a hoot! Glad to hear he was friends with Joan. What repartee they must have had.

      Miss Joan a lot but happy, in a way, that she went so quickly. She did not seem to be the type who would have wanted to die as a dried up, cripppled, old lady.

      I hope every single piece gave her tremendous pleasure no matter what it ultimately sold for!

      Smiles from Charlotte Des Fleurs

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  14. Great post Joni on a true American icon and legendary lady.
    I concur with Penelope, we were charging $22,000.00 for those sofas, all hand made in New York.

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  15. I agree with you about the clouds on the ceiling. But rather than paint it plain white, if I had my way I would hire the French company that restored the Opera Garnier in Paris and have them do a period mural on the ceiling: www.ateliermeriguet.fr

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  16. Here's what's wrong with the ceiling - the blue is too cold and saturated, and the bright white clouds are too distinct. What is needed is an Italian Renaissance sky - think Botticelli or Titian. The blues are layered blues with hints of green; the clouds, tinged with peach pink and gray-lavender, are almost diaphanous. Maybe, in one corner, just a hit of a putto. This sky in that room would have been magnificent.

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  17. My fiancé and I bought our first home together a little less than a year ago. I am in my early 30's and love antiques. (Who knew! I hated going to flea markets and antique shows with my parents as a kid but it must have rubbed off because now I love it!) To furnish our new house I had some money to spend but certainly not thousands of dollars for a chair so I have been buying in auctions via the website LiveAuctioneers.com--- an amalgamation of tons of auction houses around the world. I have scored some good deals and learned a lot-- for example--- buyers usually have to arrange and pay shipping which gets expensive and annoying real quick! My Best Buy was an 18th century French Provencial harvest table from the Christian de Guigne estate for $850--- I use it as a console table behind the sofa. I shouldn't give out my secret source--- more bidding competition!!! Lol! Anyway Joni, you should take a look around the site. I remember seeing some antique French barometers that made me think... "Oh, That's so Joni!" :)

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    1. Thanks that's a great tip that's how I fill our nest, back 40 years ago it was the only way I could afford to furnish my starter home l look at it as recycling
      Kris in Seattle

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing all that article about Joan and her fabulous houses, of course the New York Penthouse was my favorite
    She worked hard all her life from what she said and it shows.
    I am thrilled to see all the pictures and read your article on Joan's properties
    I seen several things I would like sitting in my little common house in Missouri

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  19. Why gut? He's an ARAB.....

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