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Mad About . . .

The Househunter: Frank Sinatra or Wes Anderson?

4th June 2021
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Bit of a treat for you this week with a tour of Frank Sinatra’s Palm Desert home, which is for sale, versus the house that starred in Wes Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums which is available to rent. So this week instead of imagining our film scripts for the houses we have them ready made for us as we tour round. And can I just say I am LOVING your film ideas every week. It is such a joyous moment to read all the ideas – many of which have me crying with laughter so thank you all for pitching in with this. It is a proper tonic.

Also these properties led to a rather surreal text conversation between me and The Mad Husband who texted (from upstairs) to tell me that Frank Sinatra’s house was for sale, with which I countered ” and the Royal Tenenbaum’s is up for rent”. Which led to both of us thinking we were winding the other up until we met on the stairs to swap links. This puts me in mind of another story, which has always amused me, when the husband of a Jewish friend was in Synagogue and texted a mate to say: “Currently sitting behind Paul McCartney [whose wife Nancy Shevell is Jewish] what are you up to?”. To which the lightening reply came : “I’m in church with John Lennon.”

Anyway, fancy a look round? Let’s go first to the Tenenbaums which is asking for a monthly fee of $20,000 for which you get 8,000 sq ft, six bedrooms, four bathrooms (and a half?) a drawing room, dining room, butler’s kitchen AND chef’s kitchen. The house, it’s also worth noting, is 100ft wide. My London terrace is just under 17ft wide. For scale.

The Flemish revival house, which is on a corner lot, also has 50 windows (but maybe if you’re renting the landlord can pay that particular cleaning bill). It was the home of the rather fabulously named Charles H Tuttle (1879-1971) a lawyer who ran against Franklin D Roosevelt for the post of Governor of New York.

According to the Robb Report, the house was empty but had just been bought by Willie Woods for $460K when Wes Anderson spotted it. Willie Woods (never not going to read that as Wonka) agreed to let the film crew in for six months before starting his own renovations. And that, my friends, is probably the last time we will ever see inside so make the most of it.

The first three floors are linked by an elevator and the original parquet flooring remains throughout most of the mansion, which is located in Hamilton Heights for those familiar with NYC.

According to the film folklore Anderson saw the house before he had written the film and created his famously dysfunctional family around the building, and now we’ve seen the real thing I’m going to have to watch the film again – one of my favourites and second only to The Grand Budapest Hotel in my Wes Anderson ranking.

In many ways it feels surprisingly similar to the film in its decor and, as the Robb Report says: “If $20,000 a month sounds like a steep price to rent a home in NYC, here’s another way of looking at it: That comes out to $3,300 per bedroom—or basically the average price of one-bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan. Not all that bad for to live inside a Wes Anderson movie set.”

Now we’re leaving New York and heading for the desert to Frank’s house, Villa Maggio, his secluded mountain retreat high above Palm Desert. And I don’t know if it’s because the sun has finally come out as I type this but man I want to go there right now.

This five bedroom, six bathroom house was built in 1967 and named after his character in the film From Here to Eternity. It still retains all its mid-century rustic wooden clad charm although it’s a little orange for me and I’m guessing it would be regarded as sacrilege to paint it all white.

The house sits in the middle of 10 acres and there is a five bedroom guesthouse as well, not forgetting the poolhouse (which also has a fireplace) two saunas, pool, tennis courts, a helicopter pad and, oh yes, those mountain views.

Sinatra lived here for 12 years so you can imagine the list of famous friends and Ratpackers who would have visited and hung out by the pool or sat in these rooms. It’s a slightly dizzying thought. Apparently it has been renovated to recreate his taste and style and was reportedly one of his favourite houses.

This might be my favourite spot, sitting at the table overlooking that view, which is 20 minutes from the shops and restaurants of Palm Desert and El Paseo and 26 miles from Palm Springs International Airport.

Somehow it feels very full and slightly cluttered though. I think it’s the wooden walls which were no doubt done to give it that rustic mountain charm, but then the decorators came in and threw chandeliers and Old Master style paintings about and turned it into a rustic cabin on steroids.

I feel compelled to say that I wonder if we would love it as much if it had belonged to Norman Carpet, attorney at law, rather than Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Although the more I pause to examine the details the more I like it. Professional interior designers will tell you that contrast, or tension, is a key part of a successful scheme, and this has that in spades.

And that, I think, is the key to this house. Look closely and see the wallpaper wrapped around all the walls, the detail of the touch points (handles etc) as well as the gallery walls (look at the different shapes of the pictures used which is always a good tip) and the layers of lighting and styling of all the objects.

There’s a lot going on but there’s also a lot to see if you take it slowly and focus on the details. So what do we think? Anyone in? Are we going town or desert this week?

I’ll leave you with this view in case that helps.

 

 

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15 Comments

  • Reply BleachMyEyes 4th June 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Two truly hideous houses; they’d both be shoo-ins for Rightmove ‘gems’ cf. Mumsnet

  • Reply Elaine Fraser 4th June 2021 at 7:00 pm

    Saw ol’ blue eyes live in concert ( Glasgow 1990) – he was amazing even in his eighties.

    On houses I would pop for the interior of the first and the view and location of second although I would imagine you would need to be inside with Aircon on full blast in summer.

  • Reply Kathleen Rogers 4th June 2021 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve never understood why people build houses in spectacular natural settings and then clutter them up with furnishings, fittings and artwork that fight with what is outside the house. We recently moved to Arizona and the number of faux Mediterranean villas, soaring marble foyers, beaded (yes, beaded) wallpaper, chandeliers, silk swags and weird paint jobs we saw when househounting was astonishing. Even in the pared down house we bought there were accent walls including one in the bedroom that I can only describe as “abattoir purple,” and another that was a deep marine blue, and everything else was painted a cold pale gray–no relationship at all to the gorgeous dessert palette that surrounds us. But, as we know, paint is easy to fix, and stripped of its hideous “stuff” the Sinatra house will come into its own.

    • Reply Jennifer – DCA 7th June 2021 at 6:22 pm

      You’ve summed up my thoughts exactly. I can never wrap my head around people who design in complete isolation from (a) the environment of the home and (b) the bones of the house itself. They set the whole experience up to be a visual struggle from the start.

  • Reply Anna 4th June 2021 at 1:51 pm

    Had to peek between my fingers. A setting for a Horror movie perhaps?

  • Reply Pia 4th June 2021 at 12:00 pm

    My vote goes to the Palm Springs house. I would do something about the ceilings but it has a wonderful homey feeling. And it is much! Because it should be much!

    I think that Princess Anne might feel quite at home in the Palm Springs house as well 🙂 If we are to judge by the photo from her living room. Thanks for that pod episode. Made my day…,

  • Reply Betty Pepper 4th June 2021 at 11:03 am

    Well, thank you for this… first you brought to my attention that I have Wes Anderson mixed up with Wesley Snipes. Second yes get the white paint out. Immediately.

  • Reply jennifer bets 4th June 2021 at 10:39 am

    I’m afraid that if I moved into either of those, the first thing I’d do is order a skip.

  • Reply SandraH 4th June 2021 at 10:07 am

    I’m not feeling it. I like calm spaces.

  • Reply Eden French 4th June 2021 at 8:37 am

    Wow, well they were both interesting. Very much down to personal taste, but in all honesty, I would love to decorate both of these as they are they are both ‘too much’ for me in different ways. Strip it all back, change the colour schemes and start adding things back slowly then we would have two truly gorgeous properties.

  • Reply Mela 4th June 2021 at 8:28 am

    I love that Wes wrote the film around the house! Makes perfect sense. I’ll take it! But do love that view… slightly less cluttered inside though please. I can’t quite see Frank there…Are we sure they decorated it to his taste and style?? Still I’ll happily join you on that deck…

  • Reply Sian 4th June 2021 at 8:24 am

    Palm Desert – just goes to show that money doesn’t buy you taste…

  • Reply Melanie 4th June 2021 at 8:04 am

    Too ‘opulent’ for me, I’m a simple soul…

  • Reply Nicky Hufford 4th June 2021 at 7:41 am

    I think I’ve got a migraine coming on…..

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