YOUR MAMAS NOTES: New York City is full of immigrants who came from little and wound up at the tippy top of the financial and social heaps along Fifth and Park Avenues. Just like at former cab driver turned property mogul Tamir Sapir who recently sold the Duke Semans mansion to Mexican telecom tycoon and multi-billionaire Carlos Slim for $44,000,000.
Another immigrant who went from rags to riches was Henryk de Kwiatkowski, a Polish fellow who escaped the Nazis in 1939 wound up at the British embassy in Tehran and eventually emigrated to Canada where he became an aeronautical engineer. Henryk, by all accounts a clever and cultured man, made a fortune primarily from the leasing and selling of used commercial airplanes. One story–one that may or may not be true–goes that while playing backgammon with the Shah of Iran at the royal palace in Tehran, Mister de Kwiatkowski made a $20,000,000 commission on the sale of nine 747s.
Although he came from extremely modest circumstances, Mister de Kwiatkowski, as the newly wealthy often do, quickly took up the habits and hobbies of the very rich; He collected impressive and expensive artworks, played polo, raised thoroughbreds, and purchased plum and pricey pieces of real estate. In the 1960s Mister de Kwiatkowski purchased a large doo–plex apartment at the particularly posh One Beekman Place building where other residents include tee-vee journalist Jane Pauley and political cartoonist Garry Trudeau, fashion queen Arnold Scaasi and his man-friend publishing executive Parker Ladd, and Broadway producer Candia Fisher. The sprawling apartment, which practically hangs over the East River, is–as far as Your Mama knows–still owned and occupied by Mister de Kwiatkowski’s second wife and widow Barbara, an effervescent and somewhat eccentric former model who was once b.f.f. with Andy Warhol and, natch, a fixture at Studio 54.
Among Mister de Kwiatkowski’s other real estate holdings was a dee–voon and luxurious 80-acre estate in Greenwich, CT’s super swank Conyers Farm enclave which was sold in 2004 for a reported $50,000,000. It was, however, a compound bought in 1967 behind the guarded gates of the Lyford Cay community on New Providence Island in the Bahamas that was, arguably, the de Kwiatkowski’s family seat. Past and present owners of property in Lyford Cay include several Greek shipping magnates with names like Niarchos and Livanos, The Aga Kahn (IV), Toys-R-Us founder Charles Lazurus, Ranier III (the Prince of Monaco), Oscar winning actor Sean Connery, and Canadian clothing tycoon Peter Nygård who owns a well known 150,000 square foot Mayan inspired compound known as Nygård Cay that was available for lease in 2008 at $42,000 per day. Part of Mister Nygård’s crazy compound was destroyed by fire in late 2009 but it was recently announced that he plans a $50,000,000 renovation of the property.
Each of Mister de Kwiatkowski’s ritzy residences were all done up and did over by the near mythic decorating diva Sister Parish. The relationship between Mister de K. and Sister P. was such that he named one of his horses after her and she one of her dogs after him. Make of that what y’all will.
In 1992, already a noted breeder of horses, Mister de Kwiatkowksi paid $17,000,000 for racing and breeding facilities of the famous and fabled Calumet Farm in Lexington, KY. Since his death in 2003, the renowned equine enterprise is operated through a trust controlled by Mister de Kwiatkowski’s descendants.
All this brings us to the matter at hand which is the real estate of one of Mister de Kwiatkowski’s seven children–six by the first marriage and one from the second–all of whom are known as arty-farty international trustafarians who grew up making the social scenes in New York City, Palm Beach, and anywhere else on the planet where the children of wildly rich, well connected, and highly social jet setting types gather and collect. The youngest of Mister de Kwiatkowski’s six children from his first marriage is the super socialite and former Vanity Fair “It Girl” Alexandra “Lulu” de Kwiatkowski.
A young lassie, according to her website, Lulu de K. earned a fine arts degree at Parsons School of Design in New York before spending five years in Paris studying trompe l’oeil painting techniques. After completing her arts education, the artist-heiress packed her bags and spent a number of years traveling to exotic locales around the world. Since the late 1990s Lulu has become a well known and respected textile designer with a keen and easy ability to mix and match bright colors into bold geometric patterns that pay homage to decorative predecessors like David Hicks. Her fans include style mavens from Courtney Cox-Arquette to Diane von Furstenberg.
Since launching her successful line of textiles called Lulu DK, the color queen and pattern princess has expanded into wall coverings, bed linens, carpets, and leather do-dads. She also recently published LULU, an emotional and beyond bee-yoo-tee-ful book of collages and artworks that she told the folks at 1stdibs are based on, “the influences of my life, combining the memories and experiences of my childhood with the joys and heartaches of a 12-year romance.”
The twelve year romance Miz de K. speaks of is with Alfredo Gilardini a suave Italian aristocrat, bon vivant and Jack of many trades whom she met while dancing the night away at Les Bains Douche, the former gay Turkish bathhouse turned disco in Paris. Together the comely couple have a set of twin boys.
Although for the last few years, Lulu de K. and Signore Gilardini have split their time between homes in Los Angeles and New York City, it seems that the couple have decided to put down more permanent roots in Lala Land and recently put their co-op apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side on the market with an asking price of $1,999,000.
Property records are vague to non-existent on the second floor apartment but Lulu de K,’s own blog reveals that she bought the apartment some 14 years ago. Listing information shows that Lulu de K.’s 2 bedroom and 2 pooper apartment, located in a full service pre-war and pet friendly building was once featured on the cover of Elle Décor magazine. Although the apartment has an address on swanky E. 64th, all but one of the rooms face very bizzy, very commercial, and very pedestrian Lexington Avenue.
The walls of the generously sized foyer and the bedroom hallway are hand painted with a complex, puzzle-like geometric pattern of ochres, mustards, and ambers. Lulu de K. has brazenly and fearlessly played the earthy and somewhat 1970s tones on the walls against an over-sized orange and red painting with a similar but tighter pattern as the walls, a pair of vibrant vermilion table lamps, a pair of tangerine colored Chippendale armchairs, and an orange and red braided wool rug that she got at L.L. Bean.
The large, loft-like living room has a quartet of windows with tree top views, a beamed ceiling, hardwood floors, and two perfectly charming built-in reading alcoves with funky shaped doorways and built in chaises and books shelves. The children will note that Lulu de K. color coordinates her books, just like Your Mama does.
The kitchen and dining area be accessed from the foyer as well as through a set of full ceiling height French doors that separate the living room from the eat-in kitchen. Blessedly, no overly complex decorative punches were attempted in the small but well equipped kitchen that’s outfitted with simple, white Shaker style cabinetry with glass fronted uppers, average grade stainless steel appliances, counter tops that appear to be some sort of honed stone, built-in display shelving and laundry facilities.
Your Mama really does not care to have the laundry facilities right in the kitchen. However, allowances for such things have to be given for Manhattan apartments particularly given that most people don’t even have private washers and dryers and, at best, have a room in the basement where their house gurls have to squirrel themselves while washing their panties and things. Although we appreciate the effort not to install a heap of pot lights, we don’t love the globular light fixtures. We do, however, love how Lulu de K. and Signore Gilardini have artfully hung a cluster of family photographs in what might otherwise be an awkward corner above the counter.
Another set of full ceiling height French doors open from the living room into the second bedroom where built in cabinets with open shelving surrounds one window and French doors open out to a large terrace. Since we’re a sucker for mixy–matchy pattern use, we’ve become increasingly fond of the plaid rug on the narrow striped rug.
The short hallway from the foyer leads back to a pooper and the master bedroom that includes another private but very tiny pooper–with a window, thank jeezis–a couple of walk-in closets, and another set of French doors that open out to the 430+ square foot terrace. While Your Mama would have sold our loud nieces for nefarious purposes for even a sliver of outdoor space while we lived in New York City, it must be noted that Lulu de K.’s terrace is really little more than a wide and dark corridor between two buildings. It’s not ideal, but it is someplace for guests to fart and smoke cigarettes during cocktail parties.
Recent reports and property records reveal that Lulu de K.’s older sister Arianne recently laid out $1,610,000 for a modest but wonderfully redone ranch style house with swimming pool and guest house that was sold by Oscar winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselet (A River Runs Through It).
As for Lulu de K. and Signore Gilardini, we’re not sure, but Your Mama is somewhat certain the couple bought a renovated ranch style house at the tippy top of Laurel Canyon in the summer of 2007 for $2,130,000.
listing photos and floor plan: Sotheby’s International Realty