There is a lesson here……

There is a lesson here……

Love her or not, Joan Rivers was a study in contrasts, including the last two homes she lived in. I would like to share photos of them both. First, a bit about this lady. One thing that can be said of Joan is that she was a pioneer. I can tell you from some personal experience that having the fortitude to go for your dreams in a man’s world, takes courage, talent, moxie and determination, especially if you pursue those dreams against the strongest wishes of your parents. The daughter of a physician, Joan Rivers decided on giving comedy a try, even though at that time it was considered tantamount to being a stripper. In those days it just wasn’t a proper pursuit. Was she acerbic at times? Yup. In her own words: “I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.” What many of you may not know about Joan is that she graduated from Barnard College with a degree in English. She was not just a comedienne, but an astute businesswoman, actor and of late, fashion critic. She was also a mother and grandmother, her favorite roles. To be honest, I never followed her career very much after she left Johnny Carson except for fleeting moments of various clips from the entertainment world or a mention in the news. But of this, it can definitively be said. Joan Rivers was devoted to her employees, her friends, her daughter and her grandson. It has been said by many and often, that her grandson Cooper is one of the nicest kids ever. Says a lot about grounding a child despite wealth and celebrity. She was extremely generous and loyal to friends. She was also a huge dog lover. She had four dogs – the two in the photo below, and two more rescues in California….a Border Collie and a Boston Terrier. How she was with her animals says something of her character. In the photo below is Ms. River’s with her Pekingese Max on the left and her Havanese on the right. During an interview she said that “Dogs are easier to love than people; they’re certainly more dependable.”  She kept urns of all her departed dogs (in her dressing room), and their memory still comforted her.

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Joan and her two beloved dogs.   source

When her husband committed suicide, she herself contemplated it. However, her dog jumped onto her lap, sitting on the gun, and she said to herself that if she did do it, there would be no one to care for her dog. A devoted friend indeed. Apparently the funeral for Max, conducted by a friend, was full of humor, kind of like the funeral she wanted for herself. She felt Max deserved it, and the humor got her to move forward. Oh, I have a couple such stories myself… animal and human, and to this day I can still laugh through the tears. Humor has so often been my lifeline. Joan went out and got another dog, a Japanese Chin, this spring. That says a lot about her enduring sense of love of life and a personal philosophy to live it to the fullest each and every day. She had faith in her future. Was she hard on people…..she could be. Was she hard on herself. Absolutely. But she was also funny, intelligent, loyal, kind and caring. A memorable legacy for her daughter and grandson. She was another who made it possible for women to forge ahead in a man’s world, and we all need to remember and be grateful for the opportunities that so many women offered for succeeding generations. We don’t have to always choose to compete like she did, but it is nice to know we can. Apparently, the two NY dogs were allowed into the hospital and were with her when she died. Whatever your opinion, you have to admit she was one heck of a lady, and even if she wasn’t your cup of tea, you sure knew who she was. If I can be half as active and engaged in even half as many pursuits as she was at 81, WOW! I will have gone out like a rocket and not a dimming light.

So now let’s look at the contrasting styles of her two homes. The first is her New Milford, Connecticut home, which she sold a little more than a year ago for $4.4 million. It was 5,730 square feet, 10 rooms, four fireplaces and a pool. It sits on 75 beautiful acres of countryside and for years was her refuge from the intensity of show business. Modest by Hollywood standards. She found this piece of property and fell in love with it, but not the mid century modern house that stood on it. The home is a total reflection of her ideas  at the time. She knew what she wanted and went about creating it with the help of friend Joe Cicio and architect Michael Boe of Boe Studio.         source

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Single story shingle style. Try saying that a few times after a cocktail! Looks like a late fall or early spring view. Love the boulders and the faux bois garden seat. Hard to imagine that this was once a flat roofed modern structure.


 

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A view of the front of the home in summer with hydrangea all in bloom, and before the placement of the rocks and bench. The stone wall along the front is quintessencial New England.


 

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I love a rambler, where it looks to have been added on to over time. I adore this kind of home. Driving up to the front entrance and arriving to the delicate shade offered by the birch trees. I love that Rivers retained the gravel drive.


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A before view of the home. You can certainly see why she fell in love with the land, and why it would offer her a respite from work. She said…..”this house cost me 214 club dates to pay for the living room windows and walls.” Rivers has roots in CT, having attended college in the state before heading to Barnard to complete her degree. She described the house before she rebuilt it as “looking like a Denny’s, built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright who didn’t study hard enough.” The original structure met the wrecking ball down to the original footprint, stone corner columns and huge fireplace in the living room.


 

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The living room after. Joan convinced a friend, Joe Cicio, who was a retail merchandizer to work with her despite telling her he doesn’t do houses for anybody period. That lasted until he saw the property. Her mandate to Cicio was light and bright where grand would not apply, where my dogs could jump on the sofa and have a life.”  You can see a couple of the original stone columns in between the new french doors.


 

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Original stone fireplace in the living room.


 

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The original stone fireplace with antique chestnut beams and mantel. The living room has two long custom sofas back to back with a sofa table in between (only one can be seen in this photo) providing plenty of comfortable seating for family, friends and her dogs. This room is as stylish today as it was when she moved in.


 

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Rivers said that she trusted her designer after initial hesitation. “It may not have started out my taste, but by the end it was.” A good designer finds out who you are even if you may not totally know yourself, and then works to express your personality.


 

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So feminine with whimsical touches. See the 6 ft. white palm tree to the left of the window seat? Joan’s idea, and they seem perfectly at home even if it is Connecticut. I have to admit, I often think about a bedroom that is totally girly, yet elegant. One of my dearest friends was an older woman in her 80’s. Her husband died several years before and she redid their bedroom a lll white and frilly and she loved it. It really was beautiful, and I think it made her feel young! The painting above the fireplace is of her and daughter Melissa.


 

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In an article about her home she told AD that she “cozy ups in my four poster bed, the fire going, the dogs next to me-and my rubber sailor,” she laughs. “We have the best time.”


 

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One of three guest bedrooms, a couple which include a fireplace and sitting room. You can see another pair of stone columns, here painted white.


 

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Warm, elegant, charming, whimsical and quirky, but warm and personal, the home has pieces of furniture and art collected or inherited. Rivers had pieces that had family history that she loved that were taken out of long term storage and were used and appreciated.


 

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Another of the guest bedrooms with antique beams. I like the addition of small windows high up that add tons of additional light.


 

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Library area filled with art and books that had special meaning.


 

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Another view in the opposite direction.


 

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A fuller view of the living room we saw above. Using sofas back to back in a long room keeps it cozy and allows for a small or large crowd.


 

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The kitchen! When River’s walked into Monet’s house in Giverny she also found the inspiration for her kitchen.


 

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This kitchen is at once modern, yet inviting and comfortable. White Shaker style cabinets are timeless.


 

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A BEFORE photo of the sitting area adjacent to the kitchen.


 

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The AFTER! What a delightful place to spend time reading or simply enjoying the wide expanse of views. In the first of the kitchen photos above, you can see part of this room and its relationship to the kitchen.


 

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Eeeee gads, what an ugly hallway! This is the BEFORE.


 

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The same hallway AFTER. It looks into the library and hall passageway. River’s referred to this space as her own Hall of Mirrors. You can see the mirrors in between tromp l’oeil tableaux that depict homes and places of her friends including one of Prince Charles country place. If you look down in the left corner you can see a painting of her departed beloved Yorkie “Spike”, who apparently loved to sit in the sun. Very sweet.


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Joan had wanted grass all the way up to the house in keeping with the land originally having been a farm. Cicio said that was their only disagreement when working on the house, and in the end he prevailed and she fell in love with the result. The walls are all built from stone from the property. In New England finding stone is never a problem!


 

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Lovely pastoral views over the low stone wall near the back of the house. How nice it must have been for her to have a place to regroup and relax with family and close friends, which she stated was her goal when building this home.


 

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Full view of the back. There is a pool right up close to the house, but the landscape is so integrated, it isn’t visible. These kinds of wide grassy areas are wonderful for walking and even rolling down the slight slopes. You can barely see the dandelions all over the grass.


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Rustic and perfectly suited to its surroundings.

 


 

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A last look at the front of the home. Not at all pretentious, which was her goal, and the kind of home I could have lived in from college to the end of my days.


 

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All it needed was my Newfs running all over and my horses.


Joan Rivers called NYC home, and this beautiful penthouse apartment is where she last lived. She had put it on the market first in 2009 and then withdrew it before placing it back on the market. Her intention was to move to California to be closer to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper. Sadly, this was not to be. Her NYC home is grand, stylish, sophisticated and opulent. If ever there was any doubt that this was a woman of fine taste, this home should end any debate.

Constructed in 1910, the limestone mansion was built for John R. Drexel and his socialite wife Alice Troth Drexel. It’s the work of Horace Trumbauer, an architect well known for his classical revivalist aesthetic. The home was converted in the 1930s into apartments. According to previous listing information, one of the apartments in the building was home to Ernest Hemingway for many years.  source

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Floor plan of the River’s apartment in NYC


 

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the building is located on the upper east side.


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The entrance to her apartment. The doors are magnificent.


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Foyer in the building entrance.


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For the most part, I am going to let the remaining photos speak for themselves.


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Got to love the satin dog bed beneath the piano…….


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I love this room. Notice the velvet folding half screen in front of the windows.

 


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I would so enjoy working in an office like this. I cannot imagine the pain that Melissa will endure having to sort through her Mother’s papers.


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Maybe this pile of Melissa’s Mother’s jokes will be found in another place than when this photo was taken, and finding and reading them will bring smiles and happy memories to her and Cooper. I so hope that will be the case.

 


 

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What ever city or town she was working in, she asked where the museums and antiques shops were, and over her years of travel she manages to curate items that had special a meaning or attraction to her, and this is what we see in her home…..


 

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NY Times photo

You kicked open the door for a lot of funny ladies to go through. Rest in peace, and may the stars be vibrating with a bit of humor tonight as you pass by on the way to your next journey.



So, about the lesson…….best said in Joan’s own words:

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Thank you as always for stopping by.

Laters,

charisse

 

 

 

 

 

source   source AD   source

Comments

  1. Ms Rivers,was a ground breaking comedienne, and is sorely missed by her fans all over the world,I loved gazing at her exqusite taste evident in her homes ,Had she not entered Show business, she might well have been one of the world,s most succesful Interior Designers, What a wonderful lady , Yes she could put her foot in it, but who has,nt

  2. Lovely blog, Charisse! You have such a gift for honoring others. Joan would be proud. Her homes are gorgeous! Such a tragedy to go so suddenly. However it sounds like she would have wanted to leave this world without a lingering illness. I can’t imagine the pain that her daughter and her canine babies must feel. There was so much warmth reflected in her homes. So many family, (I assume,) photos on tables and window sills, the doggies, (of course) warm colors and decor, gorgeous views, stone fireplaces, grande piano, canopy beds, rustic poole………. I dearly loved the sitting room next to the kitchen in the country home… plaid drapes, stone fireplace, cozy chairs, blue, white and yellow table setting with a vase of sunflowers even! The tromp l’ oeil hallway is breathtaking. I love the mirrors there. So many things I love about these homes and how they reveal to us a part of Joan’s heart. Have a blessed day and thank you again for your endless hours of research and dedication to writing and sharing your amazing blog!

    • Thank you! I also hope that Melissa and Cooper are able to move on with the treasure trove of memories they have. I have since read tributes that shared how giving and caring a person she was. She did so much quietly, unlike her comedy,and to me, giving without expectation of public acknowledgement is the sign of wonderful character.

  3. Charisse this is one of the best blogs you’ve ever produced (and I love them all!) What a wonderful tribute to Joan Rivers, better and more informative than anything I see over and over on TV. You did an exquisite job of showing us her beautiful homes, and making us feel like you had a private interview. Great research and of course you wove the dogs in perfectly. Everything about this posting is exceptional, thank you. I know someone in NY ‘show business” –an executive producer–who considered Joan a second mother. She said Joan entertained royally yet formally, dressing for dinner was always required. When this woman was going through a divorce, she was devastated and somewhat ‘lost’; Joan offered her use of her own apartment in California to heal and regroup–at no cost whatsoever.

    • Thanks Laurie. It took me a long time to write, in part because I felt such a responsibility to “do it right” as she was somewhat of an enigma. My Mother, who was every stitch a refined woman….I used to catch her laughing at one of River’s jokes and when I walked in I would hear “ahem” and a clearing of her throat in an effort to stifle her laugh. Sure, at times we could squirm at what she said, but all in all, to be a lot like her wouldn’t be so bad. Thanks so much for adding more to the story, enhancing that in the end, we will remember who she was in her heart. She and Robin Williams surely rode the fast lane to a good place in the afterlife, while we are here to laugh a bit less now. Boy, how I loved her on the Tonight Show.

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