One of my favorite follows on Instagram is John Yunis, a real estate agent in New York City who has a passion for architecture and interior design. John is a true scholar, and his posts are always extremely well-researched, informative, and intriguing. Recently, John featured a series of posts on 1 Sutton Place, a townhouse located in the Sutton Place neighborhood in Manhattan, which happens to be for sale. The 7,000-square-foot Georgian townhouse was originally built in 1920 for Anne Vanderbilt by architect Mott Schmidt. It most recently belonged to Drue Heinz who died in March. The Heinz family commissioned the legendary Renzo Mongiardino to decorate their home in the 1970s, and it has remained largely untouched since.
John has permitted me to republish his work today, and it is fascinating to compare the real estate images with an Architectural Digest feature from the 1970s. Interestingly, Mongiardino stated in the article, “The fact is that a house, whatever the degree or extent of its art and furnishings, is still a house. Today far too many people have come to think of a house as a sort of casa di moda – the kind of fashionable house that has to be done over every two or three years. Well that’s not my idea at all, nor was it the idea of the owners of the house on Sutton Place. Once you can make the house right, once it fits as snugly as a glove, then it is the way it should stay. Forever, in my opinion. The last thing I want to do is to force someone into following a momentary fashionable mode of décor.”
This exquisite home is proof that good design lasts forever, and I am thrilled to welcome John today to The Glam Pad for a tour!
1 Sutton Place: By John Yunis
It has been reported in several places that the townhouse of the late Drue Heinz at 1 Sutton Place is now for sale. The most accurate reporting goes to The Wall Street Journal, but even they didn’t mention that this house was famously decorated by Renzo Mongiardino, and that most of his decor is still in place.
1 Sutton Place is a beautiful brick house designed by Mott Schmidt for Anne Vanderbilt and sited on the northeast corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place. Because it is on the corner, it has windows on three sides and its entrance on the long side of the building, which makes it look much larger than it really is. On top of that, it has the good fortune not only to have river views, but to have access to the beautiful shared lawn of Sutton Square. Drue and Jack Heinz bought this house privately from Richard Jenrette in the 1970’s and had Mongiardino decorate it. We will see the photos from when it was photographed by Horst and appeared in Architectural Digest.
The listing photos are lovely but most of the art, especially, is gone. Some of you know this better than I do, but I’m told that Mrs. Heinz had not visited this house in at least a decade, although it was continuously staffed.
This room is labeled “Library” on the floor plan, to the left of the Entrance Hall. We are looking diagonally toward Sutton Place here. According to the caption: “The Study’s warm grandeur is enhanced by English wood paneling, lustrous velvet upholstery and a Victorian gros point rug. Modigliani’s ‘Portrait of Mme. Czechowska’ dominates a wall above a Georgian mahogany kidney desk, while works of Braque and Venard hang nearby.”
The article says little about the owners and talks a great deal about the background of Mongiardino. According to the article: “… It’s served him particularly well when he came to consider the Sutton Place project. In some ways it was a lovely stage set, already partially completed: a handsome townhouse, almost entirely surrounded by trees, whose garden runs down to the edge of the river and, joined to the gardens of neighboring houses, creates the handsome impression of a large English park. And the ‘props’ -the word is more than inadequate- that he was given to work with included a collection of art that would grace any houses in any part of the world. The richness of the material is awesome: paintings by Utrillo, Rouault, Modigliani, Matisse, Dufy, Kandinsky, Bacon- The list is seemingly endless. In addition, the period furniture and accessories arranged by Signor Mongiardino form quite a generous cornucopia. The furnishings encompass a wide range of many periods and styles: Queen Anne mirrors, Regency lanterns, Degas bronzes, Louis XVI clocks, nineteenth-century Bessarabian rugs, rare East India Company fabrics, English Victoriana.”
Another view of the room labeled “Library” on the floor plan to the left of the Entrance Hall. According to the caption: ” ‘Clown,’ by Braque, graces the fireplace wall, near a painting by Francis Bacon. The large ‘Street Scene’ is by Utrillo.” According to the article: ” The décor was entirely in the hands of Signor Mongiardino and his associate, Fiorenzo Cattaneo. Surely it does not seem unreasonable for European interior designers to deal with material that is basically European. Being an Italian, Lorenzo Mongiardino is far from inarticulate about his role. ‘I am NOT a decorator,’ he says emphatically. ‘I have no specific, no unmistakable style. As a matter of fact I would hate to have anyone walk into a house I have done and say, ‘This is a Mongiardino.’ Don’t misunderstand. I have the highest respect for the great decorators. It just isn’t what I do.’ “
This room is labeled “Dining Room” on the floor plan, and is to the right of the Entrance Hall, facing east, with a view across the beautiful lawn of Sutton Square and onto the East River! The photo above is a cropped version of the A.D. photo, and the second photo is the original from A.D., which is is a full two page spread. The third, fourth, and fifth photos are from Sotheby’s and show the room as it looks today. Many of the elements are still in place and it is still very beautiful.
According to the caption: “The combined Dining Room and Library is flooded with light from the garden. Dark 18th–century English pine paneling is brightened by floral curtains and upholstery, and an Aubusson rug.” According to the article, continued: “… ‘But take this particular house in Sutton Place. For many years now I have been working on old houses, with a great deal of pleasure. Really they have become my main interest, and practically all my work lies in the area of restoration. I want to bring these wonderful old houses back to life – to turn them into places where people can live comfortably today.’ “
This photo is from the Sotheby’s listing and shows the second floor landing, just above the Entrance Hall. Straight ahead is the Parlor, which we will see next, and behind us is the Drawing Room, which we will see after the Parlor.
This cozy room faces Sutton Place and East 57th Street. As we can see from the plan, there is a full bath through the doorway, so this may have been used as an occasional guest room. The first photo is the Horst photo from AD and the second photo is from the Sotheby’s listing and shows how it looks today.
According to the caption: “The Parlor displays ‘Nude by a Window’, by Matisse, above an Adam pine fireplace. Raoul Dufy’s ‘Nice’, 1938, shares the sofa wall with La Rochelle, by Signac. Garniture is Canton enamel.” According to the article, continued: “… In the case of the Sutton Place townhouse Signor Mongiardino was able to do just that, and it explains to a large extent the success of the result. He and the owners agreed on the basic outlines, and they had no wish to create a static museum of fine art and décor.”
This room is off the second floor landing, facing south and east, with views of the park and river.
According to the caption: “In his design for a Manhattan townhouse, Lorenzo Mongiardino used to full advantage a river-side location and an art collection of first quality. The drawing room employees muted pattern–on–pattern, a style popular in the time of Napoleon III. A large painting by Bonnrd is flanked by works of Monet and Picasso.” According to the article, continued: “… ‘I would like to point out something very obvious,’ says Signor Mongiardino. ‘The fact is that a house, whatever the degree or extent of its art and furnishings, is still a house. Today far too many people have come to think of a house as a sort of casa di moda – the kind of fashionable house that has to be done over every two or three years. Well that’s not my idea at all, nor was it the idea of the owners of the house on Sutton Place. Once you can make the house right, once it fits as snugly as a glove, then it is the way it should stay. Forever, in my opinion. The last thing I want to do is to force someone into following a momentary fashionable mode of décor.’ ”
If we look back at the front of the house, we will notice a pair of shutters that are closed on the second floor- those closed shutters are right about where the Bonnard is. Just a guess, but they may have been closed to accommodate the painting.
The first photo of the drawing room is by Horst, from the AD shoot, showing us how it looked just after it was completed in the 1970s. The second photo shows how it looks today, with the exact same fabric and carpet in place, along with much of the furniture, from Sotheby’s.
According to the caption: “Renoir’s ‘Mother and Child’ graces the fireplace wall. Bronzes by Degas, left, and Renoir, right, are displayed on the delicately carved mantel. On the far wall, a small Degas painting and Renoir’s ‘Coco’ flank ‘Nu à la Toilette’ by Degas.” According to the article, continued: “… Mongiardino continues… ‘I want the houses I design to be warm and cozy, and I want them to look lived in. That’s what it’s all about, really. No wet paint, if you see what I mean. The greatest compliment anyone can pay me is to say that the houses I design don’t look ‘decorated’. Maybe it has to do with my training in the theater. I don’t know. But I do know that I want to create the illusion – and the reality – of permanence.’ ”
The first photo of the master bedroom is by Horst, from the AD shoot, showing us how the bedroom looked just after it was completed in the 1970s. The second photo is how it looks today, with the wall fabric still in place and even the quilted chairs. Note that this room overlooks Sutton Square Park and the East River, plus it’s flooded with southern light from the two windows on either side of the bed. Be sure to look carefully at the top of the bed – it’s very beautiful.
According to the caption: “A Master Bedroom is a sumptuous bower, with a Hepplewhite four-poster bed draped in pastel fabric. The canopy frame is painted with neo-Classic motifs. Sunlight bathes a Country French tilt-top table and an English painted chair nearby. The painting, ‘Artist’s Model’, is by Shikler. An Oushak rug, early 19th-century English patchwork quilt and sunny print on walls and sofa lend the room a pleasant, country air.”
This room is identified as the Terrace Room on the floor plan and is one of Mongiardino’s most distinctive and recognized rooms. It is sometimes wrongly identified as being located in the Heinz apartment on East 52nd Street, which was where Mr. and Mrs. Heinz lived before buying this house and which was done entirely by Jansen. The first photo is from the AD shoot, by Horst. The second photo is from Sotheby’s and shows the room as it looks today.
According to the caption: “A fourth floor Sitting Room features panels with silver-leaf flowers in the traditional style of Italian artists. Eglomisé panels on the mantelpiece are set behind a continuation of the fretwork motif, while large mirrors reflect the East River.”
We are going to end here, with a very unusual photo of the opposite wall from the fireplace. On the plan, it shows that there is a window here, however, if we look at the exterior photos, we can see that the shutters are closed over the window- it seems likely that the window is covered by this mirror, or some part of this wall treatment. Hope that we have enjoyed this rare look at this very special house.
According to the caption: “A portrait, ‘A Princess of Orange’, by Caspar Netscher, is displayed above a Louis XV bombé commode.”
Thank you, John for this incredible tour! For ongoing inspiration, please follow John Yunis @johnyunis on Instagram. And stay tuned, as John has promised additional content for The Glam Pad! For more on Renzo Mongiardino please see The Interiors and Architecture of Renzo Mongiardino: A Painterly Vision, Roomscapes: The Decorative Architecture of Renzo Mongiardino, and Renzo Mongiardino: Renaissance Master.