Rare conservatories light up prized Manhattan apartments

From pet spas to bowling alleys to paparazzi-proof porte-cocheres, New York City buildings reign when it comes to residential amenities. But the one feature that — often literally — ascends all others is a conservatory.

A home with a mostly glass-walled, glass-ceilinged space, often called a solarium or a sun room, requires access to the sky. That’s a limited resource in a city as dense as New York — and therefore a highly coveted asset for any apartment or townhouse.

Egyptians used similar greenhouses, historians say, as early as 4000 B.C. to cultivate grapes for wine. But conservatories really burst onto the luxury-living scene in 16th-century Europe as a way to preserve citrus and other delicate potted plants during cold winters. Sometimes referred to as orangeries and limonaia, their popularity took off more widely with the invention of insulated glass in the 1950s and ’60s.

Many local properties with conservatories are currently up for sale — and most are labors of love. Take the one that Michael Kurtz, 71, a retired general counsel at Oracle, and his wife Lisa, 59, a retired advertising executive and film producer, built after living in California for 15 years.

“What I really learned to appreciate when I lived in San Francisco is the outdoors: gardens, greenery, trees and everything flora,” Lisa says. Hence the 700-square-foot oasis atop the couple’s three-bedroom penthouse at 10 E. 14th St., listed for $5.49 million by Sotheby’s Cherie Hinson.

The philanthropic couple uses the space year-round for everything from quiet time to fundraising parties. “I draw, I paint, I hang out with my friends there,” Lisa says. “My husband has his dark man cave, and this is my bright ‘she shack!’”

The couple designed the space with a cutout that lets sunlight illuminate the dining room on the floor below. Sound filters through the duplex, too. “People can be upstairs and shout downstairs, ‘Hey, bring me a drink!’” Lisa adds. “And those downstairs call up, ‘What’s it like outside?’”

Arguably, the most iconic conservatory in the city is the stunning geometric dome that sits atop Diane von Furstenberg’s Meatpacking District empire. The geometric rooftop addition sits above a historic building at 874 Washington St.; together, they house a street-level retail store, offices for 300 employees, a design studio and a rooftop penthouse previously used as a pied-à-terre by Furstenberg herself that is now overseen by the company.

“The most surprising aspect of being in the glass penthouse, is how intimate and comfortable it feels, with soft light and a view unto the tall grasses just outside,” WORKac partners Dan Wood and Amale Andraos tell The Post in an email.

The penthouse at Queensboro Bridge-adjacent 400 E. 59th St., repped by Russell Miller at Brown Harris Stevens for $3.9 million, has a striking solarium with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass roof. The opposite wall is lined with bookshelves and a television. “I found that the view, which is nearly panoramic with no buildings blocking it, showcased all the movement of the city,” says owner Amy Chanos, 68.

Her son Andrew, a 26-year-old pre-med student at Columbia University, loves hanging out in the space. “We have a long sofa that runs almost the whole length of the room against the windows, and it’s a great place to watch TV,” he says. (Thanks to handy window shades that block the light.)

“Everyone who tours our house always comments on this room, saying it’s the most beautiful room they’ve ever seen,” adds Andrew. “It’s definitely the most well-received room in the house.”

The sun room in an 11th-floor two-bedroom at 12 Beekman Place, listed by Compass’ Jeffrey Stockdale for $2.75 million, has a view of the East River. The terraced aerie belonged the late Janet Riccio, executive vice president at Omnicom. Janet’s sister and executor of her estate, Joyce Riccio, recalls hours she spent with Janet, reading and talking while bathed in natural light.

Other homes with conservatories on the market include a majestic townhouse once owned by a cotton dealer and a handkerchief executive at 20 E. 78th St., priced at $24.9 million with Carrie Chiang of Corcoran. Nestled between Fifth and Madison avenues, this home’s elegant sun room leads to a latticed garden.

Meanwhile, a forthcoming penthouse at 46 Mercer St. with a solarium as an extension of the master bedroom is listed for $8.5 million with Compass’ Amy Mendizabal. Another Compass agent, Joshua Wesoky, is marketing the three-bedroom penthouse at 12 Greene St., where floor-to-ceiling greenery lines a conservatory.

Some of these sunlit spaces had former lives. At 555 West End Ave., architect Cary Tamarkin renovated the former St. Agnes Boys High School into a condominium with a high-ceilinged penthouse where the sky-lit basketball court and gym had been. The “solarium penthouse” sports an asking price of $18 million with Cathy Taub of Sotheby’s.

The old adage goes, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” More fitting would be: “Those who live in homes should throw a lot of parties — and soak up all the sun.”

Source: Read Full Article

Comments