Feinstein’s Home: Isn’t It Romantic?

The New York TimesSeptember 13, 2013
An uncommon property created from a pair of bow-front Upper East Side brownstones that, 120 years after they were built around 1886, were combined to form a singular town house of grand and gracious dimensions earmarked for entertainment, is about to enter the market for the first time. The sellers are the cabaret singer, pianist, and Great American Songbook archivist Michael Feinstein and his spouse, Terrence Flannery. The asking price is $17.9 million, which does not include the wall-size Hirschfeld mural, populated by stars like Liza Minnelli, Fred Astaire, Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, that sets the tone in the foyer.

The 18-room house, at 143 East 63rd Street, just east of Lexington Avenue opposite the Barbizon 63, has twin staircases, seven baths, two powder rooms, eight fireplaces, and a 25-foot-wide backyard with ivy-covered brick walls and two outdoor pagodas, one furnished as a living room and the other as a dining area. The annual taxes are $57,380.

Mr. Feinstein and Mr. Flannery, who were married in Los Angeles in 2008 by their close friend, Judith Sheindlin of “Judge Judy” fame, bought the town house at No. 141 in 2004 for just over $3 million. “It had high ceilings and grand rooms but not a sense of massiveness, and we thought, ‘This is plenty for us,’ ” Mr. Feinstein, a five-time Grammy nominee, said from San Francisco, where he was performing at Feinstein’s at the Nikko Hotel.

As it turned out, it wasn’t plenty.

Mr. Feinstein, a serial host, often entertained friends like Ms. Minnelli, Elaine Stritch, Stephen Sondheim, Tyne Daly, Tony Bennett and other songbirds after his gigs nearby at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. So when the brownstone next door at No. 143 came on the market in 2005 for $3.825 million, the couple snapped it up and gutted it, save for some key period details. What had been a narrow home and garden instantly doubled in size, width and possibilities.

“The vision,” said Mr. Flannery, who was assisted in achieving it by the designers Michael Bagley and Michael Adams, “was to combine them into one grand house for entertaining.” They partially broke through walls on the garden and parlor levels, where floor-to-ceiling bay windows face north and overlook the garden, to create connective archways between what had been two separate homes.

Now the parlor floor has a formal entry gallery with a hidden bar behind mirrored doors (one of Mr. Feinstein’s favorite things), a sunken sitting room to the west, and a music room and living room in the back overlooking the garden. There are herringbone wood floors and two spindle staircases. Downstairs on the garden level there is an 11-by-30-foot formal kitchen with a marble center island and countertops, a Viking stove and grill, and a formal dining room with a triple set of French doors to the backyard. There is a full bath with a soaking tub from which a bather can survey the gardens. (The town house does not lack for witty embellishments.)

The third floor has an informal “family kitchen,” a dining area, three bedrooms, and two baths. A private staircase leads to the fourth-floor master suite on the western half of the home; the master bath is at the top of the stairs, the 11-by-16-foot bedroom with an original fireplace to the rear, and in the front overlooking 63rd Street is a man cave reimagined as a 16-by-11 foot dressing room with its own marble fireplace and a built-in center unit with a marble top and multiple storage drawers. There are two bedrooms and baths on the eastern side of the fourth floor, and on the top floor, a home gym, another full spa-type bath and a large covered terrace in front.

Mr. Feinstein said they are reluctantly downsizing in the city because their main residence is now in Carmel, Ind., where he is the artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts and where he established the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative in 2008.

The exclusive listing is offered by Tom Postilio and Mickey Conlon of CORE and Maria Torresy and Sami Hassoumi of Brown Harris Stevens. Mr. Postilio said the home provides an unusual haven for entertainment-minded buyers who also value peace and quiet.