There are few things New Yorkers love better than real estate, especially when it’s of the outrageously grand sort. Monday night, the curious got an eyeful when interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud swung open the doors to the eight story, 8,000-square-foot town house on East 64th Street where she has been busy performing a miraculous “reverse renovation” over the past four years. Guests like Anne Slater, Arriana von Hohenlohe Boardman, Lulu de Kwiatkowski and Vanessa von Bismarck trooped up the stairs to check out the double-height library, where the outspoken movie director Otto Preminger, the previous owner, once had his screening room. They sipped cocktails by a fountain in the backyard and counted the building’s windows from the terrace.
The party was a chance for Champalimaud and husband Bruce Schnitzer to show off all the work they’ve done on the place — nicknamed Otto — before some lucky mogul comes up with the $12.5 million asking price. But while Preminger went in for a spare Sixties look to show off his Contemporary Art collection, Champalimaud, who gutted the building, has given it an elegant, European polish. 18th-century hand-painted Portuguese tiles and 16th-century stone are used throughout. The gently turning main staircase is domed by an oval-shaped skylight.
Coralie Charriol, for one, was smitten with the place. “I just got engaged and somebody told me that this would be a good starter home,” she said, laughing. “I’ll have to sell a lot of handbags and jewelry before that happens.”
Champalimaud hopes someone sensitive to her work will move in. “When houses aren’t well cared for or loved enough by the people who live in them, you get a sense of that right when you step in the door,” she said.
So far, no serious offers have been made. “Everyone is having such a good time,” said Champalimaud. “No one is at all serious.”