February 8, 2017 / Property Spotlight

The Luxury Edition: Palatial Fifth Avenue Duplex

A palatial duplex with Rockefeller connections affords unparalleled luxury and unsurpassed views of Central Park, offering a New York state of mind


You may think that living on one of Manhattan’s most exclusive streets, in an apartment with windows looking over Central Park, life might be somewhat public. Yet tenants past and present at 834 Fifth Avenue enjoyed an impressive level of anonymity, thanks to its establishment as a cooperative.

Once known as the Silk Stocking District, the Upper East Side is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in New York, and Fifth Avenue is its most exclusive street.Designed by Sicilian-born Rosario Candela, one of New York’s best-loved architects, the limestone-clad 16-story building built in 1931 was considered his crowning achievement. Candela moved to New York in the 1920s, not speaking a word of English; within five years, he’d graduated from Columbia University, honed his skills as a draftsman, and started to design buildings that would go on to become the city’s best examples of Art Deco architecture. His work set the standard for interior spatial design that many others would follow, and today, according to architectural historian Christopher Gray, “to own a 10- to 20-room apartment in a Candela-designed building is to accede to architectural as well as social cynosure.”

"To own a 10- to 20-room apartment in a Candela-designed building is to accede to architectural as well as social cynosure."

Here, in this magnificent front-corner, two-story apartment, the interiors are by the late Henri Samuel, who, as well as being the designer of choice for owner Susan Gutfreund, the Rothschilds, and couturier Valentino, restored the Empire rooms at the Palace of Versailles.

  Within walking distance to Fifth Avenue are myriad designer boutiques and architectural wonders, not to mention some of the city’s most celebrated museums. Two helipads are located just 20 minutes away, near Hudson Yards, making vacations in the Hamptons a breeze.Designed in 1931 by Rosario Candela, this 16-story limestone-clad building was his crowning achievement. A native of Sicily, the architect Rosario Candela arrived in New York in the 1920s and was soon embraced by high society. His work became the standard by which interior spatial design was to be judged.The marble and steel staircase draws inspiration from French châteaux, and was imported to decorate the gallery that leads to the upper floor.

“The Gutfreunds were introduced to Samuel by the philanthropist and fine arts collector Jayne Wrightsman,” says Richard Ziegelasch of Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales, LLC, an Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “Doors from Samuel’s private collection adorn the entryway, and his insistence on classic style throughout was upheld everywhere except the Winter Garden room, which was modeled on chinoiserie palace designs of 18th-century Europe, with canvas panels from Belgium and trompe l’oeil by Atelier Mériguet-Carrère.”

Like many of Candela’s apartments, this front-corner duplex is expansive; the 20 rooms have soaring ceilings with original moldings, and are spread over two floors, covering a total of 12,000 square feet. There’s a master bedroom bookended with a dressing room and privately accessed sitting room, three further bedrooms, a large kitchen and adjoining butler’s pantry, and two libraries. All this comes fully serviced, and finished with hardwood floors and a 1,500-bottle wine cellar.

Legendary French decorator Henri Samuel, a favorite in high-society homes, was inspired by a range of styles in his work, as seen in the Winter Garden room, which nods to 18th-century European chinoiserie.The 20-room residence has a host of grand reception rooms with views of Central Park and Fifth Avenue.Among the home’s exquisite appointments is an office with soaring ceilings, limestone walls, and classically inspired architectural details.This is the largest existing original apartment on Fifth Avenue, and of all its 20 rooms, the 720-squarefoot main living room is the most impressive: it has two fireplaces and windows that afford unchallenged views of Central Park. According to owner Susan Gutfreund, the low windows are the secret to the great views and ample light.


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Emilee Tombs
is Associate Editor of Luxury Defined