A stunning, albeit quirky midcentury modern masterpiece on Long Island’s wealthy Gold Coast, with a royal pedigree and a funky (but fun) interior design scheme, is back on the market at $12.7 million. The estate first popped up for sale handful of years ago for about $14 million and was also available through an auction in August of last year (2020) but it failed to turn up a buyer.
The idiosyncratic yet still soigné residence was dreamt up by vaunted New York architect Edward Durell Stone, who’s best known for designing the Museum of Modern Art (which he planned alongside Philip L. Goodwin), Radio City Music Hall and, in Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Villa Riele, as the elegant — and wonderfully wacky — residence is known, is just one of two residential projects that Stone took on. And hoo-boy is it a doozy!
Set on 33 wide-open acres with a quarter mile of private beach frontage, the sprawling property was once part of an even larger estate owned by Gilbert Bayard Colgate, grandson of William Colgate of the Colgate-Palmolive company but for the last forty (or so) years has been owned by Gabriele Langer, aka Baroness von Langendorff, second wife of perfumer Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff who developed Elizabeth Arden’s iconic White Shoulders scent. Measuring in at a whiff over 6,300 square feet — about 9,400 square feet if the unfinished basement, terracing and detached beach cottage are included — the bespoke manse has four bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms.
The home has become a social media star in its own right due to a rather odd detail: the swimming pool isn’t in the backyard — it’s in the living room! However, the fact that there’s a swimming pool in the living room should not distract from the fact that the entire home is actually quite stunning. Covered in smooth white stucco, the exterior showcases a series of grand arches and towering windows that gave the imposing structure a grand, sophisticated air not unlike an upscale bank, while the interior is a perfectly preserved technicolor time capsule of chic 1960s design. All of the furnishings found in the residence are completely original and have been meticulously maintained.
Stepping into the home through its coffered mahogany front door, guests find themselves in the foyer where two curving staircases topped with curious yellow carpeting lead up to the second floor. Visitors will also find themselves face-to-face with the nine-foot-deep oval swimming pool that is illuminated by three retractable circular skylights overhead.
Formal living room and dining rooms flank the pool. The living room features an ochre rug, matching curtains and a fireplace set into a mirrored wall that reflects the colorful (and cute) quartet of armchairs that are boldly upholstered in fuchsia, teal and plaid fabrics. The dining room’s palette is identical to the living room, whereas a sumptuously appointed library/den features bright red carpeting, beautifully preserved wood paneling and a fireplace.
As is the case with many homes of a certain age, the kitchen could certainly use a modern update. The butter yellow cabinets are downright kooky, the appliances are a blast from the culinary past and the wood-trimmed laminate counters could use a marble or quartz facelift. The floral wallpaper on the backsplash perfectly matching the floor-to-ceiling draperies is another decorative trope from a bygone era. However, it does have several notable perks that include ample cabinet space, two sinks, a center island and direct access to a trellis covered outdoor dining terrace.
Although the pool in the living room is certainly an architectural anomaly of the highest order, it doesn’t distract from the equally over-the-top design choices going on in other areas of the house, namely the bedrooms, each of which has its own eye-popping color scheme. A main floor guest suite is awash in candy apple red and gold, another guest bedroom on the upper level sports a celadon and marine-blue floral theme and the primary suite, replete with baronial fireplace, is done up in periwinkle and girlish bubble-gum pink. There’s even a pink rotary telephone on the vanity in the dressing room and pink towels — not to mention gold fixtures! — in the marble sheathed bath.
Unquestionably, one of the biggest selling points of the property is its sprawling acreage, which has already been divided into four separate parcels that can be developed or sold in separate transactions. Also included on the grounds is a small beach house that’s been grandfathered in and ready to be renovated into a modern ocean getaway or, one hopes, made into a mini version of Villa Riele.