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Full former carriage house

The pool of people who can buy 407 E. 75th St. is pretty small — and those who actually will buy must have very specific taste. Not only is the East End property priced out of most people’s reach at $11.95 million, but the 100-year-old former carriage house’s cool history and design installations exclude the stereotypical stuffy Upper East Side-er.

“This is perfect for a Lycee family who isn’t typical to the area and collects important modern art pieces,” says Michael Bolla, director of sales for Luxury Lofts and Homes. Check Madonna off that list. The pop star’s already bought three significant properties in the East End neighborhood. Plus, her real estate requirement is that a property must have a garage, says Bolla. No dice at 407. Instead of vehicle storage, the four-story, 8,475 square-foot conversion has a 3,000-square-foot duplex terrace and a ground level photo lab complete with dark room and studio space. Why? The townhouse belonged to fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon, who lived there for 30 years until his passing in 2004. That explains why fellow photog Annie Leibovitz stopped by to take a gander. Not to buy, of course. Like any art lover, she simply wanted to check out Avedon’s lair — most recently inhabited and partially reinvented by financier Olivier Sarkozy — half brother of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy respectfully kept the studio space as it was, including the cyclorama room (a rounded, cornerless space — excellent for photo shoots and dance parties). The archival shelving is still intact, including handwritten labels detailing the famous faces Avedon shot, such as Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren.

The three levels above are where the Sarkozys fashioned their own design aesthetic. Two million dollars in renovations and five years later finds a beautiful skylight, massive chef’s kitchen and five and a half stunning lime-green tiled bathrooms.

So why are the Sarkozys giving up such a cool home featuring the kind of conversation details that might impress world leaders or Carla Bruni? Sadly, divorce.

A fine place to hang art
Whoever scores Richard Avedon’s former home and studio should have an impressive collection of fine art. The Sarkozys do. Besides Avedons, works by Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Rene Ricard adorn the walls.


Swap and stay

With budgets tight this year, for many going on a summer vacation probably means lying out in a friend’s backyard.

But imagine staying in a Tuscan villa or a cottage in the Berkshires, all with the comforts of home and 100 percent free.

Thousands of people worldwide are utilizing websites that promote home exchanges, or house swaps. It allows people to swap homes and live in a new city or town without paying hotel prices.

“It’s absolutely the most frugal way to travel,” says Keghan Hurst, director of public relations with California-based HomeExchange.com. “It’s the idea of living like a local. You have a unique, genuine experience without being charged an arm and a leg.”
Right now, HomeExchange.com has 37,000 members listing their homes for a swap. In the past year membership has grown by 5,000. The subscription fee is $120 a year with unlimited swaps. The annual membership fee to be posted on a list of luxury properties is $500.

Advice from an expert

Jeremy McElwain has been swapping his seaside home in Massachusetts and his Vermont ski house for the past six years. He’s exchanged with families in Woodstock, N.Y., Cape Cod, and this year, Breckinridge, Colo.

“If the dates work for everyone it’s a free swap. That’s the key to it,” says McElwain, a Boston-based real estate broker with Keller Williams who travels with his wife and 3-year-old. “It’s different from the normal travel. I actually like staying in a house more than a hotel.”

All of McElwain’s swap experiences have been positive. He has never come home to broken furniture or stains on his carpet.

“When you are staying in someone’s home and they are staying in yours there’s a mutual respect,” he says. “They usually leave it better than they found it.”


Londonbury

Two years ago, the Londonbury was nearing completion when a construction mishap — which resulted in a massive fire — put the 300-apartment complex in Conshohocken in peril.

But from the ashes of the Aug. 2008 blaze that destroyed the wooden frame of developer Brian O’Neill’s building, and spread to the adjacent Riverwalk at Millenium apartments, an even more high-end apartment complex opened last month.

“We wanted to make it even more elegant, and meet the demands of people who want to live here,” says Bruce Pilarczyk of O’Neill Properties. “So many people who live in apartments now are six-figure professionals ... It’s doing very well so far."

That’s good news as well for the Borough of Conshohocken, with its own success tied closely to waterfront development along the Schuylkill River. Before the fire, the Riverwalk at Millenium and the expected Londonbury were hailed as cornerstones to a revitalization of Conshohocken, a cozy enclave just northwest of Philadelphia.

“We hope people who move in live and work in here,” Borough Manager Fran Marabella said. “The economy, not due to the fire, is tough for our downtown. Restaurant owners say business is down. The borough revenue is down. All the development along the river is important.”

More available units
Even more good news may be on the way soon for Conshohocken’s waterfront, Borough Manager Fran Marabella said. Another 187 apartments at the Riverwalk at Millenium complex may open, adding to units Riverwalk already has open. Management for the complex could not be reached yesterday.



 
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