Col­lec­tor’s show­case

The pas­sion for an­tiques that made in­ter­net mogul Michael Bruno his for­tune is given free rein in his Hud­son Val­ley man­sion. By He­len Chislett. Pho­to­graphs by Gianni Franchel­lucci

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENT -

The Hud­son Val­ley home of an in­ter­net mogul

STAND­ING IN Michael Bruno’s el­e­gant Tuxedo Park home in Hud­son Val­ley, look­ing out to the lakes, wa­ter­falls, for­mal gar­dens, pas­ture and wood­land that sur­round the prop­erty, it’s hard to be­lieve that it is only 35 miles from mid­town Man­hat­tan.

Bruno does not do things by halves: when he first hap­pened across Tuxedo Park–agate de state of about 350 prop­er­ties be­side Ster­ling For­est–he al­lowed his in­ner ‘real-es­tate junkie’ to emerge. First de­vel­oped in the late 19th cen­tury, Tuxedo Park had fallen into de­cline. Bruno bought not only his own lake­side man­sion, but has spent an es­ti­mated $15 mil­lion since 2014, adding swaths of land and build­ings to his port­fo­lio, which now en­com­passes 120 acres, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous prop­er­ties and the lo­cal con­ve­nience store.

Bruno is bet­ter known as the founder of the lux­ury on­line mar­ket­place, so beloved of the in­te­ri­orde­sign in­dus­try that it is not un­usual to walk into a stu­dio and find two peo­ple em­ployed full-time to scroll end­lessly through the op­tions for, say, al­abaster wall lights or grotto-style shell mir­rors. He started the com­pany in 2001, while liv­ing in Pari s and mak­ing reg ular jaunts to the Clig­nan­court flea mar­ket. So many of his friends were fas­ci­nated by what he found there, that he had a light-bulb mo­ment about cre­at­ing a plat­form that would al­low peo­ple to buy from the mar­ket with­out leav­ing the United States. ‘I re­alised that most of what was bought was not stay­ing in Paris,’ he re calls, ‘and that in­te­rior de­sign­ers were go­ing there as a once-ayear pil­grim­age. I fig­ured that it would be great if they could shop there ev­ery day over the in­ter­net.’

So sound were Bruno’s in­stincts that by the time he sold his fi­nal shares last year, his love of rum­mag­ing in an­tique stalls had made him a ru­moured eight­fig ure sum. As for 1st, it re­mains the pre­mier on­line mar­ket­place for an­tiques, jew­ellery and art, with thou­sands of deal­ers signed up world­wide. Two years ago, its worth was es­ti­mated at about $300 mil­lion,

‘I like co­he­sion in a home. No shocks from one room to the next’

What he en­joys is mix­ing things up, hang­ing an in­dus­trial light fx­ture over a Ge­orge III ta­ble

ac­cord­ing to For­tune mag­a­zine.

How­ever, prop­erty was Bruno’s love be­fore an­tiques; he sold real es­tate in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and to the dot-com en­trepreneur­s of San Francisco, and cur­rently has about a dozen spec­tac­u­lar homes for sale on the Tuxedo Hud­son Realty books. This month Bruno opened the Val­ley Rock Inn, com­plete with two restau­rants, book­shop, bike shop, farm shop and art gallery. ‘The ho­tel is very close to the train sta­tion, which is less than an hour from New York City. I am aim­ing it at mil­len­ni­als who want to stay some­where beau­ti­ful out of town,’ he says.

His own Tuxedo Park home is where he lives with his part­ner, Alexan­der Jakowec, and their two golden re­triev­ers, Natasha and Boris. Built by John Rus­sell Pope in 1900, it has a brick-and-stucco ex­te­rior, arched win­dows and a por­tico big enough to shield a horse-and-car­riage from driv­ing rain. Bruno loved it for its pro­por­tions. He says, ‘It is nei­ther too big nor too small and it did not feel stiff. It was so beau­ti­fully con­ceived ar­chi­tec­turally that we re­ally had very lit­tle to do – but it did lend it­self to a more mod­ern feel.’

In­side, the house is a mas­ter­class in blend­ing the clas­sic with the con­tem­po­rary, with pe­riod fea­tures pre­served. The largely mono­chrome scheme pro­vides a calm back­drop against which Bruno and Jakowec’s col­lec­tions are dis­played. ‘ The pre­vi­ous owner had used a lot of colour,’ Bruno says, ‘so the first thing we did was bring it back to a purist blank can­vas – slate d ebony floors and white walls – so that we could re­ally just look at it with­out con­fu­sion. In the end, we chose to leave it pri­mar­ily that way, other than paint­ing the walls dark. I like co­he­sion in a home. No shocks from one room to the next.’

Bruno chose to work with an in­te­rior de­signer, Wind­sor Smith, rather than rely en­tirely on his own eye: ‘I am great at find­ing things I love – aren’t we all? – but Wind­sor was bril­liant at work­ing with us and de­ter­min­ing how best to place things that we have owned for a long time. I also re­lied on her to choose

car­pets, cush­ions, cur­tains, up­hol­stery and such like, be­cause I think it takes a lot of train­ing to get those el­e­ments of de­sign right. It al­lowed us to take the house to an­other level.’

As you would ex­pect of the 1stdibs. com founder, Bruno bought many of the an­tique pieces from the site. ‘I am en­joy­ing hav­ing no other sta­tus than that of cus­tomer now, and I still scroll through look­ing for lovely things,’ he says. ‘ We wanted a beau­ti­ful cen­tre ta­ble, for ex am­ple, that I as­sumed would be tim­ber – but then found one in lime­stone on that was com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what I had in mind, but so much bet­ter.’ This now stands in the gallery of the house ad­ja­cent to leather arm­chairs by Jac­ques Quinet and topped by an ex­u­ber­ant 1970s sculp­ture.

How­ever, deep down Bruno has al­ways loved trawl­ing through an­tiques shops in per­son – a gilded grapevine in the hall was found in Paris, as was a 1970s bronze cock­tail ta­ble in the draw­ing room. What he most en­joys is

mix­ing things up, whether hang­ing an in­dus­trial 19 20s light fix ture by OC White & Co over the mag­nif­i­cent Ge­orge III ma­hogany din­ing ta­ble, mak­ing a fo­cal point of nat­u­rally shed horns from the Black For­est in the en­trance foyer, or com­mis­sion­ing a strik­ing cus­tom wall fin­ish for the dress­ing room. Art is bold and dra­matic, but not con­fined to one style: the din­ing room fea­tures a 1897 seascape by Paul Kuh­stohs, while in the sit­ting room is a por­trait of Bruno by Nasha Wallin.

The f ur ni t ure gen­eral ly has a n im­pres­sive pedi­gree, but Bruno in­sists that his choices have never been driven solely by prove­nance. ‘For me it is not about own­ing the finest 18th-cen­tury desk ever, but about sim­ply buy­ing what I love. If there were a prover­bial fire, the thing I would most wish to save – not very prac­ti­cal in that cir­cum­stance – would be a dis­play cab­i­net of fish that dates from the 1920s and shows spec­i­mens caught around Hawaii. It is fun and con­ver­sa­tional and quirky – but then quirky is me.’

1920s fsh cab­i­net. Bot­tomright De­signer Wind­sor Smith com­mis­sioned the dress­ing-area wall­pa­per. The burr cab­i­net is a vin­tage fnd Be­low Na­ture-themed pieces such as resin tusks and wooden mush­rooms are dis­played on the land­ing. Bot­tom left Bruno with his

Right Bruno’s Tuxedo Park home was built by John Rus­sell Pope in 1900. Farright In the for­mal draw­ing room, arm­chairs by JeanMichel Frank are teamed with a 1970s bronze cock­tail ta­ble found in a Paris flea mar­ket

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