by STEFANOS CHEN, New York Times
Date Publish: Wednesday December 20, 2017

The estate of Rachel Lambert Mellon, the millionaire heiress and tastemaker known as Bunny, has been selling off her massive collection of art, fashion and fineries since her death in 2014, at the age of 103. But there are gems yet to be sold.

Mrs. Mellon’s 2,100-square-foot aerie on the 28th floor of Essex House, an Art Deco hotel and condo tower facing Central Park, is expected to list for $8.9 million. The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath apartment carries monthly common charges of $9,465; taxes are $2,010 a month.

Among her many properties, which include d homes in Antigua, Paris and a more than 2,000-acre estate in Upperville, Va., the New York condo was low on the list. She bought it primarily for business appointments and social gatherings when she visited the city, said Alex Forger, her attorney and executor of her will.

She bought two adjacent units for $5.9 million in 2000, according to public records, and combined them into a unified space with a wall of windows overlooking the span of Central Park.


Mrs. Mellon in 1982.CreditFred R. Conrad/The New York Times


Like many of Mrs. Mellon’s purchases, it is both lavish and understated, consciously so. Besides the titan-of-industry view, there are no gilded accents or eye-catching fixtures. The walls are painted white — to be fair, five shades of it, the designer said — and the herringbone floors are well worn. There is recessed lighting in the nine-foot ceilings and painted cabinets on either end of the living room, now filled with reams of estate paperwork.

On closer inspection, signifiers of class hide in plain sight. On a recent visit, a photo of Mrs. Mellon’s private jet was displayed, the metal frame made from a part of the aircraft. Two unassuming green chairs in the bedrooms were 18th-century antiques, while a third was designed by Sister Parish, the high-society designer who also helped decorate the Kennedy White House.

“There’s no big-gold this or mirrored that,” said her biographer, Meryl Gordon, author of “Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.”

“When you’re in one of her properties, there’s this sort of serenity,” Ms. Gordon added. “It’s about as non-Donald Trump as you can imagine.”

Not that Mrs. Mellon was frugal. She wore Givenchy, even when working in her garden. She spent millions amassing an eclectic collection of art that included paintings by Mark Rothko, fine jewelry and whimsical objets d’art. “She didn’t have one porcelain cabbage — she had 30 of them,” Ms. Gordon said.

A cartoon lampooning the John Edwards scandal, found on a desk in Mrs. Mellon’s apartment. Mrs. Mellon gave more than $3 million to his 2008 presidential campaign.CreditStefanos Chen

Mrs. Mellon, who was married to the art collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon until his death in 1999, was born into wealth. She was given her nickname by her nurse, and was known ever after to friends and heads of state as Bunny. As the heir to the Listerine mouthwash fortune (her father made “halitosis” a household word), she belonged to an elite class that included her close friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It was at the Kennedys’ request that Mrs. Mellon, a lifelong horticulture enthusiast, was asked to redesign the White House Rose Garden.

Her spending has also courted controversy. She gave more than $3 million to the 2008 presidential campaign of John Edwards, some of which, unbeknown to her, was used to help cover up the former senator’s extramarital affair that ultimately derailed his career. Mr. Forger, her attorney, said she held three fund-raisers for Mr. Edwards in this apartment.

“She viewed him as being in the John Kennedy mode,” he said. “And she knew Kennedy well.”

Even after she was interviewed by the F.B.I. in the subsequent campaign-finance violation trial, she never denounced Mr. Edwards, and she stayed in touch with him until her last days, Ms. Gordon said, noting that Mrs. Mellon even kept a photo of Mr. Edwards by her bedside.

This is one of the last properties from Mrs. Mellon’s portfolio to be listed for sale, Mr. Forger said. The proceeds will benefit the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, in memory of Mrs. Mellon’s father, which funds projects like the creation of gardens for children’s hospitals.

Stanley Hancock and George Fesser of Spire Group have the listing.

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