The origin of Casey Jordan’s obsession with oak paneling and amber lighting was her year at Oxford University, in 1982, which was partly spent enjoying the university’s cozy and cavelike study nooks, or “snugs”—a word she’d never heard before. “I don’t think we use that term much in the U.S.,” she says. Thirty-five years later, she turned a 250-square-foot studio on 56th and Park into, basically, a snug — a full 360 for a white-box room that had been designed as a maid’s quarters.
The appeal was the location in the quiet rear of the Lombardy, a grand 1927 limestone off Park Avenue. Along with the Carlyle, the Pierre, and the Sherry-Netherland, the Lombardy has a mix of conventional hotel rooms and unconventional apartments whose buyers get the same perks as tourists — like a valet to bring up ice or cleaners to change the sheets. Owners profit when their rooms are rented out, a task the hotel desk can sometimes help with, so the typical owner treats their co-op as a pied-à-terre.
It’s always been that way — and has, as such, attracted showbiz owners who only need to be in New York City for short runs. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Phyllis Diller, and Bette Davis were residents. So was the lyricist and composer Albert Tapper, who combined three units on the penthouse level — including one that had been rented by Richard Rodgers. “It’s kind of like being in a girls’ boarding school” is how All My Children creator Agnes Nixon once described the place, where she could be spotted traipsing down the halls in a bathrobe to visit friends. But the hotel’s first Hollywood tenant might have been Marion Davies, film star and mistress to William Randolph Hearst; he bought the entire building in 1929 as a convenient spot for them to spend time together. Jordan wanted a pied-à-terre because she’s in showbiz too. Though she has a full-time job as a professor at Western Connecticut State University, she can often be spotted on television as an on-air expert in criminology. The CNN studios were just a quick walk away. When she wasn’t in New York, she’d rent out “The Snug on Airbnb” for up to $200 a night. (After paying the building’s $949 maintenance and a $100 cleaning fee when a guest turned over, she typically earned about $2,500 a month.)
She also liked that the building wasn’t fussy about renovations. Over the years, that fact has drawn in a slew of designers who required freedom. In one unit, interior designer Robert Denning painted a door faux bois, added crown moldings, and stuffed a collection of silk lampshades into a shower. Diller delighted tourists by renting out pink rooms walled with a lifetime of celebrity photos.
Jordan, who recently renovated her own home in Connecticut, had gotten into a side hustle: buying and renovating properties with architectural salvage and antiques, which she sometimes sold on the side. She had extras to work with. So, paneling came from a home in Litchfield, Connecticut. An old door thrown out by Yale University was flipped sideways and cut up to build a cabinet around the heater. A stained-glass window with a hole in the center was affixed to the ceiling so a chandelier could hang through. There was no flue for a fireplace, but Jordan improvised — tacking one on the wall and sticking 12 candlesticks in front of a blown-up photo of a crackling fire. Behind a Victorian fire screen, the flickering effect was the same. “It’s like Eloise’s great-great-grandmother’s apartment,” says her broker, Henry Mullin, who, between showings, was so comfortable he fell asleep. “It’s very plush.”