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Buying at the Lombardy Might Be the Best Deal in New York

A studio in a 1927 building off Park Avenue that was initially designed for a maid was transformed into a cozy hideaway fit for a royal. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman

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.)

Before. The studio had been used as a storage unit and was filled with ski equipment when Jordan arrived in 2016. Photo: Samantha Smith

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.”

The 1927 limestone building, just off Park Avenue, is both a luxury hotel and a pied-à-terre, whose rooms have attracted Hollywood glitterati since 1929, when film star Marion Davies stayed there. Her beau, William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon, bought the building just before the stock-market crash. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
The studio is only 250 square feet, but owner Casey Jordan crammed in every creature comfort. The bed is a California king that she turned sideways — “a controversy,” she jokes, since it fills half the space. A French secretary with marquetry let her store clothes beneath and work at the fold-out desk between her CNN appearances. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
Jordan is taking her art and tchotchkes, including a collection of vintage light-up globes and Art Deco lamps, but the rest of the furniture will stay. One light, on a side table, was created from an old trumpet. “If you can shove a wire through something, you can make a lamp,” she says. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
There’s no flue on that wall, which backs the bathroom. Jordan blew up a photo of a crackling fire to the size of a poster and hid it behind a Victorian fire screen. To make the most of the space, this coffee table can be adjusted to rise to the height of a dining table. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
There’s no gas for a stove, but for a pied-à-terre, Jordan didn’t need one. She used a Victorian pie safe for storage. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
The bathroom is “a Lombardy original,” Jordan says. “To me, that’s one of the selling points.” She says the tub is deeper than modern equivalents, and even the knobs are a hoot. “That original hardware makes this lovely whiny clanking sound.” Over the sink are twin built-in toothbrush holders. Photo: Henry Mullin/Douglas Elliman
Buying at the Lombardy Might Be the Best Deal in New York