27 December 2010

993 Park Avenue: Marlene Dietrich's New York Apartment


Marlene Dietrich settled in Manhattan's swanky Upper East Side after the end of World War II, when the world's most glamorous grandmother relocated to New York to be close to her daughter Maria Riva and her grandchildren.

993 Park Avenue went co-op in the late fifties and Dietrich bought an apartment in the building. The full service, thirteen storey Italianite block had been built in the teens by Bing & Bing. Dietrich decorated her modest apartment, number 12E (a two bed / two bath unit of 1600 square feet), in a mixture of styles: Louis XIV furniture was offset against glizy mirrored walls befitting a movie star.

Dietrich photographed in her living room for Life Magazine (1952).


When she wasn't travelling the world with her spectacular one-woman show, Dietrich divided her time between her New York home and a Paris rental on the Avenue Montaigne. Visting Dietrich in Paris in the late 70s, her friend Leo Lerman noted "[t]he podge of the [Parisian] flat, which I find touching and that Gray [Foy] says is so unlike her New York controlled elegance. I like both and find both very much the way she is."


After a stage fall in Australia in 1975 Dietrich went into semi-retirement in Paris, becoming increasingly reclusive. Her grandson, J. Michael Riva lived at the Park Avenue apartment during the early 80s with his then-fiance, Jamie Lee Curtis, when the latter was filming "Trading Places" (1983).

Dietrich died in 1992.

Her heirs sold the apartment in 1998 for $615 000. "I walked in and the place was empty and disgusting and old," commented the buyer, who intended to redecorate. ""I have these dumb mirrors, too ... Because she had smoked-glass mirrors all over the place, including in the bedroom, which I am taking off."


993 Park Ave #12E reappeared on the market in 2010. Without its famous previous owner's "dumb mirrors" and shag carpeting, the genteel refurbished unit was listed by Sotheby's Real Estate for $ 2 250 000. It has now been sold.


Refurbished kitchen (2010).


Master bedroom (2010).



Living Room (2010).

12 comments:

  1. It's beautiful, but wish it still had the 'dumb mirrors'. To make such disrespectful comments, horrible.

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  2. Robert Floyd,RT-R02 October, 2011 19:09

    I can't say I like the new faux English country look, I like the way it was before ... even if it was cold and old .... this to me is disqusting .... who was the decorator .... as Marlene would have said ... "Nuts"

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  3. La nouvelle décoration est monstrueuse ! Comme on dit en France : mais que fait la police ?

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    1. I just found some photos of 993 Park Ave #12E supposedly taken before Dietrich's stuff went on the auction block in 1997 (that famous Nov. 1 Sotheby's one, no?). It looked drastically better then. I'm puzzled that Nest published these photos in Fall 2002--about 5 years after that auction--but better late than never.

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    2. L'appartement parisien a été racheté par un Russe fortuné : la décoration est aussi assez douteuse...

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  4. I don't get it, in the Life 1952 photo there is a window to the fireplace's right, in the 2010 photo there is a wall. Is it really the same apartment?

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    1. Try this, Anonymous. That is 993 Park Ave #12E, which I mislinked in the above comment (sorry, all!). To answer you question, I understand that Marlene didn't live at 993 Park Ave. in the early '50s. Rather, I believe that she lived down the street at 410 Park Ave. I base that belief on correspondences I've seen (which I've linked here).

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    2. Shame on me for not sharing how I find information, so let me do that now. If you Google the terms "410 park ave" (or "410 park avenue") and "marlene dietrich" (keep the quotes for the address and the name), you'll find other information that indicates that Dietrich lived at 410 Park Avenue in the early 1950s. Maybe she got the 410 place back in the late '40s? Read this anecdote about Marlene upstaging W. Somerset Maugham at Google Books. At any rate, if anyone can give me an accurate range of dates for when M.D. lived at 410 and at 993, I'd be quite grateful.

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  5. Joseph, I think you're right -- the earlier address is used on correspondence from the early 50s. And looking of the LIFE photo of Marlene again, it seems to be that earlier apartment. Compared to this:
    http://divadietrich.tumblr.com/image/26967672869
    Should we add the other address to Mapping MD?

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    1. I keep seeing that Marlene bought the 993 Park Avenue apartment in 1959. I laughed when I read that article because the 1997 buyer was named Terri Sanderson. Not our Terry, of course!

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  6. Yes, the above 2010 photo of the fireplace in the refurbished 993 Park apartment seems to match that of the link you now fixed. So the Life photo from 1952 was in a different apartment

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  7. I actually have one of the mirrors from that apartment, from the buer in 1997!

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