Seema Boesky sweeps open the front door with a dramatic “Welcome to Woodlands.”
It’s a greeting filled with warmth, and within seconds you’re drinking in the luxurious appointments of her Bedford home.
It seems the perfect reflection of how you imagine Boesky lives – until you remember she doesn’t live here.
“I fully stage,” she reminds you with a smile. “You know, I never lived here.”
She may indeed be the owner of this five-bedroom, 7,200-square-foot Georgian, but the home, set within seven-plus secluded acres, is actually the most stylish of calling cards.
Boesky, the noted philanthropist, entrepreneur and author, is now in the business of buying, renovating and then re-selling Bedford homes.
Of course, it’s done with a decidedly upscale twist as Boesky finds properties with high-end potential, renovates them to her exacting standards and fully stages them to appeal to a luxury buyer.
“It’s my favorite thing to do,” she says. “I’ve worn many hats in my career, but this is by far the most rewarding.”
And every project Boesky tackles is indebted to a property very dear to her own heart, Northview.
“My home here in Bedford is the mother of all this,” she says of the local landmark fashioned in the spirit of Monticello. She totally remodeled the sprawling estate she once shared with her former husband, onetime Wall Street financier Ivan Boesky, and their four children, after her divorce. Today, Northview is her sanctuary – and her design and decorating inspiration.
A new path
A few years back, when Boesky says “the market turned,” she decided she wanted to explore this new direction.
It’s all about building homes from the perspective of the “end user,” she says. But instead of moving in, she moves on.
“I’m less motivated (by) what most people are, and that’s the dollar,” she says.
A longtime hotelier – Boesky explains she and her sister were “gifted” the Beverly Hills Hotel as children – she has long cultivated her affinity for creating surroundings that are at once luxurious but also warm and inviting.
Boesky is known for having a love of traditional architecture but keeping it fresh with a mix of furnishings, as is evident throughout Woodlands.
There are countless dramatic doorways and arches, hardwood floors with intricate patterns and chandeliers of all styles. A stately bull’s-eye mirror hangs over chairs wrapped in tiger print. Traditional Asian vases rest inches away from a modern glass coffee table. And it all works.
“When I decided to embark on doing spec housing, my decision was to build a house I would want to live in….I’m in this blessed position where I can afford to do it my way and not cut a lot of corners.”
Approaching this new venture, Boesky turned to the finest hotels across the globe, places that command thousands per night, to study their marketing brochures. She decided to combine what she learned from them about amenities with what she already knew about luxury living.
The lure of Woodlands
Built in 1909 as a carriage house to the Scribner estate, Woodlands offered the perfect opportunity to get Boesky’s new effort under way.
“This was the right property for me,” she says. “My properties have to be really special.”
A combination of renovation and new construction, the now-completed home, which borders a sanctuary of some 600 acres, has dramatic fireplaces and a serene pool, a charming fountain and a spacious patio.
A designer kitchen spills into the airy family room. Here, a stone fireplace reaches to the ceiling, where exposed beams add a rustic European touch. An elegantly carved armoire provides a hideaway for the television, a move practical yet sophisticated.
“In today’s world, everybody has to be able to relax,” Boesky says.
The home features an expansive formal living room, a man cave, a library, a formal dining room complete with fireplace and a handful of well-appointed, spacious bedrooms. The master suite is a study in elegance and conveniences, from a cozy terrace to the built-in that hides a refrigerator and coffeemaker, from a television cleverly installed within the bathroom mirror to a huge walk-in closet.
Woodlands’ grounds are expansive, filled primarily with perennials and mature trees. An evocative bridge (“like Monet’s Giverny”) leads to the tennis court, which has its own parking pad and a “tiki hut.” This last feature is a nod to Boesky’s concern for hospitality.
“I always thought if people came to play tennis with me, you had to give them coffee or something, because you are coming to my home.”
Teamwork at every step
A big part of the success of this first project, Boesky says, was based on her pulling together a team of experts that works well together.
“I have the aesthetic,” she says.
The team, led by Westchester-based contractor Pat Morrissey and architect Mark Thompson of Philadelphia, added the technical know-how. And Boesky says she enjoys the collaboration, the back-and-forth of decision-making.
“I love the exchange,” she says.
For each project, she is preparing a scrapbook that combines the history of the property with before-and-after photographs and some very practical materials. Every wire is mapped out. Every plumber or painter is noted, along with how to reach them.
“I’m very proud of what I do, so the next owner gets every single person who worked on this house.”
She also had every last person who worked on the project sign the book.
“Everyone felt like they were part of the team and I think that has to result in a better project.”
That was also echoed in her guiding principles.
“Whenever I could make a green decision, I did,” she says of her approach. “I care about what I do.”
Throughout, Boesky says, her choices are steeped not only in the aesthetics but in “quality and value.”
Form as well as function
“I’ve had numerous homes over the years, and it’s hard for me to part with things,” Boesky says.
So now, she is able to put much of her treasure trove to work.
“I knew I could furnish this house without buying anything,” she says with a smile.
And she practically has. The mix is an eclectically vibrant blend of antique and contemporary, reflected in the sconces and mirrors, vases and chairs, artwork and pillows.
The home simply all comes together and is designed to be shared. Doors open onto lovely scenes, particularly French doors that reveal a charming fountain in the space leading up to the pool.
“You could entertain hundreds here,” she says. “It’s a fabulous home to entertain.”
Indeed, a bartender alcove even has a window that creates a pass-through onto the patio.
“This house has built-in things that other houses don’t,” she says. “Everything that’s in here will be included in the next – and more.”
As Woodlands, offered at $4.85 million through Ginnel Real Estate, awaits a buyer, Boesky and her team are already at work on another Bedford spread, a “total teardown,” when she found it.
And there’s no doubt that the attention she has devoted to Woodlands to make it, as Boesky says, “nothing short of really special,” will be lavished on Tall Pines as well.