Ivana Trump was best known for her more-is-more approach to life. She and her most famous ex-husband had their differences over the years, but on that front they were united.
Dresses were covered in crystals, furs were fashioned in nearly every color of the rainbow, and her bouffant ascended high enough to grace the ceilings of many New York rooms — but not those in her Upper East Side home, a 20-foot-wide, 8,725-square-foot, five-story mansion. The townhouse, which she turned into her very own rococo paradise, is now listed on the market for $26.5 million. Ms. Trump died there after falling down the stairs last year.
The house is less than a block from Central Park and became — according to Nikki Haskell, a close friend since the late 1970s — a five-bedroom, five-bathroom metaphor in limestone for Ms. Trump’s refusal to shrink in size or stature after the 1990 implosion of her marriage to Donald J. Trump. His older children were raised there, and the proceeds from the house will be divided among them when it sells.
Yet, five months after being listed with Douglas Elliman, the house is still available.
Is it simply another indication that the market has retreated since interest rates soared and stock market portfolios shrank? Is it an extension of the fact that Trump-branded properties in this true-blue town have traded at a discount since 2015, when Ms. Trump’s ex-husband launched the divisive political campaign that took him to the White House? Or is the problem that the house’s anachronistic aesthetic is the polar opposite of the minimalist modernism that is standard in high-end homes today?
Ms. Trump purchased her home on East 64th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues in 1992, when she was finalizing the terms of her divorce from The Donald, as he was then known.
The seller was Francois de Menil, who purchased it in 1979 for $1 million but never moved in. After that, it became “a dentist’s office with lots of small rooms,” Ms. Trump later said.
Dennis Basso, the designer of Ms. Trump’s many minks, said in an interview that he thought it looked more like an embassy than a home. Ms. Haskell hated the stairs.
“Actually,” she said, reconsidering, “I hated the entire house.”
“Ivana wanted her house to be glam, or her idea of it,” Mr. Basso said. “And she was wise enough to get it in one of the best locations in the city.”
She had to fight Mr. Trump to lock down the money to buy it.
The divorce agreement ironed out between lawyers for the former couple entitled Mr. Trump to the apartment he and his wife had shared at the top of Trump Tower. Upon moving out, Ms. Trump was to receive $4 million to be spent on a new home for their three children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric.
But when Ms. Trump wrote a novel, “For Love Alone,” that depicted the blowup of a high-profile marriage, Mr. Trump sued her, claiming that she’d broken a confidentiality clause in the contract.
He even suggested that Ms. Trump seek assistance from her boyfriend at the time, Riccardo Mazzucchelli, an Italian industrialist who built highways in Africa, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.
“Now she wants to buy a townhouse,” Mr. Trump said. “Well, I’m not going to give her the money so she and her lover can have a house. Let him pay for it. I hear he has some money.”
Ms. Trump’s attorneys lobbied a state Supreme Court justice, Phyllis Gangel-Jacob, to compel Mr. Trump to pay the $282,500 down payment. Ultimately she got the money she needed. Public records show the overall sale price was just under $2.47 million.
After that, Ms. Trump brought in George Gregorian, a designer who had collaborated with her on the Trumps’ rebrand of the Plaza Hotel, and got to work.
“The plumbing was all rotten,” she told People magazine. “I put, like, a bulldozer through the rooms and totally redid it.”
When the contractors were done, the parlor floor served as the entryway and had a powder room and office for Dorothy Curry, who worked as an assistant to Ms. Trump and helped care for the children.
The second floor was the site of an enormous living room and a piano room.
On three was a leopard-print sitting room, a pink marble bathroom and a primary bedroom with a gold-embossed fireplace and Chinese murals that, Ms. Trump wrote in the book “Raising Trump: Family Values From America’s First Mother,” were “restored by artists referred to me by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
The children’s rooms were on four, and much of five was taken up by a closet that Ms. Trump referred to as “Indochine” because, as she later said, “by the time you get to the end of it, you might as well be in another continent.” (There were also rooms on five for Ms. Trump’s mother, Marie Zelnickova, as well as the housekeepers.)
Animal-print carpeting, giant mirrors and other Louis XIV-style detailing abounded.
“There was nothing modern about the house, but it was fabulous, all Old World glamour with bits of camp thrown in,” said Marc Bouwer, a designer whose clothes Ms. Trump wore often over the years. He was a fixture at the parties Ms. Trump threw for a guest list that befit her persona.
Here was Barbara Walters. There were Joan Collins and an assortment of Upper East Side socialites, the sort who dressed conservatively but “liked publicity, liked to be in the newspapers,” Mr. Bouwer said.
A plan to put a swimming pool in the basement did not pan out, but there was a gym on the sixth floor. And, because the treadmill faced out onto the street, Ms. Trump would wave to Donatella Versace, who in 1997 moved into her brother Gianni’s house at 5 East 64th Street, after his death.
By then Ms. Trump was ending her next marriage, to Mr. Mazzucchelli, who had divided his time between London and Ms. Trump’s townhouse in New York but could not deal with what Ms. Haskell described as living in Ivana’s shadow.
“And that’s what happened,” Ms. Haskell said. “It all became too much.”
In the early 2000s, after the children graduated from high school, Ms. Trump began spending more time in South Florida and Saint-Tropez, where she also had homes. She threw herself into dating and even hosted a reality show, “Ivana Young Man,” in which she helped a divorced 40-year-old woman find a younger mate. (It aired once on Oxygen and was not picked up as a full series.)
In 2008, Ms. Trump married a young man of her own, Rossano Rubicondi, a sometime actor in his 30s who appeared on the show. The marriage was turbulent and lasted less than a year.
In 2009, Ms. Trump was escorted off a plane after getting in an argument with a group of children running through first class.
In 2016, she offered full-throated support to Mr. Trump’s successful presidential run. But afterward she was devastated that she was not first lady and that the children she had raised were largely in Washington. She was accosted on the street by anti-Trumpers, yet refused security that might have made her feel safer.
“I said, ‘Get a handsome security guard,’” Ms. Haskell said. “But she wouldn’t. The whole presidency took a tremendous toll on her.”
According to Ms. Haskell, Ms. Trump never fully got over Mr. Trump. But Mr. Rubicondi continued to pop up.
Ms. Haskell thought he was after Ms. Trump’s money. “I used to say, ‘His meter is always running,’” she said.
Concern about Ms. Trump’s mental state grew, and the house that had once been a symbol of Ms. Trump’s resilience began to seem more like a sign that things were going awry.
“I begged her to get rid of it and move into a full-service residence at the Pierre,” said Ms. Haskell, referring to a nearby luxury hotel. “But Ivana was Ivana. She did exactly what she wanted to do.”
Ms. Haskell talked to Ms. Trump repeatedly about the stairs she couldn’t stand because “they were narrow toward the banister and wide toward the walls.”
What frightened Ms. Trump was not falling down the stairs, but getting stuck in the elevator. So she didn’t take it.
Then, in 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, Mr. Rubicondi was diagnosed with Stage 4 skin cancer. Ms. Trump flew him from Italy to New York, and got him an apartment near the townhouse so he could receive treatment here, according to New York Magazine. But he died in October 2021.
When vaccinations loosened Covid-19 restrictions, friends thought Ms. Trump would be thrilled to re-emerge. Instead, she retreated, “housebound by her own desire,” as Ms. Haskell put it.
In retrospect, Mr. Basso said, it should have been perfectly clear Ms. Trump was never going to leave.
“Where was she going to go?” Mr. Basso said. “From that house to a two-bedroom apartment? She wasn’t doing that. She liked her environment, she was happy with the way it looked, and whether it’s your taste or mine doesn’t matter.”
But Ms. Haskell said that when she heard in July that Ms. Trump had died, the first words out of her mouth were “The stairs?”
Ms. Trump’s condominium in South Florida near Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago was left to Ms. Curry, her longtime assistant. Eric took charge of the sale of the townhouse, according to a person who has had some involvement with the listing and declined to comment because Eric has asked everyone involved not to do interviews about it.
To handle the sale, the family selected Adam Modlin and Roger Erickson of Douglas Elliman. In 2020, Mr. Modlin worked for Jeffrey Epstein’s estate on the sale of Mr. Epstein’s Upper East Townhouse. He has also worked for the estate to sell Mr. Epstein’s two Caribbean islands. (A representative for Mr. Modlin at Douglas Elliman declined to comment).
There is little question that the value of the residences at Trump-branded properties in New York took a hit after he launched his 2016 campaign for President. But another, perhaps more significant obstacle for Ms. Trump’s adult children, Mr. Basso said, is that the property is huge and the design not to everyone’s taste.
“It’s a pretty facade,” he said. “But no one is buying the place and not redoing it. It may have been done by the best designer of its period, but nobody with this kind of money wants a 30-year-old bathroom, and that’s how long she was in that apartment.”
Meanwhile, the market has corrected since its pandemic peak.
Just across the street from Ms. Trump sits the magnificent mansion formerly owned by the Versaces.
It, too, has a limestone facade, gilded curtains, stately chandeliers and leopard print carpeting.
When that house was first placed on the market last spring, the asking price was $70 million. According to the listing, it can now be had for $60 million.
By contrast, Ms. Trump’s children are asking for a mere $26.5 million, and the death of the house’s last resident is not exactly a selling point.
“Ivana brought a warmth and excitement to the house,” Mr. Bouwer said. “Now it seems a little creepy, particularly given that she passed away there and so alone. It’s heartbreaking to think about.”