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Living With Antiques: John Rosselli at Home

Some two decades ago, tastemaker John Rosselli discovered new digs without even trying. Guest at an Upper East side cocktail party, he found himself deep in conversation with a stylish lady who lived in the building. She mentioned a gem of an apartment for sale upstairs, they investigated there and then, and the next day he bought it. The impulse purchase seemed fitting for many reasons, not the least of which being Rosselli’s working career — John Rosselli Antiques, John Rosselli International, Treillage and John Rosselli & Associates located in the D&D building — has always been based in the area. Local denizen for decades, and a passionate collector, Rosselli made this apartment a natural extension of his regular New York beat.

The atypical arrangement of rooms cobbled from a series of co-joined Upper East side townhouses was also a perfect bunker to fill with personal treasures. The two-bedroom apartment rambled in the most wonderful way, its jogs and narrow halls opening to rectangular spaces; a highlight was certainly its wood-paneled living room with French doors opening to a terrace at one side and a glorious view of the copper-clad cupola of St. Jean-Baptiste church to the other. Fully reflected in the Venetian-style clear and blue glass mirror above the mantelpiece, the  furnishings Rosselli stitched together were a colorful tapestry of carved wood, marble, malachite, bronze, painted pottery, statuary, and porcelain. Unexpected, unusual, unique may be the three Us Rosselli worships and, undeniably, he’s up to the task for it would seem the patinated premises were confidently born of another era.

Twenty years and many festive parties later, this fashionably layered pied-a-terre has been sold. The floor-to-ceiling mirrored panels in the dining room — doubly glazed with giltwood frames, Venetian girandoles and Chinese reverse glass paintings — have reflected more than a glint of porcelain, silver and crystal; Orientalist pictures decking the walls of one bedroom, myriad dog portraits the other, have peered down upon an array of painted and mahogany furniture embellished with just the right touch of ormolu; and in keeping with a decorative Rosselli trademark, kitchen shelves were lined with platters in every pattern of blue and white imaginable.

Full disclosure, Rosselli never took up permanent residence despite being smitten. He and his wife, Bunny Williams, live in another apartment further uptown and spend their weekends in Connecticut. Those homes, each a magical oasis, are filled with their combined collections. Meanwhile, John kept enhancing his folly with treasures he never wished to sell. The true extension of a collector’s eye, a sanctuary in which to read of a lazy afternoon, a glamorous aerie for occasional dinners with company, the contents represent a treasured past now available for sale. As for his flocks of inanimate animal friends including his beloved whippets, horses, deer, camels, hippos, lions, hawks and hounds, Rosselli’s playful recipe is to season indoors with a personal menagerie.

–  Angus Wilkie

Time & Location

Master Class: John Rosselli at Home on Thursday, October 6 at 11am

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