Lauren Bacall: Behind the Closed Doors of Her $26 Million Apartment
On a high floor in the famous Dakota building in New York City’s Upper West Side lived screen legend Lauren Bacall. Surrounded by personal treasures, the late actress spent more than 30 years in the space, decorating it with memories that spanned decades.
Following Bacall’s death in August, an estimated $3 million worth of her jewelry and art will be auctioned off March 31 and April 1 at Bonhams New York. Her Manhattan home is also now up for sale. Valued at $26 million (she bought the property in 1961 for $48,000), the luxe apartment overlooks Central Park at 1 W. 72nd St. in a landmark building whose former residents include Boris Karloff, Judy Holliday and John Lennon.
But what went on behind closed doors? Jon King, vice president of Bonhams New York, shared with PEOPLE a glimpse of Bacall’s life in the Dakota:
The Great Room
The great room was not an intimate space, King explains. The actress used the room for special occasions, inviting over her vast social network of artistic and political friends for cocktails.
“It was primarily for entertaining on a large scale,” King says. “People like Leonard Bernstein would come and play the piano.”
Her meticulous decorating extended all the way from the room’s light blue walls to the top of her baby grand piano, where she kept a collection of framed family photographs. With its intricate and homey backdrop, the living room was used for photo shoots and interviews with Bacall for The New York Times and Vanity Fair.
The library was a very personal space where she felt “at ease,” says King. One wall was dedicated entirely to photographs from her career.
“There was a wonderful portrait of her done by Jean Negulesco, who directed her in How to Marry a Millionaire,” King says. “She also had a watercolor by Katharine Hepburn.”
Bacall used the library as a space to receive guests, who were first greeted by the sound of barking as her papillon, Sophie, came running down the hallway followed by her legendary owner, he says.
“You would ring the front door bell after going through all the security, and the housekeeper would let you in and direct you to where you would sit down,” King says. “She would take her place in front of the fireplace in an armchair, with her guest sitting in a club chair very close by.”
Although he recalls a television that sat behind closed cabinet doors, King doubts it was turned on very frequently.
“She watched TV in her bedroom and in the kitchen,” he says.
The Dining Room
Bacall enjoyed her dining area and its casual spirit. The neutral colors and various shades of wood in the furniture, floor and paneling gave the room a provincial feel.
“It was the look of almost an English country house,” King says.
The dining space didn’t lack the rich décor found in adjacent rooms. She displayed her collection of English majolica there. Huge Belle époque French posters by Jules Chéret and others added pops of color to the pale walls.
“Back in the day, I’m sure the family ate there all the time,” King says.
The Master Bedroom
Paintings by high-profile artists walled Bacall’s sleep space. Henry Moore lithographs framed her bed and prints from David Hockney hung above her secretary desk.
The intimate bedroom also held memories of the home she shared in Los Angeles with her first husband, Humphrey Bogart.
“The painting over the bed was originally in the house where she and Humphrey Bogart lived in L.A. in the 40’s and 50’s,” King says.
• Reporting by K.C. BAKER