Peter York: No shagpile, no bad gilding – expensive but reassuringly dull

Share
Related Topics

So what were you expecting from Bernie Madoff? The full-on Dictators' Home's Mobutu look of over-scaled rooms and bad gilding? Did you imagine his Ponzi plotting had a backdrop something like Aaron Spelling's LA repro château? Or the OTT McMansion setting for the shag-pile shootout in
Scarface?

But Bernie Madoff was miles cleverer than that; all the first interviews with friends/investors/dupes emphasised how low-key and un-bling Bernie and Ruth were, how they kept to the reassuringly dull round of golf-club dinners and local Jewish charity do's rather than the bling New York and LA arts and entertainment circuit. They left that to the agents with their smart contacts.

Ruth and Bernie kept it low-profile and distinctly "knocked back", as these rooms from their Florida house shows. They're pleasant comfortable middle-aged, educated middle-class "tasteful", just borderline dull. And ruthlessly weeded; less is more.

And though it's Florida, the style, the furnishing vocabulary looks distinctly East Coast. White walls, woodsy exposed barn ceilings, white linen sofa covers, even plain white-painted boarded walls in one room. And then there's the furniture, solid, reassuring chunky mid-19th century stuff, with no shiny ormolu, and no flashy inlay, the essence of keep-it-simple. The furniture of educated professionals and academics.

There are early Provençal terracotta tiles (the Fired Earth 1985 look) and kilim rugs on the floor. There's folk art and function in the things they collect. A fine old telescope on its mahogany stand. An old American flag and, below it, an old rocking horse – the kind that made Stanley Johnson's Primrose Hill home a North London landmark for years. And three old fishing rods on the wall as decoration.

It's more Maine than Miami, and with the money ruthlessly reined back. They could be, say, a neurologist married to a novelist.

Peter York is the author of Dictators' Homes, published by Atlantic Books

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Inspection Inventory Clerk

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Caroline Lucas from the Green Party with anti-fracking campaigners outside Parliament this week.  

Fracking can improve our energy security, create jobs and support the development of renewables

Corin Taylor
Anti-fracking activists near a proposed site at Westby, near Blackpool  

10 things you need to know about fracking – the case against

Donna Hume
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee