Last week’s color photographs of Hitler’s home got us wondering: Do all dictators have awful taste? North Korea’s Kim Jong Il is well known for his gaudiness and these paintings from Saddam Hussein’s collection of fantasy art look like they’ve been rescued from beneath the bed of a teenage video game aficionado.
And now there’s a fourth man to add to our list: Bernie Madoff. Sure, he’s no dictator, but we wouldn’t be the first — or the second or third, for that matter — to compare him to Hitler. And, to be fair, his decorating skills are slightly better. But these New York Daily News photos of the inside of the Madoff’s Upper East Side duplex prove that while Bernie’s no Saddam, he’s definitely no Martha Stewart either (although they do have the jail thing in common).
Indeed, an article that ran in the Forward in December describes Michael Skakun and Ken Libo’s visit to the Madoff’s apartment five years ago. “Queens High Baroque,” they recalled whispering to each other as they stepped into the apartment, which they described like this:
The ample Madoff foyer and living room burst with what appeared to us as classical knockoffs, the regal effect spoiled by overexertion. Gold sconces lined the stenciled wallpaper, a Napoleonic-style desk stood to the side, and the Greek and Egyptian statues vied with each other to set a mood of antique decorum. Arabesque-styled Central Asian rugs beguiled our vision with looping patterns and impressive symmetries, further softening our footfalls.
It seems that, when it came to decorating, Madoff kept his home life separate from his work. An article in The Daily Mall describes his preferred office décor. The article quotes the manager of Madoff’s London office, Julia Fenwick, as saying:
The London office had to resemble as closely as possible the New York office — grey walls, grey carpets, black trim, black cupboards. Everything was grey and black. On the occasions he visited London, we’d spend days before his arrival leveling the blinds, making sure the computer screens were an identical height, lining every picture up straight. No paper was allowed on the desks.
Grey, black and austere is a far cry from the frilly and overwrought perfectionism of the Madoff’s New York penthouse. Perhaps Susan Blumenfeld, Madoff’s personal interior designer, is to thank for the disparate decorating styles. Writes the Daily Mail:
According to Mrs Fenwick, Madoff was often accompanied by his interior designer, Susan Blumenfeld, president of New York firm SBI Design, who even approved his wife’s clothes.
A quick Internet search for Susan Blumenfeld reveals the Edward and Susan Blumenfeld Foundation is on the long list of foundations that found themselves victims of Madoff’s scam. Their foundation’s estimated exposure: $2,539,993.