Barbara Jakobson Thinks of Her Art-Filled Townhouse As Her Autobiography
New York magazine|May 24 - June 06, 2021
She’s lived here since 1965 and now gets up and down its five floors on her spiffy new stair-climbing “worm.”
By Wendy Goodman

This house has a great history,” says Barbara Jakobson, much of which she made herself. She is 88 and has lived here since 1965, filling all five stories with her collection of paintings, sculpture, photography, and furniture. And the last thing she wanted to do was leave it. But a townhouse means a vertical life, and “after 56 years of stair-climbing without major incident, I was hurrying down from the top floor to the one below at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, October 23, tripped, and as I crashed to the landing below, I cursed my fate,” she says. Her tumble broke her leg, but, she says gleefully, “I did not hit my head!”

She immediately realized she needed to find a way to move between floors more safely. Probably one of those stairlifts, if she could find one she liked. The house could be adapted; it had always changed with her life as her collecting evolved. “I see the house as a vessel for an ongoing autobiographical exercise,” she says. “I keep the transformation as proof of life.”

She remembers first touring the Upper East Side house on a January day with her former husband, the late financier John Jakobson, walking into the ground-floor garden room (now home to her Tom Sachs–designed bar) where “there was nothing but a Bechstein piano and a Turner on the wall; that clinched the deal.” (There was also a lion’s-head fountain, but that she removed.)

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NEW YORK MAGAZINEView All

The Next Course

Nearly two decades after influential pastry chef Claudia Fleming left Gramercy Tavern, she returns to Danny Meyer’s restaurant group in a new role.

6 mins read
New York magazine
June 21 - July 4, 2021

The Group Portrait: Back on the Decks

The crew of DJs behind the best parties in Brooklyn this summer.

2 mins read
New York magazine
June 21-July 4, 2021

The National Interest: Jonathan Chait

Save the Union by Enlarging It. Hoping to win by coupproof margins is not a strategy.

5 mins read
New York magazine
June 21-July 4, 2021

Rachel Lindsay Has No Roses Left to Burn

When I became The Bachelor’s first Black lead, I thought I could change it from within. Until I realized I was just their token.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
June 21-July 4, 2021

Up Where the People Are

A coming-of-age tale that takes the phrase “fish out of water” literally.

4 mins read
New York magazine
June 21 - July 4, 2021

SINGING MORMONS (NO, NOT THOSE SINGING MORMONS)

Schmigadoon!’s send-up of musical theater is both wholesome and really, really funny.

7 mins read
New York magazine
June 21 - July 4, 2021

Extremely Online: Emilia Petrarca

Occupy the Dating App In today’s marketplace for love, everybody wants to eat the rich.

6 mins read
New York magazine
June 21-July 4, 2021

Fancy Francie

Caviar, lobster, and New York’s last remaining cheese cart.

4 mins read
New York magazine
June 21 - July 4, 2021

71 minutes with … Andrew Giuliani

A failson sets his sights on Albany.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
June 21-July 4, 2021

Catch Her If You Can

Doja Cat refuses to be dragged down to earth.

6 mins read
New York magazine
June 21 - July 4, 2021