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.)
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