The Real Deal New York

A jewel box of a home

No longer a “Housewife,” Jill Zarin works hard and finds peace in her Tiffany-inspired apartment
By Zachary Kussin | May 06, 2014 07:00AM

Is it a home, is it an office, or is it a television studio? On a recent sunny day inside the spacious, light-filled 30th-floor digs of Jill Zarin — TV personality, entrepreneur, author, clothing and jewelry designer — the lines blurred.

Though Zarin no longer appears on “The Real Housewives of New York City,” she’s still the consummate media pro. On this day, open makeup kits stood in for place settings on her circular glass-top dining room table; a photography crew buzzed around the adjacent living area, setting up for our Luxury Listings shoot. Zarin’s parents, visiting from Boca Raton, darted in and out of the guest room, preparing for a lunch date at a nearby restaurant. And amidst the commotion, Zarin, who’s now sporting a chic short haircut, awaited a call from news channel HLN. The topic: “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Porsha Williams turning herself into the police, following a brawl that erupted on that show’s reunion taping.

Throughout the hubbub, Zarin maintains her warm and affable nature, completely nonplussed by the chaos. While waiting for the phone to ring, she’s busy chatting with our crew and sharing gossip with her stylist. “Today brought back a lot of memories,” Zarin later comments. “For four years I sat at this table — three or four months each year — almost every day, getting my hair and makeup done.”

Zarin’s memorable four-season run on the hit Bravo show ended in 2011. But even though cameras no longer trail her every move, Zarin keeps herself busy. She’s published a book, “Secrets of a Jewish Mother.” She runs a shapewear brand, Skweez Couture. And she has a new jewelry line in the works, which will be upscale but not “expensive expensive,” she said, showing off a new ring — a wide, bold band with sparkly diamond touches — from the collection.

Given Zarin’s packed social calendar — she recently generated buzz by spending Easter Sunday with former “RHONY” castmate Alex McCord — her life does, indeed, ooze the fabulousness that you’d expect. But Zarin does have a touch of homebody in her. “What people don’t know about me is I’m a little bit of a hermit,” she confesses. “People think I’m out all the time. I’m not.”

Indeed, when at home in Manhattan, Zarin seems to really do it all inside her 2,000-square-foot condo on the Upper East Side. The three-bedroom, 3.5-bath home — which also serves as Zarin’s office, and does occasional triple-duty as a studio — is affectionately known as “Base Camp” by the family, which includes Zarin’s husband, Bobby, daughter Ally, who graduates from Vanderbilt this month, and a Chihuahua named Ginger.

Above all, Zarin likes to think of her NYC abode as a place to relax. Though she’s often working from home, the feel at “Base Camp” is overwhelmingly cozy and homey. The entry foyer boasts display chests full of framed family photos. The pictures flow directly into the living area, whose walls, as well as those of the adjacent dining area, sport a light blue textured wallpaper with a silver diamond pattern. Arrangements of daffodils and orchids give these rooms a fresh, fragrant touch.

“I wanted the house to look like Tiffany’s,” Zarin said.

The surroundings may be upscale, but comfort reigns. Off to the side of the living room rests a new, oversized brown couch. “Everyone hates it,” Zarin admits. “I don’t really care. I had a very fancy silk grey sofa, but it wasn’t as comfortable as this. And I really wanted a comfortable sofa because this is my home.”

The living room’s windows are adorned with sage-colored curtains — sourced from Zarin Fabrics, of course, her husband’s third-generation family business on the Lower East Side. Also on display is a painting, made by a fan: Reminiscent of a Goya portrait, it depicts a Chihuahua in an antiquated Spanish-style dress. Other pieces made by admirers — one of them a textured painting, done in a colorful abstract style — are on display in the apartment’s other hallway. While some television personalities may toss such handmade offerings, Zarin shows them off with excitement.

Her favorite spot at home is the dining room, with its city views from two exposures. She often sits at the glass table with her laptop, working away on her various business ventures. Propped on a cupboard in this room is her most treasured item: A framed letter from Ally, written when she was a little girl. The letter details the many reasons why Ally loves her, one of which is her cooking.

Despite the occasional media interview, life at Zarin’s Manhattan home is generally quiet and peaceful. Things change at the family’s waterfront Southampton compound, “Camp Zarin,” which is where the family entertains. There, Zarin can host a sit-down meal for 50, which she does on Sundays come the summer season. “Everybody comes to me,” Zarin said of her Hamptons abode. “I like when everyone comes over and I like to entertain at home.”

The Zarins have owned their Manhattan pad at Bridge Tower Place since 2001, city records show, and have listed it twice since their purchase, according to StreetEasy. Zarin remains ambivalent about putting the condo up for sale again. “I’ve been here for 12 years and I think I would like to try a new neighborhood,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to try downtown — Soho, Noho — but my husband doesn’t. If we sell it, we sell it. If we don’t, we don’t. We’re not anxious to.”

If they purchase another home, there’s a chance it won’t be in Manhattan. She said she wants to buy in Florida, and added that maybe she’ll rent a place this year to see which location — Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach — works best. “At this point in my life, do I want to invest more money in New York City, or do we actually want to start moving down to Florida [to be] there more than half the year?” she said. “We’re at a change of life now.”

Still, Zarin is a New Yorker through and through — and, she admits, she loves her building: security is good, it has a garage and it’s conveniently located right off the FDR. Plus, she said, the neighborhood is finally changing, with new property rising from the ground up and forthcoming public transportation within easier reach.

“I think that having the Second Avenue Subway is going to make what I want and where I want to be so accessible,” she said. “I’ll be able to walk one block … and head down to Soho. And that might make me happy enough to stay here another 10 to 15 years.”