By the end of what is often a 50-hour workweek at Sony Music Entertainment, Clive Davis is just getting started. At 4 p.m. on any given Friday, the 83-year-old chief creative officer is making sure everything is arranged for the guests — there are always guests — headed to meet him at his 17-acre weekend compound in New York’s northern Westchester County. Is their transportation on time? Are there fresh flowers in each of the eight guest bedrooms? Is the 30-seat plush home theater set up for the “absolutely fantastic” show he has planned?
Leave it to other industry legends to be jaded about their platinum-plated lifestyles or cavil about the attention (and house guests) that fame brings. After 50 years in the business, the five-time Grammy winner, who guided the careers of Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin — she once performed a comedy routine at Davis’ annual American Idol-like Memorial Day party — loves it all still, especially sharing his home, his hospitality and his new collection of blue-chip art.
“The greatest joy is to have people here enjoying this place,” he says, standing by the Yamaha grand piano where Alicia Keys made her informal debut for label executives in the light-flooded contemporary house in Pound Ridge, an hour north of Manhattan. “I see it through their eyes and it’s a pleasure over and over.”
Davis fell in love with the Vuko Tashkovich-designed house at first sight in 1991, soon after his second divorce. He had already settled on buying in the area; he had long spent summer weekends in the Hamptons with his family (he has four grown children), and while he loved the social whirl, he wanted somewhere to escape to year-round. Northern Westchester, where Martha Stewart, Michael Douglas and Bruce Willis (who purchased his own home for $9 million in 2014) own huge spreads, was perfect for Davis, a self-described “true foodie” who likes to have every dinner out. The Bedford Post Inn co-owned by Richard Gere, with two top-rated restaurants, is only a few miles away.
The 8,000-square-foot house met Davis’ desire for “modern and spacious,” with the added benefit of calming views through huge walls of glass. There were four graciously proportioned bedrooms in addition to his vast master suite. And a capacious office for his commanding desk and the awards he continues to accrue.
Most important, the house inspired him to try something radical: Instead of hiring a decorator, he would kit-out the place himself. Designer Vicente Wolf oversaw the interiors of the 6,000-square-foot guesthouse that Davis added in 1999 and helped a bit later on rearranging some of the main house’s living room seating areas. But it is “virtually all Clive,” says Wolf, who has designed interiors for actress Julianna Margulies and designer Ralph Pucci. “He clearly enjoyed every minute of doing it.”
“I figured that I would make buying things part of my travels,” says Davis, “part of the fun.” For a long stretch, he made several trips a year to Paris expressly to shop the famed upscale puces, the antiques and flea market. He fell in love with the elegant lines of Art Deco: Throughout the house are glossy examples of the period, including barrel chairs and consoles in highly figured grains of wood. He found pieces that also would work in the guesthouse’s four bedrooms, each of which was designed to be unique “like the suites at the Beverly Hills Hotel so that if you come more than once, you can have a whole new experience,” he says. Houston and daughter Bobbi Kristina stayed there once seeking a restorative weekend. (“It was so therapeutic for them,” he says, “they ended up staying an extra day.”)
Davis’ latest obsession is modern art. When he first decorated the house, he purchased some fairly valuable signed lithographs (including Picasso), but is now replacing those with what he calls “real things.” In the past few years he has added a giant spin-art work by Damien Hirst in the entryway, as well as works by Joan Mitchell, David Salle and Louise Nevelson. Unlike many ultra-wealthy neophytes entering the world of high-end art, Davis eschews using a consultant to help him make decisions. What’s the joy in that? “I peruse the auction house catalog,” he says. “I learn so much and it just gives me a thrill.” His talent in picking winners — the essence of what has made him a legend — has extended to his new hobby, he says. A recent reassessment of pieces for insurance purposes valued them at four times what he paid. “That isn’t why I am buying,” says Davis, “but I admit it: It’s extremely gratifying to be right.”
Click below to see more behind-the-scenes photos of Davis’ stunning weekend home.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 20 issue of Billboard.