It takes vision and grit to be a successful Broadway producer, but just try explaining to strangers what it is, exactly, that you do all day. Jeffrey Seller recently hit on a useful analogy.
“For me, building a house was kind of like producing a show,” the Tony winner behind Rent, Avenue Q, In the Heights, and Hamilton says. “Picking a designer, being able to express our aesthetic through the talent, skills, and inspirations of great artists—that’s what I do as a purveyor of musicals.” Seller lights up as he compares renovating the Manhattan town house he shares with his family to the high points of his day job: “This took six years, and a new musical takes about six years. The cast of thousands, the bagel breakfasts for the construction crew, the collating of so many different elements to make one satisfying, cohesive whole...” Uncanny parallels, right down the line.
In the family room, a Studio Volpe sofa in a custom fabric by Chapas Textiles angles around a circa 1969 Jacques Quinet cocktail table. At far end, a Giuseppe Ostuni floor lamp for Oluce stands next to a Joseph-André Motte chair in a Holland & Sherry wool bouclé.
His latest production is a brawny neo-Renaissance mansion on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a neighborhood he’d harbored romantic fantasies about since moving to the city from Detroit in his early 20s, set on a life in the theater. With his former partner, the photographer Josh Lehrer, Seller had raised two children in an apartment a few blocks away. “We’d been walking by this house for over 20 years,” he recalls.“This beautiful but awkward house with plants in the second-floor window. We always wondered, what goes on in that place?”
A lot of coffee drinking, it turned out. The seven-story town house, with fashionable Italianate styling and a façade of limestone and rusticated granite, was designed by Lamb & Rich in the late 1880s and had been converted into a bed-and-breakfast at some point. After purchasing it in 2016, Seller and Lehrer asked Brooklyn-based architect David Bers to restore its narrative integrity as a single-family home.