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A Nest for Nomads Downtown Brooklyn Home of Brian Cox and Nicole Ansari By JOANNE KAUFMAN



A Nest for Nomads
Downtown Brooklyn Home of Brian Cox and Nicole Ansari
By




WHAT I LOVE - NOV. 21, 2014

Sure, Brian Cox felt a pang or two when he sold his seven-bedroom house in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “It was a wonderful space,” said the celebrated Scottish-born actor whose credits include the first two movies in the “Bourne” franchise, “Braveheart,” “Deadwood” on HBO and the TNT mini-series “Nuremberg,” for which he won an Emmy. Trivia buffs, take note: Mr. Cox played Hannibal Lecter — in the 1986 movie “Manhunter” — years before Anthony Hopkins sank his teeth into the role.
He and his second wife, Nicole Ansari, an actress and yoga instructor, and their two sons, Orson, now 12, and Torin, now 10, liked a lot of what Los Angeles had to offer. But “we sort of ran out of farmers markets,” Mr. Cox, 68, said.
So just count that as one of the reasons the family moved east seven years ago and eventually settled with their cats, Princess and Pishi, in a rental with a terrace and dazzling views — the Statue of Liberty, 1 World Trade Center, the Verrazano Bridge — on the top floor of a Downtown Brooklyn high-rise. “It’s wonderful living above the clouds,” said Mr. Cox, who’s currently shooting the NBC mini-series “The Slap.”
In 2007, cast in the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rock ’n’ Roll,” Mr. Cox and Ms. Ansari came to the city and spread out in a townhouse in the West Village. When the play closed — so long, steady paychecks — they decided to stay in New York, yes, because of produce-stand ennui, but also because their sons were settled in school here and because the mid-40ish Ms. Ansari preferred New York City to Los Angeles.
“I loved New York. I studied here,” she said. “I was happy to be back and Brian was happy to oblige, though he didn’t love it as much as I do,” Ms. Ansari continued with an affectionate look at her husband. The two met in 1989 and have been married since 2002.
But Ms. Ansari’s love for Manhattan was being sorely tested. The tiny, dark, expensive duplex with the “growly radiators” in Chelsea where the family headed after the West Village didn’t help. “I was finding it very stressful,” Ms. Ansari said, “and everyone was talking about Brooklyn.”
Because Mr. Cox travels back and forth from England for work — he has a long-term rental in London, his base of operations — he left the decision-making and deal-making to his wife, confident that she would find a place that fulfilled his elemental need for light and lots of it.
Townhouse rentals were briefly considered, then dismissed as too much money and too much work. Then Ms. Ansari became intrigued with the idea of a doorman building, one with a plumber and other service staff on call. The couple had never lived in such a place, and had suffered for it.
“Brian isn’t handy,” Ms. Ansari said. “He’s an actor.”
She zeroed in on a high-rise rental building where a 51st-floor apartment rang all the bells: loads of light, a large west-facing terrace and three bedrooms. Done. They moved in three and a half years ago.
The boys bunk together. Mr. Cox and Ms. Ansari, incompatibly untidy and firmly convinced that separate spaces are the key to marital bliss, have each claimed a bedroom.
For people who like knowing more than they should, the couple tryst in a studio they keep on the 45th floor. For people who like having their expectations upended, Mr. Cox is the one with the capacious wardrobe and thus the one who gets the room with the big closet. “I have more clothes than Nicole and the boys put together. I’m a hoarder,” he said. “When you’ve grown up in poverty as I did, you can’t throw anything away.”
Mr. Cox, the rector of the University of Dundee, a position to which he was elected by the students, has of course held on tight to the scarf the Dalai Lama gave him when he welcomed the religious leader to campus. He is similarly protective of one of the few pictures he has of his father, a butcher and shopkeeper who died when Mr. Cox was 8. “This is a key one,” he said, taking a photograph down from a shelf in his closet. “We were at a place called Latham, staying with friends of the family who had a rose-covered cottage. My dad is pinning a rose on my lapel. I was probably 4.”
The heavy dark furniture that worked so well for the couple in their Sherman Oaks house proved wholly unsuitable for New York. Ikea has been the solution to all problems that involve sitting. Necessarily, there was much culling to determine just which treasures would make the journey east. The chosen included a large wooden statue said to depict a young Buddhist priest, which was a gift from a friend; an armoire decorated with images of Krishna; and a wooden boat from Thailand that was cut in half, refashioned as an open cabinet and discovered by Ms. Ansari in a Los Angeles antiques shop. It now holds miniature Buddhas and crystals. And there among the sacred artifacts is an icon of another kind: a schoolroom desk that she says once belonged to Norman Mailer.
“A friend of ours was once engaged to one of Norman’s sons, and she sort of stayed in the family,” Ms. Ansari said. “She got the desk and for some reason she gave it to us. Of course, sit down there if you’d like. When our sons were younger they’d use it to do their homework.”
On the wall near the door to the terrace are haunting black-and-white images of Frank Sinatra and of Benny Goodman watching Ella Fitzgerald sing, shot by the jazz photographer Herman Leonard, who was a friend of the couple’s.
A cabinet in the narrow hallway leading to the bedrooms holds extra plates and dishes, and, along with the gathering of family photos hung on a wall, gives the apartment a feeling of cozy domesticity it might otherwise lack. “I try to make it homey and nice,” Ms. Ansari said. “But we’re nomads, Brian and I.”
In early September the couple rented a cottage near the water in Sag Harbor for the weekend. Their sons went kayaking; meanwhile, Mr. Cox said, he thought about those who inhabit such a world full time. “You look at things like that and you go: ‘Wow, people really live like this,’ ” he said. “I admire and envy people who have homes and have their little niches, but at the same time I know it’s not who I am. There’s nothing fixed about my life .
“I’ll be absolutely honest with you. I find it hard to know where to live,” Mr. Cox added ruefully. “I spend most of my time in hotels. I’m like Blanche DuBois, always depending on the kindness of strangers.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/realestate/downtown-brooklyn-home-of-brian-cox-and-nicole-ansari.html
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