03 December 2010

Deck the Tables: Holiday House 2010 Highlights

Vermilion Red gets the pulse racing in Barbara Ostrom's Chinese New Year
A sprawling 75 foot wide mansion on New York's Upper East Side complete with original architectural details is enough to get me out of my slippers and the house.  Combine that with inspiring, no-holds-barred tabletop decorations?!  No, I hadn't died and gone to heaven, just to Holiday House 2010.

2 East 63rd Street, photographed in 1921, the same year its owners William and Gladys Ziegler, Jr. divorced and moved out; photo courtesy of the Office for Metropolitan History
The house itself was designed by Frederick Sterner in 1919 for William and Gladys Ziegler, Jr. Ziegler inherited an immense baking powder fortune at the age of 14 and was only 29 when he commissioned this house. Perhaps it was too much stone to live under for someone so young for he and Gladys only lived there for two years until their divorce. A Russian oligarch purchased the house in 2005 and it has sat empty ever since, except for the occasional film shoot (it's Carrie and Big's apartment in SATC2), fashion show, and, lucky for us, Holiday House.

Mark Epstein's Hanukah in the library
A few of the delicious details of the house include a stunning inlaid marble floor worthy of the Pantheon in the entrance hall, a paneled library complete with fine low-relief grotesque carving and armorial stain glassed windows, and an open air courtyard in the center.  (Click here to read more about the house's history.)

Bradley Thiergartner's Boxing Day was also in the library.  Bonnie, my companion of the evening, gave them extra points for the taxidermy.  A bird's nest is whimsically perched in the berried arrangement.

This surfeit of design pleasures comes without the guilt of, say, chocolate truffles.  Holiday House benefits the charity Susan G. Komen for the cure.  Benjamin Bradley and David Thiergartner dedicated their installation to Dr. Tandy Miller, the sister of their gorgeous English Cocker Spaniels Amber and Huxley's trainer, who lost the fight to breast cancer five years ago.

Holiday House wouldn't be complete without the Queen of Showhouses, Barbara Ostrom.

I was enchanted by Debra Blair and Rebecca Short's Venetian Carnivale.  Successfully creating something organic and full of fancy is much more difficult than laying out a symmetrical arrangement.  The masks came from Debra's own collection and the enormous grotto-worthy shell-form wall sconces came from John Rosselli.

That these designers have inspiring ideas from which we can borrow is no surprise, but that they put together these vignettes in two weeks (and less) definitely was!

You know I can't resist a pagoda pelmet and Eric Cohler's in this room dedicated to  Mother's Day Brunch are irresistable - as is the room with its inky blue lacquer walls.

In fact, I'm going back for a second look and I hope you'll stop by next Thursday, December 9, from 6pm to 8pm, for a Rizzoli Author Book Signing.

I'll be there along with:

Michael Connors, British West Indies Style
Nancy Corzine, Glamour at Home
Samantha Daniels, Matchbook
Jamee Gregory, New York PartiesDuane Hampton, Mark Hampton An American Decorator
Daniel Leader, Bread Alone, Local Breads, and Panini ExpressPauline Metcalf, Syrie Maugham
Richard Mishaan, Modern Luxury
Rebecca Moses, A Life of Style
Robin Wilson, Kennedy Green House

HOLIDAY HOUSE is open through Wednesday, December 15th, 2010.  Hours are 10 AM until 6 PM. Thursdays until 8 PM.  Admission is $25.

Not in NYC? Click over to Little Augury for a chance to win a free signed copy of The World of Madeleine Castaing.

All photos, except #2, by Doug Holt Photography.

22 November 2010

Anatomy of a Window

It seems these days I'm never without a bag full of faux ivy* and this morning was no exception.  Armed with said ivy from Center of Floral Design, NYC's best source for silk botanicals, I sped up to Archivia Books to dress a window a la Castaing.

This watercolor of a Castaing installation by Alexandre Serebriakoff was one of my inspirations.  It is the quintessential Castaing room, perfectly pairing blue and green to form an indoor-outdoor room, and fusing the refined Neoclassical with the overupholstered romanticism of Napoleon III.  

Nineteenth century wicker furniture was a favorite of Castaing as seen here in one of her storerooms located a short walk from her shop.  When I found this untouched gem at Marika's (a fantastic source) on Shelter Island for $10, I jumped.

On the Jitney it went to await the magic touch of Claudine who returned it newly dressed in forest green silk velvet.  Through gritted teeth and with hands red from picking out the thousand or so original rusted upholstery tacks, she told me how much she enjoyed working with the chair.  Professional to the end is Claudine.


Castaing was master of the art of the vignette.  She took endless pains in arranging furniture and objects so that it looked as if someone had just stepped away.  As Charlotte Moss recalled, one felt like an impostor walking into her shop because it seemed as if one had trespassed into someone's home.  This was what Castaing called breathing life into a room - and a room was nothing without love or life, as she said.

Accordingly, I gave my imaginary occupant a Limoges teacup and a booklet on Chaim Soutine, the painter Madeleine and her husband Marcellin patronized exclusively.

I was given free reign to curate the wall adjacent to my window with books related to MC, including the dishy Cafe Society.  Stay tuned for my complete recommended Castaing reading list.

For a good time and beautiful books, visit Cynthia and Will at Archivia Books.
993 Lexington Avenue
between 72nd and 71st
Tel: 212.570.9565

*Why the ivy madness?  Castaing's son Michel recalled his mother at Leves, constantly clipping ivy and artfully training it around statues and other architectural elements.  Inside, she preferred "make-believe" vines (they didn't die which saved her the depressing sight of the real thing wilting and turning brown) which she wrapped around epergnes and drain pipes alike.  Like Sleeping Beauty's overgrown forest, the untamed ivy (or simulation of) conjured up a place of enchantment, of fairy tales.

16 November 2010

Thursday, Nov. 18 NYC Event: In Pursuit of a Fine Room

For Madeleine Castaing, a fine room was one that brought the outdoors in

Please join me, Thomas Jayne and Pauline Metcalf for a discussion on this very topic. 

We could have no better host than the storied auction house Christie's whose 500 Years: Decorative Arts of Europe sale will be on view during the reception and book signing afterward.

Thursday, November 18th, 6:00pm
Christie's, 20 Rockefeller Plaza, NYC

Seating is limited.   Please RSVP to kspradley@christies.com or 212.636.2923

12 November 2010

The Wunderhaus of Carlton Hobbs


There is nothing I'd rather do all day than to peer into other people's homes.  Ever since I took a walking tour of New York's Carnegie Hill neighborhood, I have been angling to visit one house in particular: 60 East 93rd Street.

Virgina Fair Vanderbilt, of the Fairmont Fairs, commissioned architect John Russell Pope, best known for the Jefferson Memorial, to design what would be one of New York's last great houses.  It was completed in 1931 at the height of the Depression, and Birdie lived in the 50 room mansion for only four years until her death.

Thelma Foy in Schiaparelli in 1937, photo by Toni Frissell
 Its next resident was another lady of great style, Thelma Foy, nee Chrysler and daughter of Walter, who filled the house with Fine French Furniture from the blue chip firm (and aptly named) French and Co.

Decades later, after being inhabited by the Romanian Mission and the Lycee Francais, the house is again filled with treasures that would make even the discerning Thelma's jaw drop.  My dream of stepping behind the limestone facade of this Neoclassical grande dame came true recently, and its new owner, Carlton Hobbs, and his business partner Stefanie Rinza were kind enough to give me a tour from the entrance hall to the store rooms floors above.

While Carlton has the connoisseur's eye for the very rare, he also has a penchant for the unusual and - may I say - slightly eccentric which is EXACTLY my cup of tea.  Here are a just a few of the works that made me gasp:


One from a set of three Austrian maritime scenes incorporating swing-out panels carved in high relief, revealing laca povera decoration.

I immediately fell in love with this German table because of its incredible 17th century scagiola top which reminded me of verdure tapestries.

One of the gallery's most exciting recent acquistions is an 18th century Neoclassical paneled library from the Hotel Gaulin in Dijon which once belonged to J.P. Morgan, Jr.

Carlton and Stefanie were amazed to find that the paneled room fit almost perfectly into one of the house's rooms.  As Pope took French Neoclassical precedents as his model, this synchronicity was surely no accident.

I was captivated by this mad cabinet-secretaire which is also Neoclassical and captures the 1790s romantic mood for the picturesque.
 Its cork exterior is painted to resemble ancient stone walls covered with lichen....

 ...but inside is this perfectly polished mahogany secretaire abattant.  While this was hands down my favorite piece, there was one more whose provenance rattled my soul.  I have sworn not to talk about it until January when a very very exciting exhibition celebrating the English Regency style will take place.  To be continued!

09 November 2010

Painting the town Leopard and Blue

One guess which foot is mine
Last week The World of Madeleine Castaing took me to Kansas City, home to the lovely Mrs. Blandings - known in  real life as Patricia Shackelford - who has captured her home town's thriving and super stylish design scene on her must-read blog.

The setting for the book signing was Parrin and Co, the most charming antiques shop owned by Barbara Farmer.  When Barbara mentioned months before that we must have champagne and macarons for the evening, I knew she was my kind of person. 

Her good friend Silvia was enlisted to keep the bubbly flowing, and, let me tell you, Silvia took her mission seriously.  Every where I turned, there was Silvia, vigilantly keeping my glass always full.

Vignettes at Parrin and Co.

Fellow Bloggers Soodie Beasley and Patricia Shackelford
Hailing from the Midwest myself, I wasn't surprised by how warm everyone was, but this was taken to new heights when a taxi driver showed up hours later with my wallet, which I hadn't even realized I lost.

Castaing blue was everywhere, even on the perfectly behaved Stuey, right, who, yes, is a male dog.

Many thanks to Barbara and Patricia for a sensational soiree - I can't wait to come back.  Click here for more Kansas City fabulosity courtesy of Elle Decor.

And when you're next in KC, be sure to visit Barbara at Parrin and Co. (there may even still be some lavender macarons left):  
1717 West 45th Street
Kansas City, MO  
(816) 751-7959

04 November 2010

Circumstantial Evidence: The Dominick Dunne Sale

On November 20, Stair Galleries will offer over 250 lots from the Connecticut and NYC residences of the late High Society Crime Chronicler Dominick Dunne. 

Here are my picks of the sale:

Lot #5: Various style coffee table books, many with signed inscriptions.  This is just one offering of several inscribed books from Mr. Dunne's library.  Buying a bulk lot at auction is a great way to stock up on gifts - and you can be sure your friend doesn't already have a book signed by John Galliano with a dedication to DD

Lot #118: Fifteen assorted throw pillows. Don't worry - I promise not to bring you a pillow as a hostess gift.  I only want this lot for the wonderfully witty Brigid Berlin  needlepoint pillows.  For those who can't resist a royal provenance, a pair of Bedouin pillows given by Queen Noor are also in the lot.  $75 - $125

Lot #165: Two Staffordshire Whippets: I love the idea of having dogs, and this pair are super elegant and don't shed.  $100 - $200.

Lot #69: A Japanned cabinet on stand which came from Dunne's former wife Lenny Griffin Dunne.  No television storage here - the inside is fitted with an arrangement of similarly decorated drawers.   $800 - $1200.

Lot #77: A Chinoiserie mirror from Billy Haines.  Dunne was friends with Haines and bought it directly from him for his Beverly Hills house.  $300 - 500.

Click here to view the sale yourself.

01 November 2010

The Unexpurgated Madeleine Castaing: November 2 NYC Lecture

Why?  Because I couldn't show you everything in the book. Or tell you everything. Wink.

Tuesday, Nov 2, 6:00pm
The Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street
Tickets $35.
RSVP Potterton Books 212.644.2292

29 October 2010

In the Mood (Fabrics)

In honor of the season finale of Project Runway, my friend David and I made a pilgrimage to Mood Fabrics.  After walking up and down 37th Street several times, we finally realized that Mood is not on street level, but located on the third floor.

An old school freight elevator complete with hand crank for the operator delivered us to fabric heaven where a paper Heidi Klum greeted us.

First on our list was finding and giving some love to Mood's mascot Swatch.

I don't want to say that fame and adoration have gone to Swatch's head, but it was surprisingly hard to pin him down and give him a good rub down.  Perhaps he was just having a Garbo day.

But there was more to our Mood mission than cornering Swatch and later Casanova (which was quite exciting).

David with Casanova

David and I had both been let in on the interior designer secret of sourcing fashion fabrics for soft furnishings.  In fact, David's bathroom was upholstered in an Oscar de la Renta polka dot silk by Miles Redd - and its origin?  Mood, of course! 

 Maybe it was emotional blackmail, but I had convinced David that he was going to eventually stain it and he should come to Mood with me to get extra yardage just in case.  We searched high and low and rejoiced when we saw this white and black number.  Luckily, a lovely sales lady informed us it was not Oscar, but something called Timani.  

I was on the prowl for some green velvet to upholster a decrepit Victorian wicker armchair (stay tuned) so we wandered downstairs into the upholstery section.

There was an attractive mohair for $100 a yard but I was looking for a steal.
After taking a time out (as Mood can be overwhelming with its enormous selection) and gazing into a bridal studio across the street, we looked at the fashion silks.

And there I found the most perfect $18 green silk velvet while David snapped up a cutting of Oscar pink taffeta to make into a pocket square which he wore the next evening to dashing effect.  Mission accomplished and, if we do say so ourselves, Mondo successful.

After Mood and Before Claudine
Mood Fabrics:  225 W 37th St, 3rd Floor between 7th and 8th Avenues
(212) 730-5003