23 November 2011

M is for...

Milly, the soignee with a twist ready-to-wear line... M is for Madison Avenue, home of the first Milly store... which is exactly where Blair Waldorf and her preppy chic minions were on last night's episode of Gossip Girl.

M is also for Martell-Donagher, the fearsomely talented designer-architect duo who have stirred up a tasty cocktail of French '40s neoclassicism and the louche glamour of the '70s for the store's design.

Beth Martell and Enda Donagher are no strangers to retail design - they worked previously with the late designer Randall A. Ridless who was responsible for the Burberry stores as well as a place very dear to my feet, the Bergdorf Goodman shoe salon.

The first step in defining a design direction is to distill the essence of the brand.  Michelle Smith, the designer and creator of Milly, has a strong affinity for French style and, upon graduating from FIT, interned with several notable French maisons de couture, including Hermes and Christian Dior.  Martell-Donagher referenced her Paris training with classic paneled walls and moldings all painted a chalky grey color, a wink to the Dior grey.  The overscaled basketweave parquetry floor stained a deep espresso riffs on parquet de Versailles.

Playing with proportion and scale is a time-honored design trick of the trade, and Martell-Donagher pay homage to a few of its masters: Dorothy Draper, whose pagoda bookcase was adapted for the display cabinet above; William Pahlmann with the leopard-upholstered counter above and the original below...

... and Andre Arbus whose iconic 1937 La Maison d'une Famille Francaise was drawn upon for this attenuated door with three paneled circles.  The polished and brushed brass knob was extrapolated from a signature Milly handbag closure.

Bold flashes of the 70s, such as a Milo Baughmann brass etagere and sofa and an exploding faceted mirror in the style of Neal Evans-cum-Paul Evans add edge to this proper polished M'amselle.

 The cherry on top are the dressing rooms.  Each one is wallpapered in a different pattern, including Cecil Beaton's "Beauties in rouge dresses", prompting me to vow once again to paint the inside of my closets as something is somehow more delightful and luxurious when it's private and for your enjoyment exclusively.

And if on this Black Friday, M is also for Mastercard... take a minute on your shopping odyssey to enjoy the design around you. Whether it's Milly or the Mall of America - there is inspiration everywhere...

18 September 2011

The Secrets of Florentine Women

 Photo by Brian Duffy for Vogue, Florence 1964

It was one of those days when my hair was everything one doesn't want: lank, frizzy, too many lengths and no style whatsoever.  Nothing would do but to get it cut THIS MINUTE.  With the utterance "It's as if you have a tail" (as in the NKOTB's Jordan in the '90s) echoing in my ears, I knew it was time to find a new stylist and after dialing frantically, I finally got an appointment - yes, I can be there in 5 minutes! -at Garren.

 It could only have been kismet that I was seated in the chair of Lazarus Douvos, an Aussie  Martyn Lawrence-Bullard look-a-like with just as much charm.  Besides sharing an overzealous enthusiam for The World of Interiors, our ideas of style were hugely influenced by living in Europe in our twenties.  For me it was the classic BCBG style of Paris, for Lazarus it was Florence's bella figura.

 View from the Palazzo Ginori

While working at a fashionable salon, he encountered a clientele of soignee Florentine ladies who were always impeccable, always chic.  Instead of following the vagaries of trends, their hair was inevitably sleekly coiffed and lacquered so that it  looked like one piece.  The only departure was during summer when they let it grow long allowing them to pull it back but also reflecting the more relaxed spirit of the season. 

Ascending to the attic...

After a day of clipping away, he repaired to his studio romantically nestled in the attic of the storied Renaissance Palazzo Ginori (yes, that Ginori, my porcelain-obsessed friends...) 

Lazarus' Florence studio

Terra cotta tile floors, white cotton slipcovers, and a soaring view of the cities' Renaissance towers and roof tops put my sixth floor walk-up chambre de bonne to shame...

the studio's seating area

It also demonstrates - to my mind - when you have good bones, one needs very little else to make a room.  Well, maybe good hair...

 Lazarus and Waldo in his current Murray Hill studio

Lazarus, whose styling work can be seen on Hamish Bowles in this October's Vogue, has recently gone out on his own.  Book him on 347.982.4894 or lazarusdouvos@gmail.com - I'll think of ways you can thank me.

21 July 2011

High Style, Small Space

This month's issue of House Beautiful is dedicated to stylish small spaces and it was a thrill to be asked to interview interior designer Maureen Footer on her very own studio.  As you can see from the glimpses above, Maureen hasn't let a lack of square footage impinge on living with her favorite things, like fine French furniture and Fortuny.  Click here to read the entire article and hurry to your local newstand to see all of the inspiring interiors that will convince anyone that less can be more.

Below, an outtake from our conversation...

EEE: I always thought in a small space, you had to keep to one color so it flows…

Maureen: I learned years ago from the architect Billy Tsien to demarcate everything. She changed the rise on stairs so that you were aware that you were passing through space. She dropped ceiling heights as you were progressing through a space, she created door jambs just so there was an awareness that space was moving. I think I’ve always taken that message to heart – that if you create a sense of everything in a space, it feels larger. And if you turn it into a monotone surrounding, it’s going to feel like one indistinct space. If you create distinctions, you create an awareness of the possibilities of that space.

Did you feel constrained designing a small space?

Not at all. We have these great templates of living stylishly in small spaces. Stanley Barrows, Van Day Truex, Billy Baldwin – they made it an art form. They had these jewel boxes which they redecorated every three or four years, and they became a laboratory for their ideas.

The restrictions we put on where we can use antiques, where we can put damask and Fortuny are pretty arbitrary, and in fact there aren’t that many restrictions. And of course Grace Kelly’s designer George Stacey broke the barrier when he put French furniture in his squash court!

14 July 2011

London, Part II - All about the boys

...from William Kent to Nicky Haslam.  Read Part II of my London travels at NYSocialDiary.com

12 July 2011

Make mine a Double...

...Gourd that is.

Don't miss this limited opportunity to scoop up one of Chris' candy-colored ceramic confections at over half off.  Serious shoppers' strategy: go over the above photo with a magnifying glass and have the phone on speed dial Wednesday 10am...

(And before you ask: it's Benjamin Moore Maritime Blue.  Chris loved it so much at his previous studio that it came with him to 35th Street)

04 July 2011

Happy Fourth!

From the West Coast to the East...

Take time to smell the basil! 

17 June 2011

Greetings from London!

Come read about my London adventures, including a visit to David Hicks' country house The Grove, over on New York Social Diary here...

04 June 2011

The French Neo-Classicist: Michael Simon

A boudoir by Michael Simon at the Kip's Bay Showhouse

America's Dean of Decorating Billy Baldwin famously wrote about FFF and FFV: Fine French Furniture and the First Families of Virginia - both of which summed up the high style many aspired to in the 1950's and '60's.  Whether it was Jansen for Jayne Wrightsman or McMillen for the Fords, a formal French salon was de rigueur for society's luminaries. 

 This Louis XVI room is from the Hotel Cabris and currently installed in the Metropolitan Museum's Wrightsman Galleries.  The two armchairs against the wall are part of the same suite as the canape seen in the next photo.

Today,  FFF and FFV have largely been supplanted by "eclectic" and hedge fund managers.  However, there are those who still crave a correct boiseried room, and whether they are a Russian oligarch or a Saudi sheik, they know to turn to New York interior designer Michael Simon

 The canape was formerly owned by Enid Haupt whose legendary Park Avenue penthouse was decorated by Parish Hadley.  Simon recovered it in this canary yellow Adam document silk that features ostriches.  In the same room, he covered a chair in ostrich-skin - just one example of Simon's thoughtful relationships.

 From a millimeter of a molding's profile to the gimp on a veilleuse, Simon is a master.

To properly appreciate Simon's keen eye and impeccable taste, click over to the June 7 Christie's New York 500 Years sale  which features over 30 items from his collection.  Just yesterday, Michael gave me a personal tour and, as with all lovers of objects, made each come alive for me with personal stories.

One of my favorites was about this canape a la turque which he purchased from the Antenor Patino sale.  While bidding, he was sitting next to House and Garden editor Cynthia Frank and opined that he would have to have it hoisted up into his building.  Frank called him up the next day to see if H&G could shoot this asap, and Simon said sure, but they would have to wait for it to be re-upholstered.  Await they couldn't, and they had the sofa hoisted and hoisted down all in the same day for this iconic shot below:

Only in New York!

I asked why he had chosen the milk chocolate velvet for recovering, and he replied that the form of the piece was so expressive and sculptural, he wanted something quiet to let it speak.  Michael pointed out that the original iron strap used to support the back, as seen above, was still intact.

 Lot 227: A pair of 19th century French ormolu candlesticks mounted as lamps

Another quiet detail was the anthracite grey (Simon's signature color) silk velvet lampshades (lined in gold foil, natch) on a pair of ormolu candlesticks he converted into lamps.  He had the finial made to complement the base.


I was drawn to this pair of quirky ormolu-mounted porcelain vases.  While the craquelure and double-gourd shape would suggest Chinese manufacture, they were actually made in France to imitate Chinese wares.  The mounts also are surprising - while the goats are more typical of le gout grec, they are in the rococo style.


I've never gotten that excited over chandeliers - until now!  The centerpiece of Simon's collection is a magnificent Louis XVI rock-crystal  chandelier, which you will have to go to Christie's to see for yourself.  Instead, I'm showing you this little Russian jewel - I love the diamond-shaped ormolu chains cascading down haphazardly and the pendants' tiny amethyst cut glass beads alternating with clear ones. 

All of these items are a pleasure to behold.  Run to Christie's while you can and also catch the preview of the contents of a Mark Hampton Park Avenue project - it's pure '80s opulence.

And just in case Mr. EEE is reading... I'd be very happy with these tole cache-pots.  Just think of all the money we'd save not having to replace real flowers!

13 May 2011

Classicism and the City: Chez Fairfax and Sammons

This Spring a house very dear to my heart is celebrating its 75th year anniversary as a museum.  The Merchant's House Museum is New York City's only historic residence with its interiors preserved and landmarked.  What is even more astonishing is how many people don't know about this Greek Revival beauty nestled in the East Village - luckily, those who do are passionate about it, not least of all Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons.

Anne and Richard are ardent champions of Classical architecture, and as their 2006 monograph attests, elegant and expert practitioners as well.  It is no surprise that their own space is as delightful and unusual as any to be found in the city.  They purchased the red brick carriage house-studio in 2000 from the estate of business tycoon Armand Hammer, who had owned it ever since his university days.

One enters the house through a small entry way lacquered in a pulse-racing crimson hung with a myriad of small convex mirrors a la John Soane.

Directly onwards is the beadboard-paneled kitchen-cum-sitting room complete with a cosy Delft-tiled fireplace. 

Richard is a sailing enthusiast, and the ingenious built-in storage seems reminiscent of a ship (although apparently this passion unfolded after the kitchen was designed).

A staircase takes one up to the bedroom...

...which was made smaller by the addition of a walk-in closet. 

Richard and Anne definitely have their priorities right, as far as I'm concerned!

While the outside facade is perfectly proportioned, the double-height studio, complete with skylight, was a tricky wedge shape, a design challenge that the couple solved with elan.

Just as their coral silk velvet sofa inspired me to recover mine similarly, I will be taking another page out their upholstery book with these summer slipcovers of white duck piped in black...

One corner of the room was carved out for this deeply chic black bar.  The space cries out for parties, and the bar is regularly pressed into service.

 Anne in black velvet in her swell-egant bar

A mezzanine catwalk was built around the perimeter of the room and to give the room a more regular shape, an exedra was created on the facade wall opposed by this open arch leading out to the back terrace.

A snappy striped awning covers the outdoor space so that it is bone-dry all year round.  Another bar is often set up here when Anne and Richard throw larger bashes.  Today, a craftsman was using it to make a dinghy.

A bust of Diane presides over the Lutyens-influenced mantel and serves as muse to the many artists and architects who continue to gather here, and, undoubtedly, find inspiration. 

Many thanks to Anne and Richard for letting me share this glimpse.  Click here to see more courtesy of New York Social Diary.

03 May 2011

Patriotism and Patina at the Spring Show NYC

 Potted orchids and flags at Robert Simon Fine Art

Yesterday was the final day of the first-ever Spring Show NYC.  If you missed it, don't worry - it will definitely be back next year.  While there are many antiques shows already crowding up the calendar, this one stands out as fresh, eclectic, and, importantly, as it is a vetted show, everything is exactly what it is supposed to be.

Swedish design dynamo Lars Bolander was called in to apply his flair to the show's floor, which included yellow and white zebra-cotton slip-covered banquettes and 6' tall painted obelisks parading down the aisles.

Bolander's carnelian red center table and over-scaled Gothic style armchair greeted entrants to the show.

As much inspiration could be found in the dealers' display of objects as in the objects themselves.

Collier Gwin of Foster-Gwin earned raves from New York Times' art critic Roberta Smith for his coupling of abstract art with his stock of fine Continental antiques...

as seen in this dynamic pairing of "The Houston Scene" painted by Hassel Smith in 1959 hung over 18th century Italian Neoclassical painted console tables with fanciful trompe-l'oeil porphyry tops.

Smith also gave a best in show to Yew Tree House Antiques' stand.  Kevin and Ahna apply a curatorial eye to their Folk Art treasures, both antique and contemporary.  The dramatic 10' wide woodblock print of a pilot whale on the back wall got people buzzing.  It is a recent work by British artist Julian Meredith whose work is already in major museum collections.

Alexander Cohane (whose mother Heather founded Park Avenue-acclaimed Quest magazine) brought Britannia Cool to the floor with an eclectic collection of periods and styles. 

Traditional with a twist came in the form of a birch and naugahyde Swedish modernist cabinet-on-stand in Tribeca dealer Hostler Burrows's booth...

...but for those who prefer their traditional straight up with a side of peonies, there were many wonderful options, including Gary Sergeant, above.

Exhibitor Jeff Bridgman American Antiques' proud display of antique American flags reflected the patriotic mood of the floor and the country the day after President Obama's astonishing news.
Click here for information on the Spring Show NYC 2011 and here for the Art and Antique Dealers Leaugue of America.