Sunday, June 24, 2018


Seems I'm always slightly behind. The Kips Bay Decorator Show House closed on the last day of May and here we are in June. For anyone that missed the show house I'm putting together a little tour of what was one of the better show houses of the past few years. Located once again on the Upper Eastside at 110 East 76th Street in a seven level extraordinary thirty-six foot wide townhouse there was plenty of old and new talent dressing out the show house in some exciting new trends.
The minute you walk in there's a bit of a letdown that this is going to be a little tired, the same stuff you'd expect to see; traditional but beautiful and seen before.
But once through the vestibule you're socked with a staircase like nothing you've seen before.
Ceilings and oh those walls!
Floor after floor of amazing graphics crafted seamlessly as it zigged and zagged and zipped its way from floor to floor all done by next wave designer Sasha Bikoff.
I was told by the docent who greeted me at the door it was best to start at the top and then work my way down. I took her advice and hit the top floor where Charles Pavarini did the more established designers proud creating his tranquil Wellness Retreat for Mind, Body and Spirit.
The concept incorporated both interior and exterior space both bathed in tranquil light and an abundance of healing crystal.
From the sublime to the ungapatchka, from floor to ceiling not an inch of space was left untouched by pattern and/or art. The art, as eclectic as the furniture, had photography fighting oils and classic pieces punching it out with modern art in a visual battle for your attention.
I had barely a moment to breath in this over-produced drawing room.
This piece of art pretty much summed it up. This was certainly not an exercise in more is less.
Next up was a series of bedrooms and a chance to relax if not completely fall asleep. The Sleeping Beauty suite by Mark Sikes was fit for a princess
Brian del Toro's bedroom encapsulated the essence of relaxation with its folding screen of fresh blossoms and flitting birds on a background of copper tones
The combination of transitional elements under an Asian influence were a perfect combination
This was followed by the better-known tier of design royalty with Alexa Hampton's version of a Bedouin tented parlor.
Its faux fabric draped walls and soft touches of dusty rose and lilac were exotic and very near perfect.
It's never easy to be assigned a bathroom but this year Marcia Tucker took on the task to my mixed reviews as well as the woman I shared viewing the bathroom with while we were both surveying the bathroom's pros and cons.  We both liked the living orchid wall and loved the yacht-like quality of the envelope.
What seemed to baffle us was the glass enclosed water closet and its accompanying sculptural light. It wasn't a shower. It was a toilet. It was glass enclosed. This didn't provide privacy. The only reasoning we could come up with was the intended client must have suffered from a very bad case of gas.
Next up was more design royalty with the always-stunning Drake-Anderson gathering room. This was a space meant for entertaining. A massive curved sofa referencing Vladimir Kagan softly hugged the window side of this golden room.
A panel wall separated the seating area from where the bar stood, a dark place where drinks were served in front of a mirrored wall. This space lit its own fire.
Big names abounded at this year's show house and the ever-present Barbara Ostrom was there to bring her New Jersey style to the house. Her signature detailed woodwork and oversized furniture was ample support for her pop art ceiling.
Using Frank Stella as her muse she painted the ceiling in his trademark style that made a statement I'm not sure I understood.
Dining at the other end of her lushly ornamented room was a table fit for a king with the finest bone china and gold-rimmed stemware.
The only thing missing was a pair of antique French Sevres turned into modern lighting fixtures...Oh here they are!
Talk about a stacked deck, Bunny Williams was there as well with more curved sofas and exotic wood walls.
My favorite touch was this built-in spider panel. A touch of humor goes a long way in a room.
The ground floor held the kitchen designed this year by British designer Clive Christian
Adjacent to the kitchen was a very sweet little vignette by Steilish. It was small in size but huge in delightful design. I couldn't stop staring at this beautiful Cathedral photo.
This amazing patio extended out from the kitchen making what was in essence an airshaft into a green oasis. Done by Nievera Williams it took a very difficult space and turned it into magic.
The bottom floor belonged to Juan Montoya and all his quirkiness.
Dot paneled ceramic walls gave off a very modern vibe
But then he'd throw in art deco arches
and place them next to an American influenced antique chair and library bin. It was definitely a space that provided plenty of drama.

Untitled #4 Cy Twombly in Rome, 1966
Horst P. Horst
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Call me stupid. We were in Austin doing an installation for The Vision Council at SXSW. The set up took us two days so to make our trip a little more Austin centric we tacked on another three days for spending some father/daughter time in southern Texas. It was my idea to do a day trip to Waco to visit Magnolia Market and Garden, the brainchild of Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper fame.
I must admit I had little understanding of their total popularity. I was moderately familiar with their TV show. I thought they had an above par design sense although I did wish they'd move a bit away from shiplap and try to show some different sides of their aesthetic instead of the predicable but beautiful formula they'd developed for their fixing up routine.
Still, I had no idea of the extent of their place in the design mileu and the magnitude of that sphere of idolization. I'd seen a couple of pictures of their space in Waco but what I had seen was a bit misleading. I was visually familiar with the grain silos, the country barn like look of it's collection of buildings, the wooden porches and the farmland machinery strewn out on the grounds.
I was also under the assumption that Waco was a fairly small Texas cattle town. This had led me to believe that their store was going to be a quaint little venture where you might even catch a glimpse of them wandering around back behind the counter giving a little wave to the dozen or so customers with the willingness to make the trek to their outpost in the heat of a ninety degree Texas Sunday afternoon. Really, I really thought this.
Boy, oh boy was I wrong.
Mapquest got us to Waco in a little under two hours. The first thing we discovered was that Waco is the home of Baylor University, a fact I should have known if I had done any real research at all. This upped the ante a bit pulling Waco out of the hayseed category and into the realm of a bit bigger town.
Then as we did our last zigs and zags past the University the tops of the Magnolia grain towers began to appear peeking out over the flat landscape of mid-Texas. Then the silos did that thing that happens as you get closer and closer to a tall object that has lost the perspective of distance. The foreground images began to get larger making the silos shrink from sight until they totally disappeared. Then just as we made our last left and then right the silos appeared from behind the tree lined foreground and hit us in full view.
But more amazing than the silos were the acres of parking lots filling football field after football field with a mass of sizzling cars with sunscreens shielding their front windows and reflecting a massive beam of light into space. We spent what seemed like hours roving the lanes of parked cars until we finally found some one pulling out so we could pull in.
Emmy had that "What have you pulled me into this time?" look on her face.  She managed to contain her disdain for what she foresaw as her immediate future to facial expressions over outright verbal anger.
I knew that she would have preferred a lounge chair by the pool rather than her unavoidable fate of squeezing her way through the throngs of amateur home decorators carting wall plaques with quaint Christian sayings and bunches of artificial flowers.
I'm being a little nasty here. The Gaines' are product and branding geniuses.
Joanna and Chip have created a megalopolis of home design. There are aisles and aisles, nooks and crannies, and homey vignettes filled with items ready to be carried away by the hordes.
There was even an opening unmasking the innards of the organization revealing miles and miles of  stocked product on hand ready to be restocked by the many minions of helping hands making sure that no display had an empty shelf.
They even had their own Fedex office for larger items or whatever you wanted shipped back to your home or didn't either want to carry or you found too massive to fit in your car.
Beyond the main shop there's a garden shed for all your plant needs.
A restaurant with a wait line not worth waiting for
and an AstroTurf picnic field ringed with food trucks dishing out southern cooking and pouring gallons of sweet tea.
We just weren't up for plopping down on fake grass and munching on a barbeque spare rib or a slice of Coca-Cola cake.
We hit all the highlights. I never did see either Joanna or Chip other than on the cover of one of their books.
We walked out without having purchased anything but we had to hand it to them, they had created a new form of Designer Disneyland and clearly surpassed Martha Stewart as the go-to source for the mass home design audience.
On the way back to Austin we made a stop at a roadside gas station convenience store combination and truck stop to pick up a Coke and a Moon Pie and apparently an M16 or an AK47 replica. Thank you Ted Cruz.

Lakeview Grill, 1969
George Tice, photographer
Represented by Susan Spiritus Gallery