Thursday, June 7, 2012


The venue for this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House was a space that almost wasn't. The original space went into contract and was no longer available before the designer names were even announced and unless a new space could be found quickly this year's event was going to be the first to have an aesterick denoting it never happened. Then the Aldyn, a new high-rise, on the banks of the Hudson came to the rescue. They offered up two side-by-side penthouses on the 21st floor as a substitute for the lost mansionette. It's amazing what 16.9 million dollars buys in the city. I've lost track of New York real estate since we moved to Madison, Wisconsin two and a half years ago. I now do a little apoplectic jig due to sticker shock when I'm faced with what we once accepted as plausible real estate pricing. My days of nonchalance are gone now that I live in a more grounded Birkenstock environment.
The day we arrived at the Aldyn had taken a turn toward chilly with an added bit of drizzle, not enough to bring out the umbrella but enough to make me worry about getting a cab once we wanted to leave. Since it's only the 21st floor that housed the Kips Bay Show House the lobby of the Aldyn had the hurry and scurry of other residents in addition to the Show House attendees. We were there a couple of days after the opening event. The two units donated for the event actually have their own private elevators but for the event they made everyone enter from the buildings elevators .I'm wondering how receptive the residents are going to be once the event has crawled into its third and fourth weeks.
We boarded the designated elevator with a handful of attendees and one lonely resident wanting to get off at a lower floor. I'm guessing again, the ride going up might not have been so bad for the one resident but having to wait for an elevator when you want to leave might get a little frustrating the more times you found yourself looking at your watch and then seeing the elevator doors opening with a packed cab you couldn't squeeze into. But none of this put a damper on the show itself.
When we reached the 21st floor the doors on the elevator opened to Bryant Keller's dazzling red entry. I pulled out my little point-and-shoot and grabbed two quick pictures before the battery light on my camera came on, the lens retracted back into its housing like a frightened turtle and I realized I hadn't brought a back-up set of double "AA's". I'd specifically plunked down my thirty bucks so I could do a posting on the premier show house of the country and now I was a blogger without a working camera which is like a pitcher without a catcher, an oreo without a glass of milk or Donald Trump without his comb-over.
I've been a devoted subscriber to Heather Clawson's blog, Habitually Chic, for at least the last two years. Heather's postings are always entertaining, exquisitely photographed and spot on trend. She had done a series of posts on Kips Bay that I had been following so on a massive leap of desperation I emailed her asking if I could use some of her photography giving her full credit and providing a link to her site. She was more than gracious and totally understanding. Most of the gorgeous images I'm using are hers and here's the link to her site:
If you aren't already a subscriber it's an easy and worthwhile thing to do.
So once we got past the very Dorothy Draper entry we moved on into Todd Alexander Romano's dining room. For an apartment selling for almost seventeen million dollars you might expect a dining room slightly larger than thirteen by seventeen feet but Todd compensated for the miniscule square footage by cladding the walls in a coat of aubergine allowing the deep color to accentuate the twenty-one foot height of the room. What he lacked in square footage in made up for in volume. The unexpected color also helped in drawing your eye to the stunning 1940's 42-arm Venetian chandelier. Then he added my favorite touch, the French Empire chartreuse dining chairs. One of the reasons we designers like doing these rooms is it gives us an opportunity to create true fantasy and we can suspend all the rules of functionality and focus on sheer beauty. Case in point - the large pineapple stuck in the center of the dining table. It may be a beautiful pineapple but it wouldn't help with abetting cross table dinner conversation. Maybe the housewives of New Jersey should consider this approach next time they dine together.
You can't comment on this year's Show House without a reference to the Albert Hadley memorial living room done by Bunny Williams (this year's chairwoman), David Kleinberg and Brian McCarthy. All three of these top-tier designers earned their credentials under his tutelage. They all decided to pay homage to their late mentor by creating a room as they imagined he would. Hadley was a minimalist contrasting antiques and contemporary furniture along with tapestries and modern art. They splashed the room with spots of red and added his always present all gin bar with a bucket of limes at the ready.
Children are not particularly welcome at this event but the addition of two children's rooms this year acknowledged that those little rug-rats do exist. The two rooms in the show house devoted to these little people were significant to me in their contrast of opulence versus ingenuity. Zoya Bogard of rooms by ZoyaB designed a nursery ready for little Siri's sister, pink and plush are the two best descriptive words for this million-dollar room.
Laura Bohn chose to go in a little different direction with a room designed for a pre-teen New York City boy. Textured walls in chartreuse and apple green lend a playfulness to the room and then as if that wasn't enough she added projected animated images to dance around the room. The bed from Resource Furniture flips up and out of the way providing more floor play area, just what an active New York ivy league want-a-be needs. I know the hanging orange clocks are from CB2 and the floor lamp may be from them as well. Nice to see good design doesn't have to come with an arm and leg price tag.
The big guns were there as well. Alexa Hampton poured everything into her beautifully appointed bedroom. The canopied bed dominated the white and charcoal room. The pattern of the Anthony Lawrence Belfair fabric and the white linen gave the bed a brilliance not expected in such a traditional space.
The Dragon's Breath Black lacquered walls added romance to the room. It was a trend that ran throughout the show house, not the romance, but the use of lacquered or high-gloss wall treatments. When you add the silver ceiling and the views from this bedroom the result is a true diamond.
The Show House continues through June 14th. If you're into design and find yourself in New York City the Show House has to be on your list of things to do.

Albert Hadley as told to Brian J. McCarthy, "Kiddo, give them what they never knew they wanted!" The man knew what he was talking about. How else could he live to 91 on gin and Camel cigarettes.

42nd Street View from Weehawken, 1957
Andreas Feininger, Photographer
Available through Gallery M

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