Thursday, December 11, 2014


Having done Kips Bay, I willingly and admiringly take my hat off to any designer willing to take on a showroom challenge. There are so many pitfalls, limited production times, and unexpected expenses that any designer who makes it to the finish line and actually ends up with a room deserves praise and not criticism. It's Christmas after all, a time when if you can't say anything nice you shouldn't say anything at all.
Let's take a tour of the seventh annual Holiday House located in the Blavatnik Mansion, 2 East 63rd Street, benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
The mansion holds four floors each decked out with an abundance of designer inspiration. After you've paid your $35 entrance fee and donation, you are squeezed through an entry vestibule and drawn forward by the enticing hint of holiday color peeking through from the grand dining room directly ahead, a gift from Amy Lau Design celebrating Baccarat's 250th Anniversary.
What's the Christmas holiday without red? From the red crystal goblets to the red crystals clinging like snowflakes to the chandelier to the vases filled with cranberries and pomegranates red danced and played over the table set for twenty. All of the crystal donated by Baccarat is to be auctioned off and donated to the research foundation. Generosity is always a major part of the holiday season.
My guess is Ally Coulter Design lucked out with a room already detailed with paneled walls, an intricate vaulted ceiling and a view to a beautiful courtyard. Having this already in place turns the designer's mandate into more of a decorating assignment then a construction transformation.
It might have made the task easier budget wise but it was clear the mansion owners weren't going to let the designer of this room damage the existing envelop with any unwanted nail holes.Artwork had to be selected that was large enough in scale to hold up resting on the floor or a mantel rather then being hung at eye-level.
The curved grand staircase designed by Carlton Varney, the protégé of Dorothy Draper, wound its holiday magic with lit garlands, candles and a magnificent Christmas tree around a the cantilevered steps and simple wrought iron railings.
The second floor rooms were smaller in scale but I'm guessing blanker canvases for the designers to deal with. Size has its benefits but blank canvases can be very very costly. The largest of the rooms was given to Matthew Patrick Smyth, an icon in the industry and a veteran of the show house circuit. If anyone were capable of dealing with a room this size it would be Matthew. The room he created is eclectic but demure. He has chosen a neutral palette as his backdrop and then taken us on a journey of historic period furniture from the Regency sofa, up to the French Moderne chandelier and on through to the contemporary art.
Gary McBournie chose to put heat in the holiday with his Caribbean Island Holiday retreat. Curtaining walls is often a copout in a show house room but one I understand since the life cycle of a room rarely exceeds thirty-one days. But here the choice of fabric everywhere made total sense. The room is an outdoor tent waiting for the slow lapping of a St. Barths surf.
In complete contrast was the sweet pastel bedroom lullaby created by Guillaume Gentet. The tiny scale of the room created a sweet intimacy that made you want to snuggle up with childish innocence waiting for Santa to appear.
The rooms got a bit smaller as you rose to the third floor, but no less intriguing. Pamela Banker brought dining for an intimate group of four into her seaside inspired seafoam dining room.
Patrick James Hamilton brought color into his room through both his chosen furniture and art. Pops of cerise and aquamarine glint across his daybed and chairs while an almost wildly colorized portrait of a bearded man scandalously follows you around the room with his glowing tangerine eyes.

The eerie broodiness of Louis Nararrete's cave-like space is totally spellbinding. The dark walls and rich woods make you constantly feel the need to check your back as you walk through his den. Overhead hangs a Warren Muller chandelier he has titled, BahdeeBahdu, an assemblage of odd bits of light and found metal pieces worthy of Freddie Krueger and just as foreboding.
There is only one room on the top floor, its original use remains a mystery to me. It has ballroom proportions with large arched windows and a skylight. It seems to far up for a public room but then too detailed for a storage attic. Justin Shaulis has transformed the space into a representation of the Miami art scene and this was my main reason for attending.
We work with and depend on the talents of a woman who has carried our weight through all of our recent work in the New York area. She not only has saved our collective asses time and time again with her architectural knowledge and knowhow but continues to create her own art in three-dimensional forms that stop you in your tracks. Pryor Callaway's beaded coffee table was my highlight. Like a parent's pride in seeing your child's delight and ingenuity, Pryor's sole piece burst my heart with joy.
For me the 2014 Holiday House was a success if only for this one piece and the knowledge of the cause the house supports. Please be generous during this season and beyond and if you can go to the Holiday House go and let it put a smile on your heart.

Charles James 1948 Collection, Vogue
Cecil Beaton, photographer
Represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, NYC

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