Wednesday, June 10, 2015


This year is the forty-third anniversary of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club Designer Show House. For all of you familiar with the Show House you know it's really the "Decorator" Show House but I'm too much of a snob to use the lower case "D" word. One hundred percent of the participants are designers and deserve the more accurate title. For these participating designers the goal is charity the hope is recognition and a bit of praise. Every time we attend I'm in awe of the effort and commitment of each and every designer. First, the invitation to participate is not a ticket you can purchase. Invitations are only given out through a strict vetting process. You really have to earn your right to build a dream room in a Kips Bay Show House. Then there's the financial commitment required by each participating designer. Each year the chosen venue has its pluses and minuses. Some are in fairly good condition with a bit of original detail for the designers to build around. Others are completely empty boxes where the designer is starting from scratch or even less than scratch. There's a clause in all the contracts that states the designers need to leave their space in the exact same condition it was in before they started their installation unless the buildings owner asks that the installation remain. Take a look at all the custom work that goes into these rooms and then remember that every piece of molding, every wall covering and even every floor board has to be torn out at the end of the show. There's usually a lottery system for assigning the rooms with some senior and celebrity designers given first choice and then newer participants assigned by numbers pulled out of a hat. This lottery takes place about a month, maybe six weeks, before the opening reception of the finished rooms. That's at best forty-two days after the lottery and the designers first peek at their space to come up with a concept, implement a design on paper and then executing the design by begging for as many industry favors as they've accumulated over their careers. For the newer players that can mean going to the bank and borrowing a wheel-barrow of moolah or cashing in their first born in exchange for this priceless opportunity. All you have to do is look at the final rooms with a calculator in hand and begin assessing the accumulated valur and you'll see what I mean. You may not love every room you see but if you take into mind what went in to each room and the sacrifices each designer had to make it makes appreciating the effort all the easier. You can then top that off with the thousands of kids who through Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club add their gratitude and thanks for what the Show House's revenue provides for them.
This year's Show House is located in the Arthur Sachs Mansion at 58 East 66th Street originally built in 1877 as a rather plan structure. It's a twenty-foot wide five-story residence. It wasn't until after Central Park was completed that the Upper Eastside became a popular neighborhood for the wealthy. In 1908 financier Arthur Sachs of Goldman, Sachs & Co. purchased the building and had it redesigned by architects Buchman & Fox in its current Beaux-Arts style.
This year's designers have transformed the interior into a veritable history lesson in interior design genres starting with the first floor kitchen designed by the perennial participant and board trustee, Christopher Peacock. In the kitchen Peacock's transitional aesthetic is punctuated by a live-edge prep and eating island.
The room extends almost half the length of the entire floor and ends leading out into a tropical backyard garden.
In the garden palms in terra cotta pots along with purple petunias and a suspended chaise decked out in purple accessories complement the matching elements from nature that make the garden into a very modern spot for relaxation.
Perhaps the grandest and most dramatic space is the second floor dining room designed by Los Angeles designer, Mark D. Sikes. Done in red the room's padded fabric walls are segmented by red lacquered frames and moldings surrounding textile paisleys and contrasting large and small check fabrics.
The effect of all this pattern and fabric is like looking inside a Fabrege egg.
A huge crystal chandelier hovers over the dining room table its baubles and jewels reflecting sparks of light throughout the room. It is the quintessence of traditional Park Avenue chic.
There's a small powder room to the front of the dining room designed by Gail Green that has a wall and floor tile covered in Keith Haring interlocking little men crawling around this very sexy, minimalistic bathroom. The accents of red add a touch of Japanese asymmetricality to the design.
Alexandra Branca divides her time between her native Rome, New York, and Chicago. Her designs are impeccable traditional spaces but always with a twist.
Her direction at the Kips Bay Show House was to tint her design with touches drawn from the Chinese handbook of accessorizing.
One of the most serene spaces was a bedroom created by another Los Angeles designer, David Phoenix. A draped queen size bed set against a two-tone plaid fabric wall dominated the room.
Opposite the bed was a fireplace flanked by bookcases with black painted interiors.
There was a manly feel to the room. It was a room not meant for fireworks but for calm contemplation.
This year's design committee was headed by the New York designer, Charles Pavarini III. His room had a very eighties feel with its gold encrusted floor to ceiling fireplace and separate bar with swirls of blues, and reds, and purples.
Charles used a Midas wand on the suite taking us back to time Wall Street was king. I kept looking for Truman Capote to waltz in a flaming cigarette in hand.
Even the South was represented at the show house this year with Cathy Kincaid, a Dallas based designer, who charmed the crowds with her country estate inspired bedroom. A four poster ivory and ebony bed with Hepplewhite accents scattered about the room and faux animal heads on the wall gave the feel of being transported to horse country or the grounds of an English manor where you'd just be rising to the sound of the horn announcing the beginning of the hunt.
It was on the top floor that designer Alan Tanksley decided to install his garret getaway. He had painted a New York rooftop scene on the slanted wall with the arched cutouts framing the view looking out over 66th Street.
Architectural artifacts and two enormous ceramic antlered animal heads decorated his bungalow in the sky.
There were treasures left out of this tour only to entice you to make the journey to see what I haven't shown and to drop your price of entry into the kitty that supports a very worthy cause.

Petit Chateau, William K. Vanderbilt Mansion, 1897
B.J. Falk, photographer
Available through the Library of Congress

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