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Show house for a New Generation
Mid-century design reimagined: Kips Bay looks back to the future
Set one foot inside the Beaux Arts mansion where the Kips Bay Decorator Show House opened Tuesday and you might be tempted to step back outside to check the address.
You're in the right place. It's just taken a long time to get there.
There's a new sensibility at this, the 35th designers' extravaganza, and it starts right at the front door, where pop music and shiny metallic chairs, a silver, octopus-armed Venetian glass chandelier, patent leather daybed and surfboards painted with tropical fish define the entrance hall designed by the firm of Beale-Lana.
And if the entrance doesn't exactly portend the "Perfect Danger" spelled out in mirrors on the wall leading to the first sweeping stairway, it does throw open the door on a collection of rooms where there's no such thing as a truly "traditional" space.
Gone are the breathtaking odes to classical design a la Mario Buatta's color-saturated sitting room that was the jewel of last year's house. In their place are unconsciously contemporary spaces, where old and new mix seamlessly in deftly edited rooms washed in fresh color.
There are no family scions on horseback, no ladies posed in the parlor, or pretty pots of posies daintily done up in heavy gilt frames. In their place is a dizzying array of modern art from paintings and innovative prints to black-and-white photography from the '50s forward.
Classical music? Jazz? For the most part, the soundtrack is pop and hip-hop, played softly, but insinuating itself into the grandaddy of show houses and bringing it face-to-face with a new generation.
A group of young Kips Bay first-timers among the 19 designers chosen for this year's edition are pushing the envelope at the mansion on Manhattan's upper east side, and taking a few of the more "traditional" designers along with them.
Noel Jeffrey has designed rooms in the past with the requisite precious antiques, grand draperies and fabulous faux treatments mimicking mother of pearl, marble and expensive wood inlays that say, "we're pulling out all the stops." The impression one gets on entering the study dressed by the Jeffrey Design Group this year is not how important the pieces are, but how sunny and comfortable the room looks.
A geometric silk wallcovering of pale gold imparts a subtle sheen that's picked up on the smooth Venetian stuccoed wall behind the fireplace and in luxurious fabrics on chairs and pillows. Horizontally striped, silk drapes in gold, pumpkin and taupe fan out on the bowed front window. Splashes of color come courtesy of a dainty chair upholstered in lilac, a pale chartreuse armchair and ottoman, and butter-hued pillows on the sofa. Furnishings and accessories are of recent vintage, dating to the mid-20th century, with some Art Deco pieces added to the mix. With exquisite finishes, luxurious fabrics and four flat screen TVs — a large one above the fireplace and three smaller ones arranged one atop the other to one side of it — the "stops" have been pulled out — they're just not the first thing you see when you walk in the door.
Geometric patterns, fresh, spring colors and an interplay of textures are all at work in the living room Eve Robinson titles "Living Color." The room's genesis was the historically-derived pattern of circles and spokes executed on the ceiling in a combination of matte and glossy finishes. Circles reappear in the shape of tables and pillows on the simple, yet imposing circular lighting fixture, and on the dreamy white Venetian stucco walls, that have been created using an Italian process called intonaco di vetro, that gives them depth and reflects light.
Among the other outstanding features of this wonderful room is the ebony and bronze fireplace surround with its bold inset of chartreuse glass (a hue picked up in the lining of the chandelier's shade), and the mesmerizing Elger Esser landscape photograph over the sofa, so painterly in its execution of a cool green island floating in a pale green sea.
Photographic sleights of hand also await the visitor to the landing outside Ms. Robinson's space, where first-timers Etienne Coffinier and Ed Ku have created a sitting room that dazzles in so many ways, not the least of which is with the artwork displayed above two delicious chocolate brown settees. Rare photographs of the gardens of Versailles were digitally altered and fused onto glass panels, resulting in images that are at once both familiar and as mysterious as forms conjured of smoke.
The sitting room perfectly exemplifies the spirit of blending traditional and contemporary that permeates the house this year. Coffinier and Ku pay respect to the architectural details that would have been used in the 19th-century mansion, but give them a modern twist, like installing 19-inch baseboard molding to enhance the scale of the space.
Study in Symmetry
The landing is a study in symmetry and movement.
"Everything is very disciplined," Ku says. "Look at the lines of the wall pattern and the mirror and how everything lines up perfectly symmetrically above the settees."
Truly a traditional approach, but, again, with a twist: The walls are upholstered in white rattlesnake-embossed leather squares crowned with a freehand swirl pattern executed in polished nickel nail heads that moves from the wall onto the mirror, where it is engraved, and back onto the adjacent wall. The pattern reappears as a coral-hued design embroidered on blue cashmere pillows and again in a convoluted swirl of polished nickel as the base of a console table.
A pattern of a different sort was the jumping off point for Gomez Associates. The white-on-white wall covering of large, tumbling roses forms the backdrop to a space imagined "for someone like Audrey Hepburn."
"We chose to treat this landing as a room, "Brooke Gomez explains. "The idea is, just because you don't have a dining room doesn't mean you can't dine."
Dinner is served before a pair of French Louix XVI doors, beneath a gold-hued, hand-blown Italian glass chandelier, in a space defined by a pair of antique Murano mirrors. Adding to the romantic space are a pair of whimsical bow sconces, which Gomez admits to being "obsessed with" for the last 10 years. "I like pretty, girly things," she says, laughing. But, here again, despite the space's "important" pieces and decidedly feminine point of view, it never becomes saccharine or stuck in time, as the scene unfolds behind unfussy, white, lacquered bookcases that have a very '70s vibe.
Lacquer, Venetian stucco, gold- or silver-papered ceilings, moldings painted in high-gloss enamel, nailhead trim and polished nickel furnishings make Kips Bay glisten this year. Among the more intriguing uses of sparkle is found in one of two powder rooms designed by Gail Green.
With Cole Porter as inspiration, the room she's dubbed "Night and Day" (the other is "Day and Night"), has three walls of custom-designed blackmarble tiles with tiny mirrors and crystals embedded in them.
"You should see how it looks at night" the bubbly designer says, before pointing out the fourth wall, wherelarge, black Roman numerals tumble down custom-designed white tiles and onto the floor.
"I love Cole Porter, and I just thought of the opening lines of Night and Day," Ms. Green says before launching into " Like the tick, tick tock of the stately clock as it stands against the wall ...'
"I thought the Roman numerals were a natural."
Though the inspiration is very 1920s, the room is totally modern, with a shiny black Kohler hatbox toilet and a circular, black glass sink column in place of a traditional vanity.
Black and White
Black and white also are the tones of choice in the dining room put together by Eric Cohler, where a ceiling treated in silver tea paper adds lustre to walls of black Venetian plaster; where very '50s-coutourier-like, black-and-white flocked draperies hang at the windows, and black-and-white photographs are displayed before mirrors.
Of special interest here is Cohler's room-within-a-room strategy to "make the space more intimate. "To whit, he's enclosed the round, glass dining table within semi-translucent, eco-friendly scrims suspended on airplane cable.
Several spaces offer nods to so-called "green" design, but none more so than Vital Design's "A Little Breathing Room," a mini rainforest of sorts, where the air is perfumed with the delicate scent of orchids and resonates with the sounds of global music.
Natural cork flooring, CFL lightbulbs and moisture-producing greenery add up to a very PC space. And a console table designed by James Murphy brings a little bit of Staten Island to 82nd Street. Crafted in his Stapleton studio, the James Murphy Design Stone Console is handmade from North American rock maple and displays a bed of sea stones gathered from the Island's salt marshes beneath its glass top.
Over the Top
Of course, every show house has to have its over-the-top spaces and this one is no different, with three rooms standing in direct contrast to the simplicity of Vital Design's calming refuge — yet still very "livable."
David Barrett envisioned his "potting shed" as a room where the lady of the house would go to arrange flowers for the rest of the house, as well as entertain friends over cocktails or tea. It's whimsical and charming, with fabrics in crisp springtime shades of pink, blue and green dancing on pristine white, and a riot of flowers in every color imaginable spilling from the pots and containers that are arranged on every surface.
For a jolt of pure, jaw-dropping color, Jamie Drake channels Dorothy Draper in an exhilerating tour de force he calls "Sweet Dreams." This bedroom suite for a fashionista is a sumptuous sonata played in pink, fuschia, orchid and lilac, with furnishings and surfaces dressed in Drake's new fabric line, Jamie Drake for Schumacher.
"Raindrops," a delicate mauve moire silk, covers the walls; the bed is dressed in luxurious fuschia cut silk velvet, with nailhead detailing. Adding to the muted glow ofthe wall covering is the high-gloss, lacquered rectangular paneling on the fireplace wall. Drake has fun with the space, filling an ample walk-in closet with high-end shoes and handbags, as well as dresses and suits that repeat patterns and fabrics featured in the bedroom beyond. Just inspired.
The true piece de resistance, though, the room everyone will be talking about at Kips Bay this year, is first-timer Amy Lau's "Rites of Spring Penthouse Lounge."
In this eye-popping celebration of 20th-century art and design, clusters of porcelain flowers climb the walls, a hanging cabinet of warm, walnut burl stores bottles of wine, and a pale yellow vintage sofa curves sensuously before a pattern of waves washing over the wall in cool springtime blues and greens that are repeated on furnishings and accessories, from the Pop Art draperies to the chandelier.
A mobile tumbles from beneath a skylight, and a light sculpture appears to be growing out of the ceiling in this room at the top of the stairs, where a wall of windows leads to a sun-drenched terrace.
You can't help but smile when you step into the penthouse, with its vibrant color, shapes, movement, sheen and textures.
For the moment, you forget where you are ... and when you remember, you wonder why it took so long to come this far.
Sandra Zummo is the Advance's Features Editor and editor of the Home section. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the show
The Kips Bay Decorator Show House raises money for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in the South Bronx, which has been working to improve the lives of New York City's economically, socially or recreationally disadvantaged children since 1915. The agency provides essential after-school and enrichment programs for more than 13,000 young people between the ages of 6 and 18.
April 24 through Tuesday, May 22, 2007
14 East 82nd Street, Manhattan
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
$30 per person; $25 per person for groups of more than 20 people
Amy Lau; Beale-Lana Interior Design; Christopher Peacock Cabinetry; Coffinier Ku Design Ltd.; David Barrett; Drake Design Associates; Eric Cohler; Eve Robinson; Green & Company; Gomez Associates; Healing Barsanti; James Rixner; Jed Johnson Associates; The Jeffrey Design Group; Nathan Egan; Scott Salvator; Stephen Miller Siegel Architects; Victoria Imperioli Design; Vital Design Ltd.
An on-site mini-antiques shop features a wide array of donated high-end antiques, from ornate chandeliers to fine furniture and accessories. The shop is featuring a special peony-scented "Kips Bay Candle" by Candela Group/Slatkin.
718-893-8600, Ext. 245 or www.kipsbay.org/show-info.html.