Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
This year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House, in a turn-of-the-century Park Avenue manse that once housed Paul Mellon's offices, was fresh, footloose, and fancy-free—and surprisingly modern. Although many designers riffed off the historic charm of the residence, built by McKenzie, Voorhees & Gmelin in 1910, the heavy-handed classicism of yore was kept in check. So too was the over-the-top eccentricity that has surfaced in recent years (and which, alas, is part of the fun) as designers opted for more muted expressions. All in all, this year's lineup provided a savory tour of top-drawer talent, and many great ideas for the taking.
Eve Robinson envisioned her snug study as "a comfortable, intimate retreat for a couple to do work or read by the fire"—or to have a (very) small get-together with friends. To achieve a mood of "welcoming comfort and timelessness," Robinson juxtaposed unfussy period furnishings, mingling a 1930s French teak desk, '40s-era Rene Gabriel armchairs, and geometric wall cabinetry inspired by Donald Judd. Grid-like patterning on the floor, ceiling, and walls "helps bridge the modern and traditional elements of the room and creates visual order" in the narrow space. Felt-lined, upholstered walls of sueded cotton, for instance, feature a running-stitch grid pattern inspired by a man's tailored suit.
Eric Cohler envisioned his art-filled suite as "a luxurious retreat from daily life," with cozy niches for sipping sherry by the fire, checking e-mail, listening to music, or curling up for a quick snooze. Cohler converted unused closet space into a small kitchenette and a curtained-off "book-lined sleeping alcove" with a built-in Norwegian fisherman's bed. Fabrics and furnishings adhere to a mellow color scheme, enlivened by zesty touches of blue, green, and red. Ideal for a couple with small children or for a visiting guest, "it's the perfect escape and possibly the only room you will ever need," Cohler concludes.
Jeff Lincoln's vibrant fifth-floor rec room is nothing short of groovy. Lincoln describes the 1970s-inspired space as a "game room for Stanley Kubrick," pointedly complete with the continuous screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Taking the '70s-style, hand-loomed Jack Lenor Larsen draperies as his initial inspiration, Lincoln commissioned LuLu de Kwiatkowski to create the glazed-panel custom wall treatment. Vintage Yahtzee, Life, and Operation games can be found throughout the room, along with a whimsical, Twister-inspired custom rug by Edward Fields. Other playful highlights include a fanciful Vistosi light fixture, Ultrasuede animal-print upholstery, and an orange Verner Panton chair. Carroll Dunham's wacky painting above the sofa tops off the gleefully unrestrained scene.
To overcome an awkward, labyrinthine layout and poor lighting conditions, Anthony Antine boosted the coziness factor in his inviting entrance parlor. Walls were upholstered in a carved burgundy velvet that picks up the hues of the plush but clean-lined furnishings. Rather than remove the floor-to-ceiling mirrors encircling the room, Antine cleverly applied wood overlays along one expanse to create the trompe-l'oeil effect of paneled doors; with only the simplest of moldings, "the room needed some architectural interest." The space culminated at a curvaceous stairwell, which he skimmed with gilded, polished plaster infused with sparkling glitter dust. "Our work is about opulence, without being cluttered or over-the-top," Antine concludes.
Hugh Owens for Smallbone of Devizes
"The room itself was quite interesting architecturally," says designer Hugh Owens, whose Arts-and-Crafts scheme honored the kitchen's elegant paneling, moldings, and oak floors. Owens eschewed wall cabinets and installed an armoire, dresser, and other freestanding pieces from Smallbone's new Mandarin Oak collection, "so the room looks as if it has been furnished, rather than fitted." A welcoming breakfast station and dining nook nestled near the marble fireplace, which Owens updated with a stainless-steel surround to echo the range, commercial fixtures, and backsplash. The tranquil, flexible space is equally suited to a large catering crew or to curling up with a newspaper and a cup of tea.
In the grand second-floor landing, Constantin Gorges used bold geometry to fashion a sophisticated gallery for an assortment of blue-chip artworks, such as a Ross Bleckner canvas and a Brian Hunt sculpture. "The main element was the grid, which I felt was a symbol of 21st-century design," says Gorges, who painted the arches and moldings a deep ebony and crisscrossed the pale blue upholstered walls with a gridded framework. The rectilinear motif creates a connection between the building's neo-classical interior and the eclectic furnishings, including 19th-century Italian scagliola columns, a Russian secretary from the late 18th century, and modern pieces such as a silver-plated console from John Boone.
For his ninth Kips Bay showroom, Noel Jeffrey devised an eclectic master bedroom that features a forceful yet sensitive palette of hues. Jeffrey contends that his unconventional color selections would appeal to a sophisticated clientele, "an intellectual couple interested in art, books, and theater." Striking purple curtains edged with lime green are boldly juxtaposed with shocking pink chairs and vibrant red pillows. "Women's fashion is headed toward intense colors—that's what drove us toward a bright color scheme," he explains. Nevertheless, Jeffrey sensibly defused the room with pale, faux-bois walls in order to "keep things from getting too crazy."