Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 11/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Domesticities: At Home with the New York Times Magazine
by Pilar Viladas
New York: Bulfinch Press, $40
216 pages, 240 color illustrations
The New York Times Magazine's design editor and a no-nonsense pistol of a writer, Pilar Viladas has assembled that publication's first anthology of interior-design stories since Norma Skurka's in 1976. It's about time. Almost three decades later, Viladas has chosen 28 houses and apartments. About half of these—the more interesting half, one hopes—are designers' own residences.
One of the oldest and most fascinating is Le Corbusier's roughly 12-foot-square log cabin on the French Riviera, from 1952. Almost as interesting is Gio Ponti's 1956 house in Caracas, Venezuela. Other standouts are Jacques Granges's own farmhouse in the Loire Valley; Kevin Walz's just-a-little-quirky interior for a gracious 1898 house in Westchester, New York; and, in the city itself, Vicente Wolf's apartment and one shared by Michael Formica and photographer Bob Hiemstra. A guy Viladas chooses twice is Michael Booth of Babey Moulton Jue & Booth. We see his own San Francisco house as well as the Sonoma Valley retreat he designed, with architect Stanley Saitowitz, for art maven Byron Meyers.
The Abrams Guide to Period Styles for Interiors
by Judith Gura
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $40
424 pages, 450 illustrations
Many histories of interior design trace the succession of styles, but this guide is exemplary in its clarity and emphasis on visual character. Of the 32 sections covering eras from the 17th century to today, each begins with a brief, highly readable description. Then comes a full-page image of a typical interior, followed by several pages of characteristic furniture, rugs, light fixtures, etc., and a concluding summary of distinguishing elements, such as mood, scale, and motifs.
Gura, who writes for this magazine and teaches at the New York School of Interior Design and Pratt Institute, has given us a book so simply and beautifully executed that we must be forgiven for wanting more: Where are the Egyptian, Gothic, Moorish, and Asian styles? May we hope for volume two?
Nancy Lancaster: English Country House Style
by Martin Wood
London: Frances Lincoln, distributed by Antique Collector's Club, $60
200 pages, 286 illustrations (143 color)
Nancy Lancaster, the American who formulated the style known as English country, is by now a legend—her story retold countless times. Here, it's felicitously related by a textile and garden designer and interior decorator who also wrote a book on English gardener Gertrude Jekyll. His account of Lancaster's notable interiors is peppered with bits about her role in British social history.
Most chapters, though, focus on the houses Lancaster lived in, from austere Mirador in Virginia to Ditchley Park, a James Gibbs house near Blenheim Palace, and diminutive Coach House, her home for her last 23 years. Her most famous room, that "buttah yellah" drawing room in London, is described in detail: glazed yellow walls, yellow silk taffeta curtains, a Savonnerie carpet, bookcases from William Kent's Chiswick House, candelabra made for Versailles, a picture frame of gilt seashells, and a chair covered in what was once a damask tablecloth, dyed raspberry. This space was also Lancaster's dining room, library, and office—and widely regarded as the most remarkable room in London.
Still more remarkable, under the circumstances, is her lack of pretention. Her friend Cecil Beaton said she had a talent for "making a grand house appear less grand." Lancaster herself put it this way: "Understatement is extremely important, and crossing too many 't's and dotting too many 'i's makes a room look overdone and tiresome."
What They're Reading. . .
Principal of his namesake architecture firm
De Kooning: An American Master
by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, $35
752 pages, 86 illustrations (16 color)
Mozer, a sculptor and painter as well as a designer, says his affinity for artists has inspired him to read "a lot of tedious biographies that, in the end, offer little insight." This one is different: "At work, we obsess about ways to evoke strong feelings in people who encounter our designs," he says. "Willem de Kooning's biomorphic abstractions provoke those deep emotional responses."