Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 6/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Naomi Leff: Interior Design
by Kimberly Williams
New York: Monacelli Press, $60
208 pages, 200 color illustrations
Naomi Leff was inducted into Interior Design's Hall of Fame in 1991. Before and after that date, we were privileged to publish much of her work—although a number of her finest projects, executed for some of the world's most privacy-conscious celebrities, remain contractually unpublishable. (Houses, apartments, yachts, and aircraft for David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and who-knows-who-else.) Hers was a fabulous career, based on impeccable taste and an innate sense of quality as well as exhaustive research, both on periods and styles and on client history. Commissioned by Giorgio Armani to develop a brand image, she is said to have assembled and read every article ever written about him. Perhaps the hardest worker I've known in afield where hard work is the rule, she also had a natural grace, great personal flair, a contagious laugh, and unquenchable sparkle.
Now, three years after her death at 66, we have a worthy record of her accomplishments, written by a former project manager at Naomi Leff & Associates. We see brilliant solutions for Ralph Lauren, including his New York flagship; two boutiques for Giorgio Armani; a store and spa for Helena Rubenstein; and Steven Spielberg's guest house in East Hampton, New York—one of several happy collaborations with Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects. Together, these projects give ample evidence of her versatility and high standards, despite the omission of designs for Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, and Christian Dior.
The book ends not with an index—which it certainly deserves—but with a poignant note. A dozen years before she died, Leff bought a handsome apartment near the Ralph Lauren store, with a double-height living room facing the Whitney Museum of American Art. Over the years, she drew up meticulously detailed plans, three pages of which are shown, and collected some furniture and objects. But just as she was about to begin the renovation, work for clients interrupted. Their needs always took precedence over her own, and she never moved in.
The Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain 1710-1750
by Maureen Cassidy-Geiger
New York and London: Frick Collection andd Giles, $275
800 pages, 1,075 illustrations (1,060 color)
Porcelain is the world's most prized type of ceramic. Meissen, Europe's oldest factory, is perhaps the most esteemed of all makers. And the Arnhold collection, with its 387 pieces chiefly from the factory's earliest and most innovative years, is certainly one of the greatest: It was assembled in two stages: first in Dresden, Germany, between 1926 and 1935 by Heinrich and Lisa Arnhold and second in New York between 1972 and 2006 by their son Henry. The latter contributes an introduction to this book, published in conjunction with a 2008 exhibition at New York's Frick Collection. Scholarly essays by Heike Biedermann, curator at the Galerie Neue Meister in Dresden, and Sebastian Kuhn, a former director of ceramics at Sotheby's, are complemented by a 1713 document that identifies Meissen wares shipped to the Royal Palace in Warsaw, Lisa Arnhold's own inventory of the collection, a Dresden map denoting relevant sites, and, best of all, a beautifully illustrated catalog of the pieces.
What They're Reading. . .
Director of interior architecture and associate principal at Anshen + Allen
by Redmond O'Hanlon
London: Penguin Books, $20
"When I'm working on health-care projects, the challenge is to figure out fairly basic ways to bring comfort, support, and joy," Lynn Befu explains. Those three things are in exceedingly short supply in the vast undeveloped regions described in Redmond O'Hanlon's lyrical, witty accounts of his travels. In Congo Journey, the middle of Africa in the late 20th century still resembles Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness—from a barge on the great river to the squalor, illness, danger, and dearth of electricity and plumbing on land. "Even traveling first class, he gets sick from his meals," Befu says. "These stories really put my own work into perspective." —Deborah Wilk