Thursday, March 31, 2011

WHERE: Irving Place

Bordered by the lovely, private Gramercy Park to the north and the former site of the 1990s uber-club Palladium to the south, Irving Place is a magical stretch of Manhattan with architectural wonders dating to the early 19th Century. Though it’s namesake, Washington Irving, never lived here (contrary to popular belief and several guidebooks), many other notable New Yorkers did, such as Elsie de Wolfe, O. Henry, and scriptwriter George Axelrod (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Manchurian Candidate, and others).

Irving Place has also hosted several prominent organizations, including the Westminster Kennel Club, The Nation and even the Rosicrucian Order. The north end of the street is dotted with cafes and bars, including the pocket-size 71 Irving Place Coffee and Tea Bar to Pete’s Tavern (where Henry dreamed up “The Gift of the Magi”) to upscale raw food restaurant Pure Food & Wine.

The street’s great contrasting architecture is best viewed at the corner of Irving Place and 19th Street. At 81 Irving, a 1930 neo-Gothic apartment building designed by George Pelham, gargoyles and other fantastic creatures peer down. Across the street, 80 Irving is a four-story townhouse from 1920, completely covered in vines.

The “gem of the neighborhood” sits at the corner of Irving Place and Gramercy Park South. The Stuyvesant Fish House was the center of New York society in the late 1800s. Stanford White remodeled it in 1888, and public relations legend Ben Sonnenberg bought and completely restored it in 1931.

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy New York Songlines.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WHEN: Aftertaste: Immaterial Environments at Parsons, April 1 and 2

Aftertaste: Immaterial Environments will investigate aspects of interior space that are seemingly intangible yet highly perceived. What are some of the immaterial qualities that make up our surroundings? How do we better understand elements of interior climate, the physiological and psychological impacts, so that these become material with which we create and educate?

On April 1 and 2, designers, physicians, scientists, scholars and artists will come together to explore these questions. Speakers include Robert Irwin, Keynote; Lisa Heschong; Phillipe Rahm; Natalijia Subotincic; and Alexander Wunsch.

For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy Parsons School of Design.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

WHAT: Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts

Quilting has been an integral part of American women’s history since the 19th Century. From classic paper quilts to story quilts created by African American women to recent work by the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, designs incorporate specific patterns and materials to tell individual’s and communities’ stories.

The American Folk Art Museum has dramatically transformed the Park Avenue Armory’s historic 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall with the installation of 650 red and white American quilts, all of which are on loan from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. It is the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city. As an extraordinary gift to the public, entry to this unprecedented event is free.

An app for the exhibition – including images of each quilt – is available on the museum’s web site. Or, share photos on Flickr and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #650quilts.

The Museum is looking for original and striking images that capture the scope and beauty of the installation. Enter their photo contest to win a yearlong membership to the museum. More details are available online.

”Infinite Variety” is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Wednesday, March 30 at the Park Avenue Armory (Park Avenue between 66 and 67 streets). For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy The Folk Art Museum.

Monday, March 28, 2011

WHO: Elsie De Wolfe

Elsie De Wolfe’s well-cultivated popularity and outsize persona coincided with a rise in interest in interior design in the early 1900s. She wrote The House in Good Taste, and The New Yorker credited her with inventing the profession of interior design.

De Wolfe transformed the design of wealthy homes from the dark Victorian style into designs featuring light, fresh colors and a reliance on 18th-century French furniture and reproductions. She helped popularize faux finishes and leopard print.

In 1905, De Wolfe created and executed the project that launched her on a financially successful career. Stanford White, the architect for The Colony Club and a longtime friend, helped de Wolfe secure the commission for its interior design. The building, located at 120 Madison Avenue (near 30th Street), became the premier women's social club. (It is now occupied by The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.) Eventually her client list would include a range of society figures from Vanderbilts to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

In addition to being one of the pioneers of American interior design, De Wolfe was a true character. She practiced yoga and stood on her head daily at age 70. She married Sir Charles Mendl, a diplomat, but scandalized Paris society when she once turned handsprings as an entrance to a fancy-dress ball. She inspired lyrics by Irving Berlin and Cole Porter.

And on first seeing the Parthenon, De Wolfe exclaimed “It’s beige – my color!

Image and info courtesy Wikipedia.

Friday, March 25, 2011

WHY: Diana Vreeland

“The only real elegance comes from the mind, if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.” – Diana Vreeland

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WHERE: Land's End

Land’s End, in Sands Point, Long Island, is rumored to be the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan’s home in The Great Gatsby. The 20,000-square-foot mansion was designed by Stanford White and built in 1902. The waterfront home has 25 rooms, including 10.5 baths, as well as 10 fireplaces, a pool and poolhouse, a guest cottage and a tennis court, on more than 13 acres of land.

Originally called Keewaydin, the estate was once owned by Herbert Bayard Swope, Pulitzer Prize Winner and executive editor of the New York World newspaper.

After falling into serious disrepair, the property will be torn down this spring and the land subdivided for a private development. Within a few weeks, the house will be gone – no word on what fate awaits the green light at the end of the dock.

“And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over the sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens – finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as through from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy evening…”

– The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Image and info courtesy Curbed NY.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WHEN: “Royal Furniture and Stately Rooms” at the Met, April 7, 2011

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of New York’s most incredible spaces, with collections ranging from fashion to furniture to Impressionist paintings. “Royal Furniture and Stately Rooms” provides insight into 17th and 18th Century West European interiors and decorative arts includes architectural elements, artworks and furnishings. Visitors are guided through exquisite period-room settings that reflect changes in taste and fashion over time. The Museum’s holding are especially rich in 18th Century furniture from France and England, including unique pieces with French royal provenance and others from important English collections.

The tour will be held on April 7, 2011 at 2:15 p.m. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WHAT: The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton

One of America’s most important novelists, Edith Wharton was a refined, relentless chronicler of the Gilded Age and its social mores. Along with close friends Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack London, she helped define literature at the turn of the 20th century, even as she wrote classic nonfiction on travel, decorating and her own life. Her best known works include The Age of Innocence (which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921), The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome. The Decoration of Houses, her first book, is of special interest to designers.

House Beautiful’s April 2011 issue highlights the history of American design, and makes special note of Wharton’s contributions to American interior design and decoration. “Edith Wharton laid down the rules for decorating in her first book,” the editors write. “The Decoration of Houses was the law of the land, and it led to the birth of a new profession.”

To purchase a copy of The Decoration of Houses, please visit

Biographical info courtesy the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Age of Innocence. Image courtesy Special thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Monday, March 21, 2011

WHO: Eleanor McMillen Brown

Eleanor Stockstrom McMillen Brown, who founded McMillen Inc., was best known for a signature style “at once restrained and elegant,” according to the New York Times.

Her flair for antiques, intuitive sense of special relations and “genius” for furniture placement created a signature look that informed American decorating and inspired generations of designers.

In 1924 she started McMillen Inc. with $13,000 of her own money invested in an office on East 55th Street, and went on to create interiors for clients ranging from business leaders such as Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field to media legends such as Mr. and Mrs. William S. Paley to Blair House in Washington, D.C. Her firm and its affiliate McMillen Plus are still considered one of the country’s authorities on timeless design with an aesthetic it describes as “timeless, informed and personal.” The firm’s approach is summed up by the words of its founder: “If you do it right the first time, you don’t have to do it over.”

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy McMillen, Inc. Special thanks to House Beautiful for the inspiration!

Friday, March 18, 2011

WHY: Charles Eames

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” – Charles Eames

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy The Eames Office.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WHERE: Elle Décor’s Modern Life Concept House

New York's most design-forward address will be 540 West 28th Street for three weekends in May and June, when ELLE DECOR presents the Modern Life Concept House with partner LX.TV Open House. The Concept House, at the new condo development known as +aRt, between 10th and 11th Avenues, will feature 10 designers—ELLE DECOR's A-List "Designers to Watch"—who will partner with leading brands to create dazzling indoor and outdoor spaces that offer a fresh approach to contemporary living. LX.TV Open House cameras will go behind the scenes to observe the designers as they create their interiors, showcasing how they bring their creativity and vision to life in each room. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Housing Works.

For more information, please visit

Image and copy courtesy Elle Décor.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WHEN: Spotlight on Design lectures at the National Building Museum

Spotlight on Design is an ongoing lecture series featuring architects and designers of distinction from around the world. Since its inception in 1997, the series has presented many of the world's premier design voices in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design.

Upcoming lectures include Spanish architect Nieto Sobejano (March 22, 2011); San Francisco-based landscape designer Andrea Cochran, FASLA (April 19); and Kulapat Yantrasast, a founding principal of California-based wHY Architecture (July 21).

For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy National Building Museum.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WHAT: Regency Style

Regency style has its roots in the period 1793 – 1820 when George, Prince of Wales, later George IV, acted as Regent. In furniture style, declining classic influence of Pompeiian studies, and increasing use of Roman, Egyptian, and earlier Greek styles mark this period. It coincides with the Directoire and Empire styles.

Info courtesy The Encyclopedia of Furniture by Joseph Aronson. Image (“Regency Chair”) courtesy Niermann Weeks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

WHO: Peter Zumthor

Pritzker Prize winning Swedish architect Peter Zumthor has been called “an essentialist of the sensual” (the Neue Zucher Zeitung) who designs spaces that are “conceived from the inside out, usually over many painstaking years.” (The New York Times) In addition to designing the Therme Vals spa in Switzerland, he designed Bruder Klaus, a rural chapel in western Germany, Kolumba museum in Cologne and other projects that embody the spirit and soul of the art of architecture

Zumthor has said, "I think the chance of finding beauty is higher is you don't work on it directly. Beauty in architecture is driven by practicality. This is what you learn from studying the old townscapes of the Swiss farmers. If you do what you should, then at the end there is something, which you can't explain maybe, but if you are lucky, it has to do with life."

"The Ascention of Peter Zumthor," a fascinating profile, appears in the March 13, 2011 New York Times magazine. For more information, please visit

The Kunsthaus Art Museum, Bregenz, Austria. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Friday, March 11, 2011

WHY: Charles M. Schultz

“Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.” – Charles M. Schultz

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WHERE: Strand Books

In 1927, Ben Bass opened Strand Book Store on Fourth Avenue, home of New York’s legendary Book Row. The family still owns this famous Union Square store, which features more than 18 miles of books on its crammed shelves. Decorators, set designers and bibliophiles of all stripes appreciate the Strand’s “Books by the Foot” service, whereby the store’s experts create personalized libraries on almost any topic (clients include the Waldorf-Astoria, Steven Spielberg and Polo Ralph Lauren). Alexa Hampton said, “Working with The Strand is a joy, to the designer in me and to the book lover.”

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy The Strand.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WHEN: Lucite Turns 75!

DuPont began commercial production of Lucite in 1936. Originally used during World War II it was used in submarine and airplane manufacturing, in the 1950s Lucite gained popularity as a must-have material in handbag, jewelry and furniture design. From May 10 through June 10, New York materials library Material ConneXion will mount an exhibit of Lucite’s use in a range of industries from furnishings to fashion, architecture to merchandising.

For more information, please visit

Image courtesy Vladimir Kagan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WHAT: Louis, Louis...

Louis XIV was King of France from 1643-1715, and his reign is generally considered the greatest period of French achievement; the furniture style is marked by a Baroque magnificence. After 1680, masculine character declined, proportions were reduced and lines softened. Louis XVI ruled France from 1774-1792, and this period is marked by a revival of ancient classicism. Furniture featured severe rectangular lines and architectural ornament.

Info via The Encyclopedia of Furniture by Joseph Aronson. Image: Louis XVI Canopy Bed by Niermann Weeks.

Monday, March 7, 2011

WHO: William Yeoward

William Yeoward said, “Comfort is the key to contentment and therefore good design must be practical, elegant and above all comfortable.” He is best known in America for his exquisite crystal, and his sophisticated, elegant and highly individual style now extends to furniture, fabric, wallpapers and rugs.

For more information, please visit

Info and image courtesy

Friday, March 4, 2011

WHY: Leonardo da Vinci

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind; large ones weaken it.

- Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, March 3, 2011

WHERE: Kips Bay 2011

The 2011 Kips Bay Decorator Show House will be located at 163 East 63rd Street, in an Upper East Side neo-federal landmark mansion. The 10,00-square-foot, four-story home, once owned by John Hay “Jock” Whitney, boasts unique historic details in each of its 16 rooms.

The interior designers, landscape architects and photographers participating in this year’s Show House will be announced soon; in the meantime, mark your calendars for general tours starting April 28.

For more information, please call 718 893 8600, ext 245.

Photo courtesy Habitually Chic.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WHEN: “The Home Front: American Furniture Now,” a series of public programs at MAD through May 2011

There’s still time to participate in the Museum of Art and Design’s public programs on issues facing designers and manufacturers of American furniture. On March 10, the museum will present “Drafted: The evolving role of architects in furniture design,” featuring Michael Graves, Calvin Tsao and others on their experiences, strategies and needs when it comes to making American design happen. On March 24, “After Class: The first steps of the American designer” will explore the enormous challenges facing young designers, along with a portfolio review for recent graduates.

For more information, please visit

Image via Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WHAT: Austria’s Path to Modernism

Two divergent paths illustrate Viennese decorative artists’ paths to Modernism: one is examplified by the member so the Wiener Werkstatte (Josef Hoffman, Koloman Moser and Dagobert Peche) and their design to create a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, and the other by the strict formalism of Adolf Loss.

The Neue Galerie’s current exhibition “Vienna 1900: Style and Identity” includes furniture, textiles and art that embody each philosophy, from the Werner Werkstatte’s attempts to make great design available to the masses to Josef Loos’ more formal approach.

Through June 27. For more information, please visit

Image courtesy Neue Galerie.