Saturday, November 10, 2018

Carolyne Roehm's Constant Thread

With Carolyne Roehm at her book party in Susan Gutfreund's Fifth Avenue home, and the cover of her gorgeous new book.
     Carolyne Roehm, a longtime friend of this blog, has a new book out called Design & Style: A Constant Thread. Besides being impressively large and heavy (you could do bicep curls with this thing), it's unusual for Carolyne, who has produced twelve books, because this one is largely autobiographical.
     We caught up with Carolyne a few years back at home and did two video interviews on the blog when she published her book A Passion for Interiors. Her living room, with its double height ceilings and brown velvet walls, is I think the most beautiful I've been in. Two years later we did a video with Carolyne in the New York City flower district for her book Flowers.
     Throwback to a book party past –

   For this book, Carolyne's friend Susan Gutfreund hosted a party in her renowned apartment on Fifth Avenue, and that was a real treat. The Fifth Avenue building was designed by architect Rosario Candela, who I recently wrote about for Architectural Digest. The stunning apartment was decorated by Henri Samuel, who was the subject of a book by Emily Eerdmans Evans, which I wrote about here on the blog. Candles flickered in the long salon facing Fifth Avenue where the party was held, and we had the chance to duck into the celebrated Winter Garden room, which is decorated in tones of yellow and green and pink.
    Carolyne is dedicated to beauty and her books have been about her expertise and passions in decorating, gardening, fashion and entertaining. With this book she combines them all and explores how everything she does, from her fashion designs to setting a table to arranging flowers, is inspired by her consistent taste and style - her constant thread. This book is unique too because she writes about her personal life experience. 
Carolyne at home in the 80s and her gorgeous peonies –

Joyful tulips inspired this Roehm design –

     Carolyne Jane Smith grew up in a Missouri farm town and was called Janie Smith until she decided to go by her first name and married Axel Roehm. She later married Henry Kravis, the Wall Street financier, who invested in her designer fashion collection. For ten years at the height of the rollicking 80s the couple were the toast of the town. But in the early 90s came divorce, her decision to close her fashion company and an unsuccessful attempt to start a catalogue business. Carolyne writes that, "there were moments in which I genuinely believed I wouldn't find the strength or the will to continue."
      As an escape, she decided to go to a college in England to study Shakespeare's tragedies, thinking that "the Bard might help me understand what the hell had gone wrong with my life." She tells a funny story about being locked out of the college dorm while taking a shower and hanging naked by her fingertips off a windowsill three stories above ground. There were regrets about her decision to close her fashion business and walk away from her catalogue venture. In Paris she had an unpaid internship at the legendary flower shop Moulié Fleurs and had the idea to create an everyday, how-to-book about flowers.
     In one of her designs –

Carolyne in Chanel and one of her creative gift wrappings –

    Carolyne returned and writes, " three years after I'd slunk out of New York, feeling in every meaningful way a failure to myself, I was back. At my lowest moment, I had gotten off the floor and taken a baby step, one that liberated me to move on to a new, and very rewarding enterprise. Once that happens, you never lose the faith that no matter how difficult life becomes, if you just take that step, things will get better. That was the great lesson of my wilderness years."
     Hers is a wonderful story of resilience and strength, and how creativity, beauty and art can rescue a person. A Passion for Flowers was the first of a dozen books. Carolyne is also an accomplished watercolor painter and she announced on Instagram (@carolyneroehm) that she has just launched a collection of Chinoiserie jewelry on her website. She designs and creates boundlessly without fear or limitation. I think these traits are in fact her constant thread. Cheers to Carolyne Roehm, a great inspiration.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Art of Gray Foy

     Up right now through November 16th at the Francis Naumann Gallery on West 57th Street is an exhibition of the work of artist Gray Foy, who worked in pencil, creating incredibly finely nuanced and shaded drawings. In fact, when you go into the gallery, they offer you a magnifying glass so you can inspect the drawings closely. One of the drawings is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which lent it for this show. I knew Gray and the show was a revelation to me.
     This drawing is called Abandoned Nest, and you can see how expertly he rendered the natural subject – 

    TD and I had the pleasure of meeting Gray, who passed away in 2012. He was the lifelong partner of the great Condé Nast magazine editor Leo Lerman, and we were introduced to the couple by TD's friend Richard. Leo was a larger-than-life personality who was an editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and ran the arts coverage at Vogue. Leo and Gray lived in one of the most amazing apartments I have ever been in, in The Osborne on West 57th Street. After Leo passed away, selections of his journals were published in a book called The Grand Surprise, which is a fun, jolly read that I highly recommend. When I knew Leo, he was walking with a cane and later was in a wheel chair. Coming behind and helping him always was his partner Gray.
     It turns out Gray himself was a fine artist. I had no idea. The gallery materials state that Gray was born in Dallas and worked as an artist in Los Angeles and New York. Using standard issue No. 2 pencils, he created surrealist scenes of figures and body parts inspired by Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. Later he moved on to plants and botanical subjects, and these are my favorite in the exhibition. The gallery notes that, caught up in the active social life he shared with Leo, Gray stopped producing his art in the mid-70s.
    When I entered the gallery I was the only visitor so it was a very quiet and peaceful trip. The exquisite drawings pull the viewer in for closer examination.
I think my favorite was Uprooted Plants from 1955 –

Here is a close up. It's hard to believe all of the shadings and gradations are rendered in pencil; it looks more like a print – 

So delicate and serene. There were many other works to explore in the jewel-box of a gallery. It was a pleasure to visit the still and tranquil world of Gray Foy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ellen Peckham at Home on the Hudson

A view up the Hudson from Ellen's terrace. 
TD and I recently headed up to Spuyten Duyvill which is just north of Manhattan and perched along the Hudson River for the birthday party of our great friend, artist Ellen Peckham. I wrote about Ellen before on this blog in 2008, ten years ago (!). I won't repeat here what I already wrote about Ellen except to say that it is always an inspiration to visit her, wherever she is.

At that time Ellen lived in a loft on West 23rd Street in a building where Robert Mapplethorpe once lived and worked. Before that she and her husband Anson had lived in a wondrous townhouse on West 22nd Street. Now Ellen has escaped Manhattan's rushing crowds and moved to an apartment over the Hudson River. In this sprawling apartment she can live and work on her printing press making prints and put up guests.

Located in a modern high-rise, Ellen transformed the space with her mix of antiques and art and books. What draws you through it once you pass through the front door is the incredible view of the Hudson River outside the wall of windows. Running along the length of the apartment is a terrace which Ellen has expertly planted with a range of foliage. 

The wide Hudson River stretches out below with the undeveloped Palisades beyond –  

Ellen told me she likes green and white and red plants on the terrace - nothing too bright or jarring. Silver galvanized buckets hold the plantings –

In a corner of the long terrace, plants grow from a giant clam shell resting on a weathered case that also displays twigs and drift wood –

Ellen says she put sea shells in the plant boxes to provide minerals for the soil but I just think they look good –

The terrace is like a seashore garden that has swept up onto a modern high-rise. It's a very restful, soothing place to sit and look at the river below.
While the terrace relaxes with the rustic beauty of nature, the interior is filled with cultured art and antiques, which is a combination that I love.
At the front door, sophisticated metallic walls and a lush orchid welcome visitors –

There are beautiful things to look at everywhere –

And wonderful things to read – 

As twilight fell, it grew darker inside the apartment but outside the sky and the river still glowed. Neighboring lights came on nearby.

There was some music - a guitarist played and singer sang some poetry he had set to music. Birthday toasts to Ellen were made
Ellen grew up in Rochester, New York, in upstate New York, and came to New York City to go to art school. As an accomplished artist and poet, she has led a fascinating life story with many adventures near and far, and has recently written a memoir, which TD has designed. She's shopping it around with publishers now.
Ellen works tirelessly on her art with an indefatigable spirit. Besides her prints and poetry, to me she is an artist in everything she does - the way she gardens, decorates, entertains, lives. She was a young girl from upstate New York who came to the city and created an artful life. I've always been greatly inspired by her and was very lucky to meet her through TD and our neighbors on Jane Street years ago.
Here I am with the lady of the hour –

Long may she reign.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

My Article about Wendy Goodman and Her New Book for Architectural Digest

With New York magazine design director Wendy Goodman at her book party at Roman and Williams Guild and the cover of her new book published by Abrams. 

     You might enjoy my latest article for Architectural Digest! It's a feature on Wendy Goodman, the design and decorating editor extraordinaire who has produced a new book entitled May I Come In? which includes 70 of her favorite interiors.
     I follow Wendy on Instagram where she often posts pictures of her subway trips to check out homes to publish, and I thought it would be interesting to tag along with her on a subway journey for this story. So one morning Wendy and I met on the corner of 14th Street and 7th Avenue, and headed down into the subway station for a trip to Brooklyn. It was a swell adventure and you can read all about it here.
     This week TD and I attended a big party Wendy had to celebrate her book at Roman and Williams Guild, which is a striking, newish store downtown in Soho on Howard Street. In the front of the space is an elegant restaurant called La Mercerie and in the back is a sprawling retail store selling furniture and accessories by the great design firm Roman and Williams, plus other artisans. The fun, lively party was packed with editors and artists and creative types plus bona fide celebs like Caroline Kennedy and Julianne Moore - a fitting celebration for a wonderful book and a magazine editor who has long been passionate about discovering and sharing beautiful things.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

"My Fair Lady" on Broadway at Lincoln Center

Last week TD and I went up to Lincoln Center to the Vivian Beaumont Theater to see My Fair Lady and it was a big treat. It runs almost three hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. My Fair Lady stars Lauren Ambrose (below) as the transformed flower girl Eliza Doolittle, Harry Hadden-Paton from Downton Abbey as Professor Higgins, Diana Rigg, who I remember as Emma Peal on The Avengers tv show (!) as Professor Higgins' mother, and Norbert Leo Butz as Eliza's father. 

(photos from the Lincoln Center website)
Lauren Ambrose, best known from Six Feet Under, was famously cast to star in Funny Girl on Broadway but that production was canceled for lack of funding. Now she has her chance on Broadway and she is wonderful. She is of course a great actor plus she can sing too!
     The real revelation was Norbert Leo Butz who is a two-time Tony Award winner, but I had not seen him on stage before. He is magnetic and you can't take your eyes off of him. The rip-roaring number "Get Me to the Church on Time" (below) had people clapping in their seats and stopped the show with thunderous applause.

Mr. Harry Hadden-Paton as Professor Higgins was a no-show which was initially disappointing but we saw a tall and handsome understudy named Tony Roach who did a great job and thoroughly inhabited the role. This production is elegantly directly by Bartlett Sher. We saw his production of The Light in the Piazza, also at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and that too was a memorable play.
     My Fair Lady has the most wonderful set piece, which is Professor Higgins' Edwardian London house. On stage it dimly advances forward out of the darkness and lights up. Then it spins around to reveal different rooms - the library, the front hall, a bathroom or hall. Characters go through doors of the rooms as it spins and then it recedes back into the darkness at the end of a scene. It was beautiful how it was done, somehow evoking its own emotion.
     And of course there is the swelling Lerner & Loewe music thanks to a full orchestra playing away. It's one hit after another - "Wouldn't It be Loverly," "With a Little Bit of Luck," "The Rain in Spain," On the Street Where You Live."
    I was so happy to see this production because I have a long history with My Fair Lady. When I was young, the movie came out over Thanksgiving weekend, which is when my birthday falls so for my birthday I wanted to go see My Fair Lady. I was seven.
    We were visiting my grandparents in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and my mother and my grandmother and brother Thom and I took the "high speed" train into Philadelphia and saw the picture in a grand old theater that I'm sure is no longer there. I, of course, loved it all - directed by George Cukor, costume design and art direction by Cecil Beaton, and starring the stunning Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. The movie images have become iconic.
Eliza at Ascot –

Eliza at the Embassy Ball –

After seeing the movie we got the soundtrack record and I listened to it at home every day after school, oh yes I did.

When my family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, while I was in college, I was home working one summer and volunteered to do props for a production of My Fair Lady presented at the Fort Wayne Civic Theater. There were some cast parties and it was a fun way to make some friends, and after hearing the show every night I grew to know it by heart. For me My Fair Lady is a beautiful, lyrical Edwardian dream. What a long-lasting gift its creators gave.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Lovely "Public Parks, Private Gardens - Paris to Provence"

Camille Monet painted by Claude Monet, 1876
Downstairs from the "Heavenly Bodies" exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Robert Lehman Wing is another beautiful show that I really enjoyed called "Public Parks, Private Gardens - Paris to Provence." In the nineteenth century, Paris was transformed into a city of tree-lined boulevards and parks, and in the country gardeners cultivated their private lands. The Impressionists, who were renowned for recording the fleeting moment, were the perfect artists to capture this combination of nature and refinement. This show is made up of art from the museum's permanent holdings, and it's like a vacation to floral France.

Below we have Adolphe Monet Reading in a Garden by Claude Monet from 1867. Adolph is Monet's father and this bucolic scene is set in his aunt's garden on the coast  of Normandy –

The elegant father is dressed in the men's fashion of the day including black jacket, white shirt, dove grey trousers and straw hat with a black band. This is a good look to copy!

Here is the detail of another Monet painting in the same garden and same gentleman from a different view. I like this outfit –

This is an 1884 study for Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Seurat's final masterpiece hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago and inspired Stephen Sondheim's breathtaking musical Sunday in the Park with George, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985. In a shimmering pointillism style, this painting illustrates how much the Parisians enjoyed their city parks –

Manet painted this vision of his wife Suzanne in a garden in 1880. Manet renders his subject in broad, joyful, energetic brush strokes. As Madame Manet rests under the shade of her hat, the green verdant garden behind her comes alive –

I particularly like the paintings where the people seem to blend into the flowers, like the painting at the top of this post of Mrs. Monet who fades into the sun-dappled garden.
Below is the Garden at Vaucresson by Edouard Vuillard from 1920. In a garden in front of a pale pink house with a bright red roof, the woman on the right appears to bloom out of the roses –

The garden come inside in Degas' A Woman Seated Beside a Vase of Flowers from 1865. The sitter seems to be enveloped by the arrangement and appears to be one of the blooms.

The beauty on view shows a lovely style for living that still inspires. See it if you can - this show ends July 29.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Story for Christie's About "Heavenly Bodies" at the Met

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened a new show which explores how the Catholic Church has influenced the world of fashion. At the press preview, I had the chance to sit down and talk for a few minutes with the Costume Institute's Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton. You might enjoy my story about the exhibit for Christie's here!

Monday, May 21, 2018

My Architectural Digest Feature on Rosario Candela

In the 1920s and 30s, architect Rosario Candela designed the most elegant apartment buildings in New York City. The Museum of the City of New York has mounted a new exhibition on this important architect and I've written a story about him for Architectural Digest. For the story I got some heavy hitters including architects Robert A.M. Stern, Peter Pennoyer, Paul Whalen, decorator Bunny Williams, realtor Elizabeth Stribling and curator Donald Albrecht to talk about why Candela is still important today. You can read my piece here!
For this exhibition, the museum hosted a talk about Candela with experts Peter Pennoyer, Elizabeth Stribling and Donald Albrecht plus architecture critic Paul Goldberger. It was a fascinating panel discussion and afterwards I enjoyed chatting with architect Peter Pennoyer -

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Colorful 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House

A view down the show house's seven floor staircase, which was decorated in vibrant Memphis Milano style by designer Sasha Bikoff.

TD and I attended the 2018 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Opening Night Preview last week and it was an eyeful! Twenty-two talented designers decorated the rooms of the huge, seven-floor mansion at 110 East 76th Street, which is now on the market for $51,000,000. We went up to the top and then worked our way down, it's easier that way, no? There is also an elevator that will take you to the top floor. The house was packed with stylish guests checking out what the decorators had whipped up. Here are some of my favorites –
Blue is a signature color of Mark D. Sikes, who is based in Los Angeles, and his elegant bedroom offered many soothing hues –
(room photos by Nickolas Sargent, room detail shots by me)

A pretty handpainted wallpaper set the tone for the relaxing room –

Mark also decorated a crisp-looking bathroom with blue and white paisley, and arranged some bright tulips in the foyer in front of handsome, striped wallpaper –

A colorful and charming guest bedroom was designed by Katie Ridder, who is married to classicist architect Peter Pennoyer, who I recently interviewed for an Architectural Digest feature about architect Rosario Candela. Katie told me that for this room, she had been inspired by a recent exhibit at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue about the Wiener Werkstatte (Vienna Workshop), the artist and craftsman collective that thrived in Vienna from 1903 to 1932. Her walls were trimmed with hand-painted stencil borders –

Alessandra Branca told me she didn't really have a theme for the bedroom that she designed, but that she had been thinking about comfort and mixing things up - like the big plexiglass bed with a large Tina Barney photograph on the opposite wall –

On the bedside table I spotted colorful totem sculptures by Ashley Hicks, who is the son of iconic English decorator David Hicks and grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was a mentor to Prince Charles. Alessandra told me that she is honored to be the godmother of Ashley's newborn baby boy. 

Bunny Williams' sophisticated living room, which combined modern furniture with antiques, was covered in pale paneling. She reported that it was faux bois with golden knots for a "tree house feeling." A very elegant tree house indeed –

There is a lot more to see at the Kips Bay Show House, which is up for the month of May, ending May 31st. Proceeds from tickets go to support the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx which provides educational programs for kids. Find ticket information here to enjoy this inspiring, annual New York City rite of spring. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Visiting the 18th Century with Henri Samuel and Christie's

Henri Samuel by Emily Evans Eerdmans on the left and a portrait of Mrs. Louisa Lushington by John Hoppner at Christie's on the right.

After I wrote about how Old Master paintings are coming back into fashion for Christie's online magazine, I was happily invited to a preview of Christies' Old Masters Sale. At the preview, I enjoyed looking at the range of Old Masters, which are works created between 1500 and 1800, plus the nineteenth century paintings on view like this charming scene on a French bus by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse –

The focal point of the preview was a talk given by Simon Goodman (below) recounting the story behind the painting of John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony by Lucas Cranach I who lived 1472 - 1553.

John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony by Lucas Cranach I –

This German Renaissance painting had been owned by Simon Goodman's grandfather Fritz Gutmann, who was a wealthy German banker and art collector. In World War II, the Nazi's looted the collection, stole this painting, and Fritz and his wife, Simon's grandparents, perished in concentration camps in the engulfing tragedy.

After the war, surviving family members worked to find the dispersed art collection and reclaim it. Following an approach by persons who had acquired the Renaissance portrait, and who acknowledged and addressed the losses suffered by the family at the hands of the Nazis, Christie’s facilitated a return to the Gutmann heirs, and the family put the piece up for auction in the Old Masters Sale. The heirs continue to search for the grandfather's art works. About one third of the collection is still missing. It was a fascinating and moving story about one family's journey.

Later that same week I was invited to the Rizzoli bookstore on Broadway to hear a talk given by Emily Evans Eerdmans about the book she has just written on the great French decorator Henri Samuel. She was joined on the dais by New York social figure Susan Gutfreund and interior designer Brian McCarthy.

Henri Samuel was very inspired by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and created grand rooms for clients including Rothschilds, aristrocrats, and American magnates like Jayne and Charles Wrightsman, and John and Susan Gutfreund.
Here is the Paris bedroom Henri Samuel decorated for Baron Alain de Rothschild with a deep Louis XIV sofa that functioned as a bed –  

At the talk, Susan Gutfreund reported that Jayne Wrightsman, "who is my son's godmother," introduced her to the great decorator. They worked together on the Gutfreund's apartment in Paris and in New York at 834 Fifth Avenue, a prestigious building designed by the renowned architect Rosario Candela. (Read my article about Rosario Candela for Architectural Digest.) Incidentally, the Gutfreund apartment is now on the market for $76 million. Decorator and client created a beautiful and now iconic room - the Gutfreund's winter garden –

Ms. Gutfreund said that the room was inspired by the eighteenth century hand-painted panels that she already owned, and that she "found the ballroom furniture in a castle in Sweden." Very romantic!

Emily Evans Eerdmans later told me that it took her about three years to research the book. "It was a time period and milieu when everyone was so private," she said. "You just did not talk about your decorator and Samuel did not put himself forward." She notes that Samuel had earlier worked for the House of Jansen, the great French firm that carried on nineteenth century decorating traditions. "Samuel's work was grounded in knowledge and expertise as well as innate genius," said Eerdmans.

Here is Mr. Samuel's own handsome bedroom in Paris with black japonned furniture and fabric-covered walls that match the curtains –

Mr. Samuel in his chic red living room that blended modern art, contemporary pieces, and antiques –

(c) Courtesy of Eva Samuel
This book is very well-written and researched, and I learned a lot. It takes the reader back to a beautiful time and offers an escape from current events. And you don't have to be as rich as a Rothschild to be inspired. I myself would like to find some black japonned furniture.