Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Private New York Remarkable Residences

Digging into my vast collection of old decor books, I found this favorite. The dust jacket is worn and torn, and it looks like it must have gotten wet on the back at one point somewhere in its travels from New York to San Francisco to New Orleans.
Published in 1990, written by Chippy Irvine, with photography by Alex McClean, you can still find it HERE
When I bought this book hot off the presses, I had a new-ish design business, and the first "real money" to spend on the family household. I also had a whole batch of celebrity and society clients to service, and I wanted to see how they did things, so I could be at ease in their surroundings.
Chippy Irvine was a society decorator, so I snapped this book up, and it became a good reference source.
What I learned from the book, and by being in my client's homes, is that art was a very important element in the decor. It never ceased to amaze and delight me to see masterpieces from every era, used in a family home with ease and naturalness. Can you imagine walking into a front hallway and being greeted by this Degas sculpture? I also love the typical old parquet wood floors common in any New York apartments.
New Yorkers are pack rats, or so it seems, because a few things can fill up apartment size spaces, whether large or small. This is the apartment of Kenneth Jay Lane. He studied art at The Rhode Island School of Design. His work in the art department for Vogue and then a shoe designer for Delman and Cristian Dior eventually led him to jewelry design. Since 1963 his name has been at the forefront of fashion.
Though not a professional decorator, Lane is aware that before the first piece of furniture enters a room, the background - the paint finish, floors, and curtains must be absolutely right.
This is the living room of socialite Ann Bass, a picture of East side style and grace. A suite of George II furniture and a set of oval-backed George III parcel gilt armchairs are upholstered in a variety of cream-colored silk. The large painting is Morris Louis.

Now we come to the rooms of Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold, when they lived on Gramercy Park. This is an historic district best known for its tree lined streets of townh0uses and brownstones, with a centerpiece of the only private park in New York City. Only residents who live around the park have a key to enter it.
Peri and Charles owned one of the first great kitchen/housewares stores in Soho called Wolfman Gold. It was a wonderful emporium of white wares, baskets, and vintage silverware, all presented in a way not previously seen. It was a well I drank from often, using the merchandise for many styling jobs, and purchasing many things for my clients and for myself. Peri was very friendly and helpful, and became someone to rely upon for advice. She and Charles have published at least a half dozen life style books.

Her signature look was white. She used antique and vintage textiles, and antique pine furniture. There was no "shabby chic" then, no Pottery Barn slip cover furniture. Peri was an original, and influenced a whole generation of us to go white, blending a sort of urban country look along with contemporary shapes.
Since Wolfman Gold where great purveyors of things for the kitchen, it would make sense that their own kitchen be well outfitted. Indeed it was, but not in the cookie cutter formulas followed en masse today. New Yorkers are funny about kitchens. They kind of keep the original foot print, and often many of the original elements too. Rather than rip out, they truly renovate. Here the big splurge is the professional stove. Cabinets, counters, back splash are rather humble by the standards of today. Clutter is also artful, homey, and useful to have everything within reach.
Open shelving was just coming into vogue, and Peri was masterful at making use of it.
This is a later kitchen in the Wolfman Gold loft in Soho, around 2005. Many of the "old" elements from Gramercy Park have be re purposed. The interesting thing about this space, is that a window over the sink has been bricked up. It looked onto an ugly view, so it was eliminated. This is considered radical, when light is such a premium in New York City apartments. But the open shelving, white ware, reflective surfaces, and one other window, make the space feel light and airy. You can read a fascinating article about it HERE
This little bathroom in the Wolfman Gold loft also got a window bricked up, and a faux window was put in using mirrors and great window treatments.
Today Peri is vice president at Williams Sonoma, and Charles continues his career as a successful photographer.

There are so many wonderful images in this book.
Intriguing chapter titles include: Haute Boheme Bed-Sitter; High Camp Loft; Hotel Des Artistes (I spent my art school days there artist modeling); Harlem Fantasy; Hudson River Houseboat; West Village One-Roomer; Chic Chinoiserie; Park Avenue Traditional; Biedermeir In Brooklyn Heights; Fine Art on Fifth... There are 31 spaces to look at, spread out over 204 pages. I could do dozens of postings on this fabulous book!
Not only is it a pretty picture book, it is a great history of the neighborhoods, and architecture each of these remarkable residences occupies. Chippy Irvine is a gifted writer, and Alex McClean is a gifted photographer. I encourage you to add this book to your collection of out of print and vintage decor/design books.


pve design said...

As I read your post and glanced at some of the most stunning photos, I thought to myself how wonderful for those that are gifted to use their gifts.
It would be a shame to waste all that talent. I will add this book to my wish list!

Visual Vamp said...

Glad you like this book - it's an oldie and goodie! It's great that you can still find it, and it's not $200. YET!