27 October 2009

Barbie has needs too...

David Levinthal
Barbie (Lingerie) 1997

I don't know about you, but I could use a little off-the-wall levity right now.

Which is why I'll be checking out Bad Barbie, an exhibition of David Levinthal's series of photographs, starring Ms. Blondie, her long-time beau Ken, and a breakout role for G.I. Joe. Click here to read more (parental advisory in effect) or visit:

John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowitz Bookseller
50 1/2 East 64th Street
New York City
November 4th through December 5th

22 October 2009

With prices like these....

...I can afford to buy non-second-hand. And with descriptions that reference such favorites as Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, you'll gladly hand over your $5 for this dish washing brush made by the visually impaired in Sweden. (What's more, Mr. EEE can leave it in the sink where it won't be able to absorb water and attain a most unattractive odor.)

I'm sure I'm the last to discover Megan Wilson's Ancient Industries shop and blog (thank you to BI for bringing me in from the cold). And may I mention how surprised I was to learn that this is the one and same Megan Wilson whose haunting book covers Porter Hovey mentioned on Little Augury here.

Hicks on Hicks: November 9 NYC Lecture

Who better to give us the skinny on what made legendary interior designer David Hicks tick than his son Ashley, a talented designer in his own right?

I've already reserved my space.

Monday, November 9, 6pm
Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street (between Park and Madison)
$35 with 15% discount off the book if purchased with registration
RSVP Potterton Books 212.644.2292

All those EEEs

Someone who knows about these things has gently suggested that I change the never-ending emilyevanseerdmans.blogspot.com url to something more snappy. As you are my guests, I thought I should first ask if you have any preferences.

You can already access this page by just typing in emilyevanseerdmans.com, but what do you think of these:




allabouteee.com (joke!)

any other ideas?

Forgive me for boring you with this bit of housekeeping, but since you are the ones who type it in, who better to ask?

20 October 2009

Can Modern be Charming?

According to architect Peter Pennoyer who co-wrote the newly published The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury with preservation historian Anne Walker, the answer is a resounding yes.

Atterbury (1869-1956) began his career designing sprawling summer "cottages" for New York's patrician elite of which he himself was a member. Even though I love a gilded estate as much as anyone, it was Atterbury's innovative and thoughtful town planning for the lower and middle classes that really intrigued me.

A Forest Hills residence

The model community of Forest Hills, located in New York City's borough of Queens, is a stand-out example of his work . Founded in 1908, it took an English village as its premise. Its layout of winding streets and footpaths which placed emphasis on the pedestrian experience is a far cry from the sterile cul-de-sacs of today's suburbs.

Forest Hills development map proposed by Atterbury and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. in 1909

Atterbury introduced the use of prefabricated concrete to expedite building and keep costs down, and here is where it gets interesting.

Just because something is prefabricated doesn't necessarily mean it has to be bland, uniform, or mass-produced. Even though Atterbury was at the forefront of construction and planning, he didn't sacrifice individuality or detail - in fact, I believe he recognized that it is in these details that humanity lies and that they enhance the life of everyone - no matter what the state of their pocketbook.

Atterbury even designed Forest Hill's lamp posts

Pennoyer pointed out in a lecture given at the Institute of Classical Architecture last week that Atterbury's pioneering achievements have long been overlooked - perhaps it is the design community's inability to see modernity when it's under a traditional veneer.

19 October 2009

October 30 San Francisco Fall Antiques Show Lecture: "Of Sphinxes and Sofas"

Every year The San Francisco Fall Antiques Show plans a special exhibition with an accompanying lecture series. (For those of you who've never attended the show, The SFFAS is THE West Coast's premiere antiques event including top dealers from all over the country as well as overseas.)

This year's theme couldn't be more glamorous: "Egyptomania: Nile Style in the Decorative Arts." Please join me on Friday, October 30 for a closer look at the Egyptian revival in the British Isles. We'll trace this vogue from Thomas Hope's Egyptian Room in his Duchess Street manse to Oliver Messel's film sets for Caesar and Cleopatra starring the sphinx-like Vivien Leigh as the asp loving Queen of the Nile.

the couch from Thomas Hope's Egyptian Room which was painted 'pale yellow and bluish green of the Egyptian pigments, relieved by masses of black and of gold.'

"Of Sphinxes and Sofas" Lecture and Regency Redux booksigning:
Friday, October 30, 11:15 am
San Francisco Fall Antiques Show
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center
RSVP online or call (415) 989-9019
Tickets $15.

Presented in collaboration with The Royal Oak Foundation and Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.

Click here for the entire lecture series and here to visit The Show's blog kept by gentleman-of-style Grant K. Gibson.

14 October 2009

A Glimpse Behind the Veil: Howard Slatkin's Park Avenue Aerie

Many thanks to reader Sacheverelle who alerted me to Wendy Goodman's profile of Howard Slatkin's own residence in New York magazine. This is a rare glimpse at the work of a designer whose clients are so private and exclusive, we can't even whisper their names.

Click here to see more jaw-dropping rooms.

Ebay Therapy

Have you ever noticed how much less money you spend when you're happiest? On the flip side, when everything's a muddle, do you too hit the plastic to bolster your mood?

After a particularly crazy week (isn't it funny how everything happens at once), I found myself escaping to the Aladdin's cave of Ebay. You know I had to have been trolling for hours to have come across this rose petal Schiaparelli hat from the'50s.

Its vibrant shocking pink and crimson reds snapped me right out of the doldrums. Maybe next time I hear Ebay's siren call, I'll just don this little piece of whimsy and Think Pink instead.

Thinking Pink in my favorite movie, Funny Face

After I stock up on some vintage Chanel bangles, that is.....

12 October 2009

Do you wear your style on your back or on your walls?

Peggy Guggenheim - who put much as much thought into her sunglasses as to what went on her walls, ceilings and floors

A conversation with one of my students reminded me of the saying of some fabulous jet-set socialite* whose name escapes me. She asserted that one must choose between being beautifully dressed or collecting art. I would amend the latter to having a well-dressed home.

Peggy at home in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni - previously inhabited by another lady of style, the Marchesa Casati

This student who is a professional set designer for magazines told me an interesting story. One of his assignments was to redecorate and style an independent art dealer's apartment - a classic before and after story. She was impeccably dressed, with a new Catherine Malandrino dress for every occasion, but her apartment was a typical white box affair with no effort or expense apparent in its appearance. After the shoot was over, he later found out, she sent everything back.

Particularly in a city where most of us live in small spaces and don't entertain at home, it is our personal appearance that announces who we are or aspire to be. Just as women of some tribal communities put all their wealth into their jewelry, we may carry a Birkin bag or wear Manolo Mary-Janes. The disconnect is that we may look like a million-bucks, but once home we're eating ramen noodles and sitting on an Ikea sofa.

In the evening, look up at the windows of apartment buildings, and you know what you'll see? my student said. Paper or metal blinds which the owner probably inherited from the previous resident.

Peggy's bedroom where according to this biography she spent a lot of time

Even with our limited budget and full schedules, I believe we CAN have it all. Your home is your cocoon - it nurtures and comforts and energizes you to go out into the world. Making it a place where you love to be will be just as rewarding as looking like the person you want to be.

But how? you may ask. Quality over quantity. Consume less but better. One black cocktail dress, but it's Chanel. (Read any style book on Audrey Hepburn who learned how to wear an Hermes scarf 100 different ways as a teenager during the war.) A sofa from George Smith but it will last you for decades. Over time, it will have paid for itself.

* The omniscient GG has reminded me that it was Gertrude Stein, who he rightly points out wore "brown corduroy sacks so shapeless and frumpy that Spanish peasants thought she was a nun" rendering my description "fabulous jet-set socialite" a bit questionable.

04 October 2009

A Tribute to Randall Ridless

Randy with one of his beloved cats, Mack

Last week, the design community lost one of its great talents, Randall Ridless. Not yet fifty, Randy had an extraordinary career which masterfully encompassed both commercial and residential interior design.

You may not have heard of Randy before, but chances are you have stood in one of his impeccable spaces, such as the seductive shoe salon at Bergdorf Goodman

or one of Burberry's flagships, where he effortlessly channeled cool Britannia chic....

The one thing you could say about Randy's entire portfolio is that no two projects were identical: for each project, Randy delved into the client's needs - whether it was an international luxury brand or a private client on the Upper East Side; considered the architecture, and created a completely unique space perfectly tailored to each client. One of his signatures was bringing the intimacy and comfort of the home into the showroom.

Van Cleef and Arpels, 5th Avenue

No detail was overlooked. In fact, Randy's attention to the finishing touches - from hand-embroidered decoration on the back of a chair to red Venetian-plastered walls - recalls haute couture both in its custom design and superlative quality of execution.

Many of us have had an Aunt Mame in our life who urged us to be bold and to see that anything is possible. Randy's was his Aunt Renee. At the age of 11, she took Randy into the city to see the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kip's Bay 2000 showroom by Randall A. Ridless and his associate Beth Martell - the lacquered paneling is after one of the rooms in the Wrightsman Galleries, but with a twist - its decoration is inspired by Picasso and his interest in African art

A life-long passion for the crisply elegant neoclassical was instantly born. He immediately redesigned (on paper) his family's Long Island ranch house into a pavilion worthy of Marie Antoinette.

Randy loved to draw and even as a child, drew rooms constantly.

After a childhood trip to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, all his drawings of rooms suddenly had dentil moldings. He possessed an insatiable curiosity and tremendous retention of design history. Henri Samuel and Jansen were Randy's sacred masters.

His major weakness (besides a love of "Wife Swap" and Diet Coke) was for books. Anita Brookner and biographies were especial favorites.

Even though Randy was an acclaimed designer with a blue-chip roster of clients, he didn't take himself too seriously. "We're not doing brain surgery," he would say. He had a sense of proportion about the extravagance of the industry and could spot pretense a mile away, which he detested.

This aligned with his philosophy of choosing the authentic over the "tricky" and "gimmicky". He prefered a simple barn to a trendy restaurant - the genuine and humble over the souped-up, latest thing.

Randy loved what he did. His sincere enthusiasm and passion were so titanic that his presentations often ended in applause. He lived and breathed each project - and always devoted himself 100%. The results speak for themselves.

A Memorial Service for Randy will be held on Tuesday, October 6 at 6:00pm.

Friends Seminary Meeting House
15 Rutherford Place
(at the corner of 15th Street and Rutherford Place, just east of Third Avenue)

A memorial fund has been established at Randy’s alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design.

Contributions can be made to:
The Randy Ridless Memorial Fund
Rhode Island School of Design
Attention: Louise Olson
All photos courtesy of Randall A. Ridless LLC

Thank you to Beth Martell and Tim Rearden for their help.

01 October 2009

Looking for Valerian Rybar

Some of you may remember that while reading Empress Bianca, the alleged roman à clef about international socialite and philanthropist Lily Safra, I became obsessed with finding out who the real-life version of Bianca's decorator, Valerian Rybar, was. (Click here and here to revisit Safra style.)

Well, apparently Valerian Rybar was the real Valerian Rybar, and according to the NY Times, he was the world's most expensive decorator, boasting a roster that included Rothschilds and Greek shipping magnates.

My dreams of seeing veritable Rybar rooms were soon realized when I espied the 1980s tome Decorating for Celebrities by Paige Rense on a friend's bookshelf. Lo and behold, an in depth interview with Mr. Rybar in which he muses on his craft:

The difference between a decorator and a designer: "A decorator should have a taste for selection; a designer should have a talent for creation."

If you are decorating your own home but can't do everything at once, make a master plan and then execute it. "Don't buy something because you love the way it looks whenever you happen to see it. Be very sure it fits into your total concept."

Rybar has many wise words, although I would beg to differ with his statement that "today, for a room of quality, you have to spend at least thirty thousand dollars. And that does not, of course, include art and antiques." Instead, I would suggest, you could spend all the money in the world and still not achieve the results that a good eye and a spark of imagination can create.

Photos: top, #3 by Pascal Hinous; #4 by Nathaniel Lieberman