“If we took a holiday, it would be, it would be so nice.”
It is perhaps my favorite show house in Manhattan, the annual Holiday House, on the tony Upper East Side. It's a triple threat, and triple treat… a great house, stunning interior design, and holiday-inspired rooms (with LOTS of delectable tabletop styling... my true guilty pleasure). Every year I’ve been, the lucky designers have risen to all three occasions (and all four floors), with their designs, holiday interpretations, and styling. They have created rooms that stay in the memory like the happy holiday moments they hope to conjure, capture or poetically reinterpret.
This year was largely no exception. Visiting this festive assemblage of design talent and holiday spirit was like walking through a giant 3-D calendar, charting the joyous passage of time and the marking of life’s moments with lots of ideas to take back to your own party. It is a fitting tribute to the cause, the Greater NYC Chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure… since time itself, and the way we mark and celebrate it, is a gift very often taken away all too soon.
As a designer, I’ve also been fascinated by how my colleagues face the challenge (joy???) of a room with no client but themselves, and the opportunity to tell a story, stop the show (and garner a new gig or two along the way). Like Kips Bay, there were many lessons here on how designers take on raw spaces, find inspiration, and make their marvelous marks.
Avoiding the Clichés
Theme rooms, whether animal-animated nursery, or sports-driven basement, can go from good idea to cartoon cliché in the blink of an eye, so the Holiday House is of special interest, to see how the design elite ramp up or tone down their inspiration starters. It was refreshing to see two inspired takes on holidays that seem otherwise ripe for stereotype: Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.
Holiday House veteran James Rixner took a sweet route for Valentine’s Day, pulling his palette from what he calls “the real reason we all love Valentine’s Day: chocolate!” With nary a heart or cupid to be found (although the large painting could indeed depict a stylized engagement ring), Rixner ran the room through a chic Willy Wonka filter, with milk chocolate walls and white molding that looked like it had been piped on by a cake decorator, and a vanilla-on-chocolate rug, filling the room like frosting.
Rixner even drew from the iconic box of chocolates without getting all saccharine… with a sweeping tufted chairs, also evoking a perfect pair of chocolate-covered cherries. Rixner steered clear of the obvious by veering away from construction-paper-red, adding a bit of orange to end up with a deep and fiery color, one notch past coral (seen a few places around the show house, like Inson Wood’s lacquered walls, pictured top).
Andreea Avram Rusu of Avram Rusu Interiors took an even more subtle approach to her holiday’s theme. New Year’s confetti, fireworks, glitz and glamour are all here, but stylized and tempered in a curated mix of antique, vintage and modern, with a dash of organic inspiration. Elements throughout, like the artwork and her custom overhead lights— brass disks shimmering like a party-ready Sputnik— are a nod to sparklers, special occasion jewelry, champagne bubbles, and the Times Square ball drop, but without the slightest tack.
Pieces that shouldn’t work together, do… the DESIGNLUSH Waterfall Writing Desk with French Deco chairs and vintage radio, their three-part harmony facilitated by shared wood tones and elegant curve. Rick Lee’s Media Group sofa (also courtesy DESIGNLUSH) shares an almost 70’s glam vibe with the brassy (in a good way) Carini Lang carpet, looking like slices of geodes or super-sized confetti. All glowing against a moody gray wall paper and floors darkened by the designer, it’s a move-in ready, collected-over-time room that would be a marvelous way to start any new year.
Holiday House 2011, to benefit the Greater NYC Chapter of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, is open to the public from November 16th through December 11th, 2011 at 2 East 63rd Street, in New York City. Buy tickets here.
Get Social! Holiday House is on Facebook.
All photos: Patrick J. Hamilton