Saturday, September 28, 2013

Now Offering: The Residence At River House, $130 Million (Raw)

A vintage view of the former East River dock
at River House, New York City.
Devoted Readers know that the New York City cooperative apartment building River House (see the earlier post here) is one of Manhattan's most desirable residential addresses.  A separate feature of the building is the exclusive River Club which had its own entrance on East 52nd Street (although it could also be entered from the River House lobby, and until FDR Drive was built in 1934, it could be also be entering from a river landing).  As a sign of rising expenses (including real estate taxes), part of that space is being offered for sale as a private residence.

A partial view of the private entrance
on East 52nd Street.
With 62,000 square feet, the listed price of $130 million is not unrealistic, but the caveat is that the space is "as is" or "raw" in real estate terms.  Design suggestions are included in the price, however, with computer renderings and possible floor plans created with the help of antiques dealer and interior designer Tony Ingrao.

Tony Ingrao at the opening of the
2003 Hampton Designer Showhouse.
Image: Greg Kessler for NYSD.
East 52nd Street is a cul-de-sac, so traffic is not such an issue, but two of the most desirable features of River House are the off-street entrance court and the impressive lobby.  In the suggested floor plan, the Kitchen opens to this court, but the only access to the lobby is through the service entrance.
The Entrance/Living Level.
Plan Tony Ingrao via
The suggested Kitchen looks out towards the building's entrance court with the rendering showing exposed structural vaulting for the ceiling.

A suggestion for the Kitchen.
Computer rendering Tony Ingrao via
The main rooms could have ceilings twenty feet high, with views across the East River.  The Living Room also has access to the building's terrace overlooking the river.

A vintage view of the building's terrace.
Photo from
A possible scheme for the Living Room.
Computer rendering: Tony Ingrao via
A suggestion for the Library places it
at the desirable southeast corner
offering views down river.
Computer rendering: Tony Ingrao via
A Bedroom Level is 15,000 sq. ft. with a large area devoted to the Master Suite with a large sitting room plus large His and Her dressing rooms and bathrooms.

The Bedroom Level.
Plan: Tony Ingrao via
The Leisure Level is 27,500 sq. ft. and includes an indoor tennis court, wine cellar, spa, and a 62 feet long indoor swimming pool.

The Leisure Level.
Plan: Tony Ingrao via
A suggestion for an indoor pool with garden
access and views to the East River.
Computer rendering: Tony Ingrao via
The Entertainment Level (above the Leisure Level) features a Game Room and an IMAX screening room.

The Entertainment Level.
Plan: Tony Ingrao via
The Staff Level (above the Entrance Level) has three staff rooms with their own baths plus a staff lounge & kitchen and an office with a bathroom.

The Staff Level.
Plan: Tony Ingrao via
There is a bit of cryptic message in the Brown Harris Stevens listing about special rules enacted for the "disposition, renovation, and utilization" which is presumed to mean that this apartment is not under the same strict control as the other shares in the building.  In other words, it would probably be more independent like a townhouse than an apartment.  It is truly a unique opportunity.  We will see, hopefully, how it comes to be realized, if ever.

The real estate offering is a legitimate one, authorized by the building's co-op Board of Directors who have the power to do that, a shareholder told me.  It came about after they hired Georgetown Co. to study the best use for the space if the River Club did not renew its long term lease.  But the decision to market it (all or part) as an expensive single private residence is controversial among the shareholders;  a special meeting of the shareholders (co-op owners) has been called to discuss the issue.  It is the general consensus, The Devoted Classicist is told, that the River Club should survive in some fashion, at least, perhaps as a dining club without the guest and athletic facilities.  The purpose of this post, in part, is to provide a record of the proposal when the offering has been withdrawn (for whatever reason).  In any case, it is a fascinating study -- with pros and cons -- of adaptive use, is it not?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Naguib Abd Allah, Eaton Square

The Yellow Salon in the London apartment
of Naguib Abd Allah, overlooking Eaton Square.
Photo by Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
These Derry Moore photos are from the January, 1995, issue of Architectural Digest showing the apartment of Naguib Abd Allah decorated by London interior designer Francis Roos.  "What with my Italian and French fabrics, things from several other houses and pieces from an Egyptian palace, I arrived in London with enough to fill a whole furniture store."  He added, "Francis Roos has helped me enormously."

The Boulle-marquetry-and-lacquer cabinet
once belonged to Coco Chanel.
Photo by Derry Moore.
Gold plays an important role in the décor, not just in the color of the fabrics, but also with the use of gold leaf and ormolu.  Abd Allah asked for a "yellow salon," the text revealed, to create a jewel box to house his objets d'art, paintings and silver.  This is undoubtedly an effective scheme in the often-gloomy climate.  For added light reflection, an off-white velvet-pile carpet appears to cover all the floors with small antique rugs added for interest.

A detail of a corner of the Yellow Salon.
Photo by Derry Moore.
In the Yellow Salon, the same gold silk damask is used for the walls, primary curtains, and two sofas, with gold velvet used for the other seating, and a paler gold used for the under-curtains.  Note that the largest sofa is placed against the chimney breast (with the fireplace apparently covered over), creating a seating group with a similar sofa opposite and another with a Boulle-style frame;  it is an unconventional furniture plan for a traditional townhouse, but it works to facilitate conversations.

The Lion's Room.
Photo by Derry Moore.
A smaller sitting room, the Lion's Room, is a more intimate space.  "The walls are ornamented with small trompe-l'oeil marble panels (painted by Mark Ram) framed by mouldings.  Bands of 'carved' stone, which in fact were stenciled, act as friezes around the large fresco-like painted panels."

Another view of the Lion's Room.
Photo by Derry Moore.
In relating the design process, Roos explained, "We had thought of a space entirely in faux-marbre, but that seemed slightly over the top.  The creation of a stenciled stone frieze added the necessary softening element."

The Library-Dining Room.
Photo by Derry Moore.
"My primary aim in decorating the apartment has been to maintain the ideal of grandeur I absorbed in the homes of my childhood, " Abd Allah was quoted.  Roos designed the Library to also be used as a dining room for to accommodate twelve.

A late-Victorian English gilt door knocker
and ormolu candlesticks are reflected in an
18th-century French silver mirror.
Photo by Derry Moore.
"I have friends all over the world, and my wish is to keep a permanently open house here in London, where visitors can turn up and stay for a time, just as they still do in Egypt," Abd Allah related in the article by Charlotte Aillaud.

The Master Bedroom.
Photo by Derry Moore.
A four-poster bed was requested by the client, but the designer made it largely of upholstery for a softer visual effect than the rest of the apartment.  The retour d'Egypte stools covered in tiger velvet are 19th century French.

The Master Bath.
Photo by Derry Moore.
Another client request was to have a Victorian style bath.  Faux bois gives the effect of rich paneling and the wallcovering was printed with 19th century wood blocks giving the effect of damask.  The last sentence of the article sums it up, "For Naguib Abd Allah is a man who is deeply respectful of the past yet completely frank in his appreciation of the present."

Naguib Abd Allah's Egyptian villa on the edge of the Nile, a home very different from his London apartment, may be seen on photographer Ivan Terestchko's blog, Visual Diary, here and here. 

If Devoted Readers are familiar with the name of Naguib Abd Allah, it may be because of the very public relationship he once had with Mrs. Pierre Schlumberger, the wife of the billionaire oil industry tycoon.  (More about the decorating tastes of Sao Schumberger will be featured in a future post of The Devoted Classicist, but the back story on the lady and her loves may be read in Bob Colacello's article "The Wow of Sao" from the September, 2010, issue of Vanity Fair here).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pickings of a Happy Booker

"Uncle Charles' Library"
Image by John J. Tackett.
Despite all the dismal news in recent years projecting the end of glossy coffee table books, the bountiful new selections available this fall disprove that.  Perhaps it is the lower costs of digital publishing and the acceptance of designer/authors to shoulder the up-front expenses, but there are many new interior design and architecture books that certainly show great promise.  It must be pointed out that The Devoted Classicist has not actually seen these new books, however, and whether the potential is realized is ultimately up to the reader to determine.  (But these books are sold here through and qualify for their standard 30 day return policy; see their customer service policies before ordering).  Just click on the title for more information and an offer to order or pre-order at substantial savings.
Released September 1, 2013.
REFLECTIONS ON SWEDISH INTERIORS  Authors Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems are owners of Eleish van Breems, Ltd., an antiques shop in scenic Washington Depot, Connecticut, that also offers design services.  The Devoted Classicist regrets that it is unknown whether this book presents only classical and/or antiques-filled interiors, but the cover does indeed look promising.

To be released September 17, 2013.
CLASSICAL INVENTION: THE ARCHITECTURE OF JOHN B. MURRAY  One of my co-workers at Parish-Hadley, John Murray's new book showcases eighteen of his projects, both apartments and country houses.  Utilizing the Beaux-Arts drawing format "analytique" which shows various elements of the architecture in a unified, artistic presentation, the studies are accompanied by photographs of each home as well.

To be released October 8, 2013.
THE DETAILED INTERIOR: DECORATING UP CLOSE WITH CULLMAN & KRAVIS  Although not necessarily well-known nationwide, the firm of Cullman & Kravis is highly regarded in the New York City area.  (John Tackett Design is proud to have worked with them on projects in the past).  Co-founder Hedi Kravis has passed, but Ellie Cullman and associate Tracey Pruzon show how the well-considered details add up to make a room a stunning tapestry of ideas.  It should be noted that their previous book DECORATING MASTER CLASS is one of the best of its type and highly recommended.

To be released October 1, 2013
ALLAN GREENBERG: CLASSICAL ARCHITECT Author/teacher/architect Allan Greenberg, who has offices in Greenwich, CT, New York City, and Washington, DC, presents a monograph of his firm's work, showing new residences, university buildings, and civic buildings all designed in the classic style.

To be released October 8, 2013.
MARIO BUATTA: FIFTY YEARS OF AMERICAN INTERIOR DECORATION  The much-anticipated monograph of the work of interior designer Mario Buatta is being published without a dust cover, I understand, but rather with the end boards printed to give the effect of a journal or scrapbook.  Buatta is known for his quips and jokes so the text is expected to be very anecdotal.  Blogger Emily Evans Eerdmans, an accomplished author in her own right, is credited as co-author and can be counted on to keep things on track.  Mario Buatta, who still has a NYC practice, was one of the most famous decorators in this country during the 1980s and 90s, so expect big-budget American versions of classic English Country House Style.  (John Tackett Design is proud to have worked with him on projects in the past, as well).

To be released October 15, 2013.
FIFTH AVENUE STYLE: A DESIGNER'S NEW YORK APARTMENT  Howard Slatkin, co-founder of the home fragrance enterprise Slatkin & Co., presents his first book which showcases just one residence, his own lavish Fifth Avenue apartment.  Combining two Pre-War apartments, apparently no expense was spared to reconfigure the high-rise space complete with opulent finishes inspired by various palaces.  The book promises to be an enjoyable survey of a man's fantasy home realized.

To be released October 15, 2013.
ALIDAD: THE TIMELESS HOME  Photographer James McDonald presents the work of the London-based, Persian-born interior designer Alidad.  (Devoted Readers will recall the post featuring his design for a Paris pied-a-terre here).  Richly furnished projects, including apartments in London and Paris, villas in Beirut and Kuwait, and seaside homes in Sardinia and Cornwall, are presented as a tapestry with color on color and texture on texture.  The text is provided by Sarah Stewart-Smith who is a London interior designer and writer.

To be released October 22, 2013.
STEPHEN SILLS: DECORATION  This is the first book to showcase the solo career of interior designer Stephen Sills, formerly in partnership with Ralph Jones and then James 'Ford' Huniford.  All previously published works -- for glamorous clients such as Tina Turner and Anna Wintour -- was in partnership so there is great anticipation in the Big Reveal of this designer's own decorative visions.  Sixteen homes, all photographed by Francois Halard, are presented.

To be released October 22, 2013.
IN WITH THE OLD: CLASSIC DECOR FROM A TO Z  My friend and fellow blogger Jennifer Boles of The Peak of Chic has compiled an encyclopedia of sorts to present 100 stylish decorating details from the twentieth-century with each entry including anecdotes and advice along with the facts.  What could be more delightful?  Surely this would make a most appreciated gift to anyone interested in interior design.

To be released November 5, 2013.
LUMINOUS INTERIORS  Another former co-worker from Parish-Hadley, designer Brian J. McCarthy brings a unique and refreshing interpretation of classic interiors.  Nine of his favorite projects from around the country are presented with Brian offering insight to his inspiration and revealing the design decisions that led to the finished product.  Brian has become very well known in the New York City area and this new book will ensure that proof of his talent will spread across the country.

To be released November 5, 2013.
DECORATING IN DETAIL  Designer Alexa Hampton, who continues her late father's legendary decorating firm Mark Hampton LLC, uses her second book to share her process to decorate eight homes across the country, selecting fabrics and furniture.  It is intended as a "how-to" book to develop an understanding of the development of the interior design of a residence.

To be released November 12, 2013.
RENZO MONGIARDINO: RENAISSANCE MASTER OF STYLE  Italian architect, theatrical designer and interior designer, Renzo Mongiardino, 1916 to 1998, has been a great influence in the career of The Devoted Classicist, inspiring his own interpretations with a version of classic, eye-pleasing detailing.  Will author Laure Verchere offer anything new about the great designer's work?  Scant preview images from publisher Assouline offer no promises.  But newbies will certainly be impressed by the genius of one of the truly great designers of the twentieth-century.

To be released December 2, 2013.
WILLIAM HODGINS INTERIORS  Although long established in his own practice in Boston before my tenure, Bill Hodgins is another very successful decorator to have come from Parish-Hadley, a great influence in his design DNA.  Baltimore author Stephen M. Salny writes the text to accompany the photos, almost guaranteed to show Hodgin's trademark neutral palatte, often with Swedish neo-classical furnishings, and always with a tailored, architectural sensibility.

To be released March 4, 2014.
JACQUES GARCIA: TWENTY YEARS OF PASSION: CHATEAU DU CHAMP DE BATAILLE  Drawing on his experiences from his work furnishing rooms of Versailles and the Louvre, the interior designer Garcia employed many of these same principles in restoring and decorating his own home, Chateau du Champ de Bataille, over a period of twenty years.  In addition to his collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century furniture, porcelain, etc., the gardens have also been restored in a period style.

To be released April 1, 2014.
GEORGE STACEY AND THE CREATION OF AMERICAN CHIC  Interior designer Maureen Footer, who worked at McMillen Inc. and Molyneux before establishing her own firm, has written a much-deserved book on the great decorator of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, George Stacey.  Greatly influential, he brought a modern aesthetic to the classic French taste.  His Victorian-inspired interior for Babe and Bill Paley's country house at Kiluna Farm with hand-screened canvas walls served as a background for their exemplary French Modern pictures all of which figured importantly in a photo-shoot of Babe for Vogue in 1950;  the famous photo ignited a new-found enthusiasm for Old School comfort.  For the uninitiated in the history of 20th century design, this book should prove to be an eye-opener.  A "tease" for the book, including the John Rawlings photo of Mrs. Paley in a Charles James gown, can be seen at the Little Augury blog post here.

Remember that The Devoted Classicist has not laid eyes on any of these books, but they all show great promise of being very interesting.  Devoted Readers are among the most savvy in the whole blogosphere, so it is hoped they will come back and leave a brief comment after they have had the opportunity to take a look at one of these books.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

William Kent, Ultimate Tastemaker

William Kent's design for the Great Dining Hall
at Houghton Hall, Isaac Ware, draughtsman, 1743.
Plate 38 from the book
'The Designs of Inigo Jones and others.'
Image: Victoria & Albert Museum.
"William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain" is a landmark, new exhibition opening in the Gallery of the Bard Graduate Center, NYC, on September 20, 2013.  A collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where it will be on view next year, this is the first major exhibition on the man who was probably the most influential designer in Britain in the eighteenth-century.

William Aikman's portrait of William Kent,
circa 1723 to 25.  National Portrait Gallery, London.
Image via BGC.
Almost 200 examples of William Kent's work will be on display ranging from his drawings for architecture, gardens, & sculpture to furniture, silver, and paintings, plus his book illustrations.  William Kent, like Robert Adam a generation later, is identified with an entire stylistic period, not just his own work.  Kent developed a style that catered to the rich patrons and collectors, all who had been on the Grand Tour and appreciated his interpretive recreations of Roman palazzi.

The Gallery at Chiswick Villa
in a 1828 watercolor by William Henry Hunt.
Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth.
Image via BGC.
The style known as 'Kentian' features palatial Italianate interiors with walls covered in silk damask or velvet, and richly painted ceilings to showcase gilded architectural tables & mirrors, and Old Master paintings.  Appreciated as a house guest of his patrons, he was affectionately known as 'Kentino.'

A console table, one of a pair, designed by Kent
and carved by John Boson, 1732.
Intended for the Sculpture Gallery at Chiswick,
they were recorded in the 1770 inventory as
being in Lady Burlington's bedroom.
With the other furniture at Chiswick, they passed by
descent to the Dukes of Devonshire, and were moved
to Devonshire House and then to
Chatsworth where the mate remains.
Image:  Victoria & Albert Museum.
The exhibition is divided into sections with parts focusing on country houses such as Houghton Hall, London houses such as Devonshire House (see previous post here), and royal work such as the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace.  Another section is devoted entirely to Holkham Hall, considered to be the finest example of the Palladian revival style in Britain.  The final section focuses on Kent's contributions to the history of landscape and garden design.

A Chinoiserie Garden Temple
designed and drawn by William Kent,
made circa 1730 to 1735.
Image: Victoria & Albert Museum.
Co-curated by Susan Weber of BGC and Julius Bryant of V&A, the exhibit will continue at the Bard until February 9, 2014, before going on to London, March 22 to July 13, 2014.  Susan Weber's book WILLIAM KENT: DESIGNING GEORGIAN BRITAIN may be ordered at substantial savings here.  For more information on all the programs and exhibitions on Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Cultures, see the BGC website.

A detail of a drawing by William Kent for a bracket
to display a bust, made  circa 1730 to 1735.
Image:  Victoria & Albert Museum.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Aline, Countess of Romanones, NYC

Aline, Countess of Romanones,
at her desk in her New York City
apartment, circa 1988.
Photo: Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
Devoted Readers always enjoy a comparison of similar concepts for interiors, sort of a decorating version of "Who Wore It Best?"  Of course there is no way of knowing if the two women or the two interior designers were actually influenced by the other's apartment, but it is an interesting similarity of general concept for both the New York City apartment of Aline, Countess of Romanones, and the Paris apartment of Beatriz Patino, presented in a recent post of The Devoted Classicist here.

The Living Room in the NYC apartment
of the Countess of Romanones.
Photo:  Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
Featured in the April, 1989, issue of Architectural Digest the article was written by the countess, the American-born widow of a Spanish grandee.  The countess wrote that she and her husband had bought the apartment 8 years previous;  she had a son with two small children in the U.S. and she had since used it as a base for her speaking tours on the subject of her books based on experiences as a spy during World War II.  (Some critics have been skeptical about her adventures being entirely true, however).  Her late husband, Luis, Count of Romanones, is credited with putting the apartment together with the help of designer Vincent Fourcade.

Another view of the Living Room of the
Romanones apartment in NYC.
Photo: Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
Like in the Patino apartment, the Romanones' Living Room has walls covered in a bold printed fabric paired with a bright raspberry red damask for the seating.  Here, the magazine credits Brunschwig & Fils for the wall fabric and Scalamandré for the fabric used for all the upholstery and the curtains;  both vendors are regular advertisers, by the way.  A Spanish-made Savonnerie-inspired rug covers the floor.  The late count was a painter and his interpretation of a portrait by Goya hangs over the sofa.  Although some of their belongings could be taken out of Spain without permission, the more important art and antiques could not be exported;  additional "fill-in" pieces were bought in New York as needed.

The sitting area of the Master Bedroom
of the Romanones apartment in NYC.
Photo:  Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
In the Master Bedroom, a Stroheim and Roman fabric covers both the walls and the sofa with a Brunschwig & Fils stripe used for the curtains.  "Living in reduced quarters for the first time became a game," the countess wrote, "and we tackled it much as if it were a small boat, finding tricks to make closets hold more and to make rooms serve multiple purposes.  Books line closets and are stored under tables and beds.  Everything is near and handy, but what I like most about the apartment is that the décor has a Spanish atmosphere and flavor."

A selection of books by Aline, Countess of Romanones, (previously the Countess Quintanilla, previously Aline Griffith) is available with prices starting at just one cent (plus shipping) from The Devoted Classicist Library by clicking here.