If you love plucking decorating ideas from hotel rooms – and the cleverest properties serve up plenty – you probably love show houses. The Kips Bay Decorator Show House, the design world’s big kahuna, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year – no mean feat for anything, let alone a moveable interior design feast.
Aptly for a big birthday, the show house is a departure. Instead of a classic East Side townhouse with a polished pedigree – last year’s was once home to New York Herald Tribune owner John Hay “Jock” Whitney – this year’s entry spills over two new penthouse condominiums, each with its own pool and wrap-around terrace, at The Aldyn, a glass tower with spectacular views of the Hudson and dazzling amenities like a grand-scale fitness center with a climbing wall.
That’s the good stuff. On the minus side are the condos’ small, boxy rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere and brute cement columns in the corners. In other words, these rooms were made for a team of savvy interior designers. We liked much that we saw and came away with a slew of decorating ideas. In the spirit of news you can use, here are a handful to steal.
+ Celebrate the setting With so much space, there’s room for whimsy. Designer Shawn Henderson transforms a cookie-cutter box, not much bigger than a walk-in closet, into the ultimate river-view sitting room with an unexpected accoutrement – a fabric-swathed swing perched in front of the window (above). A compact club chair in creamy leather and a wide upholstered bench in the middle of the room provide additional Hudson-oriented seating. Much more fun than a big sectional sofa.
+ Float the furniture A 17th-century George III writing table is worth showing off, as designer David Scott knows. Instead of shoving it against a window or a wall, he pairs it with mid-century leather chair and makes it the centerpiece of a tiny, but exquisitely appointed art-filled home office (left). A modern upholstered chaise lands the window position, ideal for curling up with a book plucked from a glass shelf on the sculpted bronze bookcase.
+ See double Everyone knows strategically placed mirrors make small rooms look bigger. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded by someone adept at mirror magic like designer Jamie Drake. For a river-view library, Drake uses mirrors to blanket the wall opposite the floor-to-ceiling window, ushering in the Hudson view (left). Forest green walls lined with bookshelves and wallpapered in grass cloth channel a classic library and moderate the light just enough. Drake tops a glass-and-metal desk in the window with a colored glass sculpture and adds a metal side chair for even more reflecting surfaces.
+ Cook smart A dining area is the obvious choice for a room that extends a kitchen. Which is why designer James Rixner’s upbeat sitting area with a sofa, a white leather wing chair and a large round coffee table (top photo) looks so fresh next to a long, well-appointed kitchen (left). Rixner uses wood tones and contemporary colors – aqua, chartreuse, lime and yellow – to unite the two areas, often subtly (the blues seen in the seating area appear in the kitchen in the form of three glass bowls on a counter). Instead of a conventional kitchen table, he plants bar stools next to the large center island, turning it into an informal eating area in sync with a contemporary building.
+ Be seated And use outdoor chairs indoors if they look this good. Designer Scott Sanders’ lighthearted cabana room turns a boxy space into a sun room with gold grass cloth walls, a merrily printed sofa and two metal deck chairs in sea foam. It’s an unexpected splash of South Beach on the 21st floor (left). The metal chairs are a reminder that furniture is furniture and can be equally pleasing indoors and out as long as it fits the setting.
+ Pick a theme Themed rooms work a lot better in show houses than in real life. Still, given the sterility of the condo’s unadorned rooms, it’s easy to cheer designer Charlotte Moss’s efforts to bring the look and feel of a garden to the 21st floor (left). Her choice of wall-size images of a garden estate is rather grand, but so is a luxury condo. And since the building has no history, a classical reference is welcome. The room’s faux-ivy-covered wall (not pictured) calls to mind the lobby of the W Union Square (we’re always looking for hotel connections). And decorative, moss-lined bird cages are a great way to celebrate nature and sculpture.
+ Transform a TV How many times have you seen a flatpanel TV affixed to the wall opposite a bed? Eager for a less snoozy spot for the set, designer Charles Pavarini, III perched the television atop an industrial tripod, freeing up prime wall space opposite the bed for an abstract painting (left). Unfortunately, the photo supplied by the show house displays only a hint of the TV on the left. Still, it’s a reminder that TVs need not sit on tables, hide in armoires or hang on walls – and that designers are on the lookout for fresh ways to display them.
Kips Bay Decorator Show House 2012, 60 Riverside Boulevard near West 63rd Street, Riverside South. Admission $30. Open through June 14th.
All photos by Edgar Pineda, courtesy Kips Bay Show House.