The best hotel rooms are the ones filled with things you want to steal – like decorating ideas.
A great decorator show house is even better. The designers, of course, want you to hire them, but they have to put their ideas out there to lure you in. And this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House, the biggie of the bunch in New York City, is jam-packed with ideas ripe for the plucking.
After last year’s foray to a chilly high-rise condominium overlooking the Hudson on Riverside Boulevard, this year’s show house returns to more familiar ground, namely a svelte, late 19th-century townhouse on the East Side. I found ten ideas to tweak, transplant – or just dream about – in almost any kind of abode.
+ Lose the curtains Curtains can be the decorating equivalent of gray hair – certain rooms just look sleeker, hipper and more up-to-date without them. Consider designer James Huniford’s airy atrium bordered with a towering wall of windows (see the start of the windows behind the wing chair, left). Instead of using fabric or shades, Huniford blunted the impact of all that glass by applying decorative tape in subtle geometric shapes that give the appearance of frosted glass patterns. The result: the designs blunt the monotony of all that glass, and the room gains a modicum of privacy.
+ Curtain a wall Curtains still have their place – just not necessarily in front of windows. Designer Andrew Suvalsky glammed up a sitting area by hanging a moody blue curtain on the wall behind the sofa (left). Besides channeling the heat of a smokey film noir, a curtain is an elegant way to cover a wall that’s cracked, uneven or pocked. To keep things interesting, Suvalsky positioned a large painting in front of the curtain.
+ Put a big print in a small room In a space not much bigger than a walk-in closet – albeit with a big window — Palm Beach designer Stephen Mooney enveloped the room, and all who set foot in it, in a big-print wallpaper — a floral, no less, in shades of honey, white and gray (left). The trick is an artful use of scale – small prints channel Louisa May Alcott (in a bad way) — and color –bright colors call to mind the 1970s (also in a bad way). But the big print in bold light hues is just right and lets this little upstairs lair breathe.
+ Go glossy Designers love wallpaper. But those opting for paint finished their show house walls in mega-gloss lacquer in high-impact colors, a near-foolproof – and less costly — recipe for instant glamour. Designer Kristen McGinnis dramatized her dining room walls with a deep high-gloss blue/green visually balanced by a floor covered in pale rugs (see photo at top of story). And designer Eve Robinson polished the ceiling of her white-walled family room in lilac, so glossy it almost reflects the room below (above).
+ Have a Martha moment Handcrafts can be a good thing. Designer Jack Levy could have plopped a throw pillow on the fabric club chair in his Fornasetti-wallpapered living room. Instead, he appliqued the colorful pattern used on the sofa’s pillows onto the chair’s back cushion (above). The result: an eye-catching way to let a sofa and chairs converse.
+ Indulge in time travel There’s a big difference between a room that looks dated and one that artfully channels the past. File British-born LA designer Kathryn M. Ireland’s bedroom in the latter category. Ireland went with retro elements, like an oriental rug and a fancy Victorian bed. But a faded rug and festoons of of updated chintz freshen things up. Also refreshing: artwork that ranges from abstract birds opposite the bed to the cheeky photo of Ireland sporting nothing but a sheet and a smile, a wink at Ingres’ “Le Grand Odalisque.”
+ Put out the fire But keep the fireplace and make it unexpected. In his wallpapered living room, Levy blanketed the fireplace opening in faux bricks set in a herring bone pattern and shielded it with a Plexiglas screen. Designer Sara Story painted the original mantel matte black in her crisp, Cubist living room and filled the fireplace with sculpted black candles (left). And Robinson lined hers in polished stainless steel and adorned it with silver blown-glass logs (wood logs are stacked slyly in a built-in alcove nearby).
+ Make the guest room multitask Turning a guest room into a lounge or library isn’t new, but designer Louis Garcia-Maldonado’s sexy/sleek lounge suite shows how to do it right. The mammoth upholstered sofa doubles as a queen-size bed, easily swathed in sheets. The back and armrest are the perfect height for brunch or cocktail party guests to perch. The walls, upholstered in sueded leather “bricks,” form a sensual/serene backdrop for sleep, play or curling up with a drink or a book. And the moiré curtains edged in jewel trim bring a flirtatious femininity to the moneyed metrosexual surroundings.
+ Bathe alfresco What’s the best way to enjoy a pocket roof garden high above a quiet East Side street? Architect West Chin suggests a soak, with or without bubbles. He planted an egg-shape tub behind a wall on the roof; the bather can see out but, presumably, the top-floor neighbors can’t see in. Besides the tops of the nearby townhouses the bather can gaze over at a rooftop pond stocked with Koi and waterlilies, a fireplace stuffed with succulents and a side table topped by a rubber duck.
+ Steal from a hotel And turn it into an homage, as Story did with the showstopping black and white bathroom visible from her sitting room. Like the game-changing bathrooms Andree Putman designed for the Morgan Hotel in 1984, Story’s bathroom is blanketed in humble four-inch black and white ceramic tiles. Besides swanky good looks, the tile offers bang for the buck (Putman deliberately chose the simple but graphic tiles — favored by penny-pinching landlords — to keep costs down when she designed the hotel). Nearly 30 years later the look still works, something you can’t say that about everything from the 80s.
Sharp Townhouse, 161 East 64th Street between Lexington and Third avenues; 212 452-2117; admission $35 (proceeds benefit the nonprofit Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club). The show house is open daily through June 4, 2013.