NEW YORK — A former parking garage reborn as a five-story, $49.5 million limestone townhouse opened its doors on Thursday, inviting you to wander through and imagine yourself as a 1-percenter.
Here at the 44th annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House, 21 design firms have been gilding, glazing and glossing to transform the raw concrete spaces of the new-construction luxury home into a glittery, sparkly confection of wow.
Kips Bay, as the annual glitz-a-thon is known in the design trade, is the most prestigious decorator show house in the country. The designers selected to participate are among the best in the world. And the creativity they weave into their spaces ends up in the pages of major shelter magazines and eventually trickles down to a home retailer near you. Design trends observed at my preview tour this week: armless sofas, unconventional fireplace surrounds, the color blue, and lots of silver and gold used together. LED fairy lights are found embedded in bookcases, sewn into curtains and draped on chandeliers.
This glamorous house just off Fifth Avenue has multiple indoor entertaining spaces to drink in, plus two posh outdoor terraces and a lavish roof deck with views of Barneys, the Pierre Hotel and a bit of Central Park. As you wander through the luxuriously appointed rooms, scented with $100 sandalwood candles and armloads of roses and peonies, you’ll catch a glimpse of what A-list homes are wearing all over the world. Lots of new high-end fabrics, wallcoverings, kitchen fittings, plumbing fixtures and furniture designs make their debut at Kips Bay. But remember, you have only through June 9 to stop by. After that, everything will disappear, just like Brigadoon.
This might be a good thing for Napoleon’s Lounge, since the walls and ceiling of this fifth-floor drawing room by Garrow Kedigian are covered entirely in chalk. Rajiv Surendra, a New York chalk artist, spent 10 days drawing architectural details in the 20-by-20-foot room, whose surfaces had been prepped with three coats of Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint. (A room this size would cost you about $20,000 for custom chalkboard walls and ceiling, if you wanted to have Kedigian and Surendra design it and draw it.)
“We wanted to create a formal French drawing room,” Kedigian says. “I was inspired by Napoleon, as he would create beautiful transitory spaces for himself to lounge in wherever he was.” The chalk work of Surendra, a professional calligrapher who also draws elaborate restaurant menu boards, gracefully re-creates a room in the French Empire period, with wall panels, medallions and columns.
Fresh ideas pop out everywhere: Check out the walls, floors and ceilings in each space. Eve Robinson created a refuge for art lovers with a ceiling papered in one of the Mars Collection wallcoverings by the brand Trove, which are based on images of the Red Planet. In the library by David Kleinberg Design Associates, the rustic look of sandblasted pine washed with gold on the fireplace, bookcases and door surrounds was tempered with Clarence House cotton velvet walls, in a color the designers like to call “mouse-belly gray.” In the Petit Salon by Sawyer/Berson, a chunky marble terrazzo floor with marble fragments in golds and greens sets off a custom gold velvet armless sofa with a fringe trim. “We like the sleek look of a single-cushion sofa and think the armless design is very modern and chic,” says Brian Sawyer, a partner in the firm.
Inspiration can come from many sources. For Victoria Hagan, a light-filled photo of sky, water and sand that she posted on Instagram gave her the idea for the Grand American Salon. She displays a blown-up image of the beach photo at one end of her large sitting room, with the word “Dream” superimposed on it. “I wanted to do a contemporary living room that reflects light and dreams,” Hagan says. “I wanted this to be a happy room.” The room has a strong, modern look and lots of comfortable seating as well as several elements of surprise: a monumental red lacquered fireplace and simple white window treatments dressed up not with fringe, but with a string of LED lights sewn into the hem.
In the Clive Christian Art Deco-inspired kitchen, there are numerous trophy-kitchen amenities to inspect. But don’t miss the Lalique crystal panels, based on a design from 1930s carriages on the Orient Express, and a dramatic bar lit with blue LED lights and fitted with a striking Kallista “Bacifiori” sink, in polished and hammered stainless steel. Speaking of bars, David Collins Studio took a cue from the famous Blue Bar that the firm designed for the Berkeley hotel in London (a favorite hangout of Madonna’s) for their moody blue entryway and staircase, painted with Farrow & Ball’s Cook’s Blue.
On the second floor, designer Alex Papachristidis created a shimmering dining room full of glittery details. The 18th-century English crystal chandeliers have been updated with strings of porcelain beads. A custom pedestal on the dining table looks like a stack of silver-and-gold glazed rocks, a work in ceramic by Eve Kaplan. The napkins on the elegantly set table are custom-embroidered with silver thread to go with the room.
The powder room, by designer Gil Walsh, has a large photo of Jennifer Lopez by celebrity photographer Tony Duran, which inspired sparkly details including a mica wallcovering by Baker and a Kohler Briolette vessel sink of faceted glass. Speaking of inspired, Lopez herself practiced her performing skills after school at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, which provides services for kids in the Bronx. This show is expected to raise around $1.4 million for the club’s programs.
The house is well worth a journey, whether by NetJets or BoltBus.
“Life is transient, and Kips Bay is transient. It will only be here for one month,” Surendra says as he glances over the result of his many hours of intense chalk drawing in Napoleon’s Lounge. Surendra, by the way, is also an actor; you may remember him as rapper and mathlete Kevin G. from the 2004 cult classic Lindsay Lohan comedy “Mean Girls.”
“People are in awe of chalk art because of its impermanence,” says Surendra, between selfie requests. “But that is the beauty of it. It’s like fresh flowers — you enjoy it and its fragility. So if the wall gets smudged, deal with it.”
Or, as Kevin G. said in his iconic line in the movie:
“Don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang!”
Kips Bay Decorator Show House is open daily through June 9 at the Carlton House Townhouse, 19 E. 61st St., New York. Admission is $35 and benefits the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club. For more information, visit kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.