Posts Tagged: Blogfest 2012


I am still overwhelmed with inspiration and information from my recent trip to New York. The Kips Bay Showhouse was the perfect way to kick off Blogfest 2012. It was such a pleasant surprise to meet several of the designers that created the spectacular settings at the Aldyn.  They were all extremely approachable, friendly and willing to share their inspiration behind their interiors.  Here are a few favorites…

Jamie Drake and Admirer (Moi!)
Photo courtesy of the New York Times

The “Library” was designed by Jamie Drake. There were so many incredible decorative details in this room. The ceiling was covered in a hammered silver wallpaper. One side of the room was anchored by deep emerald painted bookcases and the other included a seating area with the focal point of the painting, “Winter Gate,”  by Andy Harper from Danese. Mr. Drake pulled the colors out of the painting to uses an accents around the room repeated in the sofa pillows, books and flowers. A collection of sleek art deco side tables, a contemporary cocktail table, 1930s ceramics and a mid century desk made by Jules Wabbes completed the room.

Brian del Toro’s “Study” was magnificent. At first glance, the walls appeared to be covered in peacock blue wallpaper, but were actually a custom painted finish using 2 shades of paint in two different sheens to achieve the panelled effect. The shamrock green upholstery fabric from Schumacher on the parchment deco chairs popped against the peacock blue background. The sculptural mirror above the sofa reflected light all around the room. The mixed media collages, black and white abstract and and deco furnishings were sophisticated, modern and timeless.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Bryant Keller set a dramatic tone with this wallpaper designed by Flora Scalamandre in the 1940s. In his New York times article, Guy Tribet explained the significance of selecting this particular wallaper,

“That the wallpaper was a visual trademark of the late lamented restaurant Gino’s is itself a knowing wink to the profession, since it was to Gino’s or else the Isle of Capri on the Upper East Side that decorators of yesteryear typically repaired after a grueling day gathering samples at the Decoration & Design Building on Third Avenue, slipping off their Belgian loafers under the table and fortifying themselves with strong drink.”

“The Cabana” by Scott Sanders was by far the most vibrant room in the showhouse. The split pea grass cloth by Phillip Jeffries was the perfect backdrop for the artwork and turquoise fabrics and finishes he used throughout the space. We visited the showhouse on such a dreary day and when you walked in this room, it made you feel like the sun was shining and lifted everyone’s spirits.

Holly Hollingsworth Phillips, Thom Filicia and Yours Truly

Ever since Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I have had a huge design crush on Thom Filicia. His “Gallery” for the showhouse must have been the most challenging room to design of all of them.  It was situated right in the middle of the space with an opening on each of  the four walls.  There was very limited wall space to make an impact, yet he still managed to do so with the his creativity.  The walls and ceiling were lacquered in emerald green (a recurring color in this year’s showhouse).  The walls were so shiny that you could see your reflection. He treated each of the openings with portieres which added softness to the space and filled very vertical space with artwork. All fabrics and carpet were from his own collections for Kravet and Safavieh.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Adjacent to Thom’s gallery was the “Dining Room” by Todd Alexander Romano.  This room was quite the showstopper.  Its double height ceiling and lack of architectural detail must have been impossible to work with, yet Todd pulled it off beautifully.  The aubergine walls are stunning and the apple green silk on the dining chairs visually connect to Thom’s gallery. The Murano glass chandlier  was from the 1950s. The dining table was made of smoked glass and tied in with the aubergine walls.

Guy Tribet of the New York Times describes Mr. Romano’s space, “The narrative that suggested itself to Mr. Romano involved a gallery. He would treat the ungainly dining room as a space well suited to die-hard Manhattanites of a type that, as Marlene Dietrich once noted, tend to be hungry for everything except food.” 

He would alter the proportions and the mood of the too-tall room by painting the walls a nocturnal hue, a color he called aubergine.

Aubergine, of course, is French for eggplant, and one of the enduringly charming traits of those in the decorating trade is that, being in the fancying-up business, they seldom prefer a dull English word when a swanky-sounding foreign one is ready at hand. (Take, for example, that Louis XV armchair — uh, fauteuil.)

Mr. Romano knew instantly, or semi-instantly, that he would cover the walls with big modern paintings by Rachel Hovnanian and Marc Van Cauwenbergh and hang a faceted poison-green 1960s Italian mirror, and that he would place in the middle of the neutralizing sisal rug an octagonal Alessandro Albrizzi table, with room to seat six to eight people, an ideal number for dinner because, he said, "Less is boring and with more you get no general conversation."

He would arrange around the table French Empire chairs because, he said, referring to himself in the third person in a way that somehow seems unstudied, "there will always be a French chair in a Todd Alexander Romano room."

He would borrow from Guy Regal at Newel Antiques an immense 42-arm 1940s Venetian chandelier, using it to anchor the space. He would add a pair of ivory “Bunny” porcelain lamps from Christopher Spitzmiller atop a white-painted, 19th-century English console table. For an added touch of whimsy, or possibly madness, he would mount a monumental brass giraffe bust by the Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamante high on one wall.

He would accessorize the space with amethyst geode cathedrals and a bomb-sized hunk of terra cotta in the shape of a pineapple and, when he was finished with all that, the imaginary family Mr. Romano conjured up to inhabit the room might feel when dining as if they were appearing nightly in a remake of “Boom” and not merely sitting down to General Tso’s chicken eaten straight from the container.

THIS, perhaps, is the place for a reporter to declare himself. I love decorators. I love the idea of their odd, now struggling profession, with its famous lineages (Parish-Hadley, McMillen Inc., Colefax and Fowler) reminiscent of circus dynasties (think Flying Wallendas).

I admire their skills, their professional lore, their gifts as psychologists and mind-readers called on to enter strangers’ houses and help those strangers feel somehow more at home. It must take moxie to convince others you have better taste than they do, since taste, after all, is little more than habit and can be acquired.

There is something else. The decorators of this city, people tend to forget, keep thousands of local crafts and tradespeople employed, not the least of these the woman who lives in Far Rockaway and makes by hand the paper lampshades Mr. Romano places in the houses of clients around the world.”

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Chuck Fischer created the charming Chinoiserie sketch in the top photo for the decorative painting he would use his his room.  Chuck is not only an interior designer, but a decorative painter and muralist as well. The lightness of his hand is evident is the execution of the painting.

All photos by Bespoke Banter unless otherwise noted.


The A-Ha moment is one of clarity.  It is a defining moment when you gain real wisdom that can be used to change your life. This moment can be inspiring, surprising, original, deeply personal and worth sharing. It often arises when there is an obstacle that needs to be turned into an opportunity.

Last week at Blogfest 2012, the editors from House Beautiful encouraged us to share an A-Ha moment from our design work.  Up and coming designers Michael Herold, Jill Goldberg, and John Call shared their A-Ha moments with the group and challenged us to do the same.

My A-Ha moment came while working on the Pink House, a unique respite for breast cancer survivors and the Carolina Breast Friends organization. The Pink House serves breast cancer survivors in numerous ways: Wellness Education, Library and Computer Research Center, Fitness and Nutrition Centers, Self-Image Services, Arts & Crafts Workshops, and Counseling Services.

When I first saw the house, it was a beautiful historic home that had recently been renovated, but there were no funds to furnish the interior. What seemed like an insurmountable obstacle at the time turned into the most wonderful and fulfilling opportunity.

Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Living Room
The Living Room
Upholstery from Charles Stewart
In order to raise funds for the interior, we held a ladies-only “Pink Party” in November of 2010.  In one evening, we raised enough the furnish the first floor of the Pink House. Then, we approached several vendors and workrooms to see if they would be willing to donate their time and talent to help with the cause. Many were cancer survivors themselves and were thrilled to have the chance to help out. Thanks to the donations of the Charlotte design community, we were able to complete the entire house which opened its doors in May of 2011.
Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Living Room
The Living Room
Accessories donated by Circa Interiors and Antiques

The organization wanted us to create a sophisticated, calming and feminine atmosphere.  This was a haven where women would come together for fellowship, support and inspiration.

Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Living Room
The Living Room
Re-upholstery donated by Design Services, Inc.

Albert Hadley said, “Decorating is not about making stage sets,…it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.” We wanted the survivors that entered this space to feel like their spirits had been lifted and their souls nourished.

Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House/ Artist Kate Long Stevenson
Painting donated by Kate Long Stevenson
in honor of her friend Neil Maddux Miller

We found several pieces at local flea markets and tag sales. With some refinishing, new paint and re- upholstery, we were able to turn others people’s cast off furnishings into beautiful pieces for the Pink House.

Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Dining Room
The Library
Window Treatments donated by
Custom Window Treatments
Several fabric houses such as Kravet, Lee Jofa, Cowtan and Tout, Jane Shelton, Pierre Frey and Schumacher gave us discounted fabrics so we could stay on budget.
Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Sunroom
The Sun Room
Carpet donated by Stark

When we first began this project, I honestly did not know if we would be able to pull it together. We had several different rooms that needed to flow together along with random assortment of found items and upholstery that needed some unifying element. I finally understood the expression “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!” Fortunately, we ended up with our A-Ha moment and we were all thrilled with the final product.

Catherine M. Austin Interior Design/ Pink House Exterior
The Exterior
Renovations donated by J.E. Dunn Construction
To make the experience even more satisfying, we were completely humbled by everyone’s kindness and generosity.  Not a single person we asked declined to help. This greatly added to our A-Ha moment- bringing a community’s talents together for a higher cause!!!
Yours truly with Newell Turner, Editor in Chief of House Beautiful
and Beth Greene, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Branding
for Kravet, Lee Jofa and Brusnchwig & Fils
To read the full blog on The Pink House , please click here.


Two months ago, the design world lost one of their most beloved legends, Albert Hadley.  Much has been written about his legacy over the past several weeks and the impact he had on the design community.  He was known most of all for being a gentleman and a scholar. Mr. Hadley had an immense knowledge of design history which he graciously shared with all of his clients and colleagues. Despite being a classicist, he was also a bold risk taker and not afraid to mix modern and innovative materials and designs. This brave and original creativity elevated him to saint like status and will forever be known for his unprecedented contribution to 20th century design.

The most delightful attributes of Mr. Hadley were his sincere modesty, kindness and generosity. He was constantly encouraging young designers, sharing his wisdom with them and making sure they were being recognized for their talent and participation in his client’s projects. Many celebrated designers began their careers with Mr. Hadley such as Bunny Williams, Thomas Jayne, Mariette Himes Gomez, David Easton, David Klienburg, and Brian McCarthy. He was known for telling them, “Kiddo, give them what they never knew they wanted.” 
This past week, I had the privilege of seeing the Kip’s Bay Show House where Mr. Hadley’s proteges, Bunny Williams,  David Kleinberg and Brian J. McCarthy dedicated their room to “ALBERT HADLEY: Our mentor, our teacher, and our dear friend.” Below you can see some of his most famous rooms and quotes. Next you can see how these brilliant designers created a room in his honor.
Photgraphy by Fernando Bengoechea
Mr. Hadley in His Living Room
Domino Magazine
Inspiration Board
Veranda Magazine
Mr. Hadley’s Apartment
Mr. Hadley’s Modern and Spare Bedroom
Photography by Fernando Bengoechea
A Fine Romance: Mr. Hadley and Ms. Parish
Courtesy of Albert Hadley Archives
Residence of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Druckman
Sutton Place, New York City
Photography by Fernandoe Bengoechea
Residence of Frederic R. Courdet III
Courtesy of Albert Hadley Archives
Residence of Nancy “Princess” Pyne
New Jersey
Courtesy of Albert Hadley Archives
Mrs. Astor’s Famous Library
New York City
Courtesy of Albert Hadley Archives
Photo via Habitually Chic

Architectural Digest sponsored the kick off party for Blogfest 2012 at the Kip’s Bay Show House.The  Great Room was designed by Bunny Williams, David Kleinburg and Brian McCarthy in honor of Mr. Hadley.  Their blend of modern art, clean lines and a few red touches with have made their mentor very proud. The Corbusier tapestry from Jane Khan Gallery was the focal point for the room. The other artwork was from Gerald Bland. You can see one of Mr. Haley’s trademark zebra hooked rugs in the foreground of the image. The rug along with the kuba cloth and vintage ikat pillows belonged to Bunny Williams to add an ethnic vibe to the space.

Please note that the images of the show house are from  Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic.  You can see her blog on the space by clicking on the link above.

The two images above show a few of Mr. Hadley’s favorite things. He apparently lived on gin and cigarettes and could care less about fine wine and food according to his old client, Siri Mortimer mentioned in Veranda’s tribute to Mr. Hadley. His “DON”T FORGET” pads where always on his desk.  All party guests received an identical pad in our bag of swag as we left the party.

Another highlight was meeting Margaret Russell from Architectural Digest. She was kind enough to let a few Charlotte designers take our picture with her.  Here, Holly Hollingsworth Phillips of The English Room, Beth Keim of Lucy and Company and myself learn a few tips on how to pose for a picture. You can also check out their blogs to read about our NYC adventures this past week.

When I arrived back in Charlotte, I had a lovely surprise waiting on my my front stoop.  The interior drawings I had purchased from the Albert Hadley sale on One King’s Lane had arrived! I am thrilled to have these historic mementos from such an amazing man. Happy Memorial Day to ALL!


Next week design blogs will be blowing up with editorial commentary from Blogfest 2012.  The event has been organized specifically for interior design bloggers by host sponsors Kravet, Lee Jofa, and Brunschwig and Fils. The fabric houses have partnered with the industry’s top design magazines to plan 3 days of programs in stunning settings with today’s interior design icons.

Architectural Digest’s Editor in Chief Margaret Russell welcomes the designers to Blogfest at the Kips Bay Decorator Show house.  I do not know if I am more excited to see the show house or to meet the charming Ms. Russell!  I became a huge fan of hers during her early days at Elle Decor and more so watching her as a judge on Bravo’s Top Design with Kelly Wearstler and Johnathan Adler.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the show house which benefits the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. Typically the show house takes place in a townhouse or brownstone. The 2011 show house will be in two 6000 plus square foot penthouse units above the Penn Station rail yards at the Aldyn overlooking the Hudson. The designers have been faced with the monumental task to turn these empty rooms with little architectural detailing and massive windows into aesthetically pleasing and breathtaking spaces. In today’s New York Times, Bunny Williams, the show house chair and design guru, comments that visitors come to see the show house, “for the fantasy, the playfulness, and the flair of artistry.” Guests can escape the reality of everyday life and appreciate the time and talent these designers have donated all to raise money for a wonderful cause.

After the kick off event at the Aldyn, we will then head to SoHo to Savant to have cocktails with the dashing Thom Filicia. Thom designed their massive showroom which integrates Apple based technology into beautiful room settings as seen below. As a self diagnosed I-Phone and I-Pad junkie, I cannot wait to see how this technology can streamline everything in the home from the lights and thermostat to becoming a personal media player and sound system.

The evening wraps up with an after party at Savior Beds, started by London’s Savoy Hotel in 1905. This luxury brand has only recently established a presence in the US after opening showrooms in Paris, London, Berlin and Shanghai. These bespoke beds were the favorites of Sir Winston Churchill, Giacomo Puccini and Marilyn Monroe.  Then, we are literally off to bed to rest before the festivities the next morning….More to come on Day 2 tomorrow!