Kips Bay Show House

Kips Bay Show House 2012

"Gentleman's Study" by David Scott Interiors.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Kips Bay Show House but I've only had the pleasure of touring the last 3 in person, its something that I make a point of visiting if I'm in NYC during the show house dates.  For the first time in its history the location of the show house was in a highrise and it was on the upper west side.  The tour includes two separate duplex penthouse units in the Aldyn building, a new development on Riverside Boulevard overlooking the Hudson River.  Since i've been designing a NYC family apartment for the past 10 months I was particularly excited about this years show house location.

I'm passionate about all genres of design, I'm always looking to experience and inform myself (and my eye) more about design whenever I the opportunity to tour a house full of designer rooms is irresistible to me.  And lets not forget its a charity fundraiser, for children.  I'm more than happy to support the cause and the design community while expanding my design data base. : )

There are many reasons why I enjoy touring the show house.  The rooms are designed by some of the most respected and highly published Designers in the US and some of the newest up and coming talent.  I love to see other Designer's work because its often in a style not like anything I've ever designed or had the opportunity to explore.  I particularly love the chance to see designer spaces IN PERSON which is a completely different experience than seeing them in print, its the full sensory experience including touch, sound and smell.  Many of the rooms have music playing and scented candles and flowers and textures that enhance the design concept in a way you could never achieve just through photos alone.

Below are a few glimpses of some of my favorite details.

"Gentleman's Study" by David Scott Interiors. 

This room was both Michelle and my favorite.  Its amazing how the smallest amount of colour can have so much impact, we both referred to this as the blue and orange room and you really remember the orange even though the orange was in very small doses.  I could have spent hours sitting in this room taking it all in, it was exquisite, the furnishings, the art, the objects - it was a master class in the art of display.

"Master Ensuite" by Charlotte Moss LLC

I assume the bathrooms were pre-existing as built by the developer and the designers decorated around what was already there.  What I thought was interesting in this bathroom was how a very contemporary bathroom was decorated with very (old world) traditional art and accessories, it worked beautifully and I loved this look.  For all those trad loving empty nesters looking to downsize, this is a good example of how you don't have to abandon your traditional style if you move into a modern condo.

"Master Bedroom" by Charlotte Moss LLC.

"Master Bedroom" by Charlotte Moss LLC.

Carpet runner with leather tie downs.  My absolute favorite detail in the entire house. Loved this.

"Bedroom":  by Mark Hampton

There was a lot of high gloss lacquered walls throughout the show house.  In this room I really liked the simple detail of how these prints were hung, each were hung by a decorative hook/ring fastened to the top of the frame.

"Le Bureau Prive": by RM & Associates

This is a terrible shot because of the direct sunlight streaming into the room,,but that in itself is the issue I was interested in as I deal with this all the time on projects.  Selecting window coverings for privacy, for sun control and/or as a decorative element is a huge challenge whether you have stellar views or not so stellar views, it can get complex.  You might have a million dollar view, but direct sunlight is a killer on fabric, wood and artwork.  So I always like to note how the designer treats the windows.  A sheer roman shade is one of my favorites and one that I've specified in my NCY reno project.

"The Conservatory":  by Neal Beckstedt Studio

"The Conservatory":  by Neal Beckstedt Studio

Another favorite room of mine, I was really drawn to this mix and all the various layers in the room and again how the designer dealt with 2 walls of windows in a very small space.  Where do you  hang art!?  In this space, they suspended it in front of the window, placed it on table top easles and leaned the art casually around the room.

The good and the bad thing about this type of show house is that every room or area is designed individually, done in the designers chosen style and concept for their given room.  There is no single design concept flowing thru the house, the rooms don't necessarily relate to each other so you have to keep in mind its more like viewing a series of 'show rooms' than a show house.   While most of the rooms weren't done in a style that I'm partial to, I do appreciate any style of interior when its well done.   With no client to deal with, these spaces are the perfect opportunity for designers to experiment, take risks, and have fun. And if you have an eye for detail, there were loads of great details.  Regardless of specific room styles, they are chock full of great design lessons by the pros such as; scale, proportion, furniture placement, colour, accessorizing, display, hanging artwork, dealing with windows, unsightly hvac units and integrating home technology.

Logistically there are a lot of challenges the designers have to work with - time, donations, and existing elements in the spaces that can't be changed.  When I look at any of these rooms, I always first try to understand what the designer's challenges were so then I can appreciate how they solved them.   I also appreciate the amount of personal time and funds each designer put into their rooms and the efforts they make to drum up and work with donated products, labour and services.  The best part is, in many of the rooms the designer will be there.  They truly love to talk about their room design and answer your questions - I guarantee your impression of the room will change after hearing about their process and vision.

A couple of other highlights that I don't have photos of was the room designed by Bunny Williams, Brian McCarthy and David Kleinberg which was a tribute to the late Albert Hadley, complete with some of his framed original sketches (Michelle spotted these instantly, his drawings inspired her career).  Another was the kitchen designed by Robert Schwartz and Karen Williams,,,,it was so interesting to see the kitchen counters built in front of a floor to ceiling window wall.  I currently have a kitchen being installed at a clients summer home north of Toronto, similarly, its designed with counters in front a low window, intentionally, the window is new but placed and sized to look as if it was part of the original house, maintaining the original character of the home but also creates more of a furniture look.

For Virginia ; )

Kitchen Design by Robert Schwartz and Karen Williams.  Photo via

If you are in NYC the show house tours continue through Thursday, June 14th.  For those of you who can't make it in person you can check out some beautiful photos of some of the show house rooms at this site.

All photos above:  Carol Reed

Garden Inspiration

At this time of year most of us are busy reviving our gardens and our exterior spaces, setting the scene for outdoor lounging and entertaining.  Or at least we should be,,,I havn't actually done a thing with our outdoor spaces or the garden yet, they've been sadly neglected while I've been soaking up inspiration in NYC (seriously, have not even been to the garden centre once).  I had a chance to visit the Kips Bay Showhouse last Thursday and with gardening on my mind I was struck by the backyard landscaping and the planter arrangements on the upper terraces.  I absolutely love creating planter arrangements, for me its like a mini landscape design project with instant gratification.  Before I hit the garden centre I do like to have some conceptual idea for my planters, the image above is loosely what I have in mind - largely inspired by what I saw last week and my love for lavender.   Whatever design direction you want to take outside there's unlimited options when it comes to containers and planting species - your planters can literally set the mood your after thru the style, colour pallette, scale and textures incorporated.  I'm going for organic and flowy paired with modern geometric shapes and a colour scheme of greens and purple.

Both of the fourth floor terraces of the Kips Bay showhouse were designed by Robert Stillen and Gunn Landscape Artchitects and were punctuated with modern plantings in a minimal style.  
These planters above were just outside the lounge space by Brad Ford, a pair of these flanked either side of the terrace doors.  I loved the vibrant green moss around the base of the tree (I think its a type of  lilac tree) and my favorite is the lavender in the smaller planter next to it.  The scent is heavenly as you go in and out the door and the long wispy stems have such an organic, flowy look to them.  I've always wanted to have lavender plantings and this year I think I'm goint to give it a try!

This trio of planters dressed up the painted brick wall in a niche behind some loungers. The low growing succulents are all about texture and planted in a pair of simple weathered wood boxes they created a modern composition.

On the other side of the fourth floor was a second terrace just outside the lounge designed by Robert Stillen. This time the weathered wood planters were filled with geometric boxwood  and another row of low wide zinc planters were filled with lavender (not the greatest photo).

Terrace design by Robert Stillen and Gunn Landscape Architects

Back on the ground floor I was fascinated with the mounds of molded earth in the backyard.  They were covered in long wispy grass which reminded me of the rolling grassy hills along the beaches of the east coast.  With large planters and lanterns set right in the long 'rolling' grass it really created a natural looking setting.

A large mirror on the centre of the back wall created the illusion of another room beyond, the mirror was flanked with large live wall panels planted with herbs and lettuces.  Despite the fact the wispy rolling grass reminds me of the east coast, the garden design was inspired by the Chinese wallpaper in the adjacent Dining Room.  The garden is titled Wu Wei which means 'going with the flow'.  Backyard design by Greener by Design.

I loved the simplicity of these planters and how practical they would be in locations that are challenging to maintain flowers.  What could be simpler than topping a container with a large lantern set in a bed of wispy grass.  

Live walls are one of the latest things in gardening this year but the photo above is a great example of a natural live wall I spotted in Central Park.  The old stone walls throughout the park had these ferns growing up out of them and I thought the effect was just so beautiful!  I don't think I'll be attempting any version of a live wall at my home this year but its definitely something I'll keep in mind for future hardscaping.

If like me you're still looking for some outdoor garden inspiration you must check out some more work by Gunn Landscape Architects for some stunning city terraces and lush country gardens.  These are some of the most gorgeous outdoor settings I've ever seen, from modern and chic to traditional and lush.

Upper West Side Terrace by Gunn Landscape Architects

Bridgehampton garden by Gunn Landscape Architects