An inside look at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House

Atlanta designer Matthew Quinn's kitchen at the Kips

Atlanta designer Matthew Quinn's kitchen at the Kips Bay 2014 Decorator Show House on Madison Avenue faces the back of St. Patrick's Cathedral. (Credit: Barbara Alper)

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The austere and historic 1884 Manhattan brownstone once known as the Villard Mansion belies the decorating now inside.

The 42nd Kips Bay Decorator Show House brings together hip designers (think LA's Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the reality TV star with VIP clients such as Christina Aguilera), hot trends (Manhattan's Villalobos & Desio use strategically placed lamps to create chiaroscuro -- strong contrast between light and dark -- to sculpt a tiny space) and happening objects (that mahogany desk in the office and sitting room by Kirsten Kelli,  of Manhattan, appeared in "The Wolf of Wall Street"). More surprises await within.

PLAYING WITH FIREPLACES

O n the first floor, a room by Manhattan's Ingrao Inc., sets the tone for what's to come with its floor-to-ceiling fireplace cover -- at 15 feet by 9 inches and 2,000 pounds, the steel sculpture by Israeli artist Ron Arad curves delicately and deliberately into a seat for two heated by the flames. It took two days and 15 laborers to install the screen from its five pieces.

DIY TIP. While commissioning an imposing work of art may exceed your decorating budget, there are more attainable ways to use the fireplace to add boom to a space. Incorporate colored stones or display metallic objects, suggests Rob Johansen, an Ingrao designer and Garden City native. "A great, big, grand mirror above the mantel can create some wow," he adds.

FASHION FORWARD

It's hard to imagine that walls can be painted with eye shadow, until you see the Hollyhock Lounge. The unusual pigment -- painter Jonathan Kutzin's "secret formula," says Manhattan designer Young Huh -- is in the ladies' room. The painted ombre design turns from raspberry to rose to orange to gold to eggplant, depending on the light.

DIY TIP. It took three days to paint the 8-by-5-foot room with the ombre technique. To try ombre at home, Huh suggests starting with a skim coat, a technique to smooth the walls, then a gray semigloss base coat, she says. Continue with layers of tinted glaze, starting with the darkest color and proceeding to the lightest, she says.

SEEING RED

Manhattan architect William T. Georgis' Study in Red imagines where Cardinal Francis Spellman retreated when the mansion was owned by the Archdiocese of New York. (St. Patrick's Cathedral is across the street.) He uses various shades of red, from claret to cerise.

DIY TIP. "Red reads more of an ambience," says Georgis, noting how the shades  range from tones with blue all the way to orange. Instead of painting an entire room red, try a corner of it, he says. "Don't be afraid to work in colors -- green, blue, teal, turquoise," as he has in the show house, he says.

PASSING THROUGH

Hallways get their due at this show house, and it helps that the Stanford White-designed building is enormous inside. The Meyer Davis Studio in Manhattan fills the second-floor corridor with work by Brooklyn artists -- including a wall of graffiti by Victor Fung at one end of the space. Check out other treatments by Manhattan's John Douglas Eason Interiors, Brooklyn decorative painter Robin Sacks and Manhattan's SPAN Architecture.

DIY TIP. "Treat a hallway as an art space," says Chase Booth of Meyer Davis, making sure to consider not only the walls but the ceiling in passageways of a smaller scale.

GETTING INSPIRED

Designer Christopher Peacock found inspiration for Lady Penelope's Dressing Room from "Thunderbirds," a 1960s science-fiction television show with puppets that he watched as a child in England. Penelope was the glamorous secret agent. The Pepto-Bismol-colored walls here are fashioned after her pink six-wheeled Rolls-Royce. After getting past the color, you will notice the 24-karat gold fixtures and leather trim inside the closet, which is filled with Pucci as an homage to Penelope, a fictional fashion icon.

DIY TIP. Peacock estimates it would cost $60,000 for the 15-by-10-foot closet, a cost he justifies by explaining that good clothes need to be properly stored. Soft surfaces should be put down for handbags, and shoes need a place to be kept upright. "You can do this on a budget," says Peacock, who suggests ways to cut the cost, such as creating closets without doors.

WHAT. 42nd Kips Bay Decorator Show House, a fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in the Bronx

WHERE | WHERE. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays at the Mansion on Madison, 457 Madison Ave. between 50th and 51st streets

INFO. Children younger than 6 (including infants) and pets are not allowed entry; no entry a half-hour before closing; $35; 212-755-5733. Find further information at kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org

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