The Kips Bay Decorator Show House occupies an unusual space this year — a three-floor neo-Georgian town house on the Upper East Side that long housed the nonprofit China Institute in America. Eighteen designers have had at it, including four with Long Island ties. Here’s a peek at some of the rooms.
IF YOU GO
WHAT The 45th Annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House, a fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girl Club
WHEN WHERE 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, through June 1, at 125 E. 65th St., Manhattan
INFO $40 at door or online; no entry 30 minutes before closing and no children under age 6; kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org
Dineen Architure + Design
A hand-carved wood swing by artist Christopher Kurtz hangs from the ceiling inside Manhattan-based Dineen Architure + Design’s master bedroom. “It adds levity to what could be a serious space,” says designer Alyson Liss-Pobiner, who lives in Manhasset. Designer Joan Dineen says the object brings back “that incredibly happy feeling” of being on a swing as a child, apropos for the room’s “memories and dreams” theme. It is one of the more imaginative items in the space, along with lamps made of computer chips in the 1970s by electronic sculptor Gerard Haas.
DIY TIP When decorating a room, “be an individual, and don’t worry if something is a little unusual,” Dineen says. “Express yourself.” To decide how to display an unusual piece, especially if it is large, such as the swing in this room, mock it up using big pieces of cardboard, she says.
New York and San Francisco designer and party planner Ken Fulk’s room came out of a “vision of an incredible grand dame known in later years for her dinner parties” — and her collection of animals that have escaped from the zoo and found refuge in her garden, says Sarah Lynch, Fulk’s editorial director. He calls the room “Madame’s Magical Menagerie,” filling the walls with a fanciful, colorful imagining of the beasts in the garden, all hand-painted off site on Chinese silk and then applied to the walls (at $2,250 per panel for 38 panels from de Gournay).
DIY TIP If inspired after seeing the room to paint your own make-believe on the walls of your home, take into account the scale of the animals in this room — they are life-size. “Ken really wanted it to feel like you were in the room with the animals,” says Lynch. She adds, “If you’re going to go all out and paint something, it should live alongside you.”
That is not a Persian carpet on the walls of Manhattan designer Richard Mishaan’s Parlor Room. It is wall covering digitally mastered from hand-painted wood panels rescued from a house in Syria that was built in the early 1600s (and 200 years later removed and installed at a house in Germany, and now in a museum). Its intricate, colorful, arabesque design exists alongside dozens of other objects with strong patterns of all types — including an actual Persian rug on the floor.
DIY TIP The lesson in this room is to mix patterns. “The more, the better,” says Mishaan, who owns a home in Sagaponack. “Go with it. Be bold.” The mishmash “becomes almost neutral,” he adds.
Designer Robert Stilin’s living room is like a really comfortable art gallery. From a pair of 1950s Franco Albini and Franca Helg lounge chairs, there are works from artists such as William Eggleston, Julian Schnabel and Helmut Lang on almost every inch of the walls, propped against the walls, even displayed on a wall behind a lamp.
DIY TIP Hang works salon style, says Stilin, who has offices in Manhattan and East Hampton. The arrangement “doesn’t need to follow a specific pattern.” He also recommends mixing mediums — for instance, pair paintings with drawings and photography.
Bakes & Kropp / Kate Singer Home
Using living room furniture near the kitchen has been on trend for a few years now; at the show house, Huntington designer Kate Singer puts a living room practically in the kitchen — this one designed by Bakes & Kropp of Manhattan and Sag Harbor. “It is a trend to have a great room living space connected to the kitchen,” says Singer, who coordinated with Robert Bakes and Paul Kropp on color palettes for their connected areas.
DIY TIP “It’s always nice to include a small dining table or game table in the family room,” says Singer. “It’s perfect for casual meals, board games, working on a laptop or lingering with the Sunday paper and a pot of coffee.”
Lichten Craig Architecture and Interiors
Lichten Craig Architecture and Interiors transformed an empty, unusually shaped, 250-square-foot service area in the basement into a sultry, luxurious bar with black silk walls. Designer Kevin Lichten says the firm used 500 pieces of brass in the room as well as bronze screens. "We used it to give the space some sparkle," says Lichten, whose firm is based in Manhattan and Chicago.
DIY TIP "Be careful with your lighting," says Lichten. "Don't just put a big, bright light in the middle of the room. Use many multiple sources of light at a lower intensity."
Savage Interior Design
In the two-story grand staircase and landing, Nashville designer Jonathan Savage uses custom designed canvas wall covering with a modern chinoiserie design in white plaster that was hand applied with a piping bag. The pheasant, deer, red fox, hoot owls and other animals, along with the poplar tree in bloom, speak to his native Tennessee. The covering was created in Los Angeles and shipped to New York and installed. He added mirrors to reflect the designs throughout the space.
DIY TIP "You don't have to do a whole room," he says. "You can create a panel and frame it." Or, if you want to do it yourself, trace stecils or use a projector and use paint instead of plaster.
Janice Parker Landscape Architects
The focal point of landscape architect Janice Parker's Bamboo Court is the play between a moon gate that she built with 1,600 6-inch pieces of pussywillow and a 400-pound bronze sculpture titled "Luna Mantle" by sculptor David Harber that lights up at night with a soft glow. It was Parker's ode to the building's former life as the headquarters for the China Institute of America. She helped restore the handmade pebble mosaic paving and other details in the space.
DIY TIP "When you have a small garden, you have to think more about the elements of design," says Parker, whose firm has locatations in Southampton, Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut. "It should be comfortable like a living room." Another idea for a small shade garden such as this: Always bring in chartreuse greenbery because "it makes everything pop," she says.
It's also for sale
ASKING PRICE $26.8 million
SQUARE FOOTAGE 10,600
OTHER Six fireplaces, 35-foot-wide garden
LISTING AGENT Louise Beit, Sotheby’s International Realty, 917-544-5515