PORTRAIT OF A LADY: THE ESTATE OF MRS. ASTOR AT SOTHEBYS

by Marisa Marcantonio

Mrs. Astor by Cecil Beaton, 954
She lived to be 105. And live she did. What a lady. The estate of the inimitable, hugely generous New Yorker Mrs. Brooke Astor goes on the block at Sotheby's September 24th and 25th. The catalogs have sold out. The furnishings, art and decorative accessories from her 14 room, 778 Park Avenue duplex and country homes of this epic philanthropist and pillar of society will be attended by many that want a piece of history. Parish Hadley designed her apartment, which includes the Hadley-designed library, the most wonderful lacquered room, which is now in the canon of great room history. Mark Hampton also worked on her residence.
When looking at the wonderful assortment of stuff, it is hard not to notice her love of animals, especially her beloved dachshunds, as there are lots of paintings and sculptures around the theme. For such a grande dame, her interiors were formal but cozy, and many chintz-covered chairs filled her rooms.  Fine French and English antiques, export porcelain, and truly stunning paintings and historically-important mementos will surface in the sale. It's nice to think that such an incredible collection will now find many new homes, to enrich and enhance people's lives with their beauty and elegance.  Pamela Fiori shared a heart-warming portrait of Mrs. Astor for Sotheby's At Auction Magazine. When asked the secret to her longevity, she responded, “an optimist, be curious, read every night, don’t meet the same people all the time (sooner or later, they become lazy, boring and repeat themselves), don’t be a cynic, don’t envy or be jealous…spend some time in solitude in order to reflect, meet different people (young people), travel, and, if you are rich, adhere to the Gospel of ‘The Joy of Giving.’
The proceeds from the sale will benefit her favorite charities, which is just what she wanted.

Photos courtesy of Sothebys
Her New York Living Room


The French mirror is exquisite

This screen is sure to fetch a big number

The dog paintings give such a warm feeling and personal touch to her home

Get ready for a major return to chintz. It's back in a big way

Her house's Memory Room with photos and mementos from her long life

A reading room with simple blue bookshelves

Her poolhouse, with cheery yellow and white striped upholstery looks like it would have been a perfect perch on a hot summer day

I knew I loved bamboo chairs, they add a casual feel to any interior

Pale hues in a living room are soft and femme

What do I have my eye on? This gold faux bois box. I love this moment.

 A shot from a country room with the prettiest painting of a white flower arrangement

A watercolor rendering of the living room in her country home

The room that leaves me speechless

Trimmed out in brass, what is chicer?

Owning a piece of history is going to be on everyone's minds as they raise their paddles

Accessories placed just so look great together

The palest of blue strie wallpaper balances flower paintings

Hello, chintz
 

 Chinoiserie Cut and Glass Mirror Mounted tole six light chandelier, 20th Century

John Frederick Lewis painting A Memlook Bey, Egypt 1869

Freddy Dachshund by Thomas Woodruff

Daschund figurines

 
A Chinese export pieced bone model of a pagoda, 19th Century

A large pair of Chinese Famille-Vert glazed biscuit figures of Buddhist Lions Kangxi Period


 
A pair of Chinese Export reverse-painted mirrors circa 1770

 
A Louis XV white-painted and carved low chair circa 1740

A set of 34 Fornasetti Porcelain Malachite Ground Plates, 1955

A pair of Regency style cream and green painted pagoda-form standing bookcases

 Oh the places you will go, or wish you were going with her 16-piece set of T. Anthony luggage.

DESIGNER BRITTON SMITH REFLECTS ON WORKING WITH ALBERT HADLEY

by Marisa Marcantonio

It is not everyday that someone gets to work beside an interior design icon like Mr. Hadley, "The Dean of American Design." Britton Smith, a designer at Albert Hadley Inc., has had a front row seat since he began there in 1998.
When I heard last month that Mr. Hadley was closing the doors of his firm, I knew I had to reach out to Britt, as he was there the longest. I was eager to find out what sage advice was offered, and how what he was privy to informed his design ethos. As Britt begins a new chapter forging out on his own, I wish him great success. I know he learned from the best, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last night I attended Rooms With A View in Southport, Connecticut, where designers who had worked with Mr. Hadley honored him, creating truly fantastic vignettes. Many incorporated his favorite shade of red, and other meaningful associations. Bunny Williams, David Easton, Thomas Jayne, Thom Filicia, Pamela Banker, Libby Cameron, Susanna Earls Carr, Harry Heissmann, David Kleinberg, Brian McCarthy, Brian Murphy, and Michael Whaley created the most unbelievable design moments in spaces spanning 5 feet x 8 feet. I encourage you to take a trip to Southport this weekend to check them out. You will be so glad you did!

A living room featured in House Beautiful in 2003

When did you join the office of Albert Hadley?

I am the last one left from Parish Hadley. I started there as second assistant in April of 1998 and got to be the lucky one to stay on board and carry over to Albert Hadley Inc. in 2000 until it closed last month.


Had you worked for a designer before?

I was more or less a professional student. I had a Business and Fine Art degree and then studied Fashion Design at Parsons (my third BA)...I worked as a collections assistant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute for 3 years as an intern while studying at Parsons. I then opened my own business in 1997 designing 100% natural and as environmentally friendly as possible luxury goods for the clothing and home furnishing industry. I developed a number of yarns, fabrics, textiles and dyes as well as a number of unique manufacturing processes- but eventually ran out of money and began decorating to make ends meet. I still own the rights to some of the things that I developed and hope to revisit them in the future.

Now that Mr. Hadley is retiring, what will you miss most about working with him every day?

I will miss the daily interaction with Mr. Hadley the most. I learned something new from Mr. Hadley every day, and it was a gift that I won't be able to replicate.


What are some of his memorable expressions that will stick with you?

Mr. Hadley often quoted Diana Vreeland "Give 'em what they never knew they wanted..." and "You can't reinvent the wheel."


What is the best advice he ever gave you/ ever gave a client?

I feel that one of the most valuable reminders that he ever gave me was that I am not a client - which basically means keep it real and don't live beyond your means. As well as being a refreshing reminder that we are "the help."

And as far as watching his interaction with clients, I feel that he gently encouraged them to speak up and take in active role in the development of their projects. Nothing was ever dictated- and the more the client participated in the project, the better it came out. I think that it is the collaborative effort that has the most successful and pleasing results. And- it is one of the reasons that there is not a cookie cutter look- as each project was tailor made for the individual.

How would he deal with using something the client owned and valued even though it may not have been a favorite of his?

Mr. Hadley cared deeply about the sentiments of the clients, and encouraged them to add their little touches. It is the "love" that makes the magic.


What are his top 3 favorite prints? Yours?

Mr. Hadley had his own collection of prints that he made on fabrics and wall paper for clients in any color combination imaginable. It had wonderful results because the potential was limitless. It was especially fun to have the curtains match the walls if you wanted too- and it made finding the perfect shade of 'your color' a whole lot easier.

There were prints of every scale in the collection -from little ditsy things like "Jigsaw"- which was an amorphous all over pattern that could be used on walls and ceilings (great for kitchens, bath rooms and hallways...as well as difficult apartment rooms with lots of beams that would ordinarily make it difficult to stop the pattern. It simply creates a background or texture, and is also great in closets.

And there were wonderful medium scale patterns like "Happy"- which Mr. Hadley first printed for Mrs. Rockefeller. It is also an all over pattern, suitable for walls and ceilings. It is a classic American design that transcends time- and can look modern or country- depending on what you do with it. There are several colorways available at Hinson in Brunschwig and Fils that are worth exploring. Mr. Hadley had prints like Tree of Life that are large scale, but also have limitless potential. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Hadley developed it for the curtains in Mrs. Astor's "Money Room". Although it is a print, it has the feeling of cruel-work. There is also a version available at Brunschwig.

Does Mr. Hadley have a favorite color and what is yours?

I would be inclined to say that red would be his favorite color if I were to guess. I don't have a favorite color, but one thing that I did learn is that there is no such thing as an ugly color- it just may not have been used in the right context. There is a Powder Room in Washington, DC that Mr. Hadley did with Gary Hager years ago that is a perfect example. If you were to look at a color chip I can almost guarantee that you wouldn't like it in the conventional sense. It is certainly not 'pretty'. However, when you see it in the context of the room, in a high gloss lacquered finish, together with the objects from the owner's collection- it is astoundingly chic and sophisticated. Magic in the sense that it never was in style, nor will it ever be out --it's simply beautiful.

What are the last 3 design books you have bought that you really love and why?

I tend to buy books in piles and was just at the Strand and bought a few more that I didn't have- The Houses of Greenwich Village, Rustic, the Colonial Revival House- all of which are inspirational and would have something for everyone. I was also psyched to find the two volume set of New York Interior Design 1935-1985 (by Judith Gura) which is a must have as a cross section of the development of Interior Design in this country. My copy of Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator (by Adam Lewis) just arrived this afternoon. Full of things that I haven't seen before, and I'm looking forward to reading it. As well as a copy of Beaton: The Art of the Scrap Book, which was a surprise gift from a client, and honestly one of the most exciting and beautiful thing that I've seen in a long time. My collection of books and magazines are the most important thing that I own. Some of my favorites include Decoration (Librairie Hachette 1963) which is a delicious collection of French interiors from Louis XVIII through Jansen in the 60's. The rooms range from rustic out buildings to Mies van der rohe to the most sumptuous of posh - but they are all crisp and fresh. The David Hicks series, Billy Baldwin series, Parish Hadley, and the Mc Millen book are all must - haves, as well as America's Small Houses (1964), Les Pavillons (Connolly and Zerbe 1962).

YOUNG TRADITIONAL AT MCMILLEN PLUS

by Marisa Marcantonio

"Taste is relative, but to be positive and vital it must respect the past, accept the present and look forward with enthusiasm to the future."
-Eleanor McMillen Brown, from Sixty Years of Interior Design

Christine Grace and Elizabeth Pyne head up McMillen Plus. Together, they take a younger clientele through the design experience, guiding them to stylish and fresh fabrics and furniture replete with the service and attention to detail McMillen is so known for. Established in 1924, McMillen is one of the oldest American design firms still operating today. By combining great style with business acumen, Eleanor was one of the first ladies of her generation to study interior design, and became a force in the industry. After three years at Parsons in New York and Paris she put out her shingle in a townhouse on 55th Street. One of her great strengths was the way she arranged furniture in a welcoming way. Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton, and Kevin McNamara worked there, and she allowed them to get credit for the work they did. With this history and service, McMillen has a way to attract the sort of client they always have. But now they are speaking to a new generation, the client that wants great design and ideas while leading a less formal lifestyle. You may have seen the House Beautiful article about the firm, explaining their important historical influence.
When I heard about the new division, I instantly wanted to learn more about it. Elizabeth is the third generation of “Sherrill” women – her grandmother, mother, and now she works at McMillen, which is a corporation, and owned by the partners of the firm. Elizabeth and I had both majored in art history and attended Trinity College, and her mother Ann went to my high school, so I reached out to her to get the story.

You recently joined McMillen, where your mother and grandmother are designers.

I joined McMillen seven months ago in November.

What did your grandmother teach you about design growing up? What is the best advice she ever gave you about design?

My grandmother has never sat me down to “teach” me. (That has been my mother’s role. And she is a fantastic teacher!) However I have learned by observing my grandmother in action:
My grandmother is always dreaming up new schemes. Ever since I was little, I remember her making additions to her houses and coming up with new projects. And she is always acquiring new objects for her houses (and all of ours), and building onto existing rooms. She changes her mind quickly and even at her age, she embraces new ideas that I never thought she would.

My grandmother (and mother) instilled in me the importance of longevity in design: One of my earliest memories is of choosing my bed (lace canopy) for my room at 580 Park Avenue. I was dying to have a bed where the canopy was gathered into a huge gold crown. And I remember my mother saying to me, “You can have it if you really want, but I think that you will tire of that gold crown in a few years, and then you will be stuck with something that you don’t like.” It seems very simple, and obvious, but I never forgot it. Whenever I buy something for myself, or I am looking for a client, I really try and think of the long term: is this a fabric that will get tiring after a while, is this a rug that can be reused in another space? And this type of thinking is most important, I think, for my clients, some of who are in rentals or are in smaller apartments. I encourage them to invest in things now that they can see themselves with for a long time and that could be transferred to other spaces.

How did growing up in and around beautiful, well designed interiors affect your sense of style and eye?

It spoiled my eye! I can’t help liking things that are well crafted. I used to lie in my bed in the mornings and run my fingers up and down my wallpaper, feeling the raised pigments. Today, I am so disappointed with wallpapers that are flat-feeling. Now that I’ve learned something about textiles and wallpaper, I realize that my old wallpaper was made with something like 28 screens. I think that I am more able to think of things in terms of schemes. Whenever I see an object that I love I immediately think: but how could I fit this into the scheme that I am working on? I am fascinated by the way things are made. When I was a little girl, I used to unravel the bullion fringe of our living room ottoman because I was so curious to see how the threads were twisted and woven together.

Your tastes run classic with a penchant for French 30's and 40's accents. Where do you think that came from?

I like those pieces because they are modern in feel, but they are also whimsical, with little hand-made details.

You studied abroad and traveled a great deal in Europe. What inspired and influenced you most?

What fascinates me about Europe – Italy especially – is the way that masterpieces are a part of the fabric of everyday life. And in Europe I get a sense that there are layers: civilizations and generations building upon one another. In Venice for example, the church of Madonna dell’ Orto is a 14th and 15th century structure; inside of it there are these huge canvasses painted by Tintoretto in the 16th century; the organ over the entrance of the church was built in the late 19th century; and now, in the 21st century, they continue to hold services there. And I love interiors that incorporate works of art and that have that sense of layering.

Studying art, especially old masters, was your passion. What made you switch tracks?

Art was, and still is, my passion. I love beautiful things. But I don’t think that my passion was just for old masters, or even paintings. Art for me is anything that is beautiful and moving: whether it’s the brilliant hues in a masterpiece by Bellini or the deep purple of a Manuel Canovas linen. I was drawn to interior design because now I have a chance to create beauty in interiors, instead of just studying it, or selling it.

With the starting of a younger division McMillen Plus, what are the goals of the new team and what is your focus?

The goal of McMillen Plus is to capture a younger client. One of our problems is that people, especially my age (29), think that McMillen is a little too “venerable” for them, and we are trying to counter that reputation.

However, we also think that we can offer young clients a lot of expertise that a lot of young decorators cannot offer their clients, i.e., I am working with, and having my ideas vetted by, designers and architects who have been doing this for thirty years.

McMillen offers a white glove experience. How do you think people's lifestyles have changed from when your grandmother began?

We still aim to offer a white glove experience, as I think all decorators should. Our job is to make decorating as smooth and as painless as possible for our clients. I think that is a major reason for someone to hire an interior designer: to have someone else chase vendors, supervise an installation, etc. And I don’t think that that will ever change.

One thing that I think has probably changed is that people are more comfortable with casual and simple looks, as opposed to overly formal and elaborate. This is even apparent when you look at what I wear to work: when my grandmother first started the older ladies of the firm would actually wear white gloves to work, whereas now I wear blue jeans all the time. But that’s not to say people want sloppy. I think people will always want an elegant and coherent look, and that is something that McMillen has always excelled at.

What does home mean to you?

Home is a place where I am surrounded by things that I love.

I went to visit her at home, in the apartment she designed. I love all the femme elements, cream and rose colors, and beautiful art placed thoughtfully in the space. I caught her on a night she was going out, hence the dressy dress!

An entryway leads into the sitting room, where glam upholstered Hinson chairs flank the fireplace and plush sheepskin rugs add a dash of old Hollywood. Black and white elements tie the rooms together and colorful vases with family mementos fill the bookshelves.

In her sitting room, she used coordinating fabric at the windows to match the Osborne and Little wallpaper. Floral and feminine with butterflies, the feeling is light and fun. A great set of antique metal furniture form a sitting area and an trefoil ottoman floats next to it.

Her living room has ottomans and places to perch during a cocktail party. Amassed over years, art collection extends to every wall in her home, even her bathroom has a wonderful Wyoming landscape.


The Osborne and Little window treatment fabric ties the room together. To find accessories and other special things, she spends time hunting for great vintage pieces, including her new Parzinger benches, upholstered in the original yellow leather.


She wallpapered her kitchen and powder room off the back of the kitchen in a small black and white pattern.

Her girly pink and white bedroom where she has combined mid-century modern pieces with traditional elements is cozy.

A classic Rose Cummings coral wallpaper creates a fresh palette for her white accented bedroom. As an avid collector of paintings and drawings, botanical prints hang above Elizabeth's modern desk. After working in the Old Masters Department at Sotheby's, she made the change to design.

By adding built in cabinets she has storage galore. A fold-up vanity from Conran's takes up a small amount of space. A piece like this makes getting ready for a night out a treat.


THE WEEK THAT WAS: TOASTING MARK HAMPTON'S BOOK AND ROOMS WITH A VIEW SHOWHOUSE AT BUNNY WILLIAMS

by Marisa Marcantonio

DUANE HAMPTON SIGNED HER BOOK ON MARK HAMPTON

The other night, Duane Hampton signed her new book, Mark Hampton An American Decorator at the product- filled design emporium, John Rosselli.

Signing away looking so chic in green.

Bunny and John enjoying the huge crowd that came to fete the book.


Gorgeous flowers arranged by Howard Christian, the manager of Treillage, John and Bunny’s store on 75th Street, sits next to a great shot of Mark.


ROOMS WITH A VIEW SHOWHOUSE PARTY




Rooms with A View, the showhouse at The Congregational Church in my hometown of Southport CT is held every November, and has long been supported by Albert Hadley. This November, in its 16th year, he is honorary Chairman, and the vignettes are to be designed by Parish Hadley alums, listed above. This showhouse is not to be missed!

A cut out of Mr. Hadley in all his glory. Honorary degrees were given to the PH alums for attending The University of Albert Hadley.


The diploma (!)

The Parish Hadley alumni include Bunny Williams, David Kleinberg and David Easton.


Beautifully arranged Dahlia's on Bunny's desk.

Peonies, Roses and votives arranged around the table by Johnathan Preece, the uber talented Creative Director at Bunny's is behind the party's flowers and decorations.


Everyone raised a glass to Mr. Hadley and his commitment and dedication to the charity. This shot was taken by THE Dennis Reggie!

Even the star pendants were adorned with candles and flowers by Jonathan.


Even Sampson, Harry Heismann's Frenchie made it to have a drink.