by Marisa Marcantonio

Photos Courtesy of Rizzoli
Babe Paley's taxi cab yellow living room by Sister Parish

Adam Lewis does his research. The design writer spent ten years on the drilling down process, going through design archives for his newest book, The Great Lady Decorators by Rizzoli. On Tuesday night, he gave a captivating talk at the Grolier Club and a signing with Potterton Books. Not only is he a dynamic speaker, he was an Episcopal priest AND an interior designer! Much of his research involved Albert Hadley-- Lewis penned Hadley's book, and since he had worked with these ladies he shared great stories. Mr. Hadley sat in front of me that night, and it was great to hear him chuckle at the funny tales. One such tale involved a French designer who lived and worked in her shop, Madeleine Castaing. The great French decorator never liked things to look too neat. So when she vacuumed, she would reverse the flow to release dust into the air because she felt it gave the space more character! These women were nothing if not independent thinkers. He has selected the dames of design, featuring the works of Elsie de Wolfe, Ruby Ross Wood, Elsie Cobb Wilson, Dorothy Draper, Frances Elkins, Thedlow and Marian Hall, Syrie Maugham, Nancy Lancaster, Madeleine Castaing, Eleanor Brown and Sister Parish. Through a mix of period photographs and color interiors painted by Jeremiah Goodman, the book tells the design stories of these twelve legendary and influential women, sharing their decorating maxims and theories. Even if you are not familiar with everyone on the list, there is a great deal that can be learned from looking at the work of women who helped shape modern day interior design as an industry and as an art form from 1870-1955.

These designers were all ladies. Most either married someone of great wealth or had to find ways to support themselves after the war. Above, a Dorothy Draper room with coordinating floral elements and shapely chairs. Draper did mostly commercial work in the dramatic Baroque style, starting off with the Carlisle here in New York. If you walk through the elegant lobby today, few things have changed.

Syrie Maugham's entry hall in her King's Road home has richly painted walls and white accents. She is best known for her short period of designing all white rooms. Not practical but visually stunning.

A Frances Elkins room painted by Jeremiah Goodman with red upholstery. He uses bold colors in his work that come from his imagination and are not necessarily an accurate recreation. To him, nothing is more boring than realism. Elkins was one of the first designers to bring back Jean Michel Frank pieces from Paris.

Eleanor Brown's Sutton Place apartment with a round dining room. It is considered one of the finest rooms she designed. Brown was one of the only ladies that studied design, she took classes at Parson's after her divorce.

But there is more to come!
Never one to rest on his laurels, Adam Lewis is working on his next tome about Billy Baldwin due out in the fall.


by Marisa Marcantonio

California's La Cienega Boulevard Design Quarter will get some much deserved attention over the next three days with the first Legends of La Cienega Design Walk. By celebrating design icons in window vignettes, today's LA interior designers reinterpret the work of home decor legends. Benefiting Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles and sponsored by Elle Decor, a variety of design events are taking place through this Sunday, including book readings and panel discussions. Check out the full schedule at Elle Decor Legends.
For the shops that did not partake in the LA Antique Show, this is a way for them to get traffic. Over 40 decorative arts and antiques dealers in the area, the leading design district on the west coast, have banded together to form a supportive design alliance. This area needs all the interior designer rallying it can get, since fashion boutiques like Monique L'Huillier are slowly taking over.
Alluring window dressing was no problem for these designers. Below are some reasons to rubberneck:

Madeline Stuart honors Dorothy Draper at Downtown

McMillen, as created by Thomas Buckley at at Therien & Co.

Anthony Hail, presented by Jeffrey Hitchcock at Ralf's Antiques & Fine Arts

Sister Parish, exuberantly brought back by Joe Nye at Navona Antiques

At Paul Marra, a touch of zebra in a salute to Michael Taylor by Suzanne Tucker

Tony Duquette, channeled by Hutton Wilkinson at Baker Furniture

James Northcutt & Lou Cataffo, presented by Hendrix Allardyce at Jean de Merry

Chet Chidester, safari chic by Martyn Lawrence-Bullard at Woodson & Rummerfield's House of Design

Tim Clarke celebrates Mark Hampton at George Smith

Kim Alexandriuk tented the space in yards of fabric creating a Gladys Belzer moment at Bausman & Company

Suzanne Rheinstein presents a celebration of the legendary Elsie de Wolf at Downtown

All photos courtesy of Mark Savage and Elle Decor
Kalef Alaton with a light touch by Kerry Joyce at Rose Tarlow


by Marisa Marcantonio

Carleton Varney is the president and owner of Dorothy Draper and Co, the oldest established interior design firm in the US. Draper, the first female interior designer began her firm in 1923, and is known for her intensely colorful projects from residences, to large public spaces. The Greenbrier, perhaps her most famous hotel, was full of splash and charisma. Her look became known as Modern Baroque. The Draper- designed dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was seen in many films and made for a chic lunch with friends. Varney continues her design legacy, creating projects with the same vim and vigor.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
Carlton Varney recently worked with Kindel Furniture to create the Dorothy Draper Furniture Collection. The pieces look great together or on their own. Either way, they are all wow items. This display cabinet with Chinoiserie touches has a peach backing that creates a tropical mood with the white finish. Display collections, china or books.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
Draper was a master colorist, and the latest additions from Kindel were shown painted in aqua and coral hues. This chest is great bunched or alone.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
The perfect slipper chair is not easy to find. The proportion is just right, and the long fringe skirt is oh-so-feminine.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
A scallop apron on this table is another femme- touch that works well with a high gloss finish.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
What a piece! The architectural details and swags on this mirror make it the conversation piece of a room.

Photo Courtesy of Kindel Furniture
A comfy, easy tufted upholstered piece can look tailored and relaxed without being huge.


Punchy Rhododendron
Varney launched his fabrics in 1992, and many of them are available from Carleton Varney by the Yard. Happy prints like these create a fun atmosphere. I adore them and am sure they were a childhood influence-- the poppy color sense is hard to ignore.

Fazenda Lilly in white.

Les Fleures, a painterly multi-colored floral. I believe this was in our Long Island living room...

Princess Grace Rose in yellow.

Photos Courtesy of Pointed Leaf Press
Houses in My Heart captures Carlton's colorful career. His joie de vivre and use of dramatic, bold interior touches makes this book a treat to read. More is more is the mantra here, where theatrics are everything. Get your copy from Pointed Leaf Press, and click here to check the book tour schedule. You do not want to miss the great stories Carleton will share!

An elevator lobby at The Greenbrier had a crazy flower and trellis rug and Rhododendron fabric. Hmm, shall we say this was inspiration for Diamond and Baratta?

Melon and white are resort colors to be sure. Being greeted at this half moon desk with giant pediment must have made a big impact. On the left is the Chinese Chippendale Console that was modified for the Kindel piece shown above. What a fun way to showcase Chinese export china!

A watercolor for the Waikiki Sheraton in Hawaii. Prints and Parson's tables are great in this tropical locale.

On the left, the Trellis Lobby of the Greenbrier mixes 1948 trellis panels, a wild print at the window and the black and white terrazzo floor from the 1930's. The middle image shows the 1998 refurbished Trellis Lobby. At the right, a huge wooden pediment, green moire patterned carpet and red walls lead to the Lobby bar.

Carleton mixed Billy Haines pieces with orange and lime green in Joan Crawford's New York living room. Garden seats are making their big comeback, and I love how this bamboo lattice piece brings the garden inside.