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.


LEGENDS OF LA CIENEGA DESIGN WALK- LA'S DESIGN HAPPENING OF THE MOMENT

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

MORE FROM KIPS BAY: DETAIL DRIVEN

by Marisa Marcantonio

Charles Eames famously stated, "the details are not the details, they make the product." Many designers used decorative painting as a way to add panache. Graphic geometrics, faux finishing and stripes can have a tromp l'oeil effect, making a big space seem smaller and a small space seem bigger. Painting can be an economical alternative to a rug and creates visual interest.


An M.C. Echer- like floor in McMillan room entrance look like they recede, and a pattern like this probably was inspired by Florentine marble inlay floors of the Renaissance.


Concentric squares in black and white is bold and fun, and makes this small space lively.


Natasha Bergreen and Liza Cousins created a chair rail out of tape trim, varied nail heads and painted lines. Faux bois Zig-zag stripes on the lower part of the wall draw the eye up, and the finishing touch is a small grey line at the base of the wall where it meets the floor, creating insta- molding.


Grey stars on the field of a sisal rug provide a distinctly American charm. Zing up a natural material with a painted stencil to get a country feel. The Stencil Library in London has the best designs.


Garrow Kedigian created simulated molding with pinstripe painting. Very clever.

OTHER DETAILS OF NOTE:

Charlotte Moss had a velvet pillow embroidered with pretty scrolls and flourishes.


Juan Montoya placed tiny porcelain flower-filled cache pots all in a row. Set on an architectural giltwood console, it is an elegant, symmetrical statement. A vignette like this is so simple, yet it oozes charm.

STYLEBEAT STANDOUTS: KIPS BAY ROOMS THAT RESONATE

by Marisa Marcantonio

Tiny rooms ruled the day at this Kips Bay. Making a space cozy can be as much of a challenge as filling a huge room with seating arrangements. Floral motifs, special painted details and bright color stood out this year. Below are the standouts, providing beautiful ideas, fun elements and unexpected touches. The rooms are spread out over 5 floors of a massive townhouse.
Albert Hadley was the Honorary Chair this year, so many designers added a Hadley element in their rooms to pay tribute. Further uptown, Gerald Bland, antique dealer of all things understated and elegant, mounted a show of Hadley's iconic interior drawings for the occasion. They are worth seeing.



A Christopher Maya vignette greets visitors as they enter the showhouse. Chairs with colored tufting have become one of his signature elements .



He used an ikat print as the dominant pattern the large first floor entry foyer.



A round table grounds the large hall space. His clever use of screens make the space more intimate.



Blue and white Chinese vases dot the mantel and ikat shades on a huge chandelier pull the scheme together.



Small seating arrangements in plum velvet with a wide swath of ikat make for easy conversation.



The first room that guests enter into on the main floor if that of Bunny Williams Inc and Beeline Home, called Tous Dans Un: All In One. I have profiled her collection in the past, seen here, mixed with antiques and fun touches. A red Egg Chair and framed Hadley interior drawings on the mantel are a nod to his favorite color.



Two enormous paintings by British public relations gal turned painter Sarah Graham dominate the room. The bright turquoise and green tie in with the Tiffany blue walls.



Painted sisal with Hadley stars and a bold border add a graphic element to the floor.



A long table serves two purposes-- one side is set for two and the other is a makeshift desk. Mango and turquoise colors create an island feeling in a city setting. Behind the table, a Thomas Hope bookcase grounds the wall.



Amy Lau for Maya Romanoff decorated the first floor staircase with beautiful handmade paper flowers that grew out of paper tree branches. The huge blooms added instant artwork to the vast walls.



Charlotte Moss's created a master bedroom suite,complete with a Michael Devine fabric-draped entrance. In typical Charlotte style, the 2 rooms are girly, with pretty things everywhere. Sumptuous details include embroidery, walls filled with framed artwork, charming small furniture pieces and special antiques.



Matching consoles flank the fabric- filled entryway that lead to the sitting room.



Her vast list of resources were highlighted on a long, framed list that was hung off a 4 sided revolving picture easel. It's all in the details!



D. Porthault linens on a Louis XVI day bed create a relaxing space, very French in feel.



A huge urn of flowers on a pedestal create just the right amount of drama with height and mass.



In addition to the bed and desk area, a casual seating area welcomes guests.



A Jansen desk is loaded with stationery, pretty storage boxes, a small flower arrangement and everything else a busy lady needs at her fingertips. A mini telephone table puts the modern technology to the side, so the beautiful elements are the focal point.



My favorite piece is this low slipper chair, upholstered in a classic floral. It is a spot to perch or put things.



An Italian marble console breaks up the wall that leads from the sitting room to the charming bedroom space. Monochromatic burgundy flowers add a pop of color to the serene palette.



In the bedroom, grey blue De Gournay tea paper offset a solid fabric- draped canopy bed, surrounded by mismatched end tables.



Matthew Patrick Smyth worked with Gloria Vanderbilt, recreating the bedroom of her youth. This 1940s room was faithfully reincarnated from an aunt’s house near Washington Square Park. She lived there when she was 16, after living in hotels up to that point. This was her first real bedroom. A Swedish clock, Indian chair and velvet quilt make for an eclectic, feminine retreat.



Her Washington Mews view in winter is painted at the window, and adds a charming vista through silver grey silk drapery.



Frills can delight a young girl. A sumptuous daybed and linens are soft pink and blue grey. Gloria wrote a message on the Silver leaf wallpaper from Schumacher, giving her room a personal touch.



A 1920's Peacock- filled screen and inlay table sit in the corner-- reminders of her well- traveled youth. The exoticism and mix of these pieces was unexpected in the 1940's.



Joe Nye was inspired by Otto Zenke, a 1960's Palm Beach decorator. Burnt orange walls covered in Phillip Jeffries raffia grass cloth and a mustard yellow ceiling tie the color scheme of his two small rooms together. Pops of color from a Le Menache floral fabric coordinate with Grosfield House Swag back chairs and cabinets from Joe Nye New York at Claremont.



Yellow Peking glass and Orange Crush soda bottles bring humor to the small second sitting room.



Art and color converge with Leger prints. The lesson here is to have fun with decorating.



A black Muirfield bench grounds all of the sunny brightness.



McMillen's room was a barrel- vaulted space they turned into A Gothic Inspired Dining Room. You can tell they had fun with the room. It incorporated whimsical touches-- quirky dining chairs covered in a zig zag stripe added a fantastical quality. Here, a feature wall covered in Stark Brambles showcases Gregory Kuharic's white Gourd Forms from Liz O'Brien. Their unique forms add a playful element.



Color Vibe by Eileen Kathryn Boyd was yet another explosively colorful example. Lime green, orange and hot pink are coordinated through accessories, fabrics and artwork. It was refreshing and lively, perfect for a warm climate.



In contrast, Donald F. Schermerhorn's space called for serenity now. Greys, eggplant and eggshell colors in his Loft Lounge with a floating bed, glass fireplace wall and seating area were a sea of calm.



The solid chair forms are lightened by the floor length panels at the window and vase stands that hold Chinese glazed pottery jars from Florian Papp. An abstract oil painting in matching tones complete this exercise in tranquility.



Garrow Kedigian's The Artist's Retreat was a tiny area on the top floor. A seating area with a wall banquette and table had a Neoclassical and Greek motif. This masculine work space combined classic elements, including Tuscan red walls with a a cream inset border to match the Greek Key rug.