by Marisa Marcantonio

Great English country houses have inspired legions of American designers over the years. Taking their cue from defining moments in great British interiors, like the cozy, intimate room arrangements, floral wallpapers, sweet patterned chintz's and elaborate trim work, many a decorator looked to the hallowed halls in England for ideas. Nicky Haslam, the ageless London decorator and swell of the social swirl, is lucky enough to own a home in Hampshire,  England, the former home of great British design icon, John Fowler, partner in the esteemed Colefax and Fowler. The Hunting Lodge, built in the dynamic Jacobean Revival style,  has been restored to it's former grandeur by Haslam, and is the subject of his forthcoming book with Rizzoli, Folly de Grandeur. Turned into a cozy escape in a bucolic setting,  the house provides the ideal backdrop for entertaining while being an escapist sanctuary.  The understated interiors are lush gardens are done up in a way that shows how spaces can be warm and inviting, and at their core, veddy veddy British. Appearing in the March/April issue of Veranda, Haslam's home is accompanied by an article written by Mario Lopez-Cordero, a great interviewer and writer I know from my House Beautiful days. It really captures the sense of place and fresh charm Haslam has brought back to the Hunting Lodge, a true historic treasure.

Photos courtesy of Veranda

So true, a return to pretty is upon us! The March/April issue of Veranda celebrates that pretty is always in style.

Photos by Simon Upton

The 16th century brick lodge's facade with elaborate, soaring gables. Arched windows and potted manicured topiaries make up a patio garden closer to the house.

The living room has plenty of upholstered seating to sink into.  Slightly askew cushions make the lived-in space even cozier. Choosing to keep the rosy brown Sienna Pink washed wall hue done by Fowler, Haslam created a great spot to gather by the fire. He shared his design take on the intimate spaces he created, saying, There’s a slight carelessness to the decor that looks impromptu. It’s not a stamp of English decorating as it is now, but as it’s always been—to look like one hasn’t tried too hard. All the edges are rubbed off. The atmosphere has to have a lot of patina and probably a lot of dust.”

A busy, climbing floral Mauny wallpaper kept from Fowler days is the backdrop for a portrait of Haslam's mother and a well-stocked welcoming bar. Meaningful decorative accessories provide a personal take, truly reflecting the owners interests. That certain British combination of antiques, florals and overstuffed upholstery makes everyone instantly feel at ease.

The bedroom ceiling is made to look even higher by Fowler's application of a wallpaper border vertically running up the wall. What a great way to add height. I have been seeing a lot of great paper borders lately, is this technique ripe for a comeback? Long silk panels at the windows are framed by tailored valances trimmed in red. So chic.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli
A Horst photo of the Lampham Living Room in Greenwich, Connecticut where a floral chintz grounds the room, covering a turkish divan and chair. The mix with antiques sets the stage for comfortable entertaining.

If there is one book you must add to your design library this season, this is it. Often referred to as the most influential American decorator, interior designer Billy Baldwin's work and life have been painstaikingly chronicled by Adam Lewis in Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator from Rizzoli. Spending five years on the research, Lewis spoke to past clients, employees, friends and assistants including Deeda Blair, Edward Lee Cave, Albert Hadley and Harry Hinson, culling their anecdotes and the story of his rise in this fantastic book. Many of the images in the book are being published for the first time. I own Billy Baldwin Decorates and Billy Baldwin Remembers, the rare out of print books he published in 1973 and 1974, but many of the photos are grainy and black and white. In this book, the color reproduction is bright and clear, and the genius of the most important designer of the twentieth century really comes across. The photos have inspired countless young decorators and will continue to do so for years to come.

Baldwin was quoted in the New York Times in 1965 saying, "We in this country have the greatest taste level in the world. Maybe it's because we are young; we've always been on the way up and have never had to come down. I can't tell you how American I am." He believed America had the best decorating in the world, since we did not have to rely on past periods of design styles like the English and French. As a young country, he thought, we were full of fresh design ideas, and could do thinks in design that had never been done before.
He was raised well to do in Baltimore and surrounded by cultured influences from a young age, which prepared him for high society early on. After trying several jobs without success, his mother helped launch his career in design, by introducing him to his first boss, Ruby Ross Wood. Wood lovingly called him Billy B., and staunchly believed in his talents. Along with a cadre of stylish and influential friends, including Van Day Truex the president of Tiffany, Nicholas de Gunzberg the editor at Vogue, Woodson Taulbee, owner of Woodson Papers, and Linda Porter, Brooke Astor took him under her wing. His client's adored him, and the legacy he leaves is that of simplicity and comfort in design, masterful mixing color as well as period styles and a tailored ease.

A watercolor by the late Mark Hampton, depicts Cole Porter's Waldorf Towers library with its famous often copied brass bookcases and chocolate walls.

Baldwin loved reproduction furniture, and advised clients to use copies in high use areas. He saved antiques for low use spots. Being comfortable was key, and this came across in everything he did. Here, in a living room for a young client in Madrid, he used the light floors as a guide for the color scheme of the room, and filled the space with comfortable seating areas.

In a Florida home, Baldwin combined white and blue cotton fabrics with pops of red. He loved natural as well as man made materials, and even used vinyl on walls to get the glossy look of lacquer.

Looking to Brighton Pavillion for inspiration, Baldwin created a haven for hair at the Kenneth Salon in the early 60's. He was not big on commercial projects, but this one was well worth it. With exotic patterns, fretwork details and a red, yellow and white scheme, Kenneth was the ne plus ultra salon for the chic set.

Baldwin's New York apartment at 106 East 61st Street had a Korean screen behind the cream sofa, and dark walls. He liked a classic Lawson sofa silhouette, and used it time and time again. The slipper chair he often used was based on the center section of a Lawson, without arms.

Fearlessly combining zebra, big game heads, and patterned fabrics, this guest house in Bedford feels country yet sophisticated.
Baldwin did very well in his business, and worked for over fifty years. Sadly, he died penniless and alone on Nantucket in a cottage his friends provided, after years of neglecting to pay back taxes from his mother's estate. He narrowly avoided going to jail for the amount he owed, and this blight deeply embarrassed him. The design legacy he leaves behind is epic and his work will continue to spawn legions of imitators-- which, as you know, is the best form of flattery.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Photo courtesy of Designer's Guild
A digitally printed panel Bosquet, is oversized and breathtaking

From the minute I saw these new fabrics and wallpaper panels from Designer's Guild's Zepherine Collection at the D and D Building's Osborne and Little last spring, reminiscent of stage sets and English country manors, I was taken by their old world, British brooding yet charming impact.

Ornamental Garden, a fabric panel of gigantic urns against a glamorous dark grey background is like nothing else out there. Yes, more is more.

The design is also available in a wallpaper, the hyper realistic flowers and urns set against a background with classic molding. It is fantastic in that Cecil Beaton's English country house way.

The drop repeat of flower filled urns in Rugosa has an unparalleled wow factor to it.

The pastiche collage effect of this Orangerie fabric makes me love it. I could envision it on a chair, in pillows or covering every surface in a small guest bedroom to create an indoor garden.

Palmieri, a grisaille drawing of flower and frond filled classical urns against a bright pop of color is pretty eye catching.

Photo courtesy of Rizzoli
If Tricia Guild's inventive designs and verve for explosive patterns and color intrigues you, then take a look at her newest visual feast,
Colors Patterns and Space from Rizzoli. As Tricia's largest design book, with over 400 photos, the hardbound tome has a vibrant silk binding with woven ribbon details. If you are familiar with her vast King's Road emporium, then you know she has a mesmerizing way with color pairings and design.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Photos courtesy of Rizzoli
Ravishing! Orange and yellow taffeta curtains frame a grand entrance on the cover. Her work has a distinctly European sensibility

Bold, brave, and full of bravado are just a few ways to describe Mary McDonald's fashionable, theatrical interiors. The LA - based glam girl knows how to elevate a sumptuous interior to camera ready status by using broad strokes of color, Chinoiserie details, accessories en masse and powerful patterns. The impact of her rooms is enormous -- they make her clients feel like Hollywood stars bound for greatness.

In her just launched book, Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style with Rizzoli, over 250 lush photos draw us into her world of glamour, which she describes as "a je ne sais quoi that can only come from scale and placement." Unlike the usual layout of a design book, her whimsy comes through in the thematic sections, entitled Seduction, Curated, Glamour, Grand Tour, and Theatre. I had a chance to sit down with Mary at her recent book party hosted by Catherine Malandrino, and she shared her take on the tome.

A fantastical Chinoiserie tester and elaborate striped bed hangings make for a girly retreat.

Chocolate brown and hot pink converge in a sitting room. Pops of color are used with an exacting hand.

In her pale blue and white office, Mary filled the back wall with black and white photos over painted climbing vines. Closet doors with memo boards hold invitations and conceal her fabric samples. Blanc de Chine porcelains are grouped together on her large desk. You may remember this shot from Domino. Miguel Flores Vianna shot many of the projects that are published in the book for the first time.

Stark black and white make this vignette a strong statement. Mary's accessorizing talents really come across here -- every shelf is styled beautifully, mixing old and new accessories.

What does glamour mean to you?

Glamour is a level of style so perfectly combined with an extra sparkle, that you are drawn to visually want more. It is a carefully orchestrated sum of parts much more powerful as a whole, whether it regards a person, an outfit or a room.

Why is glamour elusive?

Glamour is elusive, because you cannot really put your finger on one exact element or cause. You are drawn to study the person, place or thing because it seduces you with its elan.

You have an incredible sense of style. How do fashion and interiors converge?

For one thing, most people usually have a similar crossover style in how they dress and the style of decor they like. Look at fashion designer's homes. Ralph lives as he dresses. Calvin, Donna and Oscar too. Style translates from one to the other in your choice of color schemes, modernity, layering, and patterns.

What inspired you to become a milliner?

I had gone to Parson's for clothing and this was just one of my artistic hobbies that took off rather unintentionally. I found myself in the Maxfield's and Bazaar's of the world, so I just kept going.

When did you know you just had to start doing interiors?

I always loved all forms of design from fashion to interiors and everything in between. I even decorated my half of my freshman college dorm room. Then, while living in New York, the PR woman from Robert Clergerie asked me to do her penthouse because she liked mine so much. I was still a milliner, but I gave it a whirl, which turned out to be my first actual "job" in decorating.

What is your favorite color combination right now?

I have a new love for grays and ivory right now. I am also sort of hot on eggplant, but having trouble with takers for now.

You seem so organized and neat. Is this really true?

For clients and what is in front of the camera lens, yes! For myself, not really. I am more of an artist -- collecting always. I find myself creating and living in a constant transition by choice.

How do you design a room, what comes first and what do you save till last?

If it is a truly blank canvas, then the floor plan and the color scheme come first. If I have to work with something existing such as a family rug, that might force me to address this area first but then move back to the furniture and floor plan.

What does every room need to be comfortable as well as have impact?

For comfort, good upholstered seating spatially placed makes sense in creating interactive groupings. Impact is another story. I personally like at least one major focal point. A piece of art, a great wall color, a fantastic pattern, a glamorous statement like a screen or chandelier can create at least one wow factor.

Where do you shop for design inspiration?

Everywhere-- on every street corner in every cafe and shop in any city. I own thousands of design books and shop everywhere. If I want shop names, I hop on the computer and shop a global network of dealers.

What is the chicest city you have been to?

There are so many beautiful, fascinating and sophisticated cities in the world from Fez and Buenos Aires, to Istanbul and Gstaad. All beautiful on their own, but the most consistently chic place per square foot is still Paris.

What are your fave, secret LA haunts for design/fashion/food?

I an not sure I have haunts that are secrets but I will never tire of JF Chen and the range of sophistication in his furniture choices. I still like to poke around the Silver Lake area for funky stores, like Rubbish and Lawson Fenning. Decades has the best vintage fashion and American Rag for funky stuff. I still love the Hari Krishna store, Govinda's for saris. My foodie haunt is the famous Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills which is no secret. But my new love is The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. The food is out of this world.

What is the most affordable item you love to add to a room that no one would ever guess is cheap and cheerful?

High gloss paint instead of lacquer. Second to that would be pre-made cashmere or embroidered pillows from Williams Sonoma Home.

What is the most glamorous thing you have ever designed?

Well first off, my Leopold Collection Sconces for Robert Abbey. It is beyond glamorous.
Then, there was an all black and oyster duchesse satin gown in the style of a Sargent painting I designed while I was at Parsons. It was very "Age of Innocence meets Galliano." Of course, I somehow lost the gown over the years. I also have some unbelievable coquillage pelmets and consoles reminiscent of Cecil Beaton that I customized for a client. I can never pick just one anything!