by Marisa Marcantonio

A new book on the legendary American designer Syrie Maugham was recently written by the prolific Pauline C. Metcalf for Acanthus Press, and I heard her speak on the topic at this year's Winter Antique Show.

Photo courtesy of Acanthus Press
The room that started it all: the glamorous San Francisco bedroom of Celia Tobin Clark. Designed by the go to designer of the day in 1929, this room set tongues wagging. Maugham became known as the "White Queen", for the all white palette she used in her London apartment that helped her earn the moniker. She continued the use of varying shades of cream in her work for Mrs. Clark, shown here, through the use of a Marion Dorn cut pile rug, and upholstery and trim in shades of oyster, pearl and parchment. On the walls, she placed a scrolled, stenciled pattern on a Swedish linen. The green pattern worked with the all white interiors in a space that has became known as an American masterpiece. The room is frequently referenced as such, and is groundbreaking in its use of a singular color, varying textures and simplicity of the pieces used.

James Shearron, a partner in the architecture firm Bories and Shearron, recreated the room for a House and Garden (rip) story in 2001, when he was the special projects editor. The space was recreated down to every last detail. I helped him produce the story and assisted him on the set, where everything was built from scratch. A custom rug was created by Doris Leslie Blau, furniture made to scale with mole fringe in the seams, a custom four poster bed, Minic Table, Sentimento accessories and hand printed Studio Printworks wallpaper all made room come alive. The article we did was the first time the room had been re-created in color. Those were the days when building a set like this was de rigeur.

The paper is now a mainstay in the Studio Printworks collection. The paper was recolored for Liz O'Brien's divine booth at the Winter Antique Show, with the pattern in silver. I always look forward to seeing her booth, since she creates a space you just want to move into. A Scalloped-Back Settee from Maison Jansen covered in a grey fabric is an anchor for the booth and a show stopper.

Syrie, wittily remastered, holds a card with the Studio Printworks wallpaper details.

Liz's large booth was filled with museum quality pieces like a Syrie Maugham Petite Side Table, John Vesey's Folding X-bench, and assorted Grosfield House and Maison Jansen pieces.

Lamps with palm fronds made of metal light up a chest of drawers.

The lamps lights made the silver accents of the wallpaper glow.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Vintage furniture enthusiasts, well - wishers and interior designers gathered at Liz O'Brien's uber chic new gallery space at 306 East 61st Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues to celebrate the launch of a new book from Acanthus Press on Syrie Maugham by Pauline C. Metcalf. Known for her signature all white interior she designed in 1927, Syrie's creativity and inventiveness knew no bounds. If you have not yet been to Liz's new space, you need to go go go there! Vaubel, John Dickenson, and Karl Springer design awaits you.

Flowers arranged a la Constance Spry were out of this world. After I attended the Constance Spry Show in 2004 at London's Design Museum, I never forgot how groundbreaking her circa 1930-40's arrangements were. She took London by storm, arranging the flowers for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and wrote thirteen practical books on flower design.

Pauline signing books

Another stunning work of art in flowers

More on the book soon. Stay tuned...


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.