by Marisa Marcantonio

Photos courtesy of Monacelli Press
Scholar, designer, auction house appraiser, museum fellow, and historical aesthete. These are just a few of the esteemed titles that apply to interior designer Thomas Jayne, one of the most academically advanced and erudite interior designers of our time. In his new book, The Finest Rooms in America from Monacelli Press, written with Ann Walker, Jayne gives his take on what he deems to be the fifty rooms that are the most beautiful examples of American decoration today. Arranged chronologically, beginning with Mount Vernon and Monticello, important rooms are highlighted from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as a selection from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Mixing diversity of periods and styles, the eclectic assortment reveals how people have lived in the past up to current day environs. Alas I could not show all 50, but this should give you a sense of the depth and breadth of Thomas Jayne's vast knowledge on historically important rooms across the US.

A rarely seen angle of Albert Hadley's New York apartment with Robin's Egg blue wall framed in brass and graphic borders above upper and lower moldings.

Casa Amesti, a Colonial adobe home in Monterrey, California. This is the beautiful blue and cream living room designed by the legendary Francis Elkins. It is one of the finest surviving examples of her work.

The living room shown here is in Beauport, a house museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A colorful and inventive mix of historic styles and color combines Windsor Chairs and vivid painted trim. With over 40 rooms created by interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper in the mid 1900's, the home provides endless inspiration for interior designers.

I asked Thomas about the book recently and he shared his insights with me:

Why a book about the finest rooms in America?

Considering all the books and magazines devoted to interior design, there are very few that firmly declare that a room is refined. Refinement and its estimation is, of course, subjective and stating personal opinion is risky. The value in this book, and the risk it takes, is that it starts a conversation about what are the finest rooms and that a fine room is a worthy goal.

How did you ever decide what to include? You have travelled extensively and seen so much

The book illustrates a selection of fine rooms, beginning in the 18th century up to the present, starting with Thomas Jefferson ending with Albert Hadley. Virtually every style and type of rooms is present. There are comparable rooms that are not illustrated but I encourage readers to think about what makes a fine rooms and to make their own list (as a matter of fact, I am creating a website, that will allow people to suggest their own finest rooms.)
Some of the rooms are surprising choices; they do not seem obviously fine. One room, a rustic but highly refined room of Mary Cooper’s in New Orleans was greeted by some of the people of taste that I consulted about the book with “are you nuts”? The room is furnished with modest examples of the decorative arts, but painted and arranged with much sophistication. The point is that refinement is not about expense.

What made these rooms catch your eye?

I found in writing the book that a fine room is usually focused on a work of art, object of beauty or sentiment and then arranged with great thought and care. The art does not have to be an expensive masterpiece-- it can be a work by an artist that is not famous, but it does have to resonate with the room’s owner. Same with objects—their significance to the owner comes through in looking at the room.

Does every room need to be comfortable?

To the degree that you want it to be -- if you aspire to make a room more than just utilitarian and consider its decoration an important element, it would be something to aspire towards.

What makes a room successful from a design standpoint?

A room is successful if the owner and its visitors want to be in it and that it works for its purpose. A living room where company is expected should be comfortable for a visit and the decoration must be pleasing.

What does every room need to be comfortable?

There is no single furnishing that makes every room comfortable. All comfortable rooms are appropriate for their purpose. The notion that every comfortable room requires a place to set cocktails is a fallacy.

What is your favorite decorative detail?

Paint -- the remarkable and transformative power of paint. The paint in every room in The Finest Rooms in America, is well considered and beautifully applied -- even the white ones. Paint is also about the texture and light it brings to a room.

If there were one place everyone could visit, what room would you recommend?

I would send every American to Monticello. It represents much that is paramount about American design and its philosophy

What is a favorite room abroad?

Can I answerer that favorite room in each country? The Pantheon in Rome, the Salon at Hotel de Soubise in Paris, The Throne Room of the Royal Palace in Madrid

If there was one historical fact you could impart about the history of design what would it be?

I encourage people to consider the value of design – just think how costly bad design always turns out to be. I often paraphrase Oscar Wilde who said beauty has no value unless it is realized in form – meaning we must pursue the higher ideals of beauty and try to achieve them in what we create.


by Marisa Marcantonio

No matter how you say thank you to friends and family this holiday season, say it with style. I talked to the best talent and creative minds in the interior design industry to see what they were giving this year. The results are a mix of varied treasures, sure to make any recipient glad to have a friend that chic!

Photo courtesy of Hutton Wilkinson
Tony Duquette designer Hutton Wilkinson will be "giving everyone on my list limited edition signed and numbered special edition set of my books, Tony Duquette and More is More, double boxed in a Jim Thompson fabric slip case with gilded edges, special book plates and satin ribbons." Ooh la la, am I on that list, I hope?

Photo courtesy of Allegra Hicks
London- based Allegra Hicks does fashion and fabrics with Lee Jofa. She just came out with a new book, and will be giving friends and loved one's the Travel Bag she has designed for her collection.

Photo courtesy of Benneton Graveur
Christopher Spitzmiller helps friends remember essential dates with engraved calendars from Benneton Graveur.

Photo courtesy of Very Vera
Julia Noran, founder of Editor at Large likes to give cakes for the holidays. "Very Vera is the best!" she exclaimed.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne
Interior designer Kevin Isbell's favorite gift to give go to gift for the holiday season is a chilled bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé champagne. It makes the perfect hostess gift, or a simple token of appreciation. The Billecart-Salmon has a beautiful rose color and is dry without being overly dry. For those extra special occasions opt for the Billecart-Salmon Brut Cuvee Elisabeth 2000. It's worth every penny.

Photo courtesy of Hollyhock
LA's Suzanne Rheinstein likes to give embroidered and applique cocktail napkins she has made for her LA shop, Hollyhock.

Photo courtesy of Barneys
Architects James Shearron and Richard Bories of Bories and Sharron revealed, "We love to give Cire Trudon candles. Our favorite is Roi Soleil....eucalyptus, orange, cedar, fir and green leaves. The fragrance of the "Mirror Gallery" of the Chateau de Versailles."

Photo courtesy Jonathan Adler
The best giftie according to Jonathan Adler is his whimsical needlepoint Astrology Pillow. They really are fun.

Photo courtesy of Treillage
Bunny Williams likes to give her fragranced candle and bone lidded container to put it in. Available at her shop, Treillage.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Garza
Amanda Nisbet is a big fan of designer Eduardo Garza and his handmade decorative boxes, "they are fabulous for their color, texture and duality of materials."
Photo courtesy of Nina Campbell
After a collaboration with Brit fashion designer Ted Baker, Nina Campbell is giving her Perroquet - patterned Osborne and Little fabric shoe trees cosmetic bags and hangers to friends as stocking stuffers.

Aesthetic eye Timothy Whealon designs projects around the globe but loves the delicious all - American confections from Hughes Home Maid Chocolates in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. To order, call 920-231-7232.

Photo courtesy of Robyn Brooks NY
Home accessories designer Robyn Brooks will be helping her friends keep track of their luggage on holiday travels with luggage tags she designed.

Photo courtesy of For Your Party
Sophie Donelson, freelance writer and Editor TV host shared,
"I never tire of giving cheeky custom party supplies from For Your Party. For a friend in Red Hook, Brooklyn, I designed coasters with an anchor illustration and the phrase, Red Hook: Not Just For Hookers. For my parents, who live in my hometown of Ashburnham, Mass. (which I loving refer to as The 'Ham), I gifted, 'ham is where the heart is paper napkins."

Quest's Executive Editor Georgina Schaeffer will be giving her godchild a cute towel from Personalization Mall.

Photo courtesy of Fouta Lifestyle
Mieke Ten Have, Elle Decor's new Associate Style Editor is giving her friends Fouta Lifestyle's Tunisian towel. Is it a wrap, towel, or blanket? You decide.

Photo courtesy of Mecox Gardens
Mac Hoak of Mecox Gardens has a great selection of antique bookends. These lions are fierce.

Thomas Jayne treats friends to hand made business card holders in red leather from Peter Hermann Leather Goods at 118 Thompson Street, New York 212 966 9050.

LA based designer Ruthie Sommers is going the environmental route, giving friends a tree in the Amazon rain forest through Rainforest Forever.

Photo courtesy of Kathryn M. Ireland
LA designer Kathryn M. Ireland carries Hugo Guiness prints in her Almont Yard shop and online, which she will be giving for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of Liz O'Brien
Vintage furniture guru Liz O’Brien will be giving her friends a glowing gift. These reproduction brass, mirror and glass hurricanes originally designed by Albert Hadley in the late 1960’s for a Washington DC nightclub called Pisces.

Photo courtesy of Branca
Chicago interior designer with a newly launched website and blog, Alessandra Branca, loves the shimmer and pop of the Silvered Log Stool from Branca.

Photo courtesy of Michael Devine
Fabric designer and blogger Michael Devine will be gifting Venice Trinket Trays in his fabrics to friends.

Lindsey Coral Harper, a New York- based interior designer who is great with color is giving friends her holiday soy candle from Lamshop, her furniture line.
Photo courtesy of Taschen
LA Interior designer Trip Haenisch will be giving 100 Contemporary Artists from Taschen. “Art is a very important element of my design and is an important part of a well-done home. As a designer, part of my process is to educate my clients and to expose them to the best; be it art, furniture, fabric or accessories. I see what they respond to and take my inspiration from that. This book serves to educate my clients and friends to contemporary art and will also look great on a coffee table!”

Photo courtesy of Porthault
Celerie Kemble said, "I love the odd D. Porthault dumbell pillow (great for travel) or showercap --a granny chic useful trifle-- for girls."

Photo courtesy of Bernard Maisner
Nandita Khanna, a senior editor at Town and Country shared, "I don’t think you can ever go wrong with beautiful stationary from Bernard Maisner. This winter he’s created a selection of note pads with his signature whimsical illustrations—the question marks are my favorite. Even in the day of the iPad, iPhone and Blackberry, I still love having a chic notepad to jot down to-do lists, or take messages on. I’ll give a selection of these to friends whose holiday parties I’ll attend.”

Photo courtesy of Kim Seybert
Tabletop accessory ace Kim Seybert likes to give friends accessories from her Heavy Metal Collection.

Photo Courtesy of York Street Studio Gimme Power
Writer and interior industry talent Susanna Salk's tech take is interesting: "My friends at York Street Studio just designed this way cool silver hand charger for the iphone and Apple snatched it up. The perfect gift for my most fave and fab friends!" Order through York Street.

Photo courtesy of Diane James
Carolyne James McDonough will be giving friends her new Diane James Home signature scent candle, "with pretty packaging done by none other than the talented painter Patricia Von Esche of PVE Design!"

Photo courtesy of Hubs
LA designer Betsy Burnham is giving Hubs Peanuts, because, "I give these every year to clients, vendors, friends, neighbors. they are the biggest, heartiest, most delicious peanuts you’ve ever had. and the chocolate covered ones are to die for! I love them because they’re festive without being typically christmas-y (or super unhealthy), and also because the company is family owned and the product is locally grown (well, in virginia) and unbelievably fresh."

Photo courtesy of Marcia Sherrill
The Deenie Tote is what writer, antique dealer and all around creative entrepreneur Marcia Sherril is gifting, "I am giving everyone an Anabelle by Marcia Sherrill handbag, for one thing most of my friends have bags named after them....and they are the perfect accessory!"


by Marisa Marcantonio

It was the best year ever! Early in November, Rooms with a View honored Albert Hadley, with 12 designer vignettes created by those that have gone on to great success after being mentored by the design icon. Hints of red, round mirrors, animals and etageres play a role in the spaces, as an homage to Hadley's favorite homey and welcoming design elements. The annual showhouse, located at The Southport Congregational Church, brought out the design cognescenti from near and far, who came to see the exceptional rooms created by leading designers who have gone on to run their own successful firms.

Bunny Williams worked with Mr. Hadley for 22 years since the days of Parish Hadley.

An homage to Hadley's New York apartment, Bunny used a round table from her Beeline Collection and hanging pendant light. Check out the french doors with an image of Mr. Hadley in his Southport garden circa 1990.

Her Bee Line Collection pieces make the small space a relaxing room.

A gorgeous gold gourd made by Christopher Spitzmiller sits next to sentimental photos, and stacks of books.

Bunny's favorite books, a bar and objects fill an etagere surrounded by framed art.

Genius! Bunny made a shelf of an etagere an instant bar.

Pamela Banker worked at Parish Hadley in in 1995, staying for 5 years. She and her team created a red office with a signature etagere, round mirror and workable desk and painted zebra canvas rug.

This antique mirror is fantastic, a round mirror is de regeur for a Hadley interior.

An Albert Hadley designed lamp from Christopher Spitzmiller in silver glaze illuminates the work space.

David Easton strikes a pose. After a year with Hadley he went out on his own. He is in the midst of a twenty stop book tour promoting his new book, Elegant Interiors

David Easton's office setting included a desk from his collection and Safaveih rug he designed. A Moroccan hanging lamp adds an unexpected twist.

Beautifully engineered shelving hold models of homes he has designed.

The back wall is made of a painted cork board displaying architectural renderings.

David brought desk accessories from home and a lamp from his Robert Abbey collection.

Thom Filicia worked for the firm from 1992-1993. Here he is, standing in front of his fantastic electric yellow vignette.

Bold yellow stried walls play off a French blue table and blue ceramic lamp. A bulls - eye canvas makes a great focal point, and the circle motif is carried through in the console below.

An ebony hexagonal mirror ties the seating area together.

The coffee table holds two things Mr. Hadley always included-- a bowl of quarters and a pair of dogs.

Michael Whaley, who began his career at the firm, created a serene spot in taupe and cream. Elegant sconces frame the settee, covered in satin.

A slipper chair -- always present in a Hadley room.

Libby Cameron created an office with tried and true Hadley touches. covered walls in "Desmond", a black and white Sister Parish Design. In a nod to a favorite animal of Hadley's, wise owls dot the vignette. Libby filled me in on her time there. "I got a month long internship in the fall of 1982, I was then hired full time shortly thereafter in 1983 to be Albert's assistant. I first started working with him on the restoration of Gracie Mansion. I had the most wonderful, magical experience at Parish-Hadley during my fourteen years there-I learned so much and saw so much, I am eternally grateful. I left Parish-Hadley in the fall of 1995 after my daughter Clara was born, and put out my own shingle. Albert taught me the importance of details, and always stressed that everything had to be finished properly and have a finished edge, that welts could not be big, that everything had to be subtle and made to look like it was done by a dressmaker. Albert always referred to rooms having skylines, which is an image I always carry with me. One's eye should be able to travel around a room, up and down, and not have everything be at one level. Objects, furniture and paintings all at different levels create interest and intrigue-which is what makes a room work."

A bright glazed Christopher Spitzmiller lamp sits on a green desk. A clipboard holding a notepad with drawings and Do Not Forget notepad were ever present on Hadley's own desk.

A charming bookcase with bone inlay holds books featuring Parish Hadley work.

Rarely seen without a pencil in hand, Hadley was constantly sketching. Seventeen drawings done by him are hanging from Libby's personal collection.

David Kleinberg got his start at Parish Hadley in 1981. His area incorporated neutrals. Stripes carried over from the walls, to table skirt and floor design.

A Swedish L-shaped bench tucks in perfectly behind a round table, making the most of the allotted space.

The etagere again!

A glam floor of gold and white stripes.

Harry Heissmann, in his fantastic space. Harry was with Hadley from 2000-2009. He shared, "Albert taught me not to be afraid to think outside the box. Every detail matters, if you're using pairs of something - don't put them next to each other. The ceiling is a "fifth wall", don't forget it. I have "Mr. Hadley moments" all the time, where I think about what he would do. That could be editing or taking away or trying to find the most simple and effective solution to a "design problem" without overthinking it. On job sites or in workrooms when he didn't like something, he would say: "just make good". That meant: do it, solve it and don't talk about it - and believe me, it got you thinking! And then he teaches you to be humble. It's decorating and designing,not surgery..."

Harry Heissmann created a black space filled with graphic 70's elements.

All set for breakfast in bed with a side of Flair.

There is a tres Truman Capote feeling here.

Suzanne Earls Carr worked in a cream palette with touches of blue. There is a serene simplicity in her space. Topiary trees frame the entrance, adding their shapes to a linear space.

Cocktail time! A white textured Gourd Lamp (another great Spitzmiller piece) sits next to sentimental photos.

Thomas Jayne used Rorschach inkblot test- like brightly painted panels from Chuck Hettinger Studio to tie an antique filled space together. He worked at Parrish Hadley from 1986-87. He recalled, "He never discounted or overlooked any period of style for inspiration. He is as assured with Left Bank Parisian 1930's design as he is with Chippendale and Louis XV. I honor Albert because he advocates a personal connection with a room’s decoration. In an Albert rooms, you almost always get a sense of who lives there – they are never generic."

A clean lined settee with tapered legs fits neatly in the corner, covered with pastel pillows.

A happy faced pillow adds a touch of whimsy.

A narrow secretary would make a nice desk in a small New York apartment.

Great books like Happy Times and his newest tome, "The Finest Rooms in America" make the space personal.

Brian Murphy used amazing art that worked well with "Fireworks" wallpaper from Hadley's Hinson collection. When asked about his time working with the firm he said, "I worked for Albert from 1987 until 2000. My favorite quote from Albert is "Give em what they never knew they always wanted", which I think is a paraphrase of Diana Vreeland." The furniture in his booth is all 19th Century American.

A high backed garden bench and demilune plant stand and gothic hall chair and folk art coat rack.The bright and uplifting paintings that tie the space together are by Melissa Richard.

An American hooked rug from Rahmanan adds a nice graphic element against the painted furniture.

Brian McCarthy, who joined Parish Hadley in 1983 as Hadley's assistant, created a sitting area with neutral creams and dark browns. An amazing wavy wall surface out of plaster are juxtaposed against round mirrors from Line Vautrin grouped, a la Hadley. A comfortable chair, furry stool and ethnic rug tie the scheme together.

Every designer that has worked with The Dean knows and loves the folding ruler.


by Marisa Marcantonio

The Mount in all it's glory

It is always helpful to revisit great showhouses past. In 2002, Edith Wharton's legendary summer home The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts had a designer showhouse. For the Mount’s Centennial Celebration, they presented semi-permanent installations. In the (then) newly restored rooms of The Mount’s main and ground floors, each space was interpreted by a modern designer. Designer's selected for the exhibition were Geoffrey Bradfield, Libby Cameron, Thomas Jayne, Charlotte Moss, Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, Michael Trapp and Bunny Williams. Several of the spaces still have the installations in tact. The Mount is installing a new designer exhibition which will feature French interior designers, including Andrée Putman. I hope they get the support they need to maintain and keep the Mount as the historic site that inspires visitors in all seasons.

The painted archways and marble inlay floors add beautiful color and pattern to the sweeping grand hall. Spaces like inspire in many ways, from the painted arch details to bright marble use.

The Gallery, designed by Geoffrey Bradfield. Curvy-backed settees line the walls, leading your eye to the bronze statues at the end of the hall.

Charlotte Moss designed the Drawing Room with several seating areas for easy conversation groups.

The Forecourt, designed by Michael Trapp with loads of seashells for a grotto effect. He has a wonderful shop, Michael Trapp Antiques in West Cornwall, Connecticut,that is housed in his Greek Revival home, and features great architectural finds.

Bunny Williams designed The Dining Room. She began her professional career in New York at Stair and Company, the prestigious English antique dealers. She later joined Parish-Hadley Associates and in 1988 founded Bunny Williams Incorporated. Her two New York city shops, Treillage for tabletop, furniture and accessories and Treillage Garden are fantastically edited shopping experiences.

The Den, done by Thomas Jayne. He holds a a master’s degree from the Winterthur Museum Program, and is a serious antique connoisseur. His knowledge has attracted clients to his work, and he has a rug line with Stark,Thomas Jayne for Newport Mansions with EJ Victor furniture, and accessories with Chelsea House. His work incorporates antiques and wonderful historical elements.

Photos by David Dashiell
The room from another angle, showing the workhorse desk and rather large Mahogany framed vertical file cabinet with shagreen panels where the estate paperwork would have been filed.