House of Dreams
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Sunday, May 21, 2017
By Austin Rese
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On a crisp, cool spring morning I made my way towards the Upper East Side of Central Park in New York City. My destination was the 45th annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House. This is an interior design extravaganza benefitting the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. Each year, a different luxury Manhattan residence exhibits fine furnishings, art and the latest technologies for the home. The event attracts an estimated 15,000 visitors every year.


Ah… New York-- the sights and energy have a way of recharging the creative soul!  As my gait was abundant with enthusiasm, I arrived a bit early in the stately Lenox Hill neighborhood. With anticipation, I waited in line along other designers and design enthusiasts. You could easily hear their conversations of fabrics, furniture, and furnishings. I felt like I was among my “creative family”, as we were all passionately speaking the same language. At last the doors opened and we were invited into the home. The selected townhouse was quite special this year, as it was designed by the iconic architect Charles A. Platt in 1905.


Designer show houses are fun in spirit. This year did not fail as the four story neo-Georgian brick home had been decorated by twenty of our nation’s leading interior designers. Each room portrayed the vision and spirit of its creator. Sailing from room-to-room, my eyes moved in a rapid staccato fashion as if a dance marathon had ensued. The colors! The shapes! The imagination! As a fiend of details, I was soon visually intoxicated.


Interior designers, much like architects, can develop an associated style. It becomes their unspoken trademark or identity. This, too, became very prevalent throughout the home. From Susan Ferrier’s monochromatic sensuality-to-Ken Fulk’s energetic play on traditional, it was all there… a gourmet buffet bidding one to sample as they desire.  Every room in the house was articulated with a sense of design authority from the smallest closet-to-the grandest salon.



Each room contains an attendant.--A “docent” of sorts, who provides potential answers to inquisitive visitors. Curiosity got the best of me; thus, I inquired of one young lady why she was involved with this project. From her stuttering reply, I assumed this was one question that she had not been asked. She shared with me that it was a great opportunity to meet a wide variety of people within the design community. She said that she was enjoying it and was already looking forward to next year’s show house!

Winding up the beautiful double-width stairs, I continued to view each floor with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. Wondering what lavish dreams each room would hold. I was not disappointed. There was a plethora of bright and bold. ---Contemporary appeared to be king. ---A sense of the collective connoisseur seemed to prevail.



The last room on the tour was considered the "attic sitting room" of the home. It, too, was well appointed. In a rather surprising situation, the actual designer of the space was present. The creative genius was Neal Beckstedt. The room was small. The 5 visitors within the space nearly capacitated it. Again, my curiosity nibbled….I inquired, “So what inspired you to create this particular design or theme within this space?”


Mr. Beckstedt pointed out a portrait by photographer Pieter Hugo: “Mimi Afrika, Wheatland Farm, Graaff-Reinet”.  “This was the catalyst for the entire setting,” he shared. The earthen palette, primitive forms, and artisanal characteristics all had an African reference to them. This was much unexpected and certainly unique to the portfolio of spaces within this particular show house.

I suppose that is what makes show houses so exciting. Each is a collective of dreams. In turn, each gives us (the visitors) a new way to dream.


This was A Moment in America.

Leave a comment:
Austin Rese - Thank you for the kind words of support. They are very appreciated.
Kips Bay Show House is truly an event to experience and support.
P. J. - Superb as expected! Am envious of your talents.