St. Pancras Station Apr03

St. Pancras Station

Those who have done the London to Paris commute via the Eurostar, are certainly familiar with St. Pancras railway station. Constructed in the 1860s, and celebrated for its Gothic Revival architecture, St. Pancras station included an upscale hotel, and a train shed that at the time, was the largest single-span roof in the world. During the last decade the station underwent a £800 million renovation and expansion. My hands down favorite part of St. Pancras, is the Barlow train shed. Named for its designer, William Henry Barlow, the glass and metal structure was inspired by The Crystal Palace – which had been erected in London to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. During the recent renovation, the structure was repainted a simply stunning shade of sky blue – similar to how it had appeared in the 19th century. According to historians, Barlow’s design had called for the train shed to be sky blue, so that on a beautiful day, the structure would “melt away into the sky”. To stand beneath the Barlow train shed (or to sip champagne at The Champagne Bar), is an experience akin to being inside a beautiful cathedral. Recently the hotel at St. Pancras, the Midland Grand, underwent a significant renovation of its own – and will have its official reopening next month. Seventy six years have passed since the hotel was in operation. Closed in 1935, it was later used as offices for British Rail, before being closed all together in the 1980s. With the recent renovation, developers were able to modernize the structure, and also maintain the integrity of the gothic architecture. A former covered taxi way now serves as the open, airy lobby, while an old booking office was converted to a hotel bar. Absolutely no expense was...

Loew’s Kings Theatre Apr02

Loew’s Kings Theatre

In a series that he titled ‘After The Final Curtain‘, New York photographer, Matt Lambros has been documenting the neglect and decay that befell a number of our country’s great theatres. Yesterday he posted a series of images from The Kings Theatre (formerly Loewe’s Kings Theatre), a large movie palace in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Opened in 1929 as one of five flagship movie palaces known as Loew’s Wonder Theatres, the theatre originally showcased live vaudeville acts and a pipe organ – before moving exclusively to screening films. The lavish theatre was designed by Rapp and Rapp, an architectural firm known for their signature baroque style, and The Rambusch Decorating Company, a family company that is still in operation today. By the 1970s, the theatre was already in decline – screening mostly B movies, and other low-budget films. In 1977 Loew’s shuttered the 3,676 seat house, which was seized by the City of New York two years later for owed back taxes. In 1980 the theatre was the subject of Memoirs of a Movie Palace, a sentimental documentary filmed in the last days of the theatre’s operation. Years of neglect, water damage, and vandalism have left The Kings Theatre in a sad state of deterioration. Over the years there have been a number of proposals for its restoration, and just last year the city announced a $70 million renovation in partnership with ACE Theatrical Group. Plans call for the theatre to be restored to its former glory, and used as a performing arts space – reopening as early as 2014. I look forward to following the progress of the restoration, and the positive impact that it has on the neighborhood. In the mean time, please enjoy these stunning images that show the current state of...

Architectural Models Mar25

Architectural Models

I have a slight obsession with foreign design magazines – you know, the ones for which we stupidly pay $15 a piece on the newsstand. One of my perennial favorites is Britain’s The World of Interiors. It is always chock-a-block with fun features, and photos of interesting properties and interiors that you don’t see in other magazines. One article in the April issue, on an upcoming exhibit at London’s Soane Museum, especially caught my eye. The Petrified Music of Architecture exhibition consists of a magnificent collection of 27 miniature architectural models of England’s cathedrals. Recently unearthed in the catacombs of Canterbury Cathedral, the models have been shrouded in mystery for a number of years. A label found on the underside of one, provided some valuable information that helped to shed light on their origin. It states… ‘Under the distinguished Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince Albert. W. Gorringe, Architectural Modeller, 3 King Street, Oxford, Begs to invite the attention of the Nobility, Clergy and Gents to his large collection of Models, consisting of the whole of the Cathedral Churches of England…(They) are highly finished and form a very striking effect, being made to one uniform scale, and so arranged that the observer can at one view distinguish the different magnitude of each Sacred Edifice. Castles, Country Seats, Villas etc. modelled to any scale‘ What was previously know, was that the collection was given to Canterbury Cathedral in 1916 by Edward Murray Oakley in memory of his brother, Sir Herbert Oakley. The latter was a composer to Queen Victoria, who had become acquaintances with Gorringe, and had lent the model maker his own collection of prints and paintings regarding cathedrals. Oakley’s own love of cathedral architecture came when, as an...

Manoir de Berthouville Mar19

Manoir de Berthouville

Architectural Digest Italia has a March feature on the Manoir de Berthouville, the French vacation home of Boston interior designer and antiques dealer, Charles Spada. According to the article, Mr. Spada has had a life long affinity for all things French. As a teenager, he idolized the legendary couturier Hubert de Givenchy, and as a young man, he lived in France for a time. Since those early days, he had maintained a Parisian pied-à-terre, which was used during his many buying trips throughout the years. A few years back, Mr. Spada decided that he wanted to slow down a bit, and buy a home in the country. Among other requirements, he wanted to be no more than two hours outside of Paris – so that he could easily get to the city in order to attend an auction or cultural event. After visiting several properties, he eventually stumbled upon the Manoir de Berthouville. The 17th century home, a former relais de chasse (hunting lodge) in the countryside of Normandy has, for the most part, remained unchanged for centuries. According to Spada, the home “was reminiscent of the brick and limestone architecture of the Places des Voges in Paris, built by Henry IV remaining popular during the reign of his son, Louis XIII.” For the interior designer, it was love at first sight. He made an offer on the very day that he first viewed the property. The owners of the grand home, a group of twelve brothers and sisters scattered all over France, accepted Spada’s offer within a few weeks. What I think is so beautiful about Charles Spada’s home, is that the integrity of the original manor has not been compromised. Much of the structure is original, from the chimneys right down to the wood...

Boxwood Interiors Mar08

Boxwood Interiors

How could I write about the restoration of Boxwood, and not discuss the fabulous interiors? Impossible. For the owners of the classic home, a young family, it was important that a youthful spirit and sense of vigor were present in the decor. David Netto has such a fun, exuberant, rock and roll aesthetic – so I’d say that he was the perfect man for the job! Speaking of his work on the home, Netto said “you walk in and know it’s for a young family, and that JP Morgan hasn’t just died in the back room.” Rock and roll, and a sense of humor! Entering Boxwood, you know right away to expect the unexpected – quirky, modern touches that give a nod and a wink, while still paying respect to the legacy of the home. A Basquiat hangs in the foyer, above a surprisingly graphic and modern stone floor. Looking through one archway, you spy a fabulous American Empire sofa – and through another, an incredibly chic room with dark, aubergine lacquered walls and loads of white trim. Netto says that it’s important “to have one glamorous, nightime room for cocktails or after dinner, and aubergine lacquer can make that happen better than anything.” From the foyer one can also pass through the library, which at first glance looks most traditional. Further inspection shows that the floor to ceiling oak paneling is covered in deep gouges, hand carved by artisans in Brooklyn. So cool – such texture! Another room that I am positively enamored of, is the family room at the top of the staircase landing. The entire area is wrapped in a dreamy, blue and white damask paper, with a collage of beautifully framed artwork, chocolate leather Barcelona chairs, a Russian desk, and...

Boxwood Estate Mar07

Boxwood Estate

Throughout the course of his career, architect Charles Platt received a number of important commissions. With an illustrious clientele that included such families as the Rockefellers, Astors, and even Roosevelts, it’s no wonder that his name is associated with greatness. Boxwood, a classic 1915 Platt home in Nashville, recently underwent a nearly three year long restoration. Architect Gil Schafer, interior designer David Netto, and landscape architecture firm Page Duke, joined forces to restore the beautiful home – and you can read all about it in the March issue of Veranda. Many parallels can be drawn between the home’s original architect, and the man tasked with restoring it. In fact, Schafer claims to have been a fan of the late Platt, since his days as an undergrad at Haverford College – citing an admiration of Platt’s “sensitive consideration of landscape as it relates to architecture, and the elegance of his moldings and details”. Having stood for nearly a century, and having undergone a number of additions and alterations in the 50’s, Boxwood was most certainly in need of a proper restoration – but rather than demolish the hodgepodge, Schafer and Netto, in reverence to the home’s creator, chose a careful restoration. The result – a home that is decidedly classic, and très American. Photos via G.P. Schafer...

Gilsey House Mar04

Gilsey House

With the recent openings of the Ace Hotel, and Gansevoort Park Avenue – Manhattan’s NoMad (North of Madison Square Park) neighborhood is definitely up-and-coming. It’s also home to one of my favorite buildings in the city – a former hotel, the Gilsey House. Designed by architect Stephen Decatur Hatch, the eight story, 300 room hotel opened in 1872. At the time it was one of the most luxurious hotels in the city. According to Wikipedia, rooms in Gilsey House “featured rosewood and walnut finishing, marble fireplace mantles, bronze chandeliers and tapestries – and offered services to its guests such as telephones, the first hotel in New York to do so. It was a favorite of Diamond Jim Brady and Oscar Wilde – Samuel Clemens was a guest…” Architecturally, the building is in the Second Empire style – a style that got its footing in France, most notably with Napoleon Bonaparte‘s remodeling of the Palais du Louvre. Defined by a mansard roof, the style also combines other components like dormers, stringcourses, columns, sculpture in high relief, and classical details. An article in Thursday’s New York Times, The Heyday of Mansard Roofs, makes mention of Gilsey House – “In 1871 the mansard found its most fulsome expression at the Gilsey Hotel, on Broadway and 29th. Even though it was not the largest, the three-story Gilsey mansard remains the most intoxicating stately pleasure dome of the period. Because it wraps the obtuse angle of Broadway, and then indents along the side street, it calls to mind one of those wobbly dragons held up by a dozen marchers, weaving and bobbing, in a Chinese New Year parade.” As a hotel, Gilsey House was closed a hundred years ago. Over the years the property has been involved in a...

Manhattan Samba Mar02

Manhattan Samba

Okay, so I’m a little behind with my magazines – but I just got through the January issue of Interior Design, and wanted to share the photos of this fantastic, Manhattan townhouse. It’s the New York pied-à-terre of a jet-setting Brazilian family, who, upon buying the 1840’s home – commissioned Steven Harris Architects & Rees Roberts + Partners to completely reimagine the space. The result is fabulously modern – with an eclectic array of furniture and accessories, pops of vibrant color, and an airiness that has me positively green with envy! The front part of the garden is covered by a steel-framed glass balcony on the parlor floor above. Designers from Rees Roberts collaborated on the monochromatic landscape design.  The furniture includes an Eero Saarinen table, and chairs by Dan Johnson. The sun drenched living room holds an eclectic mix of furnishings – including a vintage armchair by fellow Brazilian, Jorge Zalszupin, a Pierre Paulin lounge chair, an Ado Chale cocktail table, and a chandelier by Spanish designer, Arturo Alvarez. The light and airy foyer opens up to the dining room, and is anchored by a beautiful kilim rug – and a modern, mirrored console. In the dining room, Jean Prouvé chairs are upholstered in bubble gum pink, with an antique rosewood table from Brazil, and a custom chandelier. Built-in bookshelves give the room a library vibe, and are backlit to add some sparkle. The master bedroom faces the garden – and features another Zalszupin armchair, as well as an oversized Serge Mouille chandelier. This bathroom gets tons of light, and has a clean, monochromatic scheme. The den is again, flooded with light – and opens up to the patio and garden. An inset, jute carpeting adds some texture, and a Brazilian drum table...

Axel Vervoordt Feb22

Axel Vervoordt

I subscribe to far too many magazines, and buy so many more – that reading them all usually feels like a game of catch up.  One magazine that I always look forward to, is Australia’s Vogue Living. The November / December issue has a beautiful feature on the Swiss ski chalet of famed Belgian designer, Axel Vervoordt. In recent years, Vervoordt has become a disciple and practitioner of wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic focused on simplicity, humility, and the beauty of the imperfect. Perched in the hills high atop the village of Verbier, his family’s chalet is a perfect example of these principles – sparsely furnished with artisanal mountain furniture, but full of warmth and soul. According to the article, the home was completely “handmade by local craftsmen, pegged not nailed, waxed not varnished.” While the tony village below is known as a party destination for the jet set, Axel and his wife, May, never intended for the home to be used for entertaining. It is, rather, a simple family retreat – and a stunning one at that! Sadly, I don’t think that we’ll be able to see the chalet in person – but if you’re a ski bum, you can certainly visit Verbier! The skiing in the Swiss Alps can’t be beat! If you’re interested in learning more about the principles of wabi-sabi and their application in Axel Vervoordt’s work, pick up a copy of Vervoordt’s most recent book, Wabi Inspirations – which was released by Rizzoli just...

Stockbroker Tudor Feb16

Stockbroker Tudor

Steven Gambrel‘s interiors are always fresh, modern and eclectic – so I was excited to see one of his latest projects in the February / March issue of Elle Decor. The client was a young, Manhattan family who recently relocated to a historic house 15 miles north of the city. The 1927 tudor style home, by architect Charles Lewis Bowman, is known as a “Stockbroker Tudor” – historically popular with new money Wall Street Bankers. While the original home was perhaps too oppressive for the young family, Gambrel re-imagined the floor plan, opening up the space, and creating a warmth and airiness that is simply stunning. A yummy palette of blues (the wife’s favorite color) also helps to bring light into the home – even the half timbers on the home’s exterior were painted a pale blue. I enjoyed reading about the history of this home, researching the architect, and looking at the gorgeous photos… enjoy the...