Editor’s Miscellany: Home for the Holidays

By Kyle Hoepner

No, not exactly a novel headline for a blog post this time of year. But I couldn’t resist, since it’s applicable in several ways. One, it refers to a recent trip I made to New York City, and for me, somehow, New York always feels like my true and perfect home—even though I’ve never yet actually lived there. Two, the reason for said trip was a long-overdue first visit to Holiday House NYC, Iris Dankner’s beautifully produced seasonal design showcase that has for the past several years benefited the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Finally, consider the headline a nod to those breast cancer survivors who, happily, are able to be home with family this holiday season—and who, lacking the support made possible by this kind of fundraiser, might not have been.

The show house is held every November and December in the historic Academy Mansion at 2 East 63rd Street, meaning that it makes a pleasant design counterweight to the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in the spring, and—unlike Kips Bay, which is in a different location from year to year—at Holiday House you can, over time, see several different designers tackle the specific challenges of each room. Most rooms in the house represent a particular holiday, which may be drawn from a number of global traditions; some rooms represent a different kind of noteworthy day or milestone in a person’s life.

Our guest blogger for this week, John Lyle, has already discussed two of his favorite spaces in the 2013 Holiday House. I’ll take the opportunity to mention a few other rooms today.

For some show house visitors, the most interesting destinations are those daring, push-the-envelope, pull-out-all-the-stops spaces that actual clients might not abide. The rooms I most admire, though, are the ones that are special and festive, you bet, but at the same time completely integrated, assured, with nothing too big, too small, out of place, or striving too hard simply for effect. For me the sure sign of mastery is when everything in a room just feels right, with all the bits and pieces playing their proper role and no more.

Stepping into the Holiday House first-floor living room, by Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper, was like digging your spoon into a huge mound of the world’s richest French vanilla ice cream: arguably a bit too much for good health, yes, but who’s going to quibble when the taste is so luscious?

Unless credited otherwise, photos are taken with my not-so-good little travel camera.

Dark, heavy paneling and a massive fireplace in the library (neither of which can be altered) provide a real challenge for the room’s designers. Patrik Lönn pulled off an elegant balancing act, with taut patterns echoing the gridded walls, comfortably sprawly, informal furniture, and just the right amount of organic disorder.

Photo by Phillip Ennis, courtesy of Patrik Lönn Design

I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the window-pane men’s suiting that clothed the ceiling and the splotchy verre egolimisé (with matching fiddle-leaf fig!) backing the room’s shelves.

The colors and sheens of Ellie Cullman’s “thirtieth anniversary” room appeared to be drawn from celebratory bottles of Veuve Clicquot scattered here and there. The component elements of this room were nothing if not assertive, yet the total effect still cohered completely in its sophisticated, Deco-ish way.

(A fun comparison: this same room in 2011 was a Valentine’s Day confection by James Rixner, done up in the succulent hues of a chocolate-covered cherry.)

Photo by Nick Johnson, from traditionalhome.com

In many cases, for obvious reasons, these “just right” rooms are the big, important spaces done by the big, important design firms. But sometimes there are gems also among the smaller spaces in a show house, done by designers who aren’t necessarily household names, but who still achieve the same aura of rightness. At this year’s Holiday House, several come to mind.

On the second floor landing, J&G Design played a bold lapis lazuli silk wallpaper against the house’s architectural travertine to beautiful effect.

Studio Tim Campbell outfitted the entry hall in a moody, cosmopolitan vein. (Please forgive the terrible picture.)

The ladies of Franklin Eighth turned a tunnel-like passage to the ladies’ lounge into a symphony of pattern. (Again please forgive the terrible picture.)

And, finally, Patrick J. Hamilton transformed what could have been a lightless, claustrophobic cell into a richly layered celebration of deep greens—for, naturally, St. Patrick’s Day.

Photo by Rikki Snyder, from houzz.com

Photo by Rikki Snyder, from houzz.com

Photo tours of previous Holiday Houses can be found on the website of Traditional Home, which traditionally sponsors the event. And a beautifully photographed overview of this year’s rooms is currently up on houzz.com, courtesy of photographer Rikki Snyder.

Best of all, of course, would be to spend a holiday weekend in Manhattan and see the house for yourself. It is open through December 18; tickets are available here.

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