Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt knew a thing or two about chiaroscuro, the Italian word that represents a magical moment when light (chiaro) meets dark (scuro) in art. They were masters at the technique of bringing vigor to the three-dimensional objects they painted by juxtaposing illumination and shading in their works.
I saw it for myself when I walked through the exhibition “Leondardo 1452-1519” at the Palazzo Reale in Milan last year, one of the many works I had the privilege of seeing in person the above studio copy of the painting depicting Leda and the Swan, the original by Leonardo da Vinci thought to be destroyed. It is a sublime representation of the power of chiaroscuro.
Chiaroscuro at Kips Bay
As I was making my way through the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in May, it occurred to me that the entire milieu created within the Lenox Hill mansion on 61st Street near Park Avenue was an interplay of dark and light—the most soothing rooms whispery to experience and the most dramatic ones enigmatically swarthy. The contrasts have inspired me to illustrate the intermingling of these disparate style statements, which also included a mix of valuable antiques and edgy modern furniture, on our Bruce Andrews Design Journal today.
Leading the pack of beautifully pale settings were the spaces created by Alex Papachristidis and Suzanne Kasler. I’ve been following Alex’s work since I read his book The Age of Elegance: Interiors by Alex Papachristidis several years ago. Newly named to the AD100 List, his classical influences were showing in his space in The Carlton House Townhouse. Suzanne Kasler’s approach to her space was equally classic, a stylistic move for which she is known, as is illustrated in her two books Inspired Interiors and Timeless Style, and her collection for Hickory Chair.
Phillip Thomas’ space was one of the most interesting in my exploration of chiaroscuro because it held both pale and dark elements, but the materials of the darker pieces—the sheen of the lacquer on the desk and the vibrant tones of the ceramics—caught the light to make them read as “of a piece” with the rest of the room. A graduate of the New York School of Interior Design, it’s no surprise he was cited by Array Magazine as one of the top ten designers the year he completed his degree.
Timothy Whealon’s bedroom was a serene cocoon meant for contemplating life and easing into dreamtime. His was one of many spaces that held touches of Chinoiserie, his nods to the orient accomplished with the ubiquitous shapes inherent in the style, each in pale tones so as not to interrupt the serenity of the backdrop. Whealon’s knowledge of antiques shows in the way he curates, the training a result of the completion of a Sotheby’s Works of Art course in London. He also finished the corporate management-training program with Sotheby’s New York before opening his offices in 1994.
Clive Christian’s kitchen held one of my favorite design details—the wood carving at the apex of the beautiful chairs at the breakfast-room table. The founder of his eponymous British design house was awarded the OBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 for his contributions to luxury design in Great Britain.
In the Grand Salon, Victoria Hagan maximized pared-down minimalism with the biggest design statements being made with pops of color on architectural details and art climbing the walls. She has long been included in Architectural Digest’s esteemed AD100, and her design honors include an induction into the Interior Design Hall of Fame.
Far and away, my favorite space this year was Garrow Kedigian’s “Napoleon’s Lounge,” a moody mélange fit for a brooding emperor if there ever was one. It took six days for Rajiv Surendra—a calligraphy artist—to create chalk trompe l’oeil panels on the walls in the space, a brilliant move that created an impossible draw to touch for those of us walking through. The lines and swirls had already been smudged by the time I visited, and I was fascinated to read in The New York Times review of the show house that the notion of impermanence delighted the designer.
The 21 designers who created spaces at this year’s show house were selected by a committee led by renowned interior designer Bunny Williams. “This year’s team of participating designers and architects is an extraordinary mix of veterans and newcomers,” she remarked, “who not only are doing amazing things for the interior design community, but are also dedicated to supporting our cause.”
Show House sponsors this year included Kohler, Miele, Henredon Hickory Chair, Architectural Digest, Hearst Design Group, Farrow & Ball, Kravet, the New York Design Center, Ruby Lux, Christopher Guy, Cosentino, AKDO, 1stdibs and Joseph Carini Carpets. We at Bruce Andrews Design would like to salute manufacturers, designers and publishers like these for giving back to the design world at large, and supporting the after-school and enrichments programs for the more than 10,000 New York City youths that this organization helps each year.
“Last year marked a major milestone for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, as we celebrated our 100th year of service and one of the most successful Show Houses to date,” said James Druckman, President and CEO of the New York Design Center, and President of the Board of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club. Congratulations to everyone involved for producing a luxurious expression of design this year!
This post, Chiaroscuro at Kips Bay, © Bruce Andrews Design, all rights reserved. Our furniture is now available through Nandina Home in Aiken, SC; Jalan Jalan in Miami, FL; Travis & Company in ADAC in Atlanta; and the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Dallas, TX. We will soon be showing in the Ellouise Abbott showroom in Houston and in the Michael-Cleary showroom in Chicago, IL.