A Kips Bay most memorable

When we headed into Manhattan in late April for our media tour of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, we knew this one was pretty special.

The annual design showcase (and fundraiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club) is always a stunner, but this one seemed to have that something special.

There was so much to share I ended up writing about it not only for WAG — the photo spread and story is in our new June issue — but also twice here in the newsletter. I even wrote a version focusing on the Connecticut connections for our sister publication, the Fairfield County Business Journal.

With the show house concluding May 29, I wanted to share one more thing — a recap of the edition of the Kips Bay Salon Nights I was invited to earlier this week.

Held weekly over the run of the show, these design-themed evenings, presented by The Monacelli Press, were quite the draw. The closing event filled the Alexa Hampton for Mark Hampton sitting room to near bursting.

I was among those taking advantage of the chance to hear Derek E. Ostergard, the noted decorative arts and design expert, who offered a charming exploration of the show house’s setting and its place in the city’s history. “The Villard Houses: Formidable Icons of Midtown Manhattan” explored what’s today called the Mansion on Madison, a brownstone adjacent to the New York Palace luxury hotel. The Kips Bay home was originally part of the famed Villard Houses, designed by the noted McKim, Mead and White firm and built in 1882.

“I was so happy to hear Kips Bay was able to get this remarkable cluster of rooms for the Kips Bay show house this year,” Ostergard said in opening remarks.

He would go on to fascinate the audience with tales of the neighborhood’s growth, of trains and hotels, retail and various ownerships, including once by the Catholic Church. It was an illustrated walk through more than a century of history and a chronicle of dramatic change.

“Still, this building stands,” he said.

And while it has housed a world of design inspiration this past month — “There are so many subtexts,” he said of the room designs — the show house further captivated Ostergard in a most charming way.

“The thing that moved me the most was looking out these windows at these vistas,” he said.

As he shared a vintage image of the courtyard and St. Patrick’s Cathedral just beyond the fanciful arched entrance, Ostergard said: “This is the only midtown view that’s intact in Manhattan.”

And having heard him speak, we all took more lingering glances out those same windows, then able to appreciate the home of the show house with fresh eyes.

(And in a quick footnote, I had the chance to catch up with fellow guest John Danzer after the talk. I had profiled Danzer and his Munder-Skiles garden furniture company in WAG back in 2012 and was pleased to be able to congratulate him on his recent Award of Excellence from The Horticultural Society of New York. Well-deserved!).

For more, visit kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.

– Mary Shustack

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