The Greenroom Garden (created by Greener by Design) at Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club's 2006 Decorator Showhouse. Photo: JH.

Yesterday was damp and partly sunny in New York. By nightfall the skies were covered by those thick indigo grey clouds, the kind that promise a storm. But no storms. About six-thirty, I went over to the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club 2006 Decorator Showhouse at 4 East 75 Street.

But first something about the neighborhood. The Showhouse this year is in a 50-foot-wide mansion still referred to as the Harkness House because in the late 1960s it was occupied by The Harkness House For Ballet Arts Foundation, funded by Rebekah Harkness, a very wild and crazy lady who had been married to, among others, a very rich Standard Oil heir.

There is another Harkness House on the block, right on the northeast corner of Fifth and 75th. This house was completed in 1908, designed by James Gamble Rogers for Edward and Mary Harkness. It was a wedding gift from Edward’s widowed mother. Edward’s father Stephen Harkness was an Ohio businessman who was an early investor in John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company.

Edward was one of four children. By the time the house was built on the corner of 75th Street, they were one of the wealthiest families in America. Edward Harkness died in 1940, leaving a legacy of philanthropy that continues today. He later commissioned Rogers to build the Harkness College buildings at Yale. His wife lived another ten years and when she died in 1950, the house was left to The Commonwealth Fund, a creation of the couple who had no heirs.

No. 4 East 75th Street, the site of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club 2006 Decorator Showhouse
No. 1 East 75th Street, also a Harkness House
The block of 75th Street between Fifth and Madison began developing with row houses built in the 1870's, a quarter century before this part of Fifth Avenue became the location of choice for the city’s millionaires. In 1876, the neo-Greco-style row house at 19 East 75th, was built. A few years later, two Queen Anne-style row houses were built at nos. 13 and 15. Then in 1896 the firm of Trowbridge, Colt & Livingston built a 50-foot-wide limestone French Renaissance style mansion at no. 4 for Nathaniel McCready. Mr. McCready who was the president of a shipping firm was also a big investor in New York real estate. He was also fond of hunting boar in the forest near Orleans in France.

The house has approximately 20,000 square feet. McCready lived there with his family and a staff of seven servants, including three coachmen. What is now the entry hall was an open driveway leading to the back of the house where there was a five stable stall.

In 1919, Stanley Mortimer, a socialite known for his equestrian expertise and polo playing (who would later be the first father-in-law of Babe Paley), bought the house and filled in the driveway. The bronze gate at the entrance was designed for him by Carrère & Hastings, who also designed The New York Public Library. After Mortimer, the house was purchased by Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM who lived there until his death in 1956 when the house was acquired by the widow of film producer William Fox. In 1965 it was acquired by Rebekah Harkness, whose husband William Hale Harkness was a relative of Edward Harkness.

The house was acquired by Jaqui Safra in 1987 along with his partner Jean Doumanian. Most of its interior was gutted, turning it in to loft-like spaces except for the original grand staircase. The house has never been occupied and is for sale for $55 million.

The state of the interior at this moment does not reflect the Doumanian/Safra renovation thanks to 26 of the leading interior decorators and designers participating in the Showhouse.

Last night’s “gala” was chaired by Robert Couturier and Tony Ingrao. This year’s participating designers are Barbara Ostrom Associates, Campion Platt, Charles Pavarini III, Charlotte Moss, Christopher Maya, Eric Cohler, Joel Allen, John Landrum Bryant, Katina Arts-Meyer, Katherine Newman, Kenneth Hocklin, Kondylis Design and Costas Kondylis and Partners Architects, Larry Laslo, Mario Buatta, Richard Mishaan, St. Charles of New York, Schermerhorn Interior Design, Shaver/Melahn Studios, Sherrill Canet Interiors, Susan K. Gutfreund, Thom Filicia, and Tonin MacCallum.

Campion Platt
Roderick Denault, Pat Carey, and Richard Ridge

Nadia and Benjamin Steinitz

Susan Gutfreund in her "Room with a View"
L. to r.: Eric Javits and Keith Scott; Diane James standing with the silk flowers she made for Susan Gutfreund's room.
Alan Carroll and Mark Kusek of Red Branch Decorative Imaging

Joan Jedell

Melinda and Allison Blinken
Rusty Arena standing in front of the hand-painted burlap walls he designed for Susan Gutfreund


A pillow in Susan Gutfreund's room

Mario Buatta's "Sitting Room"

Molto Mario
Mario in his room
Brian Stewart and Stephanie Krieger

Charles Pavarini III in his "Buononotte" room

Bruce Addison and Michael Foster
Naz Tesfig and friend in Thom Filicia's "Modern Times" room

Larry Laslo in his "Master Bedroom"

Michele and Larry Herbert
Bettina Zilkha

Christopher Maya in his "Petit Salon"

There was a lot going on in New York last night. Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City (BigsNYC) hosted its 27th Annual 2006 Sidewalks of New York Gala expecting to raise over $1 million for programs to help NYC boys and girls. The evening had a twist – the children make the presentations! After interviewing the event’s famous honorees and preparing short speeches, these children, and their mentors, presented the awards at the Waldorf Astoria. Soledad O’Brien emceed. They honored Andrea Jung, Chairman/CEO, Avon Products, Inc.; Robert E. Diamond, Jr., President, Barclays PLC; and Wayne Chrebet, ex-Jet and local hero.

The “I Have a Dream”® Foundation 25th Anniversary Gala Evening to benefit the Foundation’s 25 years of serving at risk children and youth across the country was at the Rainbow Room, honoring Eugene M. Lang, MassMutual Financial Group, and The H. N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. Mike Wallace, emceed. Honorary Chairs were Mario Cuomo, Bob Kerrey, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Hon. Charles B. Rangel, Donna Shalala, and Harris Wofford.

Tory Burch

Down at the Mikhail Baryshnikov’s studios, Body & Soul New Yorkthere were dynamic performances by young artists who were presented the top cash awards by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) Chairs were Madeleine and Micky Arison, Kitty Carlisle Hart, and Ginny Mancini.

While over at Zarela, the restaurant named for its owner-chef, Zarela Martinez, The Nature Conservancy's Young Professionals Group held a benefit dinner in celebration of the beauty and diversity of Mexico.

And in another part of the New York universe where where the states of marriage and divorce are the staples of the boldfaced names and their spheres of influence, just for the record: I got a call yesterday morning from the recently separated designer/retailing tycoon Tory Burch about the passing item in Monday’s NYSD about her allegedly seeing Ron Perelman. “I’ve never even met Ron Perelman,” Mrs. Burch corrected (very pleasantly, as is her style), adding that dating or seeing anybody is not even on her list of interest and priorities right now.


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April 24, 2006, Volume VI, Number 69
Photographs by DPC/


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/