Thursday, October 4, 2018

Discovering the World

Looking north across Central Park from high above Central Park South, 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, October 4, 2018. Fair and mild weather yesterday in New York with the temp hitting 77 but very comfortable, and dropping to the low 60s in the late evening.

New York is like this. I had lunch yesterday with Wendy Goodman, the Design Editor at New York Magazine. She’s been with New York since the mid-80s when she first joined them to write about fashion.

She and I have known each other for a long time now, since the ‘90s, because of our mutual professional interests – seeing each other often a public events or with mutual friends out for lunch or dinner. But, as it often happens with so many people we meet and get to know in our professional endeavors, I don’t recall ever sitting down with Wendy and talking about her life, my life here in New York, until this lunch.

Click to order "May I Come In: Discovering the World in Other People's Houses."
The date was made ostensibly to talk about, and publicize her new book “May I Come In; Discovering the World in Other People’s Houses.” This is the season for new books and there are a number of interior design volumes coming on the market as I write. They are mainly designer volumes showcasing a designer’s ideas and achievements, They are especially popular with people looking to redecorate or acquire a new home.

Wendy’s book is about the homes already lived in by a wide variety of individuals famous and not, as well as some interior designers. She quotes the legendary Billy Baldwin about the ultimate merits of an individual’s home: “Nothing is interesting…unless it’s personal.” At lunch we discussed this interior design edict, and how we both were personally impressed by what a house/interior tells us about its owner/dweller.

The photographs are beautiful.  This is a coffee table sized book and the images often fill the page to invite you. Wendy also delivers the story of each one in terms of how each affected her interest and at times, awe. There are more than sixty private interiors – as well as many exteriors telling you about the individual enough so that their personal abodes give you the full picture.
A portrait of Wendy's family in the late 1950s: from left, Wendy, holding her sister Stacy; her mother; father, with her brother Ed on his lap; and sister Tonne. Photo: Courtesy of Wendy Goodman
Among those who houses and apartments are shown are, to name only a handful: Richard Avedon, Tina Turner, Suzanne Bartsch, Tony Duquette, Valentino, Gray Foy, Andrew Solomon and John Habich, Kitty Hawks and Larry Lederman, Alba Clemente, Anne Slater, Todd Oldham, Cornelia Guest, Kehinde Wily Daniel Romualez, Whoopi Goldberg, David and India Hicks, Babs Simpson, Donatella Versace, Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Michael Henry Adams; Peter Marino, Kenneth Jay Lane, Ruth Lande Shuman, and a host of other interesting characters and personalities.
Vito Schnabel's great room in Palazzo Chupi, designed by his father, Julian, in the West Village. The elder Schnabel also created Vito's fantastical dining chairs. Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson
In the introduction she tells us about her background and how this career came about. Growing up in New York, the daughter of a doctor, she attended Brearley, the private girls school that is just down the block from my apartment. She attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and went on to study acting with Stella Adler. I’m not sure what persuaded her to follow another path in the arts (It might have been studying with Stella Adler). Her first job in fashion was working for Anna Wintour at Harper’s Bazaar. It was there that she met Diana Vreeland who totally charmed her and had a lasting effect on the development of Wendy’s professional career as a writer editor. After Bazaar, she went to work for New York Magazine as its fashion editor.
Jeremy Liebman photographed Richard Christiansen's Chinatown loft decked out for entertaining in a dark, sexy vibe. "I wanted it to look like Donatella Versace had designed an opium den," Richard said. Every detail was utilized to create a glamorous undertone, including the kitschy, black-lacquered eighties canopy bed, which had been a glossy banana color when he found it. Photo: Jeremy Liebman
Todd Oldham and Tony Longoria's living room, with their collection of portraits by outsider artists. They were champions of designer, Liora Manné's Lamontage felt rugs, and had one in their living room. Todd collaborated with Manné on a fashion collection in fall 1991. Photo: Oberto Gili
It was during that time that Pauline Trigere invited her for lunch at La Grenouille which was then run by Charles Masson. At Trigere’s suggestion, Masson gave Wendy a tour of the entire building which was originally a carriage house for the mansion that then existed on the northeast corner of 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue. It was built by the abortionist to Society in the Gilded Age, Madame Restell, who also used it for her professional purposes. At some point it also served as garage and carriage house for the Plant mansion on the southeast corner, which is now Cartier. Wendy was so taken by the history and use of these rooms that it inspired a growing interest in covering private dwellings of the rich and famous, including actors, artists, writers and such.
Mere words can't describe just how pink the bedroom is in Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz and Steven Wine's Rockaway apartment. Photo: Dean Kaufman
In the home of fashion designer Sylvia Heisel and her husband, Scott Taylor, designed by Doug Meyer: The study walls were covered in magazine tear sheets that Sylvia had collected over decades. The op-art apartment was photographed by Dean Kaufman. Photo: Dean Kaufman
She credits her naturally intense interest in the subject of interior design to her “mother’s unerring eye.” She writes in the beginning of the book, “I understood that the most captivating rooms exist where decoration is a by-product of a person’s passions in life. That is what I am off to find when I tie on my sneakers, hop on the subway, and start my design hunting adventures every day.”
Misha Kahn and Nick Haramis's kitchen was its own feast of color and pattern, no food needed. Annie Schlechter photographed the design caper. Photo: Annie Schlechter
“Over the years of going into other people’s houses I have discovered three things to be true. The first is that curiosity and never giving up will get you everywhere. The second is what Diana Vreeland expressed so perfectly when she wrote, ‘Few things are more fascinating than the opportunity to see how other people live during their private hours.’ And the third is that houses never lie. They tell you if they are loved. They tell you if they have been created to impress, and thereby sit in loneliness, and they embrace you with palpable joy and warmth when they have been created with authenticity and heart.”

Authenticity and heart are the two most important ingredients in this voyage of hers through the seas and forests of domestic life.

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