What is gray and white and oh, so over? Apparently, my home decor. At least in decorating circles, white supremacy is fading. Color is back. So, even, is chintz. More is more for Grand Millennial Style. And Eco Chic, especially upcycling is white hot.
I learned all this and more, the day after the East Hampton Antiques & Design Show Preview Cocktail Party benefiting the East Hampton Historical Society, at a lively presentation titled “Point of View: Vintage to New,” presented by the two organizations.
Honorary Chairperson Marshall Watson and Millennial “It” designer Sasha Bikoff showed examples of their decorated-to-perfection rooms and one-of-a-kind furniture, to illustrate how they incorporate antiques into modern day decor by upcycling. That is “taking a vintage piece, restoring, reimagining and reusing it,” Marshall explained. He and Bikoff are masters of the method.
It’s a key way 30-something Bikoff mashes periods and styles. She’s a hot new face but an old hand at rummaging through vintage markets all over the world and getting busy. She recovered a spiral chair in Pucci remnant fabric, a Maitland Smith chair in a fabric she found on the beach in Punta del Este and a 19th Century English chair in an Hermes vintage scarf.
It’s 18th Century French Rococo meets 1980’s Italian Memphis Milano with a soupçon of 1960’s Space Age and 1970’s French Modern. She ties it all together by coordinating fabric, finish and proportion.
She can even create a masterpiece out of a winding staircase. That’s all she was given in the Kips Bay 2018 Show House to decorate. But, she stole that show, making waves across the Atlantic … all the way to Milan. One day sitting in her East Hampton beach front home she got the call: “Hay-loww this is Donatella,’’ as in Versace.
“She said my staircase from Kips Bay was on her mood board,” Bikoff recalled. “She was so inspired by my work she wanted me to design a collection for her. Three days later, I walked into a black Mercedes to a first class Emirates flight to Milan. There, I had a driver named Gianluca, an assistant named Gianmarco and a team of ten Italian men working to give me everything I wanted. I had hair, make up — and a whole new wardrobe. My first collection was at Fuorisalone, the big design fair in Milan. It was mostly inspired by late ’80s early ’90s Versace fashion.” Her second collection for them was at Design Miami (a companion fair to Art Basel), inspired, she said, by Miami light and the couture Gianni Versace created there.
Her first total creation was the redo of her mothers Dakota apartment. When no other designer’s vision was acceptable, Sasha took over. Her condition? A free hand. Still, she said, “Mom set me up for all those Upper East Side ladies, because she was one of my most difficult clients to date.”
Coincidently we sat next to Bikoff’s fiancee, Adam Cooper, cofounder of Wine n Dine, the leading menu management software in the hospitality industry. “They’re going to be quite the “It” power couple,” Marshall marveled. “She has the same historical significance as Rose Cumming.” (a designer known for her revolutionary sense of color). “This white on white and minimalist, austerity,” he continued. “We’re tired of it. It’s been gray and gray and gray and gray for so long. What does it say about our personalities? That’s why Sasha is going through the roof now and designers go gaga over her.”
Watson, on the other hand, is a modern day Billy Baldwin: a classicist and modernist, prizing comfort and livability, light and elegance. “I’m not a strict traditionalist but I do love what antiques do for a room,” Marshall told us. “I wouldn’t want to do a room without something old in it. Sticking exclusively to one period is, as they say, the bland leading the bland.”
He likes something old and, like Baldwin, something new. “The newest wall coverings, fabrics and carpets. Glossy finishes, for example, are the cats meow right now. It is the most popular and the hardest finish to achieve (read pricey) but lasts the longest (a bargain after all!).”
What else is new? Everything old. “Floral chintzes are popular again,” he continued, “but not in the Mario Buatta way. They are brighter, less tea stained, cheery. And everybody loves bamboo. You saw it all around the show.
“Gardening during quarantine became so popular out here, I’m seeing the use of greenery and flower arranging more and more.”
But, the biggest at home trend is … staying home.
“People were so cooped up for so long, that they wanted to make their homes as nice as possible,” Marshall continued, “including home offices and desks. Most enjoyed their children coming back. So, they are trying to seduce them into returning more frequently, with nicer guest rooms, guest cottages, playrooms, nurseries and swimming pools.”
Just one problem: nothing is available. “It was going to take 35 weeks to get a dining table delivered,” bemoaned Watson. “It’s impossible now to get any furniture that was made outside of the country. And the great California companies can’t get wood from Canada. We can’t get foam because the factory that supplied to the upholstery industry blew up. But, New York workrooms can get a sofa redone in less than six weeks.”
And again, it is uber on trend. “Take a vintage piece of furniture and put a wild fabric on it,” Watson continued. “Take a vintage candlestick and make a lamp out of it. Take an 18th-century chest of drawers no one will buy and lacquer it black. The proportions are so beautiful.”
Watson was excited about the night before’s record attendance and substantial sales, for his first time as Honorary Chair. Debbie Druker, East Hampton Historical Society’s 2nd Vice President, walked over to congratulate. “You greeted everyone last night, “she told him. Out of 450 guests, Marshall said he knew at least 250. After all, it has been more than 30 years since he moved to East Hampton, bought a house and then, quit his job to start his own company. That might have been a little nerve-racking to now-husband Paul Sparks, but the man never let on. They can laugh about it … now!
Hopefully he and Druker will be able to laugh about the curveball thrown at her, right before the opening. Turns out that trend of kids coming home was happening a little sooner than she expected. Her son had been all set to attend the Oxford Academia. Then England shut down, and the program relocated to Madrid. He had been in Spain only eight days, when there were outbreaks. Suddenly, Debbie got the call they were sending everyone home — the next morning. “Marshall really calmed me down,” she told me.
All this talk of trends hit home for me: the home of Catherine Petree Bellis that is, my millennial BFF/ unofficial style consultant. I have been enjoying listening to her year-and-a-half long effort to furnish her new Pound Ridge family home, with antiques: customizing them and then customizing some more. She cut up tables and made them smaller or into headboards. The girl who inspired me to never use color, even in my gardens, was now adding pops of bright green to her kitchen, covering antique chairs in fuchsia and obsessing over brass fixtures. She was burning up eBay.
She was sourcing bamboo from Palm Beach. When the walls were painted in a special, high gloss finish, the family couldn’t return for three days to avoid the fumes. Her creations started gaining an industry following on her Pound Ridge Collective Instagram page. “Everything you are doing is right on trend!“ I couldn’t wait to tell her. “Really?” She replied. “It is?“ Perhaps, like everything else catching, it’s just in the air.
So, how did she get there? “It started because I couldn’t get sofas delivered in less than six months,” Catherine told me. “We would have been living in this house without any furniture. I turned to antiques. Now, I am so addicted, I had to make a business out of it. I buy all these beautiful things and make them current. And I sit in a room filled with crap all day long.
“We have a traditional New England home, but for the addition I wanted happy color. When I think of color, I think of Palm Beach and all the fun times. That led me to the Thomasville faux bamboo.
“Cherish, 1stDibs, Instagram and eBay have taken furniture directly to the consumer and out of the dumpsters. It’s also given jobs to local movers, upholsterers and artisans when they needed it most and to women’s small businesses. A lot of these women are mothers who can earn money at night this way while taking care of their kids all day.”
Guests at the East Hampton Antiques & Design Show Preview Cocktail Party included: Charlotte Moss, Dianne Benson and Lys Marigold, Richard Barons (Chief Curator of the EHHS), Debbie and Henry Druker, Lisa and Cary Kravet, Andrea Schumacher, Mike Clifford, Frank Newbold, James Blauvelt, Tom Samet, James Nolan, David Netto, Kate Kelly Smith, Pamela Jaccarino, Sean Sullivan, Anthony Baratta, EH Town Supervisor, Marilyn and Peter Van Scoyoc and Dan Scotti.
Photographs by Richard Lewin.