Paige Peterson, revisited

Featured image
Paige Peterson in her studio, before the update.

A year ago last January we interviewed our friend, artist/writer Paige Peterson in her Central Park West apartment for NYSD HOUSE. A few weeks ago she sent us pictures of her apartment but after a makeover. It is a perfect A Before and After story, and it looked so different that I couldn’t help asking her why she decided to make the changes. This was her response:

I had not painted my apartment since I had moved in. I was very pregnant with my son when we moved in. He is now twenty years old. I always wanted a home you could flop down in and not worry about. With kids and kids’ friends and dogs and visiting dogs and house guests and dinner guests … I wanted it all to be easy and comfortable. And it was. It has been a wonderful home for us.

But 20 years is 20 years. Time to rethink. What do I need? I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a businesswoman. I needed to create a space for my work. Why not a space that let’s my work shine, I thought. Paint it all white.

The color of the walls had become a distraction. The change was a turning point. White walls. White Sunbrella fabric. God bless Bill Blass.

L. to r.: BEFORE: Paige with Jack.; AFTER: 18th Century Louis XV wing chair recovered in white with sheep skin throw in the boy’s room. On the pillow beneath the line up of ducks it reads The Bad Boys. An angel sits on the window sill. “Every home should have an angel in it.”

What follows is the original House interview that ran January 23, 2009:

She’s quite something, Paige Peterson. Now a painter, illustrator and writer, she came to New York as a soap opera actress, where she met David Peterson, son of billionaire Pete Peterson. (They are amicably divorced and they have two children together.) She’s a kooky, long-legged blonde, wildly energetic, laughs loudly and often, and is one of those people who is hugely flirtatious both with men and women, betraying, perhaps, an underlying anxiety that she might not be liked. But we did like her – it would be impossible not to. When we learned later that she had suffered from some appallingly serious illnesses in her lifetime, something she didn’t even hint at during the interview, it made her persona suddenly even more endearing.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in San Francisco, in the Bay Area. I was transferred here. I was working for ABC.

What were you doing for ABC?

I was on a soap opera.

Oh, I didn’t know that – for how long?

Four years.

BEFORE: Studio with a bed or bed with a studio.
AFTER: “The studio was painful to change. I loved it the way it was. But we are trying something new. I will relax when the first bit of paint hits the rug. Illustrations from our new book are on the cork board along with family pictures.”

Your name sounds a little soap-opera-ish.

[Laughs] Well thank you! It’s my married name, which makes it even better!

What was your maiden name?

Matthews—a good Scottish name.

Which soap opera were you on?

I was on a couple of them but the one that I really loved was The Edge of Night and my name was Myrna Whitmore.

[Sian] You were on The Edge of Night! – I used to watch that!

Did you?!

L. to r.: BEFORE: A Faience porcelain rabbit watches over Central Park; AFTER: Ever vigilant Faience porcelain bunny watches over Central Park. “I once had an Englishman say to me ‘it is not a bunny, it is a hare.’ Friends have commented on the fact that their children anticipate the bunny in the window as they drive down Central Park West.'”
L. to r.: BEFORE: Peter Cary’s beloved “guys” when he was a little guy.;

Were you the femme fatale?

Oh yes, for a while! But then you end up in the suicide prevention hotline center wearing really boring clothes and you wish you were the femme fatale again. You know they take you through all these different storylines.

You still are a femme fatale, aren’t you?

Oh thank you! I’m so delighted at my age to be called that! [laughing loudly]

What other acting work have you done?

I did a movie called ‘Mask’ with Cher, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. I played Cher’s friend – I was a biker chick.

BEFORE: Among pictures and books a photo of Paige and Peter Cary dancing.
L. to r.: BEFORE: Family pictures against the dining room bookcase; AFTER: Little kids, now big kids. “Edited the books (very painful to do). The ducks are a larger version of the ducks that sat on the top of our/my wedding cake.” Bottom shelf, Palm Trees, painted En plein air while in Hawaii with family.
L. to r.: BEFORE: One of Barry Clinton’s paintings of Paige and a 19th-century French bird cage in the living room; AFTER: Bookcase with family pictures. Phyllis Cerf Wagner’s little yellow chair. William Matthews’ painting of a view from Gerard Drive in East Hampton. Paige’s Hummingbird painting on the top shelf.

What was Cher like?

Cher was as unpretentious and as loving and as available and as interesting and as healthy! … the girl is SO healthy. There is no energy around this girl at all – she is just a straight arrow, a lovely, lovely girl.

I heard being on a soap opera is tough.

It’s the hardest job I ever had.

Why is it so hard?

First of all you have to memorize an entire play every night. And then you have to produce it all day long. But it’s a junkie thing—it gets exciting. I was also doing a lot of commercials at the time. In those days, if you remember, television stars and movie stars – nobody wanted to do commercials. It was basically your death … you were at the bottom of the barrel. And since I was already at the bottom of the barrel, what did I care? So I did the Ultra Bright Girl … and Levi Strauss … and Ralph Lauren. I was having a grand time!

BEFORE: The oversized Barry Clinton Sketch leans against a wall in the foyer. Los Carpentara’s painting brought back from Cuba (far right).
AFTER: On the right is Paige’s painting, Homage to Fortuny. Pink peonies adds a bit of color to the newly dubbed “entry room.”
BEFORE: Paige’s painting of wine bottle window with iris in the dining room.
AFTER: You have to earn your stripes in this room … Barry Clinton’s Wolf painting next to a Japanese screen of blue iris, perched on top of a 17th century Austrian painted armoire. The armoire to the right was given as a wedding gift.

Did you quit when you got married?

When I got married … Oh my God! I was so in love when I got married. I was so happy. I was one of those little wives who just could not believe how lucky they are. I loved the way we were living. I met him in New York, a darling, darling man. My husband’s name is David Peterson and I do refer to him as my husband, because he’s the only husband I’ve ever had but I should say ex-husband. Unfortunately we’re divorced but we’re very much intact as a family. I started painting then.

Was his father as rich then as he is now?

No, not to the extent. His father was running Lehman Brothers.

How long were you married?

Thirteen or fourteen [years]? A good run!! [really yells it]

BEFORE: The18th century caned chairs are in Louis XV style and the table is a 19th century English walnut drop leaf table. Barry Clinton’s wolf painting hangs on the left wall of the dining room.
AFTER: Peter Cary suggested the horizontal stripes after visiting Duomo di Siena in Italy. Paige cut the legs down on the 19th century English walnut drop leaf table to create a reading room. Sheep skin rugs under the table. Barry Clinton’s portraits of Paige above couch, and of her great friend, John Dodds, in the entry room. Sweet pea flowers next to sea urchins that Alexandra collected in the Aegean Sea while on a family trip to Paros Greece.
L. to r.: BEFORE: Barry Clinton’s portrait of the late great book editor John Dodds hangs on the wall above the fireplace mantel, along with two of Christopher Cerf’s Emmy awards. A pair of 18th century French sconces flank the painting.; AFTER: A pair of 18th century French sconces flank Paige’s Dark Island. Cloisonné vases brought home from Singapore. Empty space for seasonal flowers to grace the mantle.
BEFORE: Paige surveys the foyer.
AFTER: William Matthews’ painting of an Indian elephant above the 19th-century French bird cage, next to the Fortuny lamp. “I thought bringing the blue back into the room through a rug lightened the space.”

You come across as a lot of fun – do you have another side that is darker?

I’m a workaholic.

How do you spend your day?

Well, first of all – I know you have teenagers, and so getting a teenager out of bed to get to school on time is almost like … by the time I get this kid out of the house, I have had an entire day … emotionally … physically …!!

I’m a very early riser, a 5:30 riser … I make myself a cup of coffee. I go down and get the paper and then the dog and I read the paper and then I start to paint. I paint at all hours. I was painting at 2:30 this morning. If I can’t sleep, I paint.

Did you train as a painter?

I had such a great training. When I was a child my mother was an interior designer and she had a store called The Dovecote. My sister and I were required to work in the family store – every Sunday one of us would go with her to change the window. That was the best training I ever had in my entire life.

L. to r.: BEFORE: Jack with Peter Cary.; AFTER: Jack waiting for Peter Cary to come home from college.
BEFORE: Paige’s portrait of her daughter Alexandra.
AFTER: Portrait of Alexandra next to a Fortuny bench with Sand Diggers series arranged from the floor. Engulfed hangs above the bench. “Sometimes I wanted it to feel as if you could be in a gallery. The white walls really shows of the artwork.”

How did you take to motherhood?

Oh my God! When they gave me that little girl, I thought: ‘Oh my God, she’s like a baby Buddha. Oh my God, she’s perfection!’ I couldn’t take my eyes off her. And I was a completely full-time mother. And I consider myself still a full-time mother.

Didn’t they exhaust you and drive you bonkers?

When they were little, I just loved it! I liked baking cookies, I liked doing art projects – it was in my nature.

But you had full-time help…

I had Maria!

I don’t consider someone with full-time help, a full-time mother, I have to tell you…

I totally agree. What I didn’t do was go to work. What I did do was say: ‘Maria I have to go to blah blah blah …’ and Maria was in the house. Maria was their second mother. She only spoke Spanish to them, which, in the end turned against me because all three of them spoke Spanish and I would be like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!!’

BEFORE: Phyllis and Bennett Cerf’s green settee.
AFTER: Barry Clinton’s thirty year old painting of School boy vampire … very early “Twilight” don’t you think? The 19th century Bergere Chair is covered in Fortuny fabric.
BEFORE: Paige’s painting, Dark Island, hangs on the far wall of the foyer.
AFTER: Paige’s Engulfed hangs on the far wall of the entry room with her portrait of her daughter Alexandra. The white walls allow the color to pop off the canvas. We decided that less was more. We eliminated the clutter.

You’re very dressed-up with your heels and your stockings and everything but you have paint on your fingers – is that a kind of affectation to show that you’re a painter?

Oh my God, I love you for that! I am going out to have lunch with one of my favorite people in the entire world, DPC. I got dressed because I knew I was going to dash out of here after this interview … and this is oil-based paint and I don’t have the turpentine to take it off … [laughs riotously] so now I don’t usually have the paint on my hands, I really don’t.

DPC will be fine with it … well, I think that’s it, then. We’ll let you go for lunch.

[She lets out an earsplitting shriek] That’s it?! That’s it?! I’ve only just started ….

BEFORE: Paige’s grandmother brought the tea caddy (now Lamp) back from China in 1913. Paige’s painting, Homage to Fortuny, hangs above the living room couch.
AFTER: “Wine bottle window with iris” over the couch. Never mind the lack of pillows in this picture … we have waited for months for cushions and pillows to be delivered. All the upholstered furniture was picked up in late December.
BEFORE: A California cowhide sits under an 18th century Japanese dining table in the living room.
AFTER: 19th-century Japanese Screen. It is so reflective and brings different light to the room as the light changes. Just as we were taking this last shot … the pillows arrived!

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