It’s impossible to have a conversation about interior design in the 20th and early 21st centuries without acknowledging Paige Rense and her contribution in elevating the decorative arts during her legendary 35 year tenure as editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest.
Now a new book by Rense, ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A MAGAZINE, 1920-2010, chronicles the magazine’s humble beginnings as a regional Los Angeles based publication through the end of Rense’s tenure as the internationally respected authority on all things design.
The book is full of candid recollections, commentary, archival covers, and interior shots of the magazine, and also features the work of the world’s top architects and interior designers such as Mario Buatta, Philip Johnson, Tony Duquette, and Sally Sirkin Lewis, as well as the homes of celebrities like Truman Capote, Sonny & Cher, Elton John, Diane Keaton and Ralph Lauren.
Each chapter, written in the first person, is followed by illustrated anecdotes from Rense’s memories of past issues. As the editor who gave readers a glimpse into the most enviable homes around the world, Rense is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Architectural Digest.
In short: this book is a must for every well informed interior design library.
ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST: Autobiography of a Magazine: 1920 – 2010 By Paige Rense Foreword by Mario Buatta
Interior designer Ray Booth’s work conjures comparisons: He understands the importance of silhouette like John Saladino; the precise tailoring of his rooms call to mind a Jill Sander collection; and his color sensibility inhabits the same etherial realm as a Turner seascape hanging at the Tate.
Quite the combination.
These ideas and more are evident in Ray’s masterful new book Evocative Interiors, released last month by Rizzoli New York.
With a forward by Bobby McAlpine – whose firm Ray Booth is a partner in – Evocative Interiors features images from projects Booth has completely over the course of nearly two decades.
“Our everyday surroundings are a mark we make to claim our place on earth. The daily experiences they evoke through the combination of color, material, furnishings, and context profoundly affect our physical and emotional well-being.” – Ray Booth
Booth creates rooms meant for living – opulent and photogenic to be sure — but with a soul that portends an invitation to sit, relax, converse, and enjoy. These are rooms best categorized as supremely modern; they address our movement toward cleaner eclecticism and restorative spaces.
When I put this book down after a careful appraisal, I remembered the outspoken Polly Mellen in that scene from Unzipped where she’s in the back seat of a limousine with Isaac Mizrahi, describing his work as sublime but not fussy; in a wide-eyed moment she exclaims “Fussy — Finished!”
Sublime but not fussy aptly describes Ray Booth’s work as well.
My office is on the same block as the Rizzoli Bookstore in New York, so when I wandered in Tuesday morning, I was the first person to buy a copy of Charlotte Moss Entertains, the 10th book by the celebrated decorator and trendsetter, on the day of its release (they were just arranging the first copies on the shelves.) And after spending an hour at my favorite coffee haunt across the street leafing through its pages, I can attest that this book lives up to the title: It Entertains.
In her introduction, Moss lays out a concise (and accessible) list of suggestions for her readers, on all things pertaining to entertaining. Sending invites, the importance of flowers, creating table scapes, candles, dressing for dinner, and recording your parties are all covered.
What follows is a rich visual chronicle of some of Charlotte’s favored events, including a dinner party in Charleston, a gala for The New York City Ballet, a book party for Patricia Gaye Tapp, and her annual ‘Caftan Caucus’ – a weekend party shared with women friends at her East Hampton home.
But for me what’s most notable in Charlotte Moss Entertains – in addition to Moss’s writings – are the 200 photographs of everything including linens, china, table settings, gardens, rooms, and flowers (glorious flowers!) arranged for the guests to arrive; the images will inspire both the host and hostess for decades to come.
One final thought: I’m not sure when the idea of referring to pictures as porn, as in food-porn or tabletop-porn or flower-porn entered the popular vernacular, but those are 3 concise phrases to describe this book. And if Charlotte were to blush at those references, I would beg her indulgence, because Charlotte Moss Entertains is one of the sexiest entertaining books you’ll ever own. .
I heard Brooklyn-based interior designer Kathryn Scott speak at the AD Home Show several years ago and was captivated by the way she articulated herself, and by her personal style, unique among her contemporaries in the design industry. But it was the slide show of images of her Italianate townhouse that left me speechless – indeed a rare feat for those who know me well.
Taking the opportunity to introduce myself after the panel discussion led to a visit to Kathryn’s home…
Susanna Salk, with principal photography by Stacey Bewkes. Rizzoli 2017
Back in the day, I had 2 overlapping generations of Norfolk Terriers: a red-wheaton named Maxine, and a black-and-tan, named Bruno, Maxine’s nephew. And if you were a customer of my textile studio you likely remember them, as they went to work with me everyday. We were inseparable.
“First, you have to be sensitive to the psychology of the room. Color plays a huge role in the emotions that are evoked in the space: use color to maximize intended emotions for the area. The furniture plan and flow are also important; not enough furniture— or too much—can kill a room’s mood. Getting the proportions of the furnishings right is also essential. For example, low furniture in a room with tall ceilings can make its occupants feel diminished and unimportant.
Next, pay attention to comfort. We’ve all seen beautifully designed chairs that feel like torture devices when one sits down. When it comes to seating, ergonomics and comfort should come first. Getting scale right is also important; you don’t want the chair to be under- or overscaled. If you want statement pieces in a room, choose something other than seating.
“Then, consider practicality. Who wants to worry about the inevitable spilled glass of red wine or water ring on the antique side table? One of the most important aspects of a welcoming space is that it has been designed to really work for the way that you live. Today, with so many terrific options in terms of high-performance fabrics, you don’t have to squirm at the smallest accident.
Using marine varnish on even the finest of antiques takes the worry out of every glass or coffee cup that gets set down on a table.”
“Just as homes can be laid out to maximize social interaction, an individual room can be designed to positively reinforce parent-child bonds. The placement and relationship of each piece of furniture to another affects how human connections are made. For instance, adding an L-shaped sectional to a family room with an ottoman in front invites everyone to gather to play games, do homework, and converse. Having an inviting, comfortable, well-lit place to read to a child fosters intimacy. Including trundle beds in children’s rooms makes it easy to have sleepovers, promoting socialization.
“Contrary to what one might think, elegance and practicality are not irreconcilable for families. Throughout a home, materials can be aesthetically pleasing as well as durable.”
“Color is, of course, the easiest way to make a bold statement. There are no bad colors, but it is a lot easier to create an exuberant interior with red than it is with beige. Nancy Lancaster’s butter yellow room at Colefax and Fowler, David Hicks’s drawing room using ten shades of red, Billy Baldwin’s sublime blue room at the Villa Fiorentina, and Mark Hampton’s chocolate brown room in a Kips Bay showhouse will always be a huge influence, because although each room is unique, they all share a clarity and sense of purpose expressed through a strong color statement.”
“Love of strong color is a personality trait, and like an MGM musical, I choose to decorate in Technicolor. There are no rules when using color to foster exuberance, but I like using a classic combination like blue and white as a jumping-off point and then adding in the spice—such as orange.”