Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Home That Feels Right for Right Now

I'm still working my way through Manhattan Style (a great book, by the way) and was happy to find the chapter on the Manhattan apartment of the late Stanley Barrows. Barrows was regarded as one of the finest and most erudite design historians of the twentieth century. As head of the interior design department at Parsons and later at FIT, Barrows taught the history of interior design to the likes of Albert Hadley, Mario Buatta, and Angelo Donghia amongst many others. He truly was the éminence grise of design history.

What makes this home so appealing to me is the sense of elegant comfort and coziness. Yes, it is filled with distinguished antiques, but they are arranged and displayed in such a way that is hardly pretentious. This was obviously the home of a man who treasured his collections, namely his library of 5000+ books, but they weren't displayed for show. Isn't that refreshing after years of conspicuous displays of art and antiques? And the apartment was somewhat small too, but there was still a place for everything- a small dining area, a seating area, and copious bookshelves. Barrows may not have had an endless amount of space with which to work, but he still managed to create a pretty fabulous home.

I think that what I'm trying to get at is that Barrows' home is such a wonderful example of how you can live, and live grandly, on a smaller scale surrounded by things that you love. You shouldn't let your style and creativity be hampered by a lack of space or a lack of trendy objects and accessories. And stick to what you love and what you'd love to live with years from now. Would you be surprised to know that this apartment was photographed around 1990? Almost twenty years later and it still looks like a home I'd gladly live in. Just a little food for thought.

A liberal use of red can be a little tricky, but it just really works in this apartment.

The dining area within the living room. Wouldn't dinner at a cozy table like this be far more fun and lively than at a restaurant?

The Boulle cabinet that was used as honest to goodness bookshelves. Look how the books were piled willy-nilly. I'm a stickler for symmetry, but I think this looks just great.

Fine antiques were mixed with more contemporary pieces like the red upholstered slipper chairs.

Image at top: A bedroom filled with more books. This might have been a tad cluttered for my tastes, but I appreciate it nonetheless.


  1. Everything about these rooms is inspiring, so inviting, but the library-bedroom is especially wonderful. Such great use of space and enjoying the here and now.

  2. I am so glad I stopped by your beautiful blog. I love this apartment, I also live in a tiny house and have so many books. I think this gentleman not only had a beautiful apartment but he made a beautiful home. Makes me think of this quote:

    "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." ~William Morris

  3. Courtney- Wouldn't you love to have shelves like that for all of your books? I know that I would!

  4. Yoli- Morris' quote just sums it up perfectly!!

  5. I love the colors used - they're so warm and inviting. And many of the pieces are exquisite.

    But - for me! - the whole place is just too cluttered and crowded with "stuff" for me. Just looking at those crowded and piled up bookcases makes me sneeze!

    These are beautiful rooms to look at, without question, but I don't think I could live in them for a second.

    :-) different strokes

  6. My terrier would eat every book below the 4 foot line, and not under glass, but I've always loved that red crowded room look(for at least one room). And the bed glows(although some of that may be photography). It looks like a night time apartment, not a place to spend a summer day. Is there any connection between this apartment and the Diana Vreeland red lacquer one?

  7. Love this apartment, i concur it is a bit cluttered for my personal taste, however i would love to be a guest to a dinner party. I so appreciate classic, timeless interiors like this! Thank you for sharing.

  8. I love these orange-reds. I find myself coming back them so often. I too am a fan of older Interior Design books and always try to recreate the amazing color schemes.As seen here in my ode to Diana Vreeland room http://1.bp.blogspot.com/__53zfqymwR0/Saqx1SynBXI/AAAAAAAAAbg/3fg8if56aVg/s1600-h/IMG_0516.JPG

  9. Alex- That's a great room! You've made DV proud!

  10. I alway love being in these overstuffed rooms. They're much more pleasing in person than in photographs, because most of us have an expectation that photographed interiors be perfect and nothing-out-of-place. I'd love to live in a place as "peak of chic" as this.

  11. brilliant as always......ordered it.

    don't you love how amazon lists the old books with the cheapest first!

    I got a copy of "A Wonderful TIme" (first edition)..for 25.00 because a dog had chewed a corner.........(that made my friend LOVE IT MORE!!!

  12. as the great-niece of stanley barrows, i just wanted to tell you that it's really lovely to come across this blog and revisit the sacred space of his apartment. thank you so much for remembering and honoring his legacy as a taste-maker.
    alexandra barrows.