Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What Is It About This Home?




I bought a copy of Carrie Donovan's 1981 compilation of New York Times design articles, Living Well : The New York Times Book of Home Design and Decoration, a few years ago. Despite photos of homes of the beautiful people- you know, like Halston and Paloma Picasso- as well as a few palazzos and country piles, there is one home that has stuck with me for years. And you know what? I can't really figure out why, because it's not really my style...or maybe it is.

It was the home of Manhattan caterer Donald Bruce White. White lived above the shop so to speak in a five story townhouse built in the late 19th c. Part of the townhouse was designated for White's catering business, while the rest of the house was his personal space. The article mentioned that White's home was a melange of styles. So why my interest in this home?



Here, White, seated at the head of the table, holds court at a dinner in his private dining room. I know you may think that I was drawn to this photo because of the female guest dining in her fabulous fur hat, but that's only part of it. The room is understated. It's quietly chic. It's not trying too hard to impress. It's a type of decorating that seemed more prevalent "back then", but unfortunately not so much today. (Oh, and I love the ceramic pumpkins on the mantel.)


The living room in which White received clients. Again, it's a room that wasn't decorated to death. It was comfortable and inviting, but I would think it allowed White and his clients to get down to business. As my mother and I like to say, "It is what it is", and "it" wasn't trying to be something that it wasn't. (Does anyone know if the multicolored fabric on the pillows and seat cushion is still made today? If not, it needs to be. It's pretty fabulous.)


And then here is White's private kitchen. I hate to state the obvious, but isn't the copper cookware the draw here? That bombe adds a little eye candy to the photo too.

Maybe the reason I find White's home appealing is because it seemed that people and their enjoyment of good food and a little conviviality were the focus of this home. Not showy furniture or artwork. Not in your face fabric or wallpaper. Rather, it was a place for living a seemingly good life- something I try to remind myself as I'm decorating my home.

19 comments:

  1. From what I've seen you are keeping this in mind already.

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  2. I love the mix of warm, slightly rustic elements with all of the elegant pieces. The understated quality really is refreshing and it's far from blah. Not with that fabric and those pumpkins!

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  3. It seems to me that Mr. White chose to live in a very European style. Beautiful, soulful objects with form and function at the forefront. Love the fact that his German Shepherd was allowed on the furniture (Jones has to sneak up on mine). As always, thanks for the inspiration.

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  4. "AMEN"!!! (And I totally agree w/ "MARY"!)~~~

    Best,
    Linda in AZ *

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  5. Edward9:47 AM

    Donald Bruce White's rooms seem in high contrast to your wish to create a chinese chippendale doorway. Maybe you should re-think that idea. His "look" makes me think of (I believe) Ruby Ross Wood's statement. "Interior Design is the art of arranging beautiful things attractively".

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  6. Edward- Good point. I'm enthusiastic for many different looks but need to settle on one for my own home!

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  7. I love the fact that it's so lived in and not just for show, that even his dog is up on the sofa. Man after my own heart.
    xo Isa

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  8. Edward10:27 AM

    You also have to think about your future. If you are going to stay in your condo for a long time then you can go wild with architectural details. As you have seen, I am sure, from the how-to-sell-your-house shows on HG TV no one wants what you have done. The first thing recommended is to rip out any personality in the home before putting it on the market. It would be a shame to spend all that money only to have to rip it out later. Better to spend it on portable items, furniture, art, atc. and put it in simple backgrounds like Donald's That is why mausoleums are so over the top, the owners aren't leaving.

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  9. Anonymous10:28 AM

    Wonderful room! The fabric is, I believe, a Pierre Frey/Bracquine - I sadly replaced on a loveseat a few years back. Still think of it.

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  10. I am very much with you on the fur hat and ceramic pumpkins (how unexpected, these are fantastic), but not so much on the living room. For me, there's just too much LIFE and beautiful exuberance out there in the world of painting, furniture, and fabrics to live with a beige sectional! So, with that said, I have to say I disagree with Edward- absolutely go for the pagoda door.

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  11. One of my very first design book purchases-jr yr in college. Still love it-and I agree about the rooms-some are fab-but dated. Now I must pull it back out. Of course dogs on couches. Comfort is the key as you say-reality living-Wish we could see more of that. Great thoughtful post. GT

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  12. I think we should educate our minds but live with our heart's desires. At almost 60, I keep saying I don't have time for beige. Make your home want you love not what others expect you to love. As for homes being dated, I'm going for timeless: my time. Have fun with your home.

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  13. I can see why this home has stayed with you - great taste and wonderful balance in the rooms.

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  14. Simple good taste is the hardest thing to copy.

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  15. The house is so cosy! Maybe that is the reason that you always have loved the images of it!
    It is a mix of French and English style!

    Greet

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  16. Anonymous6:38 AM

    Spot on.
    All things as they should be.
    A house not trying/striving/aspiring to be "right" just happy........isn't that perfection?
    Sublime symmetry and balance - his mantle and wall behind it, the LR walls, sconces, paintings, "L" corner sofa, tossed and strewn (but balanced) pillows.
    Hints of serendipity but not chaos.

    Well done. WI reader

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  17. Thanks to your fabulous blog, I almost fainted when I found this book at a local thrift today and instead of fainting, I bought it. I love your site. It is so educational and there is so much beauty here. But this book find is just perfect!

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  18. Honey Dawn- Yay! Congratulations. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I! I can relate to the fainting feeling...it happens to me often when I find a book I've been looking for :)

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  19. Anonymous10:16 AM

    This house is on E 64th between Lex & 3rd. I worked as a cater waiter for Donald in 1982. I housesat for him once. Great place.

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