Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Brooke Astor and The Philosophers' Room

Funny enough, one of my favorite Parish-Hadley designed interiors is not Brooke Astor's library, although I do fancy it. Nor is it the yellow drawing room of the Paleys. Instead, it's the snappy-looking room seen above, one that was featured in Christopher Petkanas' Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design. What drew me to this Parish-Hadley room was not its leafy green vista, but rather the geometric-print fabric hanging on the walls combined with the blue lacquered bookshelves. To me, this room is so quintessentially American, comfortable in a crisp, chic, and casual way. Can't you just imagine what it must have been like to lollygag in this room on a Sunday afternoon?

The book only mentioned that the solarium was part of a 68-acre Westchester County estate, something which left me wondering for years who owned such a lovely garden room. But now I know where this room is located thanks to the Sotheby's catalogue for the Brooke Astor auction. It's at Holly Hill, Astor's estate along the Hudson River. Finally, the mystery is solved, although I'm sure that quite a few of you knew who the homeowner was long before the auction catalogue was published.

According to the catalogue, this is the Philosophers' Room, a fitting name for a room filled with such a collection of books. What struck me about the catalogue's photos, seen below, is how bright those blue bookshelves really are. I don't think they're being auctioned off, but the Roman marble head of a Satyr, perched on top of the bookshelf, is. (That too you can see below.) And wouldn't you love to see a close-up shot of the books? I can make out a few titles:
The Flowering of the Middle Ages; Pearls: A Natural History; American Rococo, 1750-1775: Elegance in Ornament. But the other titles in the library? I suppose that in a way, the mystery surrounding this room endures.

Image at top from Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design by Christopher Petkanas. The remaining photos courtesy of Sotheby's.


  1. Did you see the lots of books on the auction site? the estimates seemed pretty low. 200+ books with an estimate of $200 to $300.

  2. Christopher Spitzmiller10:09 AM

    Thanks for this fun post. I like what you siad about the room being "American, Crisp, chic and casual" I totally agree. Personally, it's those fun book cases filled with the amazing titles that makes it a room that I would want to spend some serious time in!

  3. I love this room--timeless. Would be perfect for today: hints of chinoiserie in the bookcases mixed with the lucite and glass table and all of the outside waiting to come in. Thanks.

  4. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Check the preview for the Stair auction this coming October 5th. The bookshelves stood out for me, too.

  5. Look at Pigtown Design for the complete Sotheby's catalog link + Grand post.

  6. Anonymous1:20 PM

    Anyone else uncomfortable with what are, I'm sure, some quite nice dust jackets getting all that sun (especially in the winter)?

  7. I love that name Philosophers' Room--it by itself transforms the atmosphere and function of the room, even more than the already high-toned library or study. It also echoes the phrase Philosophers' Stone, the magic substance which transmuted base materials into gold, which metaphorically seemed to be going on there.
    --Road to Parnassus

  8. Great post Jennifer!

    I have always loved that room too. It screams classic, good taste, and refinement. The chairs are definitely something Billy Baldwin used as well.