Tuesday, September 15, 2015

House Tour: The New York House of Benjamin Garber and William Kennedy

What to do when your work schedule is so hectic that it leaves you little time to prepare a blog post? You scramble to find photos of a house so attractive that you don't have to devote much time to writing text.

Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, I'll get on with the gist of this blog post. The upper Westchester County, New York house you see here belonged (or, perhaps still belongs) to designers Benjamin Garber and William Kennedy of William Kennedy Associates. Built in 1968, the 7,000-square-foot house was composed of quite spacious rooms, which were decorated in that dignified style so characteristic of mid-twentieth-century, high-end design.  By dignified, I mean that the house was appointed with fine fabrics, formal, antique furniture, and exquisite porcelains, all set against a backdrop of sophisticated, harmonious color.  And although the house could be deemed polite (a compliment in my book,) there is nothing stuffy about this house.  Warmth and comfort are much in evidence, with just enough dazzle to keep things interesting.

Also interesting is the information provided by the 1974 Architectural Digest article, in which these photos appeared.  According to the text, Kennedy once worked for Syrie Maugham, and both men took over her U.S. operation in the 1950s.  The interview for this article must have been lively, with much banter about Kennedy's former employer.  I'll leave you with this exchange between the two men, in which both share their thoughts on Maugham:

"She was the greatest gal I've ever know," says Mr. Kennedy.  "Venemous," says Mr. Garber, "but the most charming girl that ever walked into a parlour.  Whatever she did, she insisted on quality."

"She sold the worst things in the world," says Mr. Kennedy.  "But she made them look like quality," says Mr. Garber, "and that is magic that few people do well." 

P.S.- Does this room, above, remind you of the work of designer Michael Greer?

Photos from Architectural Digest, Jan/Feb 1974, Charlotte Brooks photographer.


  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Could do with a touch of green.

  2. Jennifer, Thank you for paring these photographs with the mention of Michael Greer. Many of the rooms in his book are tailored & severe yet opulent. They are like time capsules that have not lost their luster or surprise. In the third picture depicting the framed abstract art, is that a little doggie-bed made to look like a corner seat? It looks as if a small dog could find a quiet place for a nap in the bottom. I would be grateful for a piece on Michael Greer. Thank you.

  3. Aside from the modern art (which is good, but it's a personal preference not to combine modern art with 18th century style), it is spectacular. The floors are especially nice, as I am a sucker for parquet de Versailles and black and white tile. Apparently, they worked for Lila Acheson Wallace to decorate the offices of Reader's Digest. Part of Garber's collection is now housed in the Morgan Russell Archives and Collection of the Montclair Art Museum. They also decorated the Boscobel House historic site in Garrison, New York. Benjamin Garber had a brief dancing career with the Martha Graham company. There is also a Benjamin Garber collection at the Library of Congress consisting of correspondence; photographs; oral histories, business papers, many of them to do with Martha Graham. He introduced Graham to Lila Acheson Wallace, who became a huge supporter of the Martha Graham company. From what I could tell, Garber is still alive, but I don't know about Kennedy.

  4. Stunning Jennifer and fascinating background story!!

    The Arts by Karena
    Featuring India Hicks!

  5. Beautiful. But all those exposed legs make it a bit stiff.

  6. love this + couldn't be more timely. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  7. Loved this re-post from AD !
    This style is having a resurgence amongst fashion designers and some interior designers-
    The overall ambience captured made me think of some of the Shutze houses in old Atlanta-
    How interesting that they knew Syrie and even took over her business! Thanks for the post Jennifer!

  8. Anonymous5:32 PM

    It looks very much like a continuation of Syrie Maugham's work, actually; particularly in the use of a single dominant colour in each room. Her later work was already evolving in the direction we see in this house. Thank you for a wonderful post.

  9. You DO find good stuff to pass on! I love the line, ""She sold the worst things in the world...But she made them look like quality...and that is magic that few people do well."

  10. Anonymous1:45 PM

    The rugs all seem rather too small for the rooms that they are in.