Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Penthouse Terrace of Bill Blass

What a treat for me to find these 1974 Architectural Digest photos of Bill Blass's penthouse terrace...and what a disappointment to find that only two photos were featured.  That's surprising, really, considering the article mentioned that this terrace, located sixteen stories above Manhattan's hustle and bustle, was one of the largest penthouse terraces in that city- at least, it was back in 1974.

The person tasked with creating "a private country woodland" up in the sky was none other than Renny Reynolds, who treated the terrace space as an extension of the penthouse's interiors, even going so far as to refer to the outdoor spaces as "exterior rooms."  (We hear so much about "exterior rooms" today, so it's interesting to learn that this concept of aesthetically linking an outdoor space to the indoors is not a new idea.) 

For those of you into gardening, I'll give you specifics of the terrace garden design.  The walls were built of flagstone and rocks, which were then covered in ivy.  Plant material included common honeylocust, weeping willows, shrubs of Japanese maple, wisteria, forsythia, and different forms of holly.  Whew!  Then there were flowers chosen for their white shades, which Blass preferred: impatiens; petunias; geraniums; daisies; begonias; and chrysanthemums. 

What I find especially pretty are the accents of blue, namely, those blue cushions on the antique French garden furniture and, though not prominent in these photos, blue canvas awnings.  But, of course, what I might like best is that Porthault cloth on Blass's outdoor table, set with blue napkins, elegant china, sterling candlesticks, and, perhaps best of all, a simple vase holding a bounty of daisies.

Photos from Architectural Digest, Jan/Feb 1974, Stan Ries, photographer.


  1. Jennifer it really is like a secret garden, so lovely and lush!

    The Arts by Karena
    Halloween Artistry!

    1. Lovely, indeed. It comes close to being the perfect terrace garden!

  2. References to exterior rooms go way back, possibly to Medieval times. The making of this concept into an over-arching principle was brought to perfection under Louis XIV and his master gardener, Andre Le Notre. The garden work at Versailles was named with interior nomenclature, such as Tapis Vert (green carpet, for the lawn leading to the Apollo Fountain), Salles de Verdure (green rooms), Buffets d'Eaux (marble fountains in the shape of tiered buffets serving up cascades of water) etc. In the early years of the palace, many of the internationally famous fetes at the palace where held in the gardens exclusively, with bosquets designed to be ball rooms, dining rooms, theatres, etc. There is nothing good under the sun...

    1. Quatorze, How fascinating! I admit that I know little about garden design and history. If you have some free time, I would appreciate any suggestions on reading that might help remedy that situation.

  3. Hi Jennifer!
    Great post on BB. He was the commencement speaker at my graduation from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1983!
    I noticed this Summer when visiting Manhattan, that there were flowers all over the upper east side, which was nice to see.
    Heard a funny story about the lady on Park Ave serving her husband lunch on the terrace: "Hurry up and eat your soup honey, before it gets dirty" ! Ha! So NY !

    Dean Farris

  4. i adored BB + a much waited for treat

  5. Just wonderful. Simplistically elegant.