Wendy Goodman + Tony Duquette = Perfection!

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On December 1st, the new Tony Duquette book by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson will finally be released! I know I for one can't wait! Recently, a friend of Ms. Goodman's was sweet enough to email me with Wendy's contact information so I could get her take on all the hoopla. Ronda at All the Best already conducted a wonderfully in depth interview with her so I just asked her a few questions and she couldn't have been nicer!

I'd love to know about your first meeting with Tony Duquette and what you thought about Dawnridge. I hear it was unbelievably amazing!

I met Tony while on assignment for House & Garden magazine (HG then)when I was originally there in early '90s doing a story on guestrooms and spied this wild, totally original piece of furniture in Hutton and Ruth Wilkinson's Los Angeles house. I hadn't ever heard of Tony Duquette, but asked Hutton, who was his business partner, if I could meet him on that trip. I ended up staying to produce a story on Tony's extraordinary Malibu ranch and that launched the odyssey of my working with him and Hutton to start imagining this book.

I know it took you 10 years to complete this book and I would love to know how you kept going! In this age of ADD and everyone moving on the next big thing it must have taken some serious discipline and patience!

Yes, it takes discipline and conviction to keep at a project that is so complex as there was so much archival material to unearth and edit...especially challenging for me as I had to go out to the west coast for research in between my deadlines for all the magazines I work with here in New York. What kept me going was my passion for Tony's work and the conviction that his story was unique and had to be told.

I was also wondering if you were involved with the planning of the windows at Bergdorf's. They are also amazing have been really well received in the city and online.

The incredible event of the Bergdorf Goodman Christmas windows is a dream come true! Linda Fargo and her amazing team headed up by David Hoey, produced the most extraordinary tribute to Tony's genius! I had nothing to do with the windows what so ever except to be dazzled and awed that they are beyond magical!

Wendy also mentioned that they have already sold out of the luxury edition at Bergdorf's and the regular book is being rushed into a second printing! Better get your copy today!

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An Eventful Evening

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It's funny how a night of no plans can quickly turn into a fun and eventful evening. I ended up attended a book signing for Park Avenue Potluck at the Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery on 72nd Street. Quite a few of the socialites were in attendance including Coco Kopelmann in her Chanel finery, Jamee Gregory in the most amazing white fur coat I have ever seen, as well as Muffy Potter Aston and Rachel Hovnanian, who I recently learned is a wonderful artist. She and her art were profiled in the November issue of Elle Decor.

Park Avenue Potluck is a fun book of recipes from "New York's Savviest Hostesses" and benefits The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and has been so well received that it's already in it's second printing! I still think it's funny that a cookbook by society ladies would feature something so fattening looking on the cover when everyone knows socialites don't eat! Anyway, I was feeling so in the giving mood last night that I actually bought a copy at full price! I also sampled one of the best recipes in the book, Millionaire Turtles by Karen May who were graciously made for the evening by Tate's Bake Shop, my favorite place in Southampton! They even have their own cookbook so why not pick up both!

The Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller Gallery (that's a mouthful!), the event location, happened to be having a wonderful exhibition of work by emerging artist Martin Saar called Bubbles, Bodies and Bond. Martin was sweet enough to chat with us about his work and agreed to a studio visit and profile after he returns from Art Basel. So many people keep asking me if I'm going to be in Miami for Art Basel, I'm beginning to think I am the only person in New York not going!

Wednesday evening is the reason I love New York. You never know where you might end up or who you might meet. And if you don't live in New York, you can still cook like a chic New Yorker by picking up a copy of Park Avenue Potluck. It really is a great book for a great cause!
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Animal House

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It's funny how you can come across something you've never heard of before and then right after end up seeing it everywhere. Such was the case with the new book by photographer Catherine Ledner Animal House a perfect gift for any design obsessed animal lover!

According to The New York Times, "Catherine Ledner lives with 2 dogs, 2 cats, 11 rabbits and 1 husband in Altadena, Calif. A portraitist and commercial photographer, Ms. Ledner became fascinated by the idea of using wallpaper patterns in animal portraiture, and her new book, “Animal House,” is the result. During her research, she pored over wallpaper books from the 1930s and ’40s, and pulled new samples from the Pacific Design Center. The 47 animals were cast from the pool the local trainers had available. Once she had chosen her matches, Ms. Ledner wallpapered moveable walls in her studio, and invited the animals in."

The fox is my personal favorite and was apparently the shyest, but loosened up the longer he stayed on the set. His paper, from a 1930s pattern, was made for Ms. Ledner by Astek Wallcoverings, a company that can copy any pattern with a repeat.

The deer came twice, once to check out the studio and again for his portrait. “I have a particular fondness for deer,” Ms. Ledner said, “so it was very spiritual” to have him there.

The vulture was shot against a discontinued Cole and Son paper and was a bit timid, moved slowly and responded well to treats according to Ms. Ledner.

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Green is the New Black!

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After profiling the over the top conspicuously consumptive windows at Bergdorf's, I thought it would be fun to show you what's going on over at Barney's, where they are having a green holiday. And by green, I mean organic starting with Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer above. Each window is chock full of cans and bottles the Barney's team ending up buying from the homeless of the Lower East Side. Only in New York!

In a stroke of marketing genius, the fine folks at Barney's have also married the window theme to the "gorgeous green gifts, fabulously fair-trade fashion, sensationally sustainable swag, orgasmic organic denim and cashmere, environmentally conscious tchotchkes" available in the stores, catalog and on the website.

You can even check out a fun interview with the elf behind it all, window dresser Simon Doonan on New York magazine's website that was conducted by socialite about town, Fabiola Beracasa. I actually walked by the store when they were filming him which was pretty funny.

So do your part for the environment this holiday season and go green by buying something fabulously organic for your loved ones...or at least recycle that diet coke can!

***UPDATE*** You can also read an extended interview with Simon Doonan about the holiday windows in the new December/January issue of Domino magazine.
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A Gift that Keeps on Giving!

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Before we start getting into the hustle and bustle of holiday posts, I thought it would be nice to start things off on a charitable note. I'm sure some of you may have already heard about Heifer International but for those of you who haven't, Heifer's mission is to work with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. One way they do this is to let people like you and me "choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant."

Heifer lets you gift an entire animal or a share of an animal like heifers, llamas, sheep, goats, rabbits, and even honey bees. I think they would make the perfect present for the person who has everything or for children to give. Kids love animals and I'm sure they would love to pick out their favorite animal to give and to learn how it will help those in need. Just something to think about instead giving someone another tie or something else they won't use. Costs start at just $10 for a share and can go up to $500 for full gift.

"The idea behind Heifer ... is similar to the notion that it's better to teach a man to fish so he can feed himself than to give him a fish that will feed him just once. One animal could eventually benefit an entire community."
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Thanksgiving in New York

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I am thankful that you continue to stop by everyday and read my blog and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday! I'm actually staying in the city this year and look forward to bringing you some fun holiday posts. But I think I will stay away from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and watch it on TV like everyone else! I have no desire to to get trampled by people trying to see the Snoopy balloon! Happy Thanksgiving!
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Happy Birthday!

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Happy Birthday to Kelly Wearstler!

Everyone's favorite hair crimping interior designer extraordinaire turns 40 today! I hope we're all that thin and fabulous when we turn 40!
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Life is a Banquet!

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In honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought it might be appropriate to recommend a movie that will make us all feel better about our own crazy families, Auntie Mame, based on the book by Patrick Dennis. The most famous tag line of the movie comes from Mame Dennis herself, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" And she certainly lives life to the fullest!

One of the best parts of the movie and the reason so many creative people love it is the interiors! George James Hopkins was nominated for an Oscar for his set decoration and if you've ever seen the movie, you'll know why. They are integral to the story and sometimes, completely over the top. Two weeks after her nephew Patrick Dennis comes to live with her, Mame has redecorated. Out goes the over the top Chinoiserie and in comes the pale blue walls and modern art.

Mame's outfits and hairstyles are also ever changing and worth watching for. They too become an extra character in the movie!

The most hilarious decoration comes courtesy of her decorator Yule Oolu and I won't ruin it for you but it's very modern. I wish there were more photos available online since these are only a small glimpse into the chicest movie. I will warn you that Rosalind Russell's voice can be at times a little grating and it is almost two and a half hours long but it you love great design, this movie is for you. It will also make you realize how normal your family really is! Happy Holidays!

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New Blogger Friend

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I remember when Ronda at All the Best first profiled my blog, she said felt like she had stumbled on a kindred spirit in the blogging world and that's how I felt when I stumbled upon Maison21! Christian May started his blog just like all of us to give himself a place to discuss all of his obsessions so as not to continue to bore his friends any longer. I know everyone will be glad that he did. His blog is witty and informative and if you need to know how to clean chrome, Christian is your go-to guy.

"I'm just a interior decorating obsessive with a lifelong vintage furniture shopping addiction (seriously, when I got my drivers license as a teen, my very first solo driving expedition was to the salvation army). I went back to school (product design) as an adult and took an internship with a high end residential design firm which led to getting hired and leaving school. I've been fortunate to work on some incredibly fantastic projects while working for other designers, a few of which have been published (one of my first projects as an intern was to design a mantle surround to showcase a giant Dubuffet painting. I had to pinch myself). Now I mostly sell the tchotchkes and do the occasional design job, indulging both my passions. I get to work surrounded by pretty things every day, who could ask for more?

Christian sells fabulous antiques on eBay and out of his garage that I must say looks better than the inside of most people's homes. He also recently sold a bunch of blanc de chine-esque and brass pieces to David Hoey, Bergdorf's display guru, and he thinks some of the items might have made it into the new Tony Duquette inspired holiday windows. And if that's not enough to impress you, he also once attended a private birthday party at Dawnridge. Even though most of the original furnishings were gone by that time, he said it was still amazing and memorable. See, I told you you would like him!
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Duquette Inspired?

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I was going to promise that this is my last Tony Duquette related post but I don't think I can make any guarantees. There is just so much to talk about where Mr. Duquette is concerned. I came across the photo above of one of his nameless interiors and I was struck by the framed Asian painting or wallpaper on the left side of the room and the pagoda and vases of pink flowers that stand on the table beneath it. I kept thinking I had seen something very similar and then I realized it was on the cover of Michael S. Smith's Elements of Style book. I know that are not a perfect match but it's funny how much they looked alike. Michael's book is actually one design book I don't own so I'm not sure if he admits to a Duquette inspiration or if it was just a coincidence. Either way, I think it's interesting and inspiring none the less.

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Color Me Happy!

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I hadn't planned to profile the interiors of Tony Duquette but once I came across a New York Times article and then I started looking at old photosof his work that I really couldn't resist. They are completely over the top and have an amazing attention to detail and what's even more impressive is that so much of the opulence was created from found objects. Tony Duquette could see the possibilty and beauty in the mundane. According to Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman, "Tony said he was about beauty not luxury. He was Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold from straw." Hutton Wilkinson, his business partner said that "where some people saw a hubcap, Duquette saw a shining disc to set in the middle of an improvised sunburst."

"In Duquette’s hands, the shiny plastic baskets in which hot dogs are served became a Coromandel screen in a Gucci advertisement. Branches were spray-painted and turned into coral. Coral was spray-painted, too. Skateboard decks were used as wainscoting in Duquette’s Beverly Hills house and, at his ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, he upended rakes and turned them into totemic standards."
The drawing room at "Dawnridge" circa 1980's. Tony Duquette placed two 18th century Venetian dolphins from the collection of Misia Sert on each side of an 18th century Adam settee upholstered in apple green silk strie. I love the mix of all the different colors.

The balcony at "Dawnridge" above was decorated with an 18th century Venetian console table, a standing 18th century red lacquered Burmese Buddha and a turquoise painted rhino from an American 19th century carousel. Duquette has covered the "oculus" of the house with a sheet of glass which holds Chinese porcelains and bronze figures suspended above the entrance hall below. It's this photo that reminds me of what Kelly Wearstler is doing today.

The Duquettes' own bedroom above was decorated with antique Chinese embroideries overlaid with iridescent silk gauze. An antique Chinese graperoot table from the Hearst collection has been draped with an ocelot skin and the bed has been covered with a Chinese panel embroidered with gold thread.

Looking into the office from the garden at "Dawnridge". This small pavilion was built by Tony Duquette around an existing fireplace which was all that remained after a fire in 1972 burned the original house which was on this site to the ground. He furnished this office with his Louis XV ormolu bureau plat and antique Chinese Chippendale chairs.

The lower terrace at "Dawnridge" looking across the swimming pool through the nacre-covered obelisks to Tony Duquette's 28' tall sculpture "The Phoenix Rising from Its Flames".

The dining pavilion in the garden at "Dawnridge" circa 1980's where Tony and Elizabeth Duquette frequently entertained. Hanging from the lattice ceiling is an original pagoda chandelier (this chandelier was moved by Duquette to his Malibu ranch and was later destroyed in the tragic green meadows fire which completely destroyed the Duquette ranch in Malibu below).

In the 1950's Tony and Elizabeth Duquette purchased a 150 acre property high in the Malibu mountains above the Pacific Ocean. Over the next 30 years they spent each weekend at the property which they lovingly dubbed, "The Empire". The property and its 21 structures tragically burnt to the ground in the Green Meadows Malibu fire in the 1990's. Before it disappeared the Duquettes' created an enclave of pagodas, pavilions, studios, and houses on which they lavished their many talents, collections, decorations, and magic.

Tony Duquette placed many pavilions throughout "The Empire". This one created out of an existing skeletal metal pipe structure purchased at the nearby Port Hueneme Navy surplus sales and covered with antlers from the Hearst ranch (Tony and Elizabeth were guests of the Hearst family at San Simeon for the last weekend before they gave the castle to the state). The pavilion is topped with a cast resin onion dome which had been thrown out at the back lot of MGM.

The interior of "Hamster House" circa 1980's (after the 1920's mobile home had been pulled out). The secretary desk is 18th century Venetian and the architecturally painted furniture on the left was originally made for Tony Duquette's dressing room at the old studio on Robertson Blvd.

"The Tea House" which Duquette decorated with an antique Chinese silk temple rug on the floor, Asian antiques and a pagoda chandelier of his own invention. The ceiling was upholstered between the red lacquer beams with quilted bedspread fabrics which Duquette felt resembled inlaid tiles.

The historic Tony Duquette Studio was located at 824 North Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood. Originally the building was constructed as a movie studio for the silent film star Norma Talmadge. The Duquettes purchased the building in the early 1950's as a ruin and remodeled and restored the structure as their residence and studio.

Featured in Duquette's office above circa 1970 was this 18th century Louis XV desk surmounted by a red and gold lacquered shrine from Burma. The 18th century French windows were brought from Paris by Duquette in the 1940's.

Part of the Duquettes' collection of vermiel decorations including an 18th century salt cellar in the form of a galleon, insects, fruit and toads. Duquette used these decorations to set his party tables and constantly moved them around the house creating "tablescapes" which he called "Games of Chance." Sound like anyone else we know?

Tony Duquette not only designed interiors for himself but for clients as well. One of my favorite projects was for Barretstown Castle in Ireland, which I am sad to say is now a children's camp. According to the history of the castle, Elizabeth Arden acquired the property in 1962. "Over five years, Ms. Arden applied her famous talents for beauty and style to an extensive reconstruction, redecoration and refurnishing of the Castle. Her influence dominates the look of the house to this day. The door of Barretstown Castle is reputed to have been painted red after her famous brand of perfume 'Red Door', and remains so to this day."

The interiors have a slightly 1960's feel to them but at the same time, the seem completely timeless. The dark wall color and furnishings in the room above look similar to what David Hicks was doing around that same time. It's also surprising given Duquette's own homes that this one is actually restrained and dare I say simple? Of course, the pagodas are a giveaway that it is Duquette designed.

I love the bedroom's matching wallpaper, draperies and bedspreads. The color green seems to run through out the home and you have to wonder if that was Duquette's nod to the Irish countryside. Your eye is drawn from the green in the interiors to the green outside the window. One of my favorite rooms is the bathroom below. Except maybe for the green towels and what looks like green carpeting, it could be a modern bathroom.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of just some of Tony Duquette's interior design work. In addition to this profession, he was also a set designer, costume designer, artist and jewelry designer. His wife was also a very accomplished artist and they made a perfect pair. I am in awe of Tony Duquette, who had so much creative drive and inspiration that he felt inspired to work on designs in so many variations and with a sense of zeal that most of us could never understand. Hope he inspires you to step away from the computer and create something today!
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