New York-based interior designer and art advisor Richard Rabel created one of the most showstopping moments at the 47th annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Rabel is known for his layered, sophisticated environments, and this design was no exception. Below, he gives us some insight into his process, history, and what is on the horizon for him.
Downtown: What a way to make an entrance! Tell us about your Gallery Entry and Grand Staircase design for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. What inspired these designs?
Richard Rabel: Lord Frederic Leighton’s House in London and James McNeill Whistler’s iconic “Peacock Room” immediately came to mind when I started to plan the space. Both represent the magnus opus in interiors of the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century. I wanted to bring late 19th century décor to a 21st century public. So the take had to be modern so that it did not feel like ‘granny lived there’.
Downtown: Tell us about your color palette. What drew you to using the deep and luminous blues and greens for those particular rooms?
RR: Both Whistler’s Peacock Room and Lord Leighton’s Townhouse Entrance have these vivid, luminous colors that I completely dig.
Downtown: Please fill us in on the spectacular wall design on the Grand Staircase.
RR: The lower stair wallcovering was co-designed with MJ Atelier in LA. They used a 10’ x 20’ canvas primed in Benjamin Moore Cobalt blue. They then applied modelled gesso that doesn’t crack so that the canvas could be rolled for shipping. Once installed, we applied the third dimension of decoration. Except for the color blue, all ornamentation is 23-carat yellow and white gold leaf. It took 1,600 hours to make.
Downtown: Is the rug a custom design? Why did you decide to go with another pattern and how did you know it would play so well with the wall design?
RR: The rug is a custom design made with The Rug Company. I wanted the runner to come off the stairs and puddle in the middle of the entry, right under the massive skylight five floors up. It’s all one piece. I wanted something for the rug that was a bit fun and less ‘formal” than the wallcovering. It all worked together wonderfully.
Downtown: Where did you source the furniture and what did you have in mind when doing so?
RR: My furniture sources came from A+ Galleries in the City and top-notch custom fabricators: Maison Gerard, Bernd Goeckler, Dune. The lighting came from Apparatus and Siemon & Salazar. The fabrics came from Pollack. The art came from Paul Kasmin and Taylor|Graham. I wanted the space to feel modern, chic, sophisticated and expensive.
Downtown: What is your secret to melding patterns, textures, and colors so well?
Downtown: What made you introduce the screen? It is so different from the rest of the furnishings and décor yet it fits in so perfectly.
RR: There was a huge black hole under the staircase and I wanted to bring some interest to fill in the dead space. The French 1940s screen from Maison Gerard and the articulated floor lamp from Apparatus help do that.
Downtown: What was one of your favorite aspects of designing your rooms?
RR: Bringing such disparate sources together to make a modern coherent whole. This is a show house, not a “regular” home, so one needs to think out of the box and do things that perhaps are out of one’s regular comfort zone.
Downtown: Have you participated in the show house before? What did you most love about the process?
RR: My first Showhouse was one that Sotheby’s engineered in their premises back in 2013. The thing I love the most about these types of exhibitions is that it allows me to do things I normally cannot do with clients. I have no budget and I allow my mind to go as far as it can. Not many clients are comfortable with this, but the ones that are get one sick place to live.
Downtown: What is on the horizon for you now?
RR: I’m lucky and grateful that my business is not only interior design, but art advising. A good chunk of my previous career I spent as a Senior Painting Specialist at Christie’s, so I have an enviable Rolodex and the knowledge necessary to competently advise interested clients. Therefore, I have the luxury to be selective and only take on two to three interesting projects a year. Currently I’m in the midst of wonderful project in Portugal for an English businessman.
The Kips Bay Decorator Show House is open through May 30th. For tickets and visiting information, click here.