TRADITIONAL HOME BUILT FOR WOMEN SHOWHOUSE
Jack Levy’s calm and utterly composed office and reading area in the Traditional Home Built for Women Showhouse is precisely the sort of retreat where gossip columnist Liz Smith would love to linger if only she weren't so busy writing her syndicated daily gossip column and touring the country to promote her recent book, Natural Blonde (Hyperion).
Such a glittering, fast-paced life requires a refuge. With natural hues and textures, the designers made the space just such a cocoon. There are no jolts or discordant elements, and there is only a single pattern in the entire place.
"The room was absolutely beautiful," she says. "I just wish that my life was really like that. Instead I live like a college sophomore, with a room crammed with books and papers.
Levy first wrapped the walls in a sophisticated cafe-au-lait flax grass cloth (which also hides the imperfections in the plaster) and laid an expanse of sea grass underfoot. A cerused (a pickling-like technique that infuses the wood with pale color) oak molding separates the two surfaces.
Within this serene background, they placed individual furnishings as if each were a sculpture in a gallery.
The furnishings for the room can be defined as "mid-century modern." The lines are clean and fresh, and for our generation, there is a comforting memory factor in that. Those clean lines are typified in the French mahogany desk from the 1940s and in the 1960s side chair covered with the original Larsen fabric. The iron desk chair with its deer legs is from the 1930s.
Jack was equally sparing with the artwork, by choosing a mere handful of powerful images. Opposite the desk, they hung a large painting by artist Drew Harris. And in doing so, Jack illustrated with ease that oversized paintings don't necessarily require capacious rooms. In the reading area, they displayed a trio of black-and-white photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.
The very feminine hue of pink appears in sporadic notes to spark the space ever so gently. To set apart the reading area, the two designers installed a hand-painted gold wallpaper with faint pink dots on the curved wall leading into the office. A pink velvet cushion, with four wool pillows lined up like jewels on a dinner ring, romances the custom-designed bench.
Jack knew he'd hit the right note when he read Smith's inscription on his copy of Natural Blonde. "To Jack," she wrote, "who knew exactly how I should be living."