This year marks the 43rd year of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, and in celebration of the previous four decades, Steven Stolman, designer and president of Steven Stolman, Inc., is releasing 40 Years of Fabulous: The Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Beginning as a grassroots effort in support of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club in 1973, the book retraces the history of what has become one of the most iconic showhouses in the design world.
Now the chairman of the Kips Bay Palm Beach committee, Stolman has a long history as a volunteer for the club since his youth and involvement in the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club junior committee, and then reconnecting with the club as an adult when he returned to New York City in 2011. The idea for this book has been something on his list for years, and with the 100th anniversary of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club approching, the timing was finally right.
Amethyst accents by David Schermerhorn, excerpted from 40 Years of Fabulous. See more below.
With anecdotes and photographs, Stolman has assembled a trip through time that few have been able to experience. “The best sense of the lasting impact of Kips Bay, at least in the creation of this book, came from the designers themselves,” he writes in the introduction. “Their memories, photographs and words of wit and wisdom truly gave this book its soul, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”
A study in blue by Eric Bernard.
In the Foreword, Bunny Williams draws attention to the cause this showhouse serves, the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, acknowledging that the commitment by designers to the 2,500 children served daily by this club is as or more important as the showhouse itself. “On any afternoon the energy at the club house makes you realize how important it is to these kids’ lives to have committed staff that provide music lessons, dance classes, sports activities, computer education, help with school work and any counseling that might be needed,” she writes. Proceeds from book sales will also benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.
Designed by Susan Zises Green.
Stolman’s efforts allow readers to explore the roots of the showhouse and see firsthand the many design movements that were represented within the showhouse’s walls. Readers also have the opportunity to meet characters such as Rella McDougall, president of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club Women's Committee in 1972 and one of the driving forces behind the showhouse for the next quarter century, through the eyes of her peers. Much of what Stolman found in his research was tapped from the minds and memories of the designers themselves. Editor at Large asked Stolman to reflect on his journey:
EAL: This book shows us only a small sliver of the history, by what is the legacy of the Kip's Bay showhouse?
SS: The great Mario Buatta said that Kips Bay is the single most outstanding opportunity for designers to showcase their work. The Kips Bay Decorator Show House has provided us with an extraordinary survey of American interior design spanning more than four decades.
EAL: Looking back over 40 years, how has the showhouse changed?
SS: It's become far less traditional. While the show house was born in the 70s, a time of shifting tastes, the earlier rooms tended to be a bit safer- exquisite- but not as experimental as more recent rooms.
Contemporary cooking spaces by Bilotta Kitchens.
EAL: Do you have a favorite memory related to the show house, or was there a particular room that made an impression on you?
SS: Bunny Williams' inspiring salon from the 1998 show house is certainly a favorite as it spoke volumes about how to live beautifully with books and art. I also love Dick Ridge and Rod Denault's spectacular Chinois sitting room with its iridescent mylar walls and ceiling.
EAL: Looking forwards, where do you see the Kip's Bay Show House in another 40 years?
SS: Charity-aligned decorator show houses are a truly lovely convention of society that are designed to inspire while simultaneously raising funds and awareness for worthy causes. Kips Bay is the definitive example of this. In 40 years will it morph into something else? Of course....perhaps going virtual or reflecting some other advancement in technology that doesn't even exist right now. But as long as people appreciate beauty and the art of living well, I have complete confidence that the Kips Bay Decorator Show House will be around for a very long time to come.
Images from 40 Years of Fabulous: The Kips Bay Decorator Show House.