The TOWNHOUSE at 857 Carroll Street, A Park Slope Masterpiece

Monday, January 11, 2016 24 comments

The fact that Porter and I get to wake up and peek inside some of New York's most beautiful buildings and homes...and then, in the best cases, fill them with furniture and art we love...requires almost daily I-must-be-dreaming pinches. And when the Harkov Lewis Team (Porter's team at Halstead) brought us in to help prepare a 1901 Romanesque Revival mansion for sale, our jaws practically dropped. This was no small undertaking: 4,300 square feet. Ten rooms (not including the garden apartment). Three floors...and a patio. 

The woodwork and floors alone are fit for kings. The furniture had to honor that, but also bring the home into the 21st century. For us, that meant lots of copper and metals, jewel tones, Chinoiserie touches and mid-century Italian dream pieces. We also asked our friends to help with the art...and our minds are just blown with how seamlessly they all work in the space and with each other. 

We love pretending that we're decorating for a real family when we stage. In this case, the family included an Italian zoologist father who has a music-loving teenage daughter from his first marriage. Together with his second wife, a French botanist, he has two twin eight year old boys who love astronomy and cars and a new baby girl who enjoys Frank Gehry pop-up books. They chose to live at 857 Carroll because of the proximity to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden where the wife headed up tropical plants, but they're now leaving Brooklyn so she can finally write her book about the jungles of Costa Rica. You know, one of those families. 

Here's the full tour of the house. Stay tuned for a special invitation and event that will let you really step inside! 

Tommaso Barbi's 1960s burled wood and brass backgammon table is our newest pride and joy. We thought it would be fun to add some purple neon to the mix, too. 

A large-scale photo from Ian Tong's Feathers and Fur series looks over the front parlor. The images of Scandinavian taxidermy are part of a larger documentary project, 'Artifice,' which explores man's endeavors to duplicate reality. Images from this series have been selected to appear in the prestigious American Photography annual #27 and were taking in Stockholm in 2009. 

C.T. Bray's sculptures line the parlor fireplace mantle. The French, 19th century fireplace screen is hand-painted. The sectional is designed after Vladamir Kagan.

Our HOVEY DESIGN DIY leaf lamp (after Tommaso Barbi) illuminates one of my paintings. Tom Dixon's coffee set serves as the centerpiece in the dining room. 

Bradford Robotham's Architectural Abstractions I-III hang in the master suite reading room where we added Persian rugs, a Le Corbusier lounge and our favorite tortoise shell floor lamps of all time. 

Margaux Ogden's Mass Sext (acrylic on canvas, 2015) hangs over the bed in the master bedroom. She just had a big show in LA and we could not be more excited for her success - and to have THREE of her works in the house. 

Her work, Not Long Now (acrylic on canvas, 2015), hangs over vintage club chairs in the master bedroom. 

We transformed Ikea's Fjellse beds into glamorous tortoise shell with some stain and Q-Tips. Porter created a wonderful space scene in chalk. 

Kirkland Bray's collages give life to the teenager's room. His Smooch hangs over the fireplace. 

HOVEY DESIGN Giftus Holidaeus Guide 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 2 comments

Tunes! Critters! Booze! Coffee! Here are some of our favorite things to give and share this year (and every year). 

Happy Holidays to all! We hope someone can fly that peace dove kite over Europe, the Middle East and many of the American presidential candidates this season. Love really should be all around! 

[ I ] Jackite Dove of Peace Kite, Winward Kites, $42
[ II ] Leather Raccoon Mask, LME Animals, $72 
[ III ] Paper Taj Mahal Kit, Paper Landmarks, $23.99
[ IV ] Badger Rug, Plümo, $126.14
[ V ] Orb Collection champagne jigger ($9.95), cocktail shaker ($24.95) and cocktail jigger ($9.95), Crate & Barrel
[ VI ] Transparent Speaker, People Products, $849
[ VII ] D.S. & Durga Candles, D.S. & Durga, $65
[ VIII ] Forbici Officio - Classica Scissors (the best, most beautiful we’ve ever used), Premax, €17,23
[ IX ] Native Union Bluetooth Speaker in Copper, Native Union, $129.99
[ X ] Tom Dixon Brew Range, Tom Dixon, Various
[ XI ] Brass screw-on iPhone 6 case, Revisit Products, $125
[ XII ] Ancient Greek Sandals for Marios Schwab, Ancient Greek Sandals, €290
[ XIII] Austrian Bronze Tiger Skins, Scully & Scully, $185
[ XIV ] PB 0110 CM 17 Travel Bag, Jenni Kayne, $1110
[ XV ] Halcyon Days "Snake" Enamel Box, Scully & Scully, $225
[ XVI ] Suze Aperitif, Astor Spirits, $27.96*
[ XVII ] Tamworth Distilling Apiary Gin from New Hampshire, Astor Spirits, $54.99
[ XVIII ] Andrew McAteer Men’s Leather House Shoes, Kaufmann-Mercantile, $120
[ XIX ] Byredo Bal D’Afrique Eau de Parfum, Barneys New York, $145
[ XX ] Sort of Coal - Kuro Activated Charcoal Shampoo, Amazon, $27
[ XXI ] Ostrich pillows, Eboynx, $175
[ XXII ] Hansa Mama Mammoth, Amazon, $79.82

*Try this in instead of Campari and you get a White Negroni
HOVEY DESIGN Hits the Road | Five Hours in Milan

Thursday, November 19, 2015 3 comments

On the tail end of our Venetian adventures, Porter had to board a plane back to Paris at the crack of dawn, so I got the first train back to Milan and headed straight to the Fondazione Prada (which is just a few stops away from the Central Station on the Metro). From the first moment I heard it was in the works, I'd been chomping at the bit to get to Bar Luce, the foundation's cafe designed to the hilt by Wes Anderson. I arrived as they opened the doors.  

It's actually pretty teeny (looks massive in photos), but every surface is perfect instagram candy and the food and coffee were delish.

Aesthetically, Milan couldn't be more different than Venice, but its industrial facades (in this part of town) provided a sort of sorbet from the opulent, Byzantine and Moorish beauty. 

The Fondazione itself is its own minimalist architectural wonder where miles of grey cement and gilt play beautiful tricks with light.

The Robert Gober/Louise Bourgeois exhibits featured trippy hairy man arm wallpaper.  

The scale of the space is mind boggling.

On the metro ride back, I decided to get off at the Duomo stop to see the Milan Cathedral and walk the rest of the way. That was a mad house to end all mad houses (beyond anything we saw in Venice), but once you're out of the square, it's just serene, sophisticated, urban beauty.  I passed beautiful stores and buildings and restaurants and homes and people and drainage grates and tiles...and cannot wait to go back.

So pretty!!! And that couple - so chic! 

(The floors and walls of the Milano Centrale station are covered in ornate mosaics. What a wonderful way to enter the city). 
HOVEY DESIGN Hits the Road | Five Days in Venice

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 6 comments

What a terrible difference five weeks makes. A little over a month ago, Porter and I got on transatlantic planes and didn't think about our safety any more than usual in this post-911 world. She was actually heading to Paris, but then decided to cut that part short to rendezvous with me in Venice. That would be a huge treat any time, but when tens of thousands of people are trapped in fear or traveling for their lives or headed to the purgatory of camps (they were five weeks ago, too) and planes are going down or under threat, it seems downright wild and extravagant. 

We've been binge watching France 24's live feed for days and days, a complete obsession with the mounting situations...everywhere. By now many of you have seen the touching video of the Parisian dad comforting his little boy about the "bad guys" who have guns. "They've got guns, but we have flowers," the dad says in beautiful, lilting French. We all wish that were enough. But it still brings tears to your eyes. So, in the name of flowers and European culture and wine and travels and otherworldly craftsmanship and all the joys in life, here are a few images of magical Venice which seem even more precious now.    

The city really is a labyrinth with tiny (or enormous) treasures in every little nook and cranny. Google Maps is crazy there; it's almost like getting directions to walk through your house. Even with that help, it's possible to miss entire "hallways"...or wings. Swing a left at the closet, scoot around the corner, but stay close to the wall, now enter the bathroom, but sneak through the laundry shoot. It doesn't matter, though. It's all beautiful. So beautiful. And it's fun to get lost. 

The tides are high in October, so if you go then, definitely bring tall rubber boots and leave your hotel or palazzo at the crack of dawn or around 2 p.m. We arrived in the evening and didn't know this morning high tide situation would be so dire the next morning so we were trapped for a bit (it was ok, we just relaxed and had great chats). But with wellies (acquired at 2:05 p.m.), no water could stop us. 

Old marble and brass doorbells that look like futuristic lady robots look out from doorways all over town.  

Here's Porter outside the Fortuny Museum, which might be our favorite of all time, as far as contemporary art museums in old grand palazzos go. Design legend Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti, the museum's director curated the exceptional show, PROPORTIO, for the 2015 Biennale, which ends Sunday. The mix of classical pieces, furniture, architecture and high modern work perfectly together and the lighting (natural and faux) could not be better.  If you can make it in the next couple days you must go! But for the 99.9999% of other people who are reading this from their offices, the catalog (a tome) should be considered a desert island coffee table book. You can order it by emailing Axel Vervoordt's shop here. It would be an ideal holiday gift for anyone with eyes. Photos of the exhibit are sprinkled below.

We were so, so lucky to make it there in time to see the Biennale exhibits. Countries have exhibits in galleries and private homes all over town and the museums put on special shows, but the main attractions are at the Arsenale (the massive old Venetian arsenal complex) and the Giardini, where the art fills the gardens and the country pavilions built for the Architecture Biannale. America does excellent art presentations, too, but you just cannot beat seeing modern work inside a 12th century industrial complex and ship yard. Or in the case of Marni's exhibit, Becoming Marni, a former Benedictine abbey, Abbazio San Gregorio, that dates back to the 9th century. Curated by Carolina Castiglioni, creative director of Marni’s special projects, and architect Stefano Rabolli Pansera, it features 100 wooden sculptures by self-taught Brazilian artist Véio. 

Marble covers almost all surfaces around Venice; anything else is tarrazzo. Here my feet stand on the entry floors to the Officer's Club at the Arsenal. 

The Belgian Pavilion at the Giardini portion included "Fissures in the 'Sanitary Cordon': Hospital Architecture and Urban Segregation in Lubumbashi, 1920-1960" by J. Lagae, S. Boonen and M. Liefooghe.

The hotels seemed quite pricey for average rooms, so we AirBNBed, per usual and were so happy. We found a suite at the the Palazzetto San Lio in the center of town with terrazzo floors, a beautifully frescoed ceiling and full marble lobby for a couple hundred dollars a night. Here's Port checking her phone after a long day of wandering.

Of course there are exceptions, but in general, do not go to Venice to gorge yourself on heaps of incredible food. It's nice, decent food, but nothing you'll moan about later. That said, there are two must-go places along the Rio Della Misericordia. For eats, Paradiso Perduto, a rustic neighborhood tavern, serves up wonderful local Venetian fare (fish). We ordered the grilled fish platter and received basically a full-day's catch. It was also warm enough to eat outside on the canal and watch the locals sail past in wooden boats with their dogs standing up, heads in the breeze (lucky dogs). A couple doors down, every European (French and Scandinavian) hipster under 40 (the age bar keeps getting higher) in the entire city seemed to congregate at Vino-Vero, a tiny, incredibly curated wine bar. On the first night we went, this great three-piece jazz band threw down a stage on top of a boat and played for hours.  


The François Pinhault Foundation runs two of the other most spectacular examples of contemporary-art-in-reall-old-spaces spaces: Palazzo Grassi, the last palazzo built on the Grand Canal before the collapse of the republic in 1797, and Punta Della Dogana, the former customs house (seen above and below). It's worth seeing both simply for the architecture. The art makes them even better. 

[Becoming Marni]

The Belgian Pavilion at the Giardini. 

Nicola Samorì's Archivio della Memoria, 2015 at Arsenale.

An oddly somber-looking me + whale spine. 

Camille Norment's Rapture in the Nordic Pavilion.

Elisabetta Benassi's M'FUMU, 2015, cast ceramic plaster, steel, ink and one book (King Leopold's Soliloquy by Mark Twain, 1905)

Porter ascending the stairs at the Palazzo Grassi.

The floors of Santa Maria della Salute.

Marzipan at Rosa Salva, an excellent, classic Venetian bakery. Fish shaped marzipan makes the brain do funny things, but they are like little works of art. 

Porter outside the Naval Museum (which is closed for renovation). 

Porter splashing through a miraculously empty portion of St. Mark's Square. Behind me, they set up miles of platforms for the tourists, which was necessary unless you had knee-high boots. Many people buy these bright orange or turquoise balloon-like covers for their shoes. They're certainly better than having wet feet, but you look like you're in 1/3 of a hazmat suit. Just buy boots for about EUR10 more. 

More evidence of the water levels in Piazza San Marco. Here the waiters at the Gran Caffé Quadri stand in waders, bemoaning their flooded marble HQ. Porter and I were horrified at the potential damage with water sitting about four inches deep inside. But the marble has stood strong since 1638. 

We did most of our shopping in book stores all around town. Many of the shops in the city center are the typical luxury chains (at best) and most are tourist tchotchke pushers. But there are a few gems and beautiful menswear shops. The best design store we came across: Entrata Libera. There's a very high-end design shop of the same name in Milan, but there's no trace of this Venetian version. But here it is.  

[Porter + PROPORTIO]


Porter leaving Harry's Bar. She had a bellini and I went with an €18 negroni. One must sip at Harry's and go anywhere else for any form of booze. But you can get a spritz (Aperol or Campari) for about €4 everywhere, which sounds almost free in comparison and pose a threat if you enjoy "bargain drinking."  


[Fortuny Museum]

[The floor of our palazzo]

A rare shot of both of us together (on the Grand Canal).