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Friday, November 20, 2009

A mercurial designer, a singular home

When floral and event designer extraordinaire Robert Isabell passed away this July, he left behind a singular home very few, including close friends, had ever seen. Perhaps a career devoted to creating lavish celebrations for celebrities and royalty led Isabell to seek a certain solitude in his private hours. In the nearly 20 years he owned his home, Isabell threw only two parties.

In mid-December, his estate will be auctioned by Sotheby's with proceeds going to the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, a charity for botanical studies. Isabell was a keen collector of mid-20th-century furniture and sculpture, and the lots include masterpieces by Harry Bertoia, George Nakashima, Jean Prouvé, and Paul Evans. He began acquiring these works in the early 1990s, nearly a decade before they became fashionable with the design cognoscenti.

The facade of the Isabell's Greenwich Village townhouse is an eccentric tribute to a man who determined the very ne plus ultra of social set soirées. In 1990, the designer bought the then ramshackle property and its carriage house and set about on an extraordinary renovation.

Gutting the two buildings, Isabell joined them with a glass roof and installed a glass bridge. A four-story atrium was created which was then filled with lush climbing plants such as orchids and ivy. An oversize showerhead fed the private rainforest.

Isabell, never one to rest on his creative laurels, rearranged his pieces often. His good friend fashion designer Norma Kamali said, “He moved things around all the time — you could never expect anything to be in the same spot.”

A Paul Evans bench and Harry Bertoia steel sculpture.

Johnny Swing's "Nickel Couch," created by welding thousands of nickels over a metal frame.

A hanging cabinet by Evans.

A 1970 candlestick and pail by Albert Paley.

Sideboard by Phillip Lloyd Powell.

[The New York Times]

9 comments:

susieq said...

Stunning. Like some lavish European villa. I want more photos.

susieq said...

Okay. I had to go straight away and read the Times article. I'm a huge fan of colorist Donald Kaufman. I like this quote from the article: "Donald Kaufman, the color consultant and a friend, said: ‘Everything he picked was the opposite of what was trendy or expected at the time. It was beyond style.’’

Thanks Raina, this piece of eye candy has made my day!

nkp said...

This is magnificent. What an amazing private sanctuary. That inner courtyard makes my knees buckle. Those little teasing peeks into that lush flora, the shadows created, and the secret garden feel are everything I love and hope to someday replicate in a home.

BTW-the NOLA picks are up! Hope you had a good night's sleep.

only a movie said...

So pretty. Thank you for sharing. Loving all of it.

Robin said...

I want a hanging garden immediately! Gorgeousness!

erin@designcrisis said...

Oooh, so dark and grubby... I love it!

And the atrium is AMAZING. Now, that's how to have a tree in your house.

Kate said...

It is beautiful! I imagine it to be so peaceful, a real retreat from the world. I hope whoever takes the house maintains the style and charm and doesnt rip it all out.

amy @ switz~art said...

I have never heard of him, I am sorry to say. But better late than never. What a fantatic sense of taste he had...

Thank you & happy weekend!

david john said...

that hanging cabinet by paul evans is beyond magnificent! wow!!!!!!!!!!

david john