By Caitlin Kelly
I don’t know about you, but ohhhhhhhhh, have I so missed style and wit and elegance!
Being in a room with other people, quietly paying attention to something riveting.
So an out-of-the-blue press invitation to attend a day of panels by Big Name interior designers and architects was just the ticket. I wore my go-to black pleated Aritiza maxi-dress, black denim heels, my $3 thrift shop black necklace, a Lucky brand shawl — and off I went to the city.
Jose sent me with a toasted bagel, so one of the many commuter skills I got to use once more was unwrapping it and eating it while maneuvring the FDR, the narrow, busy highway that runs along the east side of Manhattan, beside the East River.
I scored on parking — having resigned myself to a $50 day for an Upper East Side spot — by getting into a garage by 9:00 a.m. (early bird special), for a daily cost of $18, less (yes!) than a cocktail here and even less than the round trip commuter train fare of $19.
The day offered a lively mix of topics, all focused on interior design, from the use of color to what makes a pretty room to choosing and using antiques. Each designer and architect had about 20 minutes to show slides of their work and explain the thinking behind their decisions.
Typical of this world, many had worked for some of the same firms and some had worked together on projects.
The back-stories were delicious!
It’s easy to forget, or not know, or not care, how staggeringly wealthy so many people are now.
So there’s another 10,000 square foot mansion with 11 bedrooms and a bowling alley and a skating rink and a theater…
Here’s a mega-yacht with a bed inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Here’s the 6th or 7th home of another mogul, this one in Mexico.
And so on.
It would be easy to disdain all of this as appalling excess.
I get it. I do!
Or the fact that every project employs hundreds of workers, many in the unionized building trades.
But I still loved every minute of the day, and savored the stylish people seated all around me — the woman in leopard trousers with a massive leopard hat; the older woman in her navy leather Roger Vivier flats; the man in black Belgian loafers (a very specific NYC old-money brand), the speaker in from Dallas in perfect patent Manolos….
The shoe game was strong!
I studied design at the New York School of Interior Design in the mid-90s and planned to leave journalism for a new career in the industry. After my first husband walked out, starting over at the bottom at $10/hour wasn’t a viable option, so I stayed in journalism.
But I learned a lot at school, and really enjoyed my education.
My maternal grandmother had money and hired Toronto’s top decorator, so my taste was formed early! I still remember one of her 1970s bathroom wallpapers.
I love design dearly, so an entire day listening to the greats and legends of the field — and seeing the depth of their knowledge — was a fantastic, free pleasure.
For all its challenges, New York City remains a vibrant center full of talent and inspiration. What a relief to see it finally, slowly, coming back to life again!