Friday, April 17, 2009


Like most interior designers, I am a total showhouse addict. I love to see what other designers are thinking and how those thoughts are translating into new ideas for the decoration of houses. Generally speaking, showhouse rooms are not created for any specific client; a designer is totally unfettered when it comes to interpreting the images swimming in the forefront of his imagination. Thus, these houses are of unfailing interest to me because I can discover a bit of the current inspirations of my peers. Are they looking backwards, into historical interiors with document fabrics and aubusson rugs? Are they totally immersed in the current moment with clean lines, farmhouse sinks and blue grey walls? Or perhaps, are they off roaming the landscape of the future and, if so, just how do they see it?

As I read about New York City’s Kips bay Showhouse today, I must consider that, at least for a few of these artists, the future has become the present. Kips Bay has the reputation of being the creme de la creme of showhouses, consistently presenting top designers pulling out all the stops available. It is revered and highly publicized. And this year, it features a Panic Room. Windowless, with walls the colour of charcoal, it contains a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, a stainless steel toilet and a bearskin rug. I found this comically ironic and assumed it was meant to be so until I read the quote from the designer, William T. Georgis. When asked why we need a panic room Mr. Georgis replied, ”Do you read the papers? Economic mayhem, global warfare, take your pick. We have to hunker down, and where we do so has to be chic and comfortable”.

I shall set aside the question about this room being either chic or comfortable and consider this supposed need for mankind to “hunker down” . Really? Have we traveled that far full circle? How long till it is back to blood over the door and a necklace of garlic? Once, glowering gargoyles perched on rooftops to ward off evil spirits and moats encircled the manor house. Are we now to believe that those antediluvian fears have returned with such thunder as to force our retreat into prisons within our own houses? I am no Pollyanna - I read the same papers as those now altered by fear. I just refuse to bow to those headlines of doom. I much prefer to station round my home the safeguards of hope and faith, optimism and love. Strong guardians all, who will not allow panic into my house, let alone give him his own room.

Panic room? I am off to open my windows.

“I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival”

from “The Future” by Leonard Cohen

Painting above: Princess Elizabeth in Prison by
Sir John Everett Millais