New York Splendor: Luxurious Rooms

In her sumptuous book, Wendy Moonan takes us on a magical tour of the city’s most memorable rooms, opening doors to residential spaces that “amplify our knowledge of New York’s social history.”

By Suzanne Charlé


Cover: Joanne De Palma re-imagined a library with late-nineteenth-century lighting, antiques and William Morris patterned walls. Photograph by Francesco Lagnese. Right: Randolph Hearst and his wife welcomed Lady Diana in this gallery created by Renzo Mongiardino, with faux marble panels and ancient marble busts. Photograph by Michel Arnaud. © 2018 New York Splendor: The City’s Most Memorable Rooms by Wendy Moonan, Rizzoli New York.
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Since the 1980s, Wendy Moonan has been reporting on interior design and architecture, a a beat that gave her entrée to many of Manhattan’s most extravagant residences. In New York Splendor: The City’s Most Memorable Rooms (Rizzoli), she takes readers on a spirited romp through the palatial homes of the top .1 percent.

Some rooms, she notes, live only in memory: the “luxurious library” of Brooke Astor, the “legendary” patchwork-quilt bedroom of Gloria Vanderbilt, the exceptional abodes of the Rockefellers and the Paleys, and designer Bill Blass’ Sutton Place apartment—“a lesson in classic simplicity.” Others have remained intact, but serve different purposes, such as the Whitney’s Gilded Age “Venetian Room,” designed by Stanford White of McKim Mead & White that is now the mirrored reception room of the French Embassy’s Fifth Avenue cultural center. And don’t forget the home and studio of artist Donald Judd, now a museum open to the public by appointment.

Here, too, are rooms that have been designed as recently as this year with dreamlike amenities: an underground swimming pool, a bath with unobstructed views of the Hudson—and a gym, complete with basketball court!

Moonan explains that her diverse “favorite private residential rooms” meet one main criterion: “each project has the ‘wow’ factor.”

In this 320-page tome you will also visit penthouses and townhouses harboring collections and furnishings that museum curators dream of: A foyer designed by Patrick F. Naggar becomes a “temple-like gallery” that accommodates a larger-than-life bronze statue of a Roman emperor guarded by Greek and Roman marble busts perched on black pedestals.

Moonan, who wrote the antiques column for The New York Times for many years, has a particular love for the decorative arts—and for designers like Robert Couturier, who, she writes, “was thrilled to be able to create a Louis XVI style house for clients in Borough Park Brooklyn, complete with paneled boiserie and antiques from the best Paris dealers.”

Artist Julian Schnabel’s 50,000-foot palazzo is also on tour, as are the manses of fashion designers Adolfo and Oscar de la Renta. Top designers and architects abound, including the renowned Robert A.M. Stern, who wrote the foreword for her book. Others—including William T. Georgis, John Saladino, Juan Pablo Molyneux, Tom Britt, Massimo and Lella Vignellis—even invite us into their own spaces.  The tour is long and luxurious. Sit back, read, dream, enjoy!!

Of 14 the rooms in Brooke Astor’s Park Avenue duplex, the library was her favorite, decorated by Parish-Hadley to display her husband’s collection of rare books. Photograph by William P. Steele.
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Top left: Alberto Pinto designed a dining foyer, focusing on the owners’ collection of blue-and-white porcelains discovered in a Qing dynasty shipwreck. Photograph by Jacques Pépion, courtesy of Cabinet Alberto Pinto. Top right: Architect/antiques dealer David Schott Parker returned an East Side 1880s brownstone to its original splendor, using wainscoting from Teddy Roosevelt’s former home. Photograph by Durston Saylor/Architectural Digest @Condé Nast. Bottom: Artist Donald Judd renovated a cast-iron building into a studio, gallery and home with kitchen and dining area. Photograph by James Ewing/OTTO.
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Top: Architect Robert Couturier designed a “1880s version of Louis XVI house” for clients in Brooklyn. Photograph by John M. Hall. For his own home and office architect William T. Georgis opened the living room to the garden with a glass curtain wall; portraits of the architect, painted by Alex Katz, greet guests. Photograph by T. Whitney Cox, courtesy of Georgis & Mirgorodsky.
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While renovating his family’s seven-story brownstone, architect Juan Pablo Molyneux commissioned Parisian Anne Midavaine to create lacquered wood panels, based on a sixteenth-century screen portraying the Portuguese ships arriving in Japan. Photograph by Durston Saylor.
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Suzanne Charlé has written for numerous publications, including the Nation, House Beautiful, and The New York Times, where she was a freelance assigning editor for the magazine. She has co-authored many books including Indonesia in the Soeharto Years: Issues, Incidents and Illustrations.

You may enjoy other NYCitywoman articles by Suzanne Charlé: 

Activist Artists Focus on Politics Past and Present

The Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

Trump’s EPA Will Make You Sick 

Center for Women’s History Opens in NYC 

Clive Davis and the Soundtrack of Our Lives 

Women on the March to History 

New York at Its Core: An Arresting Exhibit

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