Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 11/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Stanford White, Architect
by Samuel G. White and Elizabeth White
New York: Rizzoli, $75
352 pages, 300 color illustrations
Consideration of Stanford White's architecture is usually subsumed within consideration of the work of his famous firm, McKim, Mead & White. Books and articles about White alone have often focused on scandalous aspects of his private life—the subject of the 1955 movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing—which ended in his 1906 murder in a building of his own design, New York's Madison Square Garden. Here, however, married authors Samuel G. White, a great-grandson of his subject, and Elizabeth White have concentrated on the buildings and their interiors.
Within the firm, Beaux-Arts-trained Charles McKim was skilled and scholarly, with the office nickname Bramante; William Mead was the reserved office manager, known as Dummy; and White was the talented, flamboyant Cellini. McKim and White collaborated on many projects, often with the former developing the overall scheme and White adding detail and ornament. The book focuses on designs that are primarily by White, including two of his own residences: Box Hill on Long Island, New York, overlooking the sound, and a Manhattan town house, overlooking Gramercy Park, both outfitted in considerable splendor. Missing, understandably, are the commissions, such as New York's Morgan Library and University Club, for which McKim was chiefly responsible, but that leaves us with two dozen fine examples of White's remarkable taste, flair, and erudition, among them New York's Villard Houses, Century Association, New York University, and Tiffany & Co., Newport's Casino Theatre and Rosecliff, and Rhinebeck's Ferncliff Casino. Disappointingly, only three of these 24 are published with plans, but Jonathan Wallen's excellent photography, including detail shots, make this book a visual treasury of White's work.
What They're Reading...
Partner of Katch I.D.
The Shape of a Pocket
by John Berger
New York: Vintage Books, $14
Despite the fact that design is 90 percent perspiration, it's the 10 percent inspiration we like to think about. "In school, we studied practical elements of design, such as scale and shape and texture, but in the studio we focus on the overall feeling of a space," says Steph Katch about the largely residential practice she runs with her sister Pamela. That interest in the ineffable drew her to the poetic analyses of John Berger whose 2001 collection of essays delves deeply into the layers of hidden meaning in art and life. "His assessment of a cow in a meadow as both graceful and awkward could be applied to a piece of furniture," she says of Berger's effect on her way of seeing. "His meditation on the skill of a painterly brush stroke compares to the patterns of a great textile." —Deborah Wilk
Partner of Katch I.D.
Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers
by Leonard Koren
Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, $15
Pamela's time with Leonard Koren's Wabi Sabi, an examination of the Japanese concept of the beauty of imperfection, leads her to thoughts of intention on the part of craftsmen, artisans, and, ultimately, designers. When an object has presence or gravity, "it's a reflection of the state of mind of the maker," she says. His or her "level of attention and clarity really resonates," which is felt in the object and reflected in the space it occupies. "It's about the process of creation," she says, "which helps me understand how to manifest my vision." Without breaking a sweat. —Deborah Wilk