John Hay Whitney, or "Jock" as he was known to his friends, was early 20th century New York's epitome of a man's man. While attending Yale University he allegedly coined the term "crew cut" while participating as an oarsman. Later, he attended Oxford before coming home upon the death of his father and inheriting the family fortune. Soon after, he became the youngest member ever elected to the famed Jockey Club, through which he raced his prized Thoroughbreds in addition to his affinity for playing polo. As Whitney traveled up and down the east coast to golf, race horses and drive the party circuit, he became linked to such names as Fred Astaire, Tallulah Bankhead and Joan Crawford. In an enviable feat of time management, all of this was accomplished in addition to his successful business ventures that would forever mark American history.
Move forward to 2011 for the Kips Bay Decorator's Show House, which takes place in his 63rd Street mansion in New York. While there are many contemporary touches and advanced technologies that have been added to the house, many of the designers paid special attention to Whitney's sensibilities and the world in which he lived.
The "Ode to Jock" Club Room by Campion Platt is an elegant bow to the former ambassador to the United Kingdom. Platt keeps the mood a stately one by furnishing it with polished classical millwork and complimentary lines. The choice of colors and furnishings are reserved while the materials remain fitting of one of the wealthiest men of the 20th century. The high-gloss walls and logical arrangement of furniture indicate a man who sought out intellectual challenges in work, play and downtime. This room is a great show of respect to one of America's business pioneers.
Aurélien Gallet's Gentleman's Lounge, though provokingly on the side of macabre, captured the private retreat feeling of a single-sex secluded corner in which to drink cognac, smoke cigars and shoot the breeze. The designer used period furniture such as a Eugene Printz 1930s cabinet as a gesture to Whitney's time and space. He also added masculine reminders of the period's aggression and conflict such as a child-like drawing of violent chaos and a skeleton that greets you at the door. Touches of industrialism are strewn about as one encounters a centerpiece fashioned after an old car or tractor engine and primitive heavy metal guns. Amazingly, Gallet managed to make his statement on historic masculinity while creating a spot where one can comfortably picture a group of men spending time.
A designer who has received a lot of spotlight lately is Jamie Herzlinger, who designed "His" Master Bathroom. Again, one is met with high gloss and stimulating geometric shapes when entering this opulent room. Smaller details are added to make one really pay attention, like the corset-like lace ups on the wall panels framing the sink. Herzlinger designed the tile for the room, which shows an intelligent masculinity that compliments the age and manner in which Whitney would have used the room.
Although full of special contemporary touches, it is thrilling to see the 2011 Kips Bay designers show such reverence to the mansion's history and intended use. The designers have kept each room interesting and surprising, which is sure to continue drawing in guests as the house raises money for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club's vital programming. For ticket information, please visit the show house web page.