Weighing in at 4½ pounds, New York Splendor, by Wendy Moonan ’68, is a decadent portfolio of rooms that dazzle, or, as Moonan describes it, a collection of “New York residential spaces that elicit gasps of pleasure and surprise.”
These days, book buyers carefully weigh their options when deciding which tomes they truly need to own. Decluttering guru Marie Kondo keeps popping up, asking us to confirm if each and every book collecting dust “sparks joy.” Despite its heft, Moonan’s coffee-table book tempts for its appeal as a photo survey of rooms realized between 1970 and 2008 that present a history of noteworthy New York City interiors.
From Adolfo to McKim, Mead & White to Selldorf Architects, Moonan has selected spaces that are her “favorite private residential rooms in New York City.” As a longtime journalist in the field of architecture and design—including serving as home editor of Town & Country in the 1980s (the same period that I was features editor there), architecture and design writer for House & Garden, weekly antiques columnist for the New York Times, and more recently correspondent for 1stdibs.com—Moonan intimately knows the tastes and “look” of the designers and architects whose work she features in the book. Her descriptions intriguingly let us in on some of the backstory of certain design firms or their process in creating a given effect, as well as providing detail on finishes, provenance, and the artworks that come together to make what she calls a “memorable room.”
Moonan has given each featured room a titled theme, such as “An Enchanting Refuge,” the bedroom of interior designer Bunny Williams and her antiques-dealer husband John Rosselli. It features a canopy bed crafted of mirrored tiles, a Rosselli find, and the silk embroidery of its headboard was created by Legage in Paris, commissioned by Williams.
In “Dining in an Italian Garden” interior designer John Saladino “commissioned French artist Jean Charles Dicharry to paint a Pompeiian-like garden mural.” Moonan brings the room to life by sharing with readers the “insider story” that Saladino’s actual hand entered the dining room’s design when he “took a wet rag” to the mural to create an illusion of age.
For those of us who derive joy from the unexpected discovery that comes from flipping through a book rich in imagery, quickly accessing sources, or a being let in on a tale that only those in the field might have heard, New York Splendor is a tempting read.
Brooke Murray is managing director of John B. Murray Architect and the author of Contemporary Classical Architecture: John B. Murray.