I Go Ga-Ga for Synagogues! Dahling, the Décor Is Divine

Stiffen the sinews, summon the blood and, whatever you do, make sure you tart up your bunker! Yes, interior decoration

Stiffen the sinews, summon the blood and, whatever you do, make sure you tart up your bunker! Yes, interior decoration is vital to your morale-especially during an Orange Alert. When government officials made those panic-inducing recommendations about duct tape and drinking water, they recklessly forgot to emphasize the importance of interior design. I think we all know that when it comes to keeping anxiety at bay, a snappily chic residential décor is better than Xanax-even the blue ones.

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Just because you’re attempting to turn your apartment into a fallout shelter doesn’t mean it has to look like one. However, if you’re going to divert attention successfully from your unsightly Poland Spring drinking water supply ($2.18 for a one-gallon flagon at D’Agostino) and duct-tape festoonery (a fourpack costs $5.85 at Staples.com), you will need to make a bold aesthetic statement.

My new fave source of radical interior-design inspiration is contemporary synagogue architecture, a style I have dubbed “Syn-à-go-go.” Bored with biomorphic Danish Mod and other standard mid-20th-century fare? You too may just be ready to embrace this otherworldly Antonio-Gaudí-meets-the-Raelians wacky aesthetic.

Contemporary synagogue style resulted, like so many things, from the enthusiastic patronage of Jews. It all started in the 1950’s, when suburban arts-and-crafts-lovin’ divorcées with time on their hands lobbied their rabbis to commission the services of the groovy architects and artists du jour . I recently asked Manhattan furniture maven Dennis Miller, a self-described nice Jewish boy from Great Neck, Long Island, who is nothing like the comedian, to recall that tingly moment when his neighborhood temple got groovified. “The bimah [altar] was an amazing 50-foot white Louise Nevelson sculpture,” recalled the baby boomerish Mr. Miller, whose religious foot-dragging was cured by La Nevelson’s futuristic installation. “It was amazing-the whole thing slid open to reveal the ark, and there was also a fabulous Trova sculpture. I just couldn’t wait to get to temple every week.” On your next trip out to the Hamptons, take a detour and visit Dennis’ childhood temple. Take exit 33 off the L.I.E.: Temple Beth El is located at 5 Old Mill Road. No reservations are necessary.

My own personal fave is located in Florida. I’m talking about the Sophie and Nathan Gumenick Chapel of Temple Israel at 137 N.E. 19th Street in Miami. Completed in 1969 by Kenneth F. Triester, this demented meringue of a building will have you gasping for mercy on the sidewalk. Once inside, prepare to have your mind blown by Michael Angelo Alocca copper flower stands, sensuous candleholders and gooey Paul Evans chairs.

A dab of this Reform-synagogue aesthetic can be yours if you pop into the showroom of the aforementioned Mr. Miller in the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington Avenue (212-684-0070). For an extra Syn-à-go-go frisson , check out the 1960 Unicorn curved sofa designed by Vladimir Kagan: $12,500 plus fabric. Mr. Miller recommends covering this kooky brutalist couch in a 70’s Art Nouveau–ish printed velvet from Jack Larson.

Re Louise Nevelson: The Russian-born artist and cigar smoker benefited enormously from her ability to spiff up not just synagogues, but also her regal self. With her turbans and amateurishly applied, oversized spidery false eyelashes (top and bottom), she created an iconic look that may well be on the verge of a revival. Marc Jacobs’ recent retro-futurism fall collection-Courrèges-ish minis and turtles and graphic Gernreich-y A-line micro-frocks-simply screams out for eye fringe à la Nevelson. Buy loads of pairs at the bargain price of about $2 per from www.pizazz5thAve.com and practice, practice, practice. You only have six months to learn how to apply them skillfully and avoid looking loony like Louise.


I Go Ga-Ga for Synagogues! Dahling, the Décor Is Divine