“The mono-cultural make-up of this crowd… If I lived here, I’d feel empty,” said Bruce Schachne, of the Patrician assemblage present Tuesday night at the Soho Mews to view condos decorated by up-market interior designers Thom Filicia, John Saladino and Richard Mishaan. “And I’m in finance.”
But that downtown design crowd was in full support of the display, with especially high marks for the John Saladino-decorated space inspired by Girl with a Pearl Earring. The three design homes at 311 West Broadway were curated by different titles at Hearst Magazines–Veranda, Town & Country and House Beautiful–and each inspired by a film.
“People need to be exposed to the highest level of design and John is that,” said Sherri Donghia, a designer herself. And despite Mr. Saladino’s haute design credentials, Ms. Donghia said she found the space “deeply livable.”
Others found the scene ostentatious, socially and aesthetically, and the homes anything but livable. “It’s good it’s connected to the movies, because I feel like I’m in a movie,” Mr. Schachne said. “My first thought is, who would live in this space?” And his criticism extended to all aspects of the event. “This is not in tone with the times and the economy. I feel I’m surrounded by hedonistic, self-indulgent people.”
Complete with flashbulbs, caviar and couture, the event was packed. Eric, 47, who declined to give his last name, thought the glamorous feel was a bit manufactured. “That’s red carpet for red carpet’s sake,” he said. Ina Willers found the scene to border on caustic. “You are the customer and they do not try to make you feel comfortable,” she said. Willer did not care for the composition of the homes either. “There’s too much stuff in here,” she said.
But within the industry the showcase of the work of well-regarded designers was welcome. “Yeah, it’s high end, look at the building,” said Chris Coleman, 46, a designer. “You are not going to put West Elm in this space, you have to do something custom.” Timothy Mace, a 45-year-old architect, agreed. “It’s about selling the building, but this way you see you don’t have to live in a blank white space.”
The theme “cinema style,” seemed more like a loose suggestion. “I don’t really think of the movie as connected to the spaces,” said Ms. Willers. Still, there was resounding praise for the Vermeer-inspired home. While the others used the movies-The Big Chill for Thom Filicia’s home and Dinner at Eight for Richard Mishaan’s-as a motif, many viewers felt the Saladino space’s use of light and texture was reminiscent of the Dutch Baroque painter. “His has a tactile quality; it affects you on a visceral level. The others are pastiche,” Mr. Mace said.
The spaces did show what an interior designer could do with a huge budget and few constraints. Whether or not there is any market for cinema-themed super-luxe homes is uncertain, and perhaps, irrelevant. “You can take the ideas to your level,” said Mr. Coleman, suggesting a shower curtain instead of the original fabric curtain that divided kitchen from living room in the Richard Mishaan home.
Designers also said they would use the viewing to inspire them in their future projects. “I’ll take ideas,” said Aaron Lyle Gelbman, 22, an artist. “And where else do interior designers get to show their work? They aren’t like painters, they can’t hang a painting on the wall.”