Get a CLUE! Style Games at Holiday House 2015


At times navigating Manhattan’s society gala events can resemble the children’s detective game CLUE.  If you remember, the essence of CLUE is a toss-up of colorful, fascinating, and quirky characters mixed together in a big mansion, with everyone playing a game of solve-the-mysteries.
Same in Gotham, where obsessions, clues, and notations are diligently gathered on who’s who, what so-and-so wore, what style “weapons” they sported, and what “rooms” they presided over as clues into the deep mysteries of gossip, style, and social life.

One of my favorite of all annual events is Holiday House, in which all of the above actually takes place, albeit full of good holiday cheer.  The CLUE components are all there: the Academy mansion of many rooms, a grand staircase, and stylish colorful characters. The mystery to solve here is breast cancer; the stylish characters are a mix of philanthropists, interior designers, journalists, and notable creatives and brands designing rooms on a holiday theme; the secret weapons are the gorgeous design and style details making everyone swoon all the while raising awareness and funds for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Ready to play who’s who and what’s what?
The star of these rooms is Iris Dankner,
Holiday House founder, survivor, philanthropist and visionary heart creatively bringing light and healing to a dark place.  She’s your first clue to why this event is a Grand Success for seven years:



With more style inspiration from classic jewel box rooms to modern staycations to
luxury glamping, let’s play!

Play with me as I find the uncanny resemblance of the design world’s favorite characters, (like Iris and designer Ally Coulter, above and my special guest reveal at the top floor); delve like a detective into the latest style clues of dress and decor; and most of all, celebrate the human spirit towards beauty, charity, and good will.  First of all…what on Earth shall I wear?

Christian dior room Georges Geffroy
Shall I be Miss Grey? The days leading up to the event had been grey, grey, grey.  Pondering dress in decor, I was inspired by this image of the Paris apartment of Christian Dior designed by his friend, Georges Geffroy.  I could see the headline now…

Holiday House Grey
Ah, no. In the end, I decided a dress the size of a sofa might be overkill.  In the spirit of Holiday House, I opted to go gold to ground my faith in brightness…

And in true unobtrusive, detective form, I found that I matched many of 70’s style wallpapers.  Style CLUES: A bold and bright caftan top in a multi-color print with brass sequins, a turquoise suede belt from Portugal in the 70’s, with gold leather pants and rose suede Charles Jourdan mules from the 80’s.


Jade Dressler
Turns out this ottoman and room by Julia Buckingham are inspired by the Indian and Nepalese spring holiday Holi, the Festival of Colors, or the Festival of Love, signifying the arrival of spring and the end of winter.  It begins with a song and dance and is followed by a free-for-all of colors.  A Free-for-All Kiki! That’s so me!

And now one more party mystery before we sail through the rooms.

Who was my companion, the glamorous, blond woman? Here’s a tantalizing, close-up CLUE:

First, before the reveal, come with us through the entrance to the house, where one can see the statue of Apollo beckoning one inside from the grey evening…

Room CLUE: A grand idea for any entrance is to evoke the idea of light and strength from within. 
The Holiday House grand entry foyer, in perfect symbolism, was dominated by an 11-ft tall Apollo, the god of healing, light and truth, and tasked with nothing less than to move the Sun across the sky.  Entitled “Loving Day” designed by White Webb, Frank Webb and Matthew White, with Apollo by artist Sabin Howard.  Social CLUE: t: @whitewebb i: @whitewebbbinteriors

The next room to entice was by my friend and stalwart supporter of Holiday House and the interior design industry, media-star, Rio Hamilton.

Whom I suspect is actually Mr. Green in disguise…

Discuss!Rio Hamilton
Rio Hamilton, design blogger and the design industry’s man-about-town, described his space as a “recharging station,” since it is a space in which to relax while charging one’s device of choice (or in his case a headquarters from which to play paparazzi!)
Room CLUE: I loved his bold striped wallpaper, the floor!, and the grand portrait of a cafe society by Andrea Selby that dominated the room, definitely a clue to his ID and always-instant-style tip, especially for precious spaces, Go Bold or Go Home! Social CLUE: @riverhamilton

And then the mysterious Miss Scarlett showed up!

Rio-Hamilton-Tori-Mellott copy

Tori Mellott
Tori Mellott, the style editor extraordinaire of the event’s Presenting Sponsor, Traditional Home magazine, appeared everywhere in an alluring red silk gown, which cast her absolutely as Miss Scarlett.

More antics…

Ally Coulter

Ally Coulter
Story CLUE: Miss White
aka Ally Coulter and The Bear demonstrate how to elegantly step over anything out of place, or a mysterious, including a Bear.  A Bear at a society event? Stay tuned, it’s a CLUE.

And her room!


Room CLUE: Creating a center of a home, an atrium or courtyard is a healing idea for the 21st Century!  “Constellation Celebration” by Ally Coulter is a glamorous tented, feminine oasis courtyard at the center of the mansion, dedicated to women of all walks of life who have fought and defeated breast cancer.  The space features photographs of survivors by renowned artist Robert Farber and a light show designed by Brandon Epperson.  Low, seductive lounge seating, smoked glass coffee tables and fashionable poufs throughout from FENDI Casa and sparkling barware from Baccarat reflected perfectly the happy intention of the event.  Social CLUE: t: @ally_coulter i: @allycoulter

More CLUES to Miss White

Room CLUE:  Mr. Bjorn Bjornsson was not in his “Snow Day” sitting room with its many icy elements when I visited, but how smart to take a dark paneled room and fill it with light like this!  Mixing sparking crystal, silver and snowy white elements he frosts the room with a glass “ice table” while crystal logs and a custom metal starburst fireplace screen adorn a fireplace.  Mirrors abound creating pools of reflected light, and custom furniture by Christopher Guy beckons you to relax on this Snow Day. Social CLUE: @bjornssondesign

Which leads us to the other major room of the mansion and the discovery of Professor Plum!



Room CLUE:
An insider told me that the whole room evolved from this moody plum colored painting of the skies of Scotland, as curated by our friend, art advisor Elizabeth Sadoff. Room by the designer, Professor Plum, aka, James Rixner.


“St. Andrews Day” is an inspired room celebrating the particular design and culture of Scotland.  We admired the rich fabrics from our friends at Holland & Sherry and Johnstons of Elgin, and noticed that the lush arrangements and surprising details we loved also signaled that this room is a gathering space for social interaction.

I love the bold tartan and sombre, simple, varied-technique portraits of the salon wall above and the vibrant, mass of pillows below.


The elegant soles of James Rixner with… (Miss Peacock in Vibrant Peacock Blue?) (Peep my rosy Jourdans there.)

Miss Peacock actually is James’ right-hand designer, Catarine Wright, nicknamed “The Duchess” by The Designer himself.  Sparkling conversations flowed like the moody Scotland weather in this room, with Nicole Holt of Mansour, the lovely folks at Fork Street Studios and a spotting of Design Chair, Tom Filicia.  A mystery that I did not see the other Design Chairs I so admire, Alexa Hampton, Mario Buatta, Christopher Hyland, and Geoffrey Bradfield…anyway, kudos to all!  Social CLUES: t: @JamesRixnerInc i: @jamesrixner

Back out in the Grand Hallway, time to ascend to the next level.



On the SECOND FLOOR, the personality of the rooms dominated and I met new-to-me designers I will now keep my detective eye on in the future!

First, the “Birthday” playroom/bedroom by Lonni Paul, designer for Bill and Giuliana Rancic, which perfectly combined utility, playfulness, and inspiration.


Room CLUE: Utility first for kids’ play at ground level and inspired elegance above for young minds. Children and adults can enjoy the freedom that comes with being a kid with upholstered walls via the “weapon” of Crypton Home Fabric, while out of reach, completely engaging, a fairy chandelier by Lladro.



Lonni and I didn’t get to chat, I just snapped her and I loved how her smile reflected her heart and the essence of this happy children’s room! Social CLUE: @lonnipaul

Next we found this CLUE:

Slide09 3


Room CLUE: Hands down the “Game Night” game room by Marks & Frantz Design was my favorite!  The press release pegged it at a “signature mix of intense color, bold pattern, custom and antique furnishings and unbridled fun.”  

Lydia Marks
and Lisa Frantz are known for creating set decoration for dramatic fashion + film characters.  Their luxury game room sported games from two bars, a custom wood marquetry shuffleboard table, a bespoke hand-painted peacock-themed backgammon set and a shagreen and bone inlay chess table.  Animal imagery encouraged the sense of wild play as did a Bagua mirror and the very rich fabrics from Milanese luxury house Dedar.  You can actually feel a bit of the drama in my “unlit-not-so-pro” photo here.

Game room Holiday House
Indulge me, play with me a bit with a roll of details that gave me a sense of “unbridled fun.”

Behold the rich fabric pillows and shagreen and bone chess table!

Game room Holiday House
This layered collage painting gave me a Charles-Demuth-Figure-5 Precisionism-feel which was so inspired against a 70’s-feeling wallpaper.  This era, color, and texture play is an intriguing game in of itself.

horse head
I heard a lot of “oo’s and ah’s” over this iridescent ceramic horse’s head with golden, pink leaves in it.

The Monkey-In-The-Room with Keys to the Evocative, Mysterious Designers.  Social CLUE: @marksandfrantz

Following the Game Room, The Lady’s Lounge, a Game Room of another sort, always!

Lady's Lounge

Room CLUES:  From a dressing table to a room in your mansion called “A Lady’s Lounge,” making a place to surround oneself with beloved objects, to meditate, to dream, and to be inspired is key.
In the lounge, we discovered both interiors and jewelry of the designer, Katie Scott, and her exquisite PR agent, Amy Rosi, whom I have admired since our first meeting many years ago.  The warm, dark woods, metallic finishes, and luxurious textures definitely had us lingering with the ladies.  Social CLUES: @katiebydesign

Onward and up to the THIRD FLOOR!

Astonishing…one my most favorite beautiful profiles in the industry…could she be…?

Christina Juarez

Publicist Christina Juarez wore a gleaming silvery-white pant suit making her win hands down for the best dressed and most elegant!  And then, another player…

Campion-PlattCampion Platt
Designer Campion Platt may resemble a handsome 70’s Colonel Mustard, but his lush therapist’s office looks nothing like any I have happened upon!


Room CLUE:  The “Darkness Delight” therapist’s office is inspired by Nardoqan, the Turkish Winter Solstice, when darkness is defeated by the emergence of the new sun.  We love a room inspired by myths, the interpretation creates a timeless place, such as Campion Platt’s room.

“Here, one embarks on a journey of personal transformation, from darkness to light.”  The shadowy palette of the design begs a deeper look with its layered, magically-intricate Turkish rugs by Çinar grounding the warmth of the Chesney fireplace and lanterns by glass artist Moshe Bursuker, all evoking the mystical meaning of Nardoqa.  The therapist’s couch by Bright invites the unfolding of woes, delights, and clues.  Social CLUE: @CampionPlattHom

And who else did we see?  The ever-smart Barbara Viteri was in every room before we arrived there, designer and blogger, Tamara Stephenson and yet another Mrs. Peacock, yes we saw her too.


You see it too, right? Designer Kathleen Walsh is a ringer for Mrs. Peacock especially in this gorgeous, deep violet lace dress she wore the night of the preview.  Peep this dress here in one of Rio Hamilton’s snaps below:


Kathleen Walsh

Staycation-Holiday House

Room CLUE:  Functional luxuries of detail in an all-in-one space will feel like a well-appointed home for the well-traveled.

The glamorous “Staycation” by designer, Kathleen Walsh envisions a little slice of home for the globetrotting woman.  To indulge in a staycation in New York City is a rare luxury, but Kathleen re-imagined the standard small living space into a luxurious oasis complete with a state-of-the-art Gaggenau kitchenette.  Social CLUE: t: @kathleenwalshin i: @kathleendwalsh

Kathleen-Walsh-room 1
The hot orange, deep purples and silky pillows felt like a very new palette.

An adjoining small alcove held a plush bed/couch in a precious cave.


Mesmerizing texture mixes like this smooth milky glass loop sculpture on top of this jeweled coffee table book slowed me down to investigate.

Kathleen Walsh

Give me a color and texture mix any day to slow me down vs. a beach view! I know, I am such a prime candidate for this Glam Staycation!

In a whole other realm, my mystery guest found her thrill on the FOURTH FLOOR…


What was last year, an Art Basel gallery and bar by Justin Shaulis, this year is transformed into something quite at the opposite spectrum: “Glamping Paradise” a bedroom suite by Vicente Wolf for Ford Explorer. With earth news like climate change and GMO’s occupying more of our minds, perhaps the time to get closer to Nature is here.

Room CLUE: If you do or re-do a room or a home, perhaps it’s time to go green.

Vicente’s custom-made 16-foot geodesic dome “tent” is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling murals of wooded forest at sunrise with the sounds of nature piping through a state-of-the-art Savant sound system.  A Calvin Klein canopy bed is topped with luxury linens. The whole space is lushly layered with a mix of vintage and antique furniture pieces, cowhides on top of carpets and fur draped over a chair. Outside the dome, the birds chirp and the “outdoor” bath showcases a stunning DXV tub with wooden feet and a stone bowl washstand. Social CLUES: t: @vicentewolf i: @vicentewolfdesigns

And my mystery guest? Interior designer and founder of the Gypchic Guides and Tracy Stern Teas, Tracy Stern, here with me, Rio Hamilton and Tyra Bombetto.

And that bear from downstairs? Here’s where he ended up!

How to Get a CLUE about style, decor, and even the future?  The 2015 Holiday House NYC is open from November 11 – December 2nd.  Can’t make it this year?  Go next year for a design first that warms our heart. Key to interior design industry innovation, the New York School of Interior Design will host a student room as part of the 2016 mansion!

Here, the winner of the 2015 Student Holiday House Competition, Cheryl Sadlowski, with NYSID President David Sprouls, designer and competition judge Drew McGukin and Philip H. Kowalczyck. Congrats to Cheryl on her winning design and you can read more here on the project and the celebrity designer judges, Drew McGukin, Alexa Hampton and Thom Filicia.

So? Mysteries? Where’s the future?

Design Future
Thank You All!


Holiday House 2015

11am – 5pm,
Thursdays until 8pm
$35 Admission

The Academy Mansion
2 East 63rd Street
New York City


Thank you to Elle and Tyler, Holiday House PR Stars! Photography Thank You’s: Alan Barry @alanbarryphotography, Sketch42 blog, Rio Hamilton, Marco Ricca, Tria Giovan and the other “moody” images, extensive ramblings, and Iris Dankner illustration
by Jade Dressler

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