Past Perfect

Permalink         Comments (2)        


When I first laid eyes upon Jeffrey’s Bilhuber’s guest room/study in his then new Manhattan apartment a few years back I immediately sensed familiarity, but I couldn’t place it. Had I seen this room before, in a previous incarnation, or did it remind me of another room, its impression floating somewhere in my memory? Recently I discovered it’s the latter while thumbing through the pages of The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration published in 1976: the room that my memory clung to was the living room of interior designer Richard Lowell Neas.

Richard Neas - Manhattan-NY Times Book of Interior Design & Decoration-Norman McGrath

The similarities are obvious and hardly require explanation: an envelope of pale gray and off white accented by camel, chamois and, in Bilhuber’s hands, persimmon; a profusion of antlers staggered up and down walls; the cross-hatching design of Bilhuber’s wall-covering mimicking the cornice design of Neas’s; the mix of contemporary and period furnishings and objets d’arts. I had always admired Lowell-Neas’s brand of understated luxury and was equally taken with Bilhuber’s more eclectic and eccentric take on a this contemporary classic.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Study-NYSD-Jeffrey Hirsch

The shelter sofa-cum-daybed in Bilhuber’s room, above, is identical to Neas’s, below, save for the addition of passementerie. The same Groves Brothers’ Marianne cotton used to cover the walls wraps the day bed.

Richard Neas- Living Room- NY Times Book of Interior Design & Decoration-Norman McGrath

Richard Lowell Neas was a trompe l’oeil artist as well as an interior designer. For the floor of his living room he conceived a design of large squares simulating the striation of cut agate. For the cornice Neas created a treillage pattern.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Study-NYSD-Jeffrey Hirsch

The floors in Bilhuber’s study were stenciled by Mark Uriu and the cross-hatched pattern of the wall covering was framed-out into panels with nailheads.

Good design is transcendant, and Bilhuber funneled that dictum with great style and wit by referencing the atmosphere of Lowel-Neas’ living room while imparting his own with his usual brand of classic American chic.

The first photo of Jeffrey Bilhuber’s study was photographed by William Waldron for Elle Decor. The other photos of his study were photographed by Jeffrey  Hirsch for the New York Social Diary. Photos of Richard Lowell-Neas’s living room were photographed by Norman McGrath and featured in The New York Book of Interior Design and Decoration, 1976.

2 Responses to Past Perfect

  1. Michael Hampton
    May 17, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Two of my absolute favorite rooms! So interesting how you found the comparison between the two rooms. I never made the connection myself. Those agate painted floors are to die for.



  2. Cristopher
    May 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I have so many design books and magazines sometimes I think I’m making connections like this up. But, when I saw that room by Richard Lowell Neas it hit me immediately. Thank you for your comment – and yes, those trompe ‘oeil agate painted floors are to die for, indeed!