Enduring Saladino Style: Vintage Kips Bay

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John Saladino-Decorator Showhouse-Showcase of Interior Design 1991

In practice, Decorator Showhouses are intended to introduce new ideas, trends, and technology by interior designers and decorators to potential clients and end-users of home furnishings products. Showhouses also offer the designer an opportunity to step outside the box and create a room, or rooms, for an imaginary client where the sky’s the limit. This year’s Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse is an example of such bravado and ingenuity. But how many of these showhouse rooms stand the test of time? There are several, I’m certain, but there is is one in particular that has never failed to delight my eye, all these years later, and that is a room designed by John Saladino sometime in the later 1980’s. Created at a time when his career was on a continual and rising trajectory, his imitable style is self-evident from the palette he selected to tables, chairs and upholstery of his own design. But there is more to this room than Saladino’s custom furniture. There is something magical about this room that draws me in and causes me to linger there. Is it the unconventional furniture layout with a simply covered conversational placed in the center, and an intimate arrangement a la Lady Recamier in one corner?  Or is it the diaphanous unlined gray pearl curtains casually tied back, in the style of the great Italian seaside villas? Certainly, the medium brown paneled walls were in jeopardy of appearing dull if not for the shock of periwinkle on the sofa. I think what strikes me most is a sense of permanence on one hand, and a sense of nonchalance on the other: English and French antiques mix with upholstered pieces inspired by the ancient Romans, causally rendered; classical proportions and symmetrical furniture and accessory arrangements are countered by the casualness of simple cottons and the absence of a formal area rug. No doubt various creative flourishes – the blossoming branches placed casually on the floor; a sketch leaning above the mantel; an empty flower pot left in a corner on the floor; and a stack of books and a newspaper at the ready on an English stool – provide a confluent and energizing mix. A mix of styles, periods, mood and temperament could spell disaster in the wrong hands, but here Saladino’s insouciant mix is very pleasing and timeless. Unlike many attention-grabbing interiors today, here there is no one single piece that vies for intention. Instead, a marriage of all the elements combine to make this room stand out, and stand the test of time.

Featured in Showcase of Interior Design: Eastern Edition, 1991.