Two Handsome Books on Art and Architecture

For those who missed the marvelous windows of Buck House at 1318 Madison Avenue, which delighted strollers for 11 years until the brick-and-mortar uptown emporium closed in 2012, NYC artist and antiques gallery owner Deborah Buck has relocated her witty window dioramas—first to the Internet, and now into a recently released book. The Windows of Buck House: Fabulous Fictional Females (Acanthus) is a hoot, dazzling and impressive.

Each window, the author-artist writes in the preface, was designed to be an environment, a poem, a musing on color and form, and a celebration of fierce, daring, trailblazing women.

Buck, an incredibly imaginative MFA artist and designer whose current projects include designing and restoring a large modernist residence in Sagaponack, serves on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts and is a board member of the Pratt Institute. This book, her third, illustrates her eclectic, eccentric and elegantly distinctive designs—and great sense of humor.

The 6-by-6-foot streetfront windows were a series of bimonthly theatrically inspired art scenes; carefully curated and crafted vignettes intended to whet the appetite for what was inside the store. Beautifully photographed in color by Jaka Vinšek—both as windows and in close detail to show off the accessories—the book arranges its 22 feisty females into four categories: artists, businesswomen, scientists and explorers. Each woman gets not only an elaborate stage set, but space for an autobiographical narrative full of moxie on the facing page. (Epigraphs from real-life characters round out the visual fun.)

The women’s names give an idea of what Buck is all about, featuring a whimsical design collection that enhances each character’s profession and also reflects the time period. Under artists, there’s Velocity La Rue, Automobile Designer and Stella Stitch, into Fashion and Fabric. Businesswomen include A. Muse (on the book’s cover), Goldy Banks, Investment Banker, Belmont Blue, Jockey and Anna Force, Ad Executive. Scientists are represented by Dawn Geary and Clockmaker. Featured explorers include Eureka Miner, from Utah, and Alexandria Tombs, an Egyptologist from the Valley of the Kings. The more she kept at the idea, Buck says, the more “outrageous” the characters became, and the more her team rose to the fun and the challenge: “No detail was too silly or small.” Props were found, props were made. The final product is a visual feast. Bon appétit.

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Designs for Living cover

Designs for Living

Designs for Living: Houses by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (Monacelli) boasts an interesting claim to fame: not one of the projects in this good-looking, hefty book—including three on The East End—was designed by Bob Stern himself. So while the 15 houses featured in the book’s gorgeous photos (by Peter Aaron, et al.) and floor plans constitute a tribute to the master, they also serve as an example of creative influence. The book marks the first time the work of the four partners who lead the residential practice division at RAMSA—Roger H. Seifter (RS), Randy L. Correll (RC), Grant F. Marani (GM) and Gary L. Brewer (GB)—have been included in a book. In an engaging, frank and accessible introductory essay, the men join Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic and educator Paul Goldberger to discuss their take on the firm and their own individual contributions.

In conversation, they note common themes: clients’ requests for traditional, regional style, only bigger (with more windows)—but never “mansion-y.” The houses, all designed within the last ten years, illustrate the firm’s knowledge of “vernacular architectural heritage” particular to a region, honoring the past and the environment but meeting contemporary desires—no postmodernism for them. The three featured East End houses are The House on Hook Pond, The House on
Georgica Cove and a residence in East Quogue. Each could be said to be a variation on the traditional Hamptons shingle-style
house.

The Hook Pond house, the one-story home of Claus and Helen Hoie for 62 years, was bought by a client who was determined to preserve the Hoie spirit and character. As part of the renovation, rooms were changed around. New wings and a second story were added, as well as a raised pool surrounded by stainless steel pickets. Hoie’s artwork is featured throughout.

The Georgica Cove house, though observant of the clients’ wishes for more room and luxury, seems beautifully responsive to its setting, including interiors designed in monochromatic, muted sea and beach colors. The last house in the book, an “unusual creative challenge” located in East Quogue, sits between the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay and is inspired by the historic Newport Casino of the firm McKim, Mead & White.

So many houses today, Goldberger observes, suffer from mediocre, generic shingle-style uniformity. Not these!

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