Antiques & Fine Art 2019



Not-So-Basic Black & White

by Marianne Litty
Photos by Gross & Daley

There’s no denying that black and white interiors pack a visual punch. Strong contrasting elements, crisp definition in all forms, and the dramatic push-pull of light and shadow all create the basis for a dynamic experience. The look is timeless, harking back to classic black-and-white Roman mosaic floors, while also evoking MODERN MINIMALISM. Black and white interiors require a deft hand with the pacing, to avoid monotony, and bold, brilliant choices for accessories, art, and textiles, with special attention to texture, which naturally becomes a marquee player in pared-down color palettes. Attention to balance is of paramount importance, because positive and negative space are defined with intense clarity. Striking or serene, layered or pristine, these rooms by leading interior designers are united by their chic appeal.

Glenn Gissler’s design for his friend and fashion world multibillionaire Michael Kors’ Greenwich Village penthouse apartment adheres to a cool and understated palette of chrome and stainless steel, black leather, white canvas and gray flannel, espousing the Kors aesthetic of “luxury without fuss.” A blackened steel fireplace surround stands out as an elegantly simple shape against the pure white walls of the living room. The classics never fail—Mies van Der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Chair and ottoman are paired with Warren Platner’s iconic 1966 silvery side table, topped with a sinuous sterling silver Elsa Peretti for Tiffany Bone candlestick. Above the fireplace is a photograph by Irving Penn. In the entry foyer, the Barcelona daybed is by Miles van Der Rohe, and, from his 1929 MR Collection, a side table of seamless tubular steel and glass. Melvin Sokolowsky’s photograph  Magic Ball, 1963, from a fashion shoot for Harper’s Bazaar and a zebra hide rug complete the vignette.


Greatest Rooms of the Century




Glenn Gissler

If this apartment focuses on one thing, it is upholstery: acres of it. Swaddling the walls and the comfortable sofas and armchairs in luxe fabric, it gives the home a slightly corporate sense of comfort and has the added bonus of providing great soundproofing for a powerful sound system—the owners of this Upper West Side duplex are EMI Records CEO Jim Fifield and his wife, Betsy. This is no cozy city apartment, however: the living room alone is 26 x 26 feet (8 x 8m), and a staggering 20 feet (6m) high. Glenn Gissler, commissioned to remodel and decorate the home, said the room was so big it was almost public in scale. Gissler is well-known for blending contemporary styling with comfort and dashes of eclectic art. The massive curtain alone is spectacular: “The ambitious window treatment seemed appropriate for the scale and drama of the room,” Gissler explained. The sweeping fabric for the window is by Jack Lenor Larsen, while those upholstered walls are by F. Schumacher. The interiors had to be appropriate for the amount of entertaining the Fifields did with EMI associates. Colors are somber, muted and serious—and the whole thing means business.


American Lifestyle




Glenn Gissler: Interior Alchemist

by Rebecca Poole
Photography by Gross & Daley

Some interior designers focus on art and history, some on architecture, and some on furnishings. Glenn Gissler is a designer who blends them all into awe-inspiring interior spaces that transcend trends, putting them in a category all their own. Gissler talks about why art plays such a vital role in his work, his approach to bringing a client’s vision to life, and how his latest Westchester, New York, project came to be.

How did you get started in design, and what led you to being so passionate about pursuing this as a career?
When I was just thirteen, I publicly declared to my class that I wanted to be an interior designer. I only knew of one interior designer at the time—a friend of my mother. She was a creative spirit and a painter, and she really inspired me. That was the beginning of a journey that went on to include seven years of college when I studied American architectural history and historic preservation, culminating with two degrees from Rhode Island School of Design, where I studied architecture and fine arts. Growing up in Wisconsin, there wasn’t much in terms of historic architecture—not like there was in New England. This was the time before the internet, so I was snooping around in books to learn as much as I could. My father was a journalist, with one of his focuses looking at the rebirth of American cities, so we had a lot of books around on the topic. This idea of adaptive reuse—finding a new purpose for old buildings—was a provocative and ‘new’ idea that caught my imagination, and this would go on to influence my design approach.

How would you describe your signature style?
I’ve been in the business now for thirty years, and I see design more as a complex layering of textiles and objects—it’s about problem solving. You combine grace and ease with how you live, with one foot in history and one foot in today’s world. If I had to describe my style, I’d go off what others have described it as: American. I also incorporate multicultural objects and textiles to create a spatial and visual dialogue that’s interesting.

What has been your favorite project to work on, and why?
There are a couple of projects from twenty-five years ago that are still on my website that I still see as relevant today. They’re evidence that, when you love your clients and your projects and make thoughtful decisions not based on trends, your work can endure over time. There are oftentimes conceptual challenges involved, because it’s not simply a matter of buying furniture and taking pretty pictures—you’re crafting a lifestyle that is beautiful, compelling, and makes functional sense. Projects I find really engaging are those where I work with people who want some assistance inventing the next chapter of their home lives with me.

How do you handle challenges that arise?
I’m lucky to have a team of people who helps me address challenges. Fundamentally, interior design is about isolating what the problems are and coming up with solid and sometimes clever solutions. And the solution needs to be aesthetically pleasing while having functionality. It requires a certain amount of creativity to take, say, a space with a dining room that no one uses, and turn it into something else. It’s not about leaving my mark that says, “Glenn was here!” No, it’s about seeing what’s right for the space and the client. There can be challenges with older houses because the architecture was not designed for today’s living. How do you make a living room livable so it’s not sitting empty until the holidays? I try to have things make sense through a twenty-first-century point of view while keeping the historic elements alive.

What is your process like, especially with clients who have a very specific vision for their space?
In the pre-internet days, people had tear sheets they had accumulated over time and things they wanted, like a “fantasy country house.” These images are useful to see, but I’m really much more interested in hearing about the house they grew up in and where they see their lives in five years. Kids will be older, so do you want a more private space, or do you want to have the house that everyone wants to hang out in? This is the kind of information I like to gather in our initial conversation. I try to make it about the broader view, too, like if someone lives in a colonial revival but wants a modern look to it. People get overwhelmed by choices, so I try to keep the bigger vision at the center. Even if you hired five different interior designers, my philosophy is that the owner should still be at the core. The project should go through the filter of the interior designer rather than looking like every home the designer has in his or her portfolio.

The sunroom became a real destination within the home. It’s colonial revival, but their taste is contemporary, so it’s about trying to bridge the gap between the two.


What about living and working in New York City inspires you the most?
I’ve been in New York since the mid-‘80s. I lived in Greenwich Village before moving to Brooklyn Heights, where I reside now. I’ve always been an art collector and an object collector, and I’m constantly moving things in my home from one place to another to keep them dynamic and engaging. My office is near the Flatiron Buildings, where it’s remained for over twenty years. The architecture and street life around that area have so much vitality. You hear Europeans say, “There’s so much energy in New York!” But, to be honest, I have become a bit immune to it after being here for so many years. Social media helps because it keeps my seemingly insatiable curiosity alive. My brain sees thousands upon thousands of images a week, so it’s constantly swirling with new ideas. When I’m working on a project and stuck about a chandelier, for example, I go look at my 100+ Pinterest boards, which gives me that conceptual turbocharge to se and consider an idea differently.

Describe the Westchester house and what your main inspiration was behind designing it:
It’s a large house in Chappaqua, New York. It was built in the 1920s, with a terrific addition put on much later than that made parts of the house unnecessary. They didn’t use the living room or the sunroom, so I suggested architectural corrections that made them much more functional and appealing spaces. The sunroom became a real destination within the home. It’s colonial revival, but their taste is contemporary, so the project was about trying to bridge the gap between the two. What we started with was extremely monochromatic and very beige; I wanted to move on from that and add elements that made for a richer and more dynamic environment. They’re living a version of the American dream—I wanted to show that!

The artwork and the accessories in this home seem to be the focal points. What was your strategy for making this happen?
The single most important thing about interior design is artwork. I view it as Art with a capital A. Their kitchen has an enormous island with huge walls, and it all seemed kind of cool. I hung a collection of antique botanicals from the nineteenth century—they gave the kitchen a fresh look. The stairwell features framed artwork by their three kids, which breathes color and joy into the space. We bought really fantastic pieces for other areas of the house. I’ve been going to museums and art galleries since I was sixteen, and it filters into the homes I design. For this home, I kept the design manful with aspects of history and art but maintained a look that makes sense with their lifestyle.

What was your favorite room to design in the house?
The living room has a grand piano, which makes it really special, and it can accommodate a lot of people in many different ways. But I have to say the sunroom is my favorite. It’s a brightly lit room all year round, with a mix of both historic and modern elements.

There are a lot of bold colors, as well as warmer, neutral tones. How do you find that balance between the two in order to create a space that looks cohesive?
When it comes to color, I like to incorporate items that you can change out without having to start from scratch—like throw pillows, chairs, or artwork. Rugs and sofas cost a fortune, so those need to be solid color decisions that endure the test of time. No matter what the budget is, everything you’re spending matters. It’s important to keep in mind that tastes are constantly evolving. You don’t want to make decisions that three years from now will make you wonder, “Why did I do that?”

What have you learned from the mentors in your life? What advice would you give aspiring interior designers?
My first employer was a designer named Juan Montoya. He was on Architectural Digest’s first Top 100 list and has been since it started. I saw how he ran his business and said, “I can do this.” He gave me that entrepreneurial spirit and relentless curiosity. I look up to people who—whether I know them or not—maintain a curiosity about art, history, and things both old and new. I think it’s vital for aspiring designers to see what’s around every corner—be curious! At the end of the day, you still have to pick out chairs, but always try to inspire people with your work.

Maine Home + Design


APRIL 2019


Design Alchemy

by Beth Dunlop
Photography by Jonathan Reece
Styling by Glenn Gissler & Craig Strulovitz 

A house in Sorrento surrounded by water blends seemlessly into the landscape


Shore House, as its owners call it, is a new house with deep roots in history, intimately connected to both to both time and place. Its architecture reflects the strong vernacular traditions of downtown east Maine but in a modern enough way that you know that it is of now, not then. Like so many of the best houses, it i a study in subtle contradictions, some yin and some yang. At once elegant but casual, buttoned-up but laid-back. Inside you’ll find family treasures mixed with auction house finds and up-to-date additions. Throughout, says interior designer Glenn Gissler, it shows the owners’ “appreciation for patina, quirkiness, and the willingness to tolerate less than perfection, giving the house a sophisticated and considered aesthetic with a ‘nothing precious’ vibe.”

It is a quiet retreat for two but near enough to extended family to be a gathering place for many. It is, as the owners spelled out, a house that is comparatively small but, as Gissler puts it, “lives spaciously.” Gissler, who is based in New York, had worked with the homeowners before; their home base is Boulder, Colorado, but they have a pied-à-terre in Manhattan that he designed. The architects–Kay Stevens Rosa and Augusto Rosa of Bar Harbor’s A4 Architects—had not previously worked with the couple but found that their goals and ideas for making the house were perfectly aligned.

First there was the site. The house sits on a spit of land with 270 degrees of shoreline, part of a larger camp that had been in the extended family for some decades, all in a particularly picturesque part of the state. Settled in 1762 and incorporated in 1895, the tiny town of Sorrento is often considered to be one of Maine’s most photogenic spots.

“Sorrento is a little town preciously tucked into the land, with a dancing coastline and amazing views of Mount Desert Island,” says Kay Stevens Rosa. “It has a rare combination of foreground, middle ground, and background, so we knew the house would be all about the view.”

Those nightlines were a prime goal in the architecture. “The desire was to maintain the natural landscape trees, and ledge outcroppings and to use the interstitial views to arrange interior spaces,” recalls Kay. In the living room, large doors and windows maximize the view of Mount Desert Island; the office looks out to the northwest, where the owners’ boat (a 38-foot Downeast cruise) is moored. The eat-in kitchen and adjoining screened porch gaze toward Hancock Point, and the owners’ suite—which gets bathed in the morning sun—has what Kay terms a “serene cove view.” Water, water, everywhere.

To clad the 3,500-square-foot house, the Rosas selected bleached white cedar shingles that will eventually turn silver, as well as ebony-stained trim. The padding and the organically laid stone patio are a clear nod to the historic vernacular architecture of the region, though simplified and modernized. “We feel it is important for a structure to be true to its own time as well as its context and history,” says Kay. Among the hallmarks of A4 Architects’ style are variations in scale, including varied ceiling heights, and the use of curves to accentuate the most important spaces—in this case, the entry porch and the living room.

For the architects, it was important that the Shore House would blend into the tree line and be less visible from the water. They preserved view corridors and sought to enhance indoor-outdoor relationships. “The desire was to maintain the natural landscape, trees, and ledge outcroppings,” says Kay. “On this site it was important that the house not be too imposing.” A hallmark of A4 Architects’ work is, she says, “the use of texture and color to evoke comfort, warmth, and scale.”

The first floor of the house has a grandly proportioned double-height living room with vaulted ceilings and a tile-clad fireplace. Other rooms include an owners’ bedroom suite, “his and hers” office spaces, and a kitchen—spaces that Kay describes as “gracious yet informal.” A butler’s pantry—inspired bar connects the kitchen and living room, the latter possessing a cozy corner library and TV nook for two. There’s also a multipurpose mud/laundry/gear room, a powder room, and a screened porch. The architects added a loft overlooking the living rooms. It is home to an art studio, an exercise space, and a play area for visiting grandchildren. Although it is, functionally speaking, a one-bedroom house, Kay points out tat several rooms, including the art studio and one office, can be used as guest bedrooms as well.

The sense of context inherent in the architecture is carried from the outside in, with random-length oak floors throughout and painted board-and-batten walls. Gissler drew his inspiration for the palette of the upholstery, paint, and window treatments from the hues of the landscape and from an existing rug with soft green and lavender stripes. To that end, one of his first purchases was a small one that set the tone: a grape—and gold-hued William Morris textile (the pattern is Kennet) that is used on accent pillows both on the sectional sofa and the twin velvet wing chairs.

Much of the furniture is American arts and crafts style, or at least from that period just after the turn of the twentieth century. Some of it, says Gissler, came from the original family house on the property, a large Victorian cottage. Other pieces are new, among them the living room sectional sofas and wing chairs, which came from the North Carolina-based Lee Industries, and the modern Gustavian chests in the bedroom, which Gissler sourced from the Texas furniture company Wisteria. “The furnishings and decorations have a solid confidence one might associate with homes at the turn of the twentieth century,” he says.

The floor coverings—including rag, cotton hooked, and sisal rugs—all have what Gissler calls “a summer ease.” To provide a sense of continuity between past and present, Gissler opted for a variety of vintage-style light fixtures throughout the house. “In places where other smight have resorted to recessed lights, we used pendant lights that provide a more pleasing kind of illumination. In some fixtures we used vintage clear Edison light bulbs,” he says. “Absolutely everything is on dimmers to allow for ‘ambiance control.’” A large-scale faux antler chandelier (from CDN Antler Designs) hangs in the living room; other light fixtures come from Rejuvenation and Schoolhouse. Although the new furnitures and fixtures reflect the aesthetic spirit of the house, they are very much of their time. “We do not fake antiques,” says Gissler.

For the interior designer and architects, the melding of old and new, time and place, formal and casual was the key to finding the perfect balance. It’s a combination of style, substance, and serendipity, along with what Gissler likes to call alchemy—a formula that creates and enchanting home.






Maximum Glamour

by Cara Greenberg 

A sophisticated duplex is a designer’s repository of art and antiques, a haven for its owner and a splendid space for entertaining


When interior designer Glenn Gissler went apartment hunting six years ago, the longtime Manhattanite had been to Brooklyn very few times before. He was astounded by the charm and amenities he found in the upper duplex of a circa 1890 row house in central Brooklyn Heights. “The apartment exceeded my list of ‘must haves,’” Gissler says, recalling his initial reaction: “You mean I can have all this—two floors, a fireplace, a washer-dryer and a terrace—ten minutes from Greenwich Village?!”

Now, furnished and decorated with what Gissler calls a “collage of art and artifacts,” the two-bedroom co-op is even more enviable. Sleek and cozy, modern and historic at the same time, it comprises a book-lined dining room, kitchen and guest room on the lower level, and two rooms with beamed ceilings, reminiscent of a Paris stelier. And who wouldn’t want to wake up to a view of a terrace filled with greenery?

Gissler’s atmospheric apartment, filled with intriguing places representing styles and periods from antiquity to the present day, is “a distillation of the designer’s development over the past three decades,” as the designer’s website puts it. Every item, from millicl-old clay pots to a Swedish mid-century lamp resembling a meteorite, from a Keith Haring poster given to Gissler by the artist at an anti-nukes demonstration his first summer in New York to framed childhood drawings by his now-teenage daughter, reflects who he is (an eBay addict, to be sure) and where he comes from. “Their cash value is irrelevant,” he says. “It’s whether it speaks to me.”


It was inevitable that Gissler would end up living in a vintage house (he also owns a 1840s farmhouse on eight aces in Connecticut). He saved his first building at the age of 18—a Gilded Age Milwaukee mansion he rescued by convincing his father, then an editor of Milwaukee’s largest daily newspaper, to write an opinion piece embarrassing the bankers who had refused to lend $200,000 to a preservation group to buy the building and keep it from destruction. The banks changed their tune and the Pabst Mansion still stands as a historic house museum.

At 19, as an interior design student at the University of Wisconsin, Gissler joined the board of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation. Later, while earning an architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, he lived in Providence’s College Hill Historical District for three years and found it a formative experience. “Walking home on a snowy night along 18th century brick sidewalks with gas lights was like a delirious dream,” he says.

Part way through his education, Gissler decided that historic preservation was not his calling. “The thing I found frustrating about historic preservation is you choose a date and time and freeze it. That wasn’t complex enough to keep me interested as a career.” After graduation, he veered toward interior design, retaining his special interest in historic architecture. “You have to think cleverly about how to insert a contemporary life into an old building and respect its historic character,” he says.

Gissler followed early stints in the New York offices of renowned designer Juan Montoya and architect Rafael Vinholy by founding Glenn Gissler Design in 1987. The four-person boutique firm has a portfolio of projects including residences in Manhattan, Westchester, New Jersey, Long Island, Florida and Martha’s Vineyard. Active in the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Gissler recently served two years as president of the New York Metro chapter.

A designer’s own home probably says more about his or her taste than any project for clients. Gissler’s is masculine and low lit, with deep, rich wall color–glossy green in the kitchen and chocolate brown upstairs. Large-scale pieces of tailored furniture—not too many—provide comfort without clutter. Collected objects from design movements from Arts and Crafts to Steampunk are arrayed on the mantle and on tabletops, while framed art, including many contemporary works on paper, line the walls, the white mattes contrasting smartly with the dark paint colors.

When Gissler took over the apartment it was inn pretty decent shape, down to the “well-built kitchen cabinets” that contributed to his decision to purchase. He didn’t need to renovate but made a few of what he calls “architectural corrections.” Chief among them was “un-kitchening the kitchen,” which sits in the middle of the apartment’s lower level. The entry door opens right into it, and Gissler did all in his power to minimize the room’s utilitarian qualities and makes it as glamorous as the adjacent dining room. He painted the cabinets as high-gloss “murky green” and replaced their glass panels with mirrored wire glass that disguises their contents. The island top is an elegant slab of dark green granite suggested by the color of the existing Eastlake-stye fireplace. When Gissler entertains, as he frequently does for up to 40 guests, the kitchen island becomes a glittering bar.

In other tweaks, Gissler shifted the door to the downstairs guest room for greater privacy and more storage space, hung curtains on hospital-type tracks to completely enclose the dining room for intimate dinners, and added beams to the ceiling int he cozy upstairs sitting rom so it wouldn’t look “denuded” next to the bedroom, which had already beamed before Gissler came along.

The apartment gave Gissler abundant opportunities to deploy designers’ trade secrets, like replacing the recessed lights in the kitchen ceilings with surface- mounted fixtures with simple cone shades and lining the window frames with mirrored panels to bring in every ray of available sunlight. His dark wall colors are perhaps surprising in an apartment measuring only 1,250 square feet, but Gissler is not a believer in the oft-quoted maxim that light colors make spaces feel bigger. “Brighter, yes,” he says. “Not bigger.”

Gissler uses all his rooms to the fullest. The main challenge of living in a row house designed for 19th century living is “figuring out how to use the spaces in a way that makes sense for the 21st century,” he says. “Town-houses have challenges and opportunities.” Gissler has certainly made the most of both.

Story: Cara Greenberg
Photography: Matthew Williams
Styling: Vanessa Vazquez