Category Archives: Design

The Last of the Chelsea Hotel


Just got my copy of Colin Miller and Ray Mock’s book, Hotel Chelsea: Living in the Last Bohemian Haven, about the few remaining residents of the legendary hotel.

Legendary? Well, for starters, the Chelsea is the hotel where Sid Vicious (maybe) murdered Nancy Spungen, and where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. Mark Twain stayed there, and so did several survivors of the Titanic. Former residents include Bob Dylan and Madonna, Jackson Pollock and Bette Midler.

And Stanley Kubrick, Jimi Hendrix, Allan Ginsberg, and Patti Smith. And Jim Morrison. And Andy Warhol, but of course you probably already assumed that.

Oh, and the Chelsea is where Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and Jack Kerouac typed On the Road.

In 2011, the Chelsea was sold to a real estate developer who closed the hotel “for renovations”.  Residents protected by rent regulations were allowed to stay, but no new tenants were accepted. The disruption and health hazards caused by renovation construction were widely perceived as an attempt by the new owners to drive the protected residents from the building.

The attempt was largely successful. Nine years later, the “renovations” are still ongoing, and only a few of the old residents are still living in the building. And not just living, but living well, which is the best revenge.

Here are some of their homes. (All photos found online.)


Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel

Leonard Cohen had a brief, very 60ish thing with Janis Joplin at the Chelsea, and wrote two songs about it. Here’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”. (Mildly NSFW lyrics.)


Chelsea Girls and Lads All Must
As Chimney-Sweepers, Come to Dust

After Nico left the Velvet Underground, she released a solo album called Chelsea Girl which included a song about some of the speed freaks, debutantes, hustlers, drag queens, and heiresses who made up Andy Warhol’s assemblage of Superstars and who lived, sometimes, at the Chelsea Hotel. Here’s an audio-only recording of “Chelsea Girls”

“There Are Only 10 Types of Movies”

And Lee Steffen has figured out what they are. Here are the first two types on his list. You can find the rest on his Twitter feed.

1. Orange and Blue Action


2. Sexy Legs


The responses to Mr Steffen’s list are also worth a look. One commenter, for instance, pointed out that Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t allowed to face the camera on movie posters.

Another found this interesting case of twinning.

Much more at the site.

Sotheby’s Auction Results: That Mario Buatta Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I lusted after one specific item from Sotheby’s auction of Mario Buatta’s personal possessions, the  “Louis XV Five-Fold Blue and White Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen, the Wallpaper 18th Century”. I promised to post the sale price after the auction.

The auction is over now, and it was a huge success, bringing in $7.6 million, about 2½ times the official Sotheby’s high estimate.

And the screen? The pre-sale estimate was that it would go for $4,000 to $6,000.

It went for $15,000.

Designed by the Mario Buatta of Bizarro World

From the exterior, this house looks fine. Inside, it looks like it was thrown together by a troop of monkeys who had somehow highjacked a shipment of Heisenberg’s finest blue meth.

I posted recently about Sotheby’s Auction of the Mario Buatta Estate, and about Buatta’s mastery of English country house style. If on some distant Bizarro World, there’s a Bizarro Mario Buatta, this is what his interiors would look like.

The "Grand" Staircase

The “Grand” Staircase

Imagine the entrance you could make walking down these stairs, dressed head-to-toe in Cruella de Vil’s Dalmatian-skin coat, flicking the ashes from your cigarette holder as you go.

The Dining Room/Armory

The Dining Room/Armory

Because it’s always a good idea to have a lot of guns close at hand, in the (very) unlikely event that someone might try to steal your precious possessions.

The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room

Furnishings and accessories from the Dollar Store’s “Kalifornia Kool Kollection”.

The Billiard Room

The Billiard Room

The Billiard Room, where Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy with the candlestick. Plum claimed he’d been driven crazy by the decor, and was acquited by reason of insanity.


The house is owned by someone identified as “Dr. Phil”, who is apparently a TV “personality”. He’s never lived there, though—Why not?—and it’s currently being used by his son.

The house is on the market for $5.75 million. According to the listing, the one-of-a-kind finishes can be kept.

Sotheby’s Auction of the Mario Buatta Estate

Mario Buatta, affectionately known as “The Prince of Chintz”, died in October 2018 at the age of 82. On 23 January 2020, Sotheby’s will host an auction of his personal possessions, under the title Mario Buatta: Prince of Interiors.

Here’s a pdf of the full 236-page catalogue for the auction, suitable for downloading.

If I could pick just one item from that catalogue, it would be this:

The catalogue describes it as a “Louis XV Five-Fold Blue and White Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen, the Wallpaper 18th Century” The estimate is between $4,000 and $6,000, but auction house estimates for this sort of thing are always absurdly low, so as not to frighten away potential buyers. I’ll post the real price after the auction.


Mario Buatta’s interiors were designed to be reminiscent of the rooms in an English country house. Here are some samples, found on the Web:


I’ve always thought of Buatta as the Ralph Lauren of interior design.

Ralph Lauren (né Lifshitz) was born in The Bronx in the 1930s, to first-generation Jewish immigrants from Belarus. Lauren has built his empire by styling clothes that reflect a classic old-money WASP sensibility, very different from the world of his youth.

Mario Buatta was born on Staten Island in 1930s, and grew up in a house where the living
room “was off-limits so that the vacuum tracks might not get disturbed.” Buatta became the master of a style that captured the look and feel of the English country house.

Wedding Picture of the Year

I think the word you’re looking for is “Epic”. Or maybe “Fierce”.

When the owner of the @soysaucetime Twitter account posted an image from “the lesbian wedding I went to back in September”, it went viral.

The brides themselves later posted a few more pictures from the wedding.

Added to My “Someday” List: A Stay at L’Hôtel in Paris

Oscar Wilde’s last words, as he lay dying in a shabby Parisian hotel, were “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”  At least that’s the official story, and who would want to question it.

Oscar Wilde has been dead since 1900, but the hotel, known simply as L’Hôtel, still exists. Wilde wouldn’t recognize it, though. It has been massively upgraded and enhanced, and now rates five stars and boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant (currently closed for renovation).

The wallpaper has been replaced, too.

The Oscar Wilde Suite

The Oscar Wilde Suite

If you’re in Paris in mid-April—which means you’re already living a charmed life—you can spend a night in the 35 sqm (377 sqft) Oscar Wilde Suite, for as little as €766 ($848). I can’t embed the hotel’s video tour of the suite, but you can watch it here.


Exploring L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

L’Hôtel

Reception

Reception

Chic Room

Chic Room

Mignon Room

Mignon Room

Grand Room

Grand Room

Le Restaurant

Le Restaurant

Le Bar

Le Bar


All images from L’Hôtel.