Sunday, September 13, 2009

United States of Tara: My Interpretation for the 2009 Metropolitan Home Showtime House

Last year, I had attended the first joint showhouse event that Metropolitan Home and Showtime Television cosponsored and I was incredibly impressed by the caliber of the the designers' work. So, when Metropolitan Home asked me nearly three months ago to participate in the 2009 showhouse, I'm sure you can imagine how honored I felt.

This year the Showhouse is venued in two TriBeCa penthouses atop a recently completed warehouse-to-condominium conversion known as the "TriBeCa Summit" at 415 Greenwich Street between Hubert and Laight Streets.

Having never participated in a designer showhouse before, the task seemed almost monumentally overwhelming, but how could I possibly resist such an opportunity? Right, I couldn't. Besides, logistically, it ought to be easy, after all, the space is practically around the corner from my
showroom and office on Franklin Street.

The two penthouses and outdoor spaces were divided up between 14 architects and designers each of whom were allocated specific space to convert into living areas inspired by Showtime's edgy award winning serial shows (United States of Tara, Californication, Nurse Jackie, The Tudors, Dexter and Weeds)

Straws were drawn as to which space each designer would be assigned and Oh God... I drew the reed for two narrow duplexed mostly glass hallways, a massive steel staircase and one small maid's bedroom (or office space). Suddenly I was terrified and at a complete loss with what I could do in the space. For a few minutes it seemed to me I had two options. One: Cry, thank Met Home profusely for the opportunity but politely decline and run out of there as fast as my feet could carry me, or, Two: Cry, cry some more and then knuckle down and do it! Since I have always lived my life guided by the idea that when you're handed lemons, you're always far better off making the best lemonade you can, Option Two it was.

My design team (Estera and Greg) and I struggled for days coming up with ideas and strategies to convert what is basically null space into a genuine living environment reflecting Tara and her various personalities. We were having a really tough time conceptualizing the space and end result. Then I suddenly remembered a stunning painting by the Spanish artist Zush that my mother-in-law had purchased in Ibiza back in the 1970s when she had a house in the old town accross an alley from the then leading Ibiza gallery of Ibiza expat legend Ivan Spence. The painting is a five foot diameter round canvas covered with several hundred eyes staring out at the observer. My brother-in-law, who now owns the painting, was gracious enough to lend it to me for the show; once that fell in place as my cornerstone, I was off and running. I embraced the space rather than be limited by its obvious drawbacks, however I also needed some wall space to anchor the painting and other artwork as well so as to create the feel of a living space rather than a transitional space.

My character, Tara, is a wife and mother who suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder ("MPD"). Her alters are Alice, a very proper and stable housewife; T, an out of control pot-smoking teen strumpet. Buck, Tara's only male alter, is a "red-neck" beer-sucking and chain-smoking biker type.
Tara's fourth alter, "Gimme" is an elusive animalistic beast/human defying accurate description.

Our final concept was to create a duplex apartment with a steel silhouette archway of Tara defining the entrance to the space. A lounge room, a dining/entertaining room and a cocoon-like retreat room where Tara can escape from her alternate personalities.

B E F O R E & A F T E R

First Floor

Lounge Room / Before

Space challenge: Long narrow hallway,
no wall space,
Lounge Room / After

Our approach to the space: Design a steel entry archway
to define, personalize and delineate the space.
Build walls to cover entry closet doors and rear
powder room doors to hang art, rich dark paint,
custom bamboo silk rugs to add texture and luxury,
cool fabrics to give the illusion of space.

A daybed, a foot-stool and a sofa upholstered in
silk velvet was designed specifically for the space.

Silvery semi-sheer curtains filter strong sunlight
light and obscure a bland view of the central light well

From my showroom, Interieurs,
Jose Esteves' "Peace Bird"

Lounge Space / Before

A very uninteresting hallway; we built a wall over the
room door at the end of the space to create a
focal point
where the Zush painting would later hang.

This space was designed with Tara and Alice in mind
with a hint of Buck and Gimme.

Obstructive Stairway / Before

An oasis for Alice to read or rest.

Entrance Hall / Before:

A view towards the entrance of my workspace.

Same view leading toward
Richard Mishaan's "Tudor's Pad".

Entrance way leading into Tara's Duplex
from Mishaan's Tudor's space

Second Floor

Dining and Entertaining Area
Challenges: Access hallway to two other rooms. Unattractive windows and view.


Usage of strong punches of color and dominant
industrial pieces. Custom designed rug by
Liora Manne. Oversized "Belle-Ile" glam chandelier from Pouenat
for Interieurs. This space reflects all of Tara's alters;
The rough, the precious and the funky.

Ice cream party for T

Steel Wave bench I designed specifically for the space.

Buck in a box

Alice's wardrobe.

Credit: Metropolitan Home / Photographer: Antoine Bootz

We designed this crystal waterfall chandelier
incorporating Swarovski crystals (Swarovski
had to chase down a very well-known touring
pop star to recover the crystals for us)

Before: A room with (not much of) a view

Transformed to create the illusion of space.

Before: How to hide a stairway.

Blend it into its surroundings

The Cocoon

Before: A drab and uninviting maids' bedroom or small home office space.

The same room transformed into a Cocoon-like
space with custom designed
lounge bed
and canopy all in various shades of black.

Ruching Detail with Jose Esteves Galaxy Light
from Interieurs

Black on black womb-like round cocoon; interactive with
music, scent and flickering stars on the ceiling.


Catching up with Donna Warner

Discussing the space with Linda O'Keeffe

Team Interieurs Design Studio
L to R: Estera, Greg & Me


  1. Wow, I love the transformations and your before and after photos are stunning! The stairs blend in so well now and the day bed under them looks so relaxing! I also love the custom rug, and the Swarovski crystal chandelier. My goodness you guys accomplished a lot!

  2. Not only does it look like you had fun but your designs are fabulous. The way you have changed and created a totally different feel in such challenging spaces is brilliant. xv

  3. How terrific to read all about the process and too see it in photos. I admire your honesty of the moment when you drew 'that' straw. I could imagine the moment & had to chuckle. How you & your team transformed those spaces were incredible. The blending of the steel staircase, to the cocoon like lounging space, to the story behind the inspiration for the lounge room via the remarkable painting. I love hearing how designer's get the spark of inspiration & the that incredible painting could not be more perfect. Oddly enough I was putting together a post this morning on the Showtime House & was so pleased to check my reading list this morning to find your exciting news. Only wish I were in NYC to see it all first hand. All the best to you from one of your fans ~ Deb

  4. you all did an amazing job! I love the 2nd floor! congrats and i hope to see you all sonn!-kate @ studio four nyc

  5. I can barely recognize the space! I would have been beyond nervous and close to tears too if I had drawn those straws. Obviously you and your design team are a magic combination, because what you created is magnificent. I love the rug with the red script and I think my fave is the maid's bed. But also adore the daybed under the stairs, the chandelier, the colors, all of it! Congratulations!

  6. What you have done is stunning... And absolutely brilliant. It is so authentic and imaginative. Your work never seizes to amaze me but this so clearly conveys your incredible creative vision and energy. Nothing is done just for show. Everything has a purpose, a function, its own aesthetic and as a result - a soul.

  7. These are all so great - congratulations and thanks for showing us the pics!

  8. I absolutely find it brilliant the way you have transformed this unmanagable space! It is amazing how creativity and vision can transform spaces into living environments. I could have never imagined that dark colors could bring so much life and energy when used wisely with such wonderful complementing colors as purple and orange/red. Who would think you could have your bed underneath the staircase? Fantastic job!

  9. really great work.
    i also went over to your showroom site.
    it is fabulous.

    thanks for visiting me.

  10. Hey, proof that the gray trend is alive and well! Beautiful work you've done! I love it!

  11. One word...FABULOUS! What an amazing project and you did a fantastic job!! I love the entry way and your design elements, details and colors are divine. You took some very awkward space and transformed it to are one very talented lady!



  13. Gorgeous! I love the feeling that has been created. You have taken such an open and dull space and have given it a life and story of its own, a strong direction, and above else, the "wow" factor!

    Thank you so much for your comment ~ I'm so happy that I could in turn find your fabulous blog and work. I will be back to visit often, and must add you to my favorite blogs list.

    Have a lovely remainder of the weekend ~

  14. I am overwhelmed, simply overwhelmed. The transformation is incredible. My mouth was hanging wide open the entire time - I kid you not.

  15. Wow - first time here! You and your team did a fantastic job on this transformation - I love all the layers of gray, Bamboo silk rugs - are beautiful.. Circular lounge bed... and on and on ..

  16. You guys did a fantastic job! It's hard to believe the before pictures of the space. Congratulations!

  17. Wow! I'm blown away by your talent. Incredible work. Every room is beautiful - but I particularly love the second floor.

  18. What a COOL space! I love seeing before and after photos to see the contrast in what's been done to a space. I especially love the color palette for the second floor. It's fantastic.

    Karen Olivia

  19. I love how you transformed the space! (And the fact that you didn´t give up after having fully realised you´ve drawn "the lucky hallway".) Especially how you solved the staircase problem works very well. Before, it seems that the stairs dominated the entire space in a quite boring unsophisticated way. Blending it into its surroundings and creating that little jewel oasis underneath it is wonderful - with just the right dose of restrained glam.


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