Kips Bay Post Script: Gideon Mendelson

closing thoughts on show house participation

Gideon Mendelson Kips Bay Showhouse 2In the 11 years that the Mendelson Group has existed, Gideon and his staff have produced sensational interiors for clients in New York and the Hamptons that have graced the pages of several shelter publications – and last year the firm participated in the Designer Showhouse of Westchester, for which it won critical acclaim in the press.

Then this year, as if balancing life with his husband, his 3 children, and a thriving design studio weren’t enough, he created a ladies salon for The Kips Bay Showhouse – which closed last week after an incredibly well attended run.  What you may not know is that he literally created the room from raw space – even going as far as to conjure a decorative paneled ceiling to help unify the room’s awkward ‘L’ shaped configuration where no ceiling previously existed.  It was the kind of room you’d want to read in by the fireplace, pen thank you notes to friends, or chat with gal-pals over a civilized game of bridge.

So in a follow-up to Monday’s post in which John Eason shared his closing thoughts on the experience of participating in this years Kips Bay, I caught up with Gideon for a Q&A about his experience, and for some advise for designers who aspire to create a room for what is widely regarded as the country’s premiere design event….

Gideon Mendelson Kips Bay 2014

CJ: How did the process of being involved with Kips Bay begin?

GM: I’m so lucky to have a wonderful team of publicists at Strohl & Co who initiated the Kips Bay experience. They submitted my portfolio to the Kips Bay committee last year, and I was invited to participate in the 2013 show house.  It had been a dream of mine to design a room for Kips Bay since I was a kid, but my partner and I were expecting our twins, Leo and Izzy, at the time and participating was just not possible.  I was devastated.  I thought declining would certainly put a bitter taste in the committee’s mouth and they wouldn’t extend the invitation again. Thankfully, I was wrong and the rest is history!

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CJ: How is creating a show house room different than creating a room for a client?

GM: There is no client when it comes to a show house – the designer has carte blanche and complete responsibility for the design.   We have to create a fully imagined client with specific needs and taste. We get to decide who occupies the room and how it’s being used. This can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to be very creative.

Gideon Mendelson Kips Bay 2014 3

CJ: How did you gather all the furnishings and art for the space?

GM: Once our concept was determined and architectural drawings were completed, I called on my favorite gallery owners to discuss collaborating with me at the show house.  I am deeply grateful for their generosity in loaning furnishings for these types of events, especially Kips Bay.  It’s a great opportunity for everyone to showcase the quality of their collections and generate some buzz about their galleries and brands.  I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people to call upon for these amazing events.

For the art, I collaborated with art + Interiors to curate the collection of paintings, photography and sculpture for the space. Based in Westport, CT, art + Interiors has a web-based virtual gallery for Architects and Designers to specify art from an incredible roster of emerging to established artists.  They are a pleasure to work with and their platform and service is truly unique in our industry.

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CJ: What were the biggest challenges in the process, and how did you handle them?

The room itself was the biggest challenge.  It was pretty raw when I saw it for the first time.  The ceiling was mostly unfinished – just exposed plumbing and electrical.  A single, structural column was situated in a rather important location; an enormous electrical panel greeted you as you entered in addition to five unfortunate access panels that had to stay in the ceiling.  The L-shape of the room was not ideal either. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.

I walked back to my office, taking many deep breaths and shared digital pictures of the space with my team.  As always, they handled it beautifully and – instead of panicking – we started discussing how to solve these problems.  A geometric panel system was designed to camouflage the access panels, which was fabricated using sheetrock and MDF.  Then the structural column and electrical panel were hidden in millwork and behind artwork.

Oh, and the water!  There was a leak in the room when I was there scouting the space for the first time; a leak in the kitchen adjacent to our room on the day we installed furniture; and another leak in our room the day before opening night! I almost cried.  Getting a thoughtful and layered room together in five weeks is almost impossible by itself.  Leaking water held us up and created a lot of anxiety.

Thankfully, my incredible GC, Joe Galea, of J & J Johnson and my painter, Tom Buric, of Alton Painting, dropped everything they were doing to help.  They will never know how grateful I am!

Gideon Mendelson Kips Bay Showhouse 4

CJ: What sort of return on your investment have you seen so far?

I was really gratified by the response of both press and visitors to the space; I’ve met some terrific people, some of the artwork and furniture has sold, and there are even some potential projects in the offing.   This has been a wonderful experience for me and my team and I know business will follow.

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CJ: What would you say to a designer who aspires to be included in this event someday?

It took me ten years to get here.  I suggest you surround yourself with capable people that you like and respect and develop relationships within the trades.  We all need each other.  Don’t let a leak or a tough space get you down and remember…doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will!

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A special word of thanks to Gideon for sharing his insights with me, and again congratulations on a job very well done!  You can visit his website to see more of his work, or contact his firm via this link.

Gideon Mendelson Kips Bay 2014 5

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