The tree at Rockefeller Center. Ice-skating at the various venues around New York City. Taking in the department store windows. Like me, you probably have your Christmas season activity repertoire down pat.
This year though, I decided to change things up when I heard about Holiday House, an interior design showhouse on the Upper East Side.
What I got was not what I expected, but something even better.
Although there were a few nods to Christmas decorating, such as Tiffany gift boxes piled high by the fireplace, a mantle with different colored miniature trees, as well as a festively-appointed dining room table setting, the rooms designed by new and established interior designers were meant to inspire gratitude and giving — both of which speak more to the reason for the season then carefully placed tinsel and red and green accent pieces.
Breast Cancer Research
Holiday House was founded in 2008 by Iris Dankner, an interior designer and 22-year breast cancer survivor, to combine her two passions: design and fundraising for breast cancer research. 100-percent of each $40 ticket is donated to the cause. The name of the showhouse, by the way, was chosen because, after one lives through a bout with such a disease, every day is a holiday.
Dankner currently serves as a member on the advisory board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Since partnering with BCRF, Holiday House has granted over $1 million to this renowned charity that invests 91 cents of every dollar to support its mission of ending breast cancer by advancing the world’s most groundbreaking research.
Holiday House is located at 125 East 65th St. between Park and Lexington Avenues. Between now and December 15th, you’re invited to experience the creativity of those who have a talent, not just for decorating, but for transforming empty rooms into spaces that truly come to life.
You can also benefit from 16 events, such as “Sproga Class” (November 19); “The Heart of the Home: What’s Cooking in Kitchen Design” (December 5); “Collecting Art Today: Experts Insights and An Art Basel Recap” (December 12).
As Myra F. Biblowit, president and CEO of the BCRF said, “The philanthropic heart, soul and passion of the design community are encompassed and felt within the walls of Holiday House.”
"Think Pink" Powder Room
In the five-story, 12,000 ft. townhouse, I entered a bar lounge titled “Cafe Society” by designer Barbara Lewis that is worthy of Don Draper’s ilk, a meditation room created by Sara Touijer that could actually convince me to try yoga, and Miriam Horchani’s “Think Pink” powder room resplendent with a wall of Barbies.
My favorite place of all the beautiful rooms at Holiday House, and the heart of every home — the kitchen with its eat-in dining area — was put in the hands of acclaimed interior designer Keith Baltimore.
With his keen eye for elegance, the kitchen became a black and white sanctuary, warmed with red accents. The real challenge though was what to do with the, dare I say, unattractive sprinkler pipes that hung from the ceiling. Someone like me would’ve painted them white hoping they’d blend in with the ceiling so no one would notice them. Baltimore, known for his classic yet cutting edge aesthetic, painted them red as well, so they would add to the decor.
I believe this touch serves as a metaphor for what Iris Dankner’s Holiday House is all about; taking something ugly, like a breast cancer diagnosis, and turning it into something beautiful, such as a fundraiser for an organization devoted to research that someday will hopefully find a cure.
Participating Holiday House interior designers: Ally Couilter Designs, Bakes & Kropp, Baltimore Design Group, Bennett Leifer Interiors, Bjorn Bjornsson Interior Design, Elsa Soyars Interiors, Hilary Matt Interiors, Jasmine Lam Interior Design + Architecture, Lauren Berry Interior Design, The Lewis Design Group, MHM Interiors, Nicola Rosendorff Interior Design, Rooms by Zoya B, Studio Neshama, Tara Kantor Interiors, Touijer Designs, Vanessa Deleon Associates
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is a journalist and novelist in NYC.