McMillen Inc. at Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse

No surprise, it has taken a major event – Sotheby’s Inaugural Designer Showhouse – to get me fired up about writing another blog post! 


How it Came To Be

When my former boss, and head of the old master paintings department, Christopher Apostle, asked me if McMillen Inc. would like to participate in Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse, I accepted immediately.  It was a no-brainer!  During the seven years I worked at Sotheby’s, I always dreamed about being able to  incorporate the beautiful pieces I saw every day into functioning interiors – I couldn’t believe the opportunity that our firm was given!

The Rules of The Game

Six design firms participated – McMillen Inc., Max Sinsteden & Catherine Olasky, Ryan Korban, WRJ Design, Modern Declaration, and Shaler Ladd.  Each designer had to choose at least twenty pieces – furniture, lighting, paintings, prints, and objets gleaned from future Sotheby’s sales – and then use them to create a room in a 20′ by 20′ space.   We weren’t allowed to reupholster any of the antique furniture being offered for sale, and if we wanted to use upholstered, or, “soft” furniture, we had to bring it in ourselves.

McMillen chose to do a dining room, and the results are below!


In keeping with our dining room theme (and to cover some major wall space) we chose this monumental Roy Lichenstein, “Thinking Nude.” If you look carefully, you can see a bowl of fruit in the upper right hand corner of the work. On the east and west sides of the room, we placed a pair of Italian Neoclassical parcel-gilt and green-painted settees. Above each we hung a Robert Ryman print.

My mother filled her latest purchase from Rago’s, a resin Fish Design vase by Gaetano Pesce, with white anemones, McMillen’s signature flower.  This vase has been one of the main attractions of our room,  and naturally, my mother has had a lot of fun reminding me that I ‘advised’ her not to buy it!  (Specifically I said it was “ugly and weird.” Anyway, it’s grown on me!)  I love the geometric pattern of this George III Giltwood marble top side table, circa 1775, and how its black and white palette is carried up the wall by the John Baldessari print.


The John Baldassari will be offered in Sotheby’s May 1 and 2 Print Sale; the pair of candelabra and the side table will be offered in the June 9 sale of Important English and European Furniture and Decorative Arts.

For our dining table, we chose a beautiful Chinese Export parcel-gilt black lacquer center table, circa 1835.  Notice how the red tongues of the dragons at the base of the table pick up the red details of the screen behind, the red accents in the Lichtenstein, the red of the upholstery of the Godwin settee, and (while not visible in this photo) the red rectangle in the John Baldessari print.  My mother, Ann Pyne, designed and -  together with A.W. Fowler – executed, the geometric blue-on-blue-on-blue design of the walls.  I think it works perfectly with the diagonals of the Lichtenstein, and as a means of “contemporizing” the 18th and 19th century furniture.


We added the screens to give the room more height. The blue flowers in the carpet we borrowed from Beauvais tie in well with the smoky blues of the walls.

A detail of our table setting. These adorable owl pepperettes were one of the first objects I chose.  I love this photo, and how it looks like the tiny birds are being watched over by Lichtenstein’s daydreaming beauty.

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A Set of Eleven English Silver-Gilt Owl Pepperettes, Richard Comyns, London, 1962-63. These are being offered in Sotheby’s April 8th, sale of Important Russian Works of Art, European Silver, and Vertu.

A view of our dining room from north to south, with the door to the old master paintings department on the left (and the 6th floor bathroom on the right)!!


As everyone knows, photos can never really do a room justice.  So go to 1334 York Avenue and see the Designer Showhouse for yourself.  We had so much fun working with Sotheby’s and the specialists there, especially Andrew Ogletree, who is extremely knowledgeable, and a blast to be around!  The Showhouse is open to the public through Sunday, March 30th.




A New Yorker Born and Bred

From the 5th to the 10th of July, the work of Elizabeth’s godmother Dora Frost will be exhibited at 4 North Main Gallery in Southampton, NY. Inspired by Marcel Proust’s “Remembrances of Things Past” and her own experiences growing up in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, Dora has painted on hundreds of canvases, and then has collaged each piece together. The results are multi-faceted works of art as vibrant as they are poetic. We love them!

The influence of “Remembrances of Things Past” is apparent. Just as the simplicity of Proust’s madeleines recalled wholly personal memories, the combinations of disparate images evoke highly personal reactions.

“Jack Fath Angel”; 48″ by 60″; Mixed Media

When Tristan saw “Jacques Fath”, she was immediately drawn to elements like the sparkles over the skyline, the balletic figure in the foreground, and the swath of blue of the lake, evoking a wintry night in Central Park. To Tristan, the painting also conveyed the spirit of Fath’s work on the ballet film “The Red Shoes”, one of her favorites. Elizabeth thought she recognized a little influence of Marc Chagall.

“Ancient World”; 48″ by 60″; Mixed Media

For us, “Antique World” is a treasure hunt. Elizabeth had a preview of the pictures yesterday morning, and this one immediately struck her for its monumentality. The grotesque figures reminded her of the happy times she spent in Rome visiting Raphael’s Villa Madama.

“Country Day School”; Mixed Media

“Country Day School” is a remarkably rich celebration of youth. The wood paneled station wagon, the daffodil bed in front of the house, and the horses jumping, are for us motifs of an idyllic childhood.

This is just a sampling of Dora’s work, which will be available for sale this coming week. The opening reception on July 6th from 5 to 8pm will give us a jump start to the weekend. We can’t wait!

English whimsy

While perusing frankie magazine, I read an article about the extremely talented Rosemary Milner. She is a textile designer inspired by her home in the North Yorkshire countryside. She also creates “handmade wallpapers with a narrative feel to the concept.” She begins with drawings, then uses a variety of techniques like screen-printing, copper etchings, and collage to create her prints. Soon you’ll be able to purchase her wallpaper at Anthropologie and at her online shop on Etsy. I, for one, will be the first in line (unless one of you beats me to it)!


Her designs have the wonderful feel of Victorian decoupage, and are also reminiscent of artist sketchbooks like those of Beatrix Potter. I would happily cover my bedroom walls with these whimsical, beautiful renderings of flora and fauna.

All photos are from Rosemary’s website. Be sure to check out her fabrics and beautiful embroidery work as well!

Have a happy Thursday!