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.