Some of you may recall our dear friend Deborah Buck, a talented artist and designer, from the Top Design Premiere Party she hosted for me. Jaithan and I were introduced to Deborah years ago and soon thereafter realized that she, like us, worshipped at the high church of antiques. Every Sunday, year after year, we’d don our vintage best and hit the flea markets, intent on finding whatever it was we hadn’t yet found. As antiquing partners go, there’s nobody better than Deborah, who has an incredible eye and impeccable taste. For years, she ran Buck House and The Gallery at Buck House, both of which were stocked with hand-selected treasures she'd collected on her travels the world over. Lucky for us, she's now combined those shops into one amazing store, the new Buck House on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
The expansive new space houses Deborah’s eclectic and ever-changing collection of vintage furniture, lighting, artwork, and objects—all masterfully curated into provocative vignettes. If the goal, as designers often say, is to create “conversation” among the pieces in one’s home, then I can tell you that the new Buck House speaks volumes!
Deborah has a knack not just for finding one-of-a-kind pieces from all over the world, but also for combining them to make a unique aesthetic statement. Here, I love how the bright red velvet upholstery and the neon needlepoint pillow lend unexpected edge to a classic sofa. Whenever I decorate, I love using unlikely contrasts or juxtapositions that can really liven up a room. For the vignette on the right, Deborah used a cool mid-century chair with a Chinese art deco rug, then added interesting accessories like the framed tapestry to pull it all together. The overall look is cohesive but not overdone.
The way I see it, the difference between a house and a home is a little love and a lot of accessories—if you know what to do with them! Thankfully, shopping at Buck House is like a crash course in creating interesting tableaus or groupings. I love how Deborah mixes it up with objects of different heights, shapes, colors, and materials. It doesn’t get too disjointed because each group shares at least one common element—the cool colors of the vases on the left, for instance. Buck House is also full of ideas that we can all use, like Deborah’s statement wall of painted stripes in her signature turquoise. Painting just one wall in bright stripes can add dimension to a room without making it feel over the top.
Speaking of incredible, one-of-a-kind objects, every now and then you’re lucky enough to find two-of-a-kind—the rare pair. That was the case with these gorgeous cloisonné vases that Deborah came across a while back.
Unfortunately, one of the vases had been slightly damaged on the bottom, rendering it a tough sell.
So one night, over a bottle of wine—isn’t that where so many good ideas come from?—Deborah and I decided to turn these vases into a pair of lamps. Like the old apothecary jar, the possibilities of turning objects into lamps are endless! So in keeping with the style of Deborah's vases, we chose to cap them with brass fittings, then added beautiful Chinoiserie bases. Check out the final result!
How pretty is that, especially grouped in one of Deborah's signature tableaus? In fact, we were having so much fun that day at Buck House that we decided to do a little experiment, showing how the same object can be interpreted in tons of different ways. All it takes are a couple of key substitutions when it comes to the surrounding pieces. For the first, more feminine look, we chose a pale pink silk shade that picked up on the color of the flowers. The tall candlesticks juxtapose the height of the low-slung box, but both are still diminutive enough not to feel overpowering. The foo dog adds a bit of whimsy while the lilies and fossilized ginger on the left add a natural element so important in a room. And here’s a little stylist secret: uneven numbers of objects (there are seven here) usually work best, making the overall look feel casual and less contrived. Now here's the second look!
This one's more masculine, wouldn't you say? We started with a basic black paper shade, trimmed in gold. The stature of the gilded bronze box is offset by a quirky dragon letter holder. The blue cloisonné plate matches the lamp’s style and, displayed on a stand, adds a touch of formality. With an uneven number of objects (five) and a simple arrangement of lilies off to the side, the tableau feels pulled together but not too austere. And for more pointers on creating the kind of tableaus that truly make a house a home, check out Deborah’s new book, appropriately named—you guessed it!—Tableau. It’s a great guidebook for anyone who's just learning how to style vignettes, but also inspired reading for those of you in need of a few fresh ideas in decorating.
Finally, if you live in New York or might be planning a visit soon, be sure to stop by the new Buck House on Madison Avenue. Margaret Russell, editor-in chief of Elle Decor and author of the fantastic book Style and Substance, is even co-hosting a party with Deborah to celebrate the new location! Check back soon for all the party pics. And for those of you who can’t make it to Manhattan, visit Buck House's online collection here or at 1stdibs for all her amazing finds!
So tell me, everyone, which look do you like better-—the softer, feminine one with the light shade or the second, more masculine one in black?