Traditional Home “Holiday House”
This house was lived in for one year.
Following the completion of its construction in the mid-1920s, William Ziegler, Jr., owner of the unique mansion on the cusp of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, took up residence in his estate for merely an instant. Over the years, the house – a departure from the neighborhood’s brownstones and larger mansions – then cycled through a series of heir-apparents, until 2005 when it landed in the hands of a Russian-born financier. He purchased the home and infused it with a usual caveat: for five weeks of the year, spanning November to December, the mansion is to be, as its history relays, “reverted back to its former grandeur.”
This annual transformation – under the moniker “Holiday House” – turns a stunning piece of New York architecture into a breathtaking designer showhouse organized by Traditional Home, with ticket proceeds benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Last winter, an exclusive group of 32 decorators and designers was chosen to reimagine the mansion’s interior, with each designer appointed two to three rooms. The catch? Each room had to represent a different holiday theme.
When Jennifer Duneier, creative tour de force of Duneier Design, asked for Easter, it was a selection made without hesitation.
“Easter is a fun holiday – one of the few happy holidays!” Duneier explained. “It’s about good things: family and kids.”
For a holiday typically associated with sugar-coated marshmallows, plastic eggs and cellophane grass, Duneier discarded any preconceived notions of the occasion, transforming the entire construct of the Easter aesthete into sublime elegance. Tasked with a lady’s sitting room and an ensuite bathroom, Duneier unfurled an elegant lightness into the spaces, flanked by complex explorations of color and pattern.
This focused use of color is no surprise to anyone familiar with Duneier’s work. For the past decade, Jennifer Duneier has seen great success as a highly-recognized member of the international interior design community. A New Yorker by residence, Duneier has lived in the city for more than 20 years, spanning multiple neighborhoods – from Chelsea to the Upper East Side – and always finding new perspectives. Trained at the New York School of Interior Design, and an Allied Member of the ASID, the residential designer works around the world, sporting a true commitment to high quality aesthetics and to fulfilling the visions of her clients.
As Duneier prepared to pursue her Holiday House commission, she knew one thing for certain. With a myriad of choices for textures and accessories, there was one uncompromising element for Duneier: her choice of fixtures for the ensuite bathroom.
“I knew that the collection had to come from THG,” said Duneier, who ultimately chose its immaculate series Passion. “THG was really the only option for the bathroom refined luxury, with an eye for detail.”
An ardent admirer of THG’s superior craftsmanship and aesthetics, Duneier has long-aspired to incorporate a collection from THG in a design application – a dream finally realized at Holiday House. And as an artist with an adroit sensitivity for the synergy of color and form – in this case, how the soft flower notes of Passion play within Duneier’s spring homage – it’s no surprise that THG was such a seamless match.
Brimming with hints of flora, THG’s refined Passion, made from Bernardaud porcelain in bright white with silver and bright with charm and grace, was the perfect choice for the Duneier’s Easter interior – so much so that Duneier focused the entirety of the bathroom’s décor on the faucet.
“Passion reminds me of a flower. Elegant, a little different,” Duneier noted. “I love floral patterns and incorporated them throughout the rooms.”
Contrasting the vibrant turquoise and pastel hues of the sitting room, Duneier opted to keep the ensuite bathroom in shades of white and ivory. “I didn’t want to take away from the beauty of the faucet taps or the tub filler,” Duneier explained. “A color would have distracted from their embellishments. They should be the focal point.”
With Passion in place – the streamlined spout exuding motion and modernity, the clover-shaped china handles evoking the seasonal schematic – the detail-oriented Duneier took cues from the faucetry in art-directing the other elements of the bathroom.
“Passion by THG led to the mother-of-pearl tiles on the floor, and the crown molding band on the ceiling,” Duneier described. “The tub also has a floral pattern on the outside. Passion’s design is so clean and simple, it could have gone with anything.”
Creating an environment in a setting as unrestricted as the Holiday House showhouse was appealing to Duneier. The sitting room and ensuite bathroom were blank canvases. And with no client requirements or carryovers to navigate, Duneier had a rare opportunity to articulate and express her design: her way.
“If I could create a space where I didn’t have to worry about any parameters, this is what I would do,” Duneier said. “This is the type of room I would feel extremely comfortable and would opt to use as an opulent escape.”
The palliative nature of Duneier’s design – inspired by the pastels of Easter and the lush textures of the spring season – overwhelmed those who visited her rooms at Holiday House. “People walked in and I could immediately see their reactions,” said Duneier. “A woman came in and burst into tears – it’s so relaxing, she said. What surprised me most was how men responded to the room. They loved it. They came in, sat down and put their feet on the cushions. I think it was a departure from what people generally see – an inviting, calming space.”
From the soft sea-green fabrics to the stunning Lucite flower prints on the wall – connecting the sitting room and the lavatory with a subtle floral conceit – Duneier outfitted her Easter utopia with luxurious, unique materials. Stunning, textural glass-bead wallpaper outlines the sitting room, in a design reminiscent of 1940’s Hollywood. The custom-upholstered desk chair is among Duneier’s favorite pieces – “exquisitely perfect,” she describes.
Rounding out her selections is THG – a brand thoroughly at home in such a divine setting. “The faucets are unmatched. The level of quality, the materials, the applied finish – just the weight of the faucets alone shows you how well-crafted they are,” says Duneier. Duneier also benefited from Passion’s charming china accessories, soap dishes and trays, which were also incorporated into the room.
For a house that has rarely been a home, the mansion on East 63rd Street is now the recipient of a new “tenant.” While most rooms are returned to their pre-styled form after the end of the showhouse run, Holiday House asked Duneier to leave the ensuite bathroom as she designed it – a tremendous compliment to the designer and THG. And with what she left behind, Duneier created perhaps the truest expression of her chosen holiday, in a building worthy of much invigoration: a celebration of rebirth.
Photos courtesy of photographer Peter Dressel.