Kips Bay Decorator Show House
this magnificent showcase was created to raise funds for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and their after-school programs
By Douglas Weinstein
BACK IN 1973, a group of folks in Manhattan launched the Kips Bay Decorator Show House to raise funds for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and their after-school programs. And over four decades this project has grown to become one of the must-see events for designers and design enthusiasts.
The Decorator Show House draws attendees from across the country and approximately 15,000 guests each year visit during May to see the latest interior design trends created by celebrated designers who transform a Kips Bay residence into something truly special. Fine furnishings and art and technology come together in a magical presentation that is as exciting as it is innovative.
The Decorator Show House and its charity outreach have raised over $21M for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club over the past 47 years. Supporting children at nine locations throughout the Bronx, providing programs and activities for disadvantaged and disenfranchised children to foster a sense of competence, belonging, and a sense of empowerment that lasts a lifetime.
This year also marks the second anniversary for the Palm Beach Kips Bay Decorator Show House, hosted in February. Together, these two events are making a major impact on young lives.
Audio Command Systems
ACS was founded over forty years ago by Robert Kaufman and is among the largest residential and commercial technology designers and systems integrators in the nation. As an industry pioneer with offices in New York, Florida, and California, ACS has designed thousands of systems for some of the most discerning clients across the world.
ACS has been a partner and sponsor of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House for 37 years. I recently sat down with Robert Kaufman, CEO, and Anthony Hayden, Director of Lighting and Shades, to talk about the rich history between ACS and the Decorator Show House, and to get an update on this year’s lighting technology they provided for various designers.
ROBERT Well, I’ll start and give you a little of the history and how we have been partnering with Kips Bay over the years.
I originally heard about it back in the early 1980’s from a designer who approached me and explained that to work with some of the top designers in New York City and be a part of Kips Bay we would have to donate our time on the install and the gear we supplied.
I thought it would be good for us to gain some exposure, especially with designers. Plus, I just feel better anytime I donate to a worthy cause. It also pulled at me because I knew I would have to stretch to be creative enough to collaborate with these amazing designers. Names like Michael deSantis, Eric Cohler, Geoffrey Bradfield, Jay Spectre, Michael La Rocca, and Juan Montoya.
The first project I did was with designer Noel Jeffrey, who is now retired. And back then it was just about audio because we hadn’t gotten to flat panel TVs yet. But he wasn’t afraid of audio and thought, “why can’t you have music in every room?” So we hid the wires – again, this is back at the infancy of custom installation – and we put these little controls on the walls so you could adjust the volume. We would make unique control panels out of chrome or brushed brass that designers felt were appropriate for the space.
One year we worked with the designer Eric Bernard and his color that year was blue. He told me the equipment also had to be blue. So I found a metal shop, and we took off the faceplates from the electronic components and had them stripped down and re-created in an anodized blue finish. I remember even the New York Times was impressed with this wall of blue audio components and that room was the picture they featured in their write up.
Another year we worked with Charles Pavarini, and we introduced invisible speakers. That got tons of attention from the designers. And of course, the year we finally introduced a flat panel TV – I think it was a Philips model if memory serves and I mounted it over a fireplace – that was also new and exciting for everyone to see.
So technology has evolved over the years. Keep in mind that on an annual basis, the designers are the ones who have to approve of the vendors, like Audio Command, who are invited to participate. And as technology has evolved and more of it is available to integrate into the design, our job continues to simplify it and make it non-intrusive.
Years ago we began to put the equipment in closets and explained to the designers that you didn’t need to see the equipment racks anymore, that we could tuck it away and keep it out of view. We would create custom cabinets for speakers to match the designer’s color schemes.
One year we took a nightstand in a master bedroom and built in a telephone, light switches, music switches, and shade switches in a custom faceplate, and it looked contemporary and modern. So as technology advanced, we would demonstrate our vision on how it could blend in with the design.
“It’s for great cause. You see these underprivileged kids come and get inspired by the artistry on display.”
— ROBERT KAUFMAN
CEO, AUDIO COMMAND SYSTEMS
Every year the build-out for the event is a crazy month. We all have one month to do the demolition and then the carpentry, and for us, we get in and pre-wire and put in lighting fixtures and what not. Everyone has to work around each other, and it’s a zoo. Getting a room ready ends up coming down to the very final hour before the show starts. There’s a lot of pressure. And we also have our regular work for our clients, so it’s a crazy time, with our people working weekends to make it all happen.
But every designer in New York City goes through that house and gets ideas and is challenged to envision what the next big thing is going to be. It inspires the design community to take it to the next level. And, it’s for a great cause. You see these underprivileged kids come and get inspired by the artistry on display. In some cases, it lights a flame, and you hope it inspires some of these kids toward a life of art and science. Well, that’s enough nostalgia! Anthony, why don’t you talk about your background and how you came to join our team at Audio Command. Then talk about this year’s event and our partnership with Lutron and Ketra. As you know, Lutron has been a generous sponsor, and we love working with them at Kips Bay.
bringing lighting design to the architectural world
ANTHONY I spent the first ten years of my professional life in the world of theater. I apprenticed under a lighting designer when I was just getting started in the business; she was an unbelievable talent and gave me a solid foundation to build on. I went on to study at the Purchase Design Technology Conservatory, while still working in the NY Metro area professionally. That time in my life was a crucible of learning, and it exposed me to some of the most creative and hardworking people I have ever had the pleasure to learn from.
In about 2007 or 2008 I made a career change and came to work for Audio Command Systems. In effect, I brought my lighting design experience to the architectural world.
This year we were really excited to partner with Lutron and Ketra. We wanted the community to be aware of this lighting technology and bring it to the Kips Bay Show House. And I mean the community as a whole, not just lighting designers. We felt if the design community knew they had this powerful tool they could call on, a tool that impacts all of the finishes they deliver, they would want to learn more and enjoy the experience of experimenting with light.
Ketra’s ability as a color-tuning fixture cannot only manipulate the space but is also capable of manipulating finishes and artwork and can change how we perceive the designer’s work. So it’s a very powerful tool and gives us a lot more opportunities as far as concepts. As an example, for an open concept space from an architectural point of view, we can define what areas are for entertainment and what areas are for task-based like cooking, or areas that call for a more intimate environment. We can make that delineation by just changing the color temperature and intensities of the light.
There are a lot of opportunities in lighting and for the design community when they are building furniture layouts when they’re talking individual spaces and looking to make sure there’s a flow between them.
There is a huge impact on the artwork, and here’s why. Any light that we ultimately put out from a fixture comes back to our eye. That value is known as the Color Rendering Index (CRI). With a lesser quality fixture that puts out less light, you get a lower CRI. With a high-quality fixture like Ketra, you realize a greater CRI value.
So when you’re talking about things like art or fabrics or beautiful furniture or wood grains or wall textures, a higher quality fixture and correspondingly higher CRI value allows us to see all of that depth and detail. Nothing is lost as opposed to a poorer quality of light.
We can also play different tricks with that light. We can make certain colors pop more than others by adding more of the spectrum that makes greens or reds or blues pop. So a good example of that is if you have a piece of artwork that is very floral, that has many different deep reds, we can raise the intensity of those reds, or we can raise the intensity of the contrasting blues. We can actually change the value of a painting, or we can change the value of an antique piece of furniture just with light.
We can make it a very different experience during the day, and we can make it a very different experience at night. We can use that to our advantage to get a lot of versatility out of not just the artwork, not just the furniture, but the space as a whole.
Having the ability to shift color temperature from an amber to a more blue, to all sorts of the different artistic advantages we can create is what we brought to this year’s event, especially when we had designers asking us to provide the lighting. We went through all of those possibilities, and we were able to give them the ability to execute a more artistic adventure.
The Kips Bay Show House is pretty much what any designer could ever want out of a space. They come into a townhouse or a home that hasn’t been renovated in some years or just needs some updating, and they are given a blank canvas. They can be as creative as they want or as conservative as they want and make their space stand out against the other designers. No matter what they decide to do, visitors are given a perspective on who they are and what it is that they do.
What’s kind of cool is that each year we work on a new house. So that house becomes a virtual hive with contractors, designers, and sponsors like ourselves coming in and doing all we can to showcase the best of the best of what everyone has to offer.
It’s a tremendous amount of coordination and sort of like working on the fly and being inspired in the moment.
From Audio Command System’s perspective, as a major sponsor, we wanted to give the approximately 15 designers the tools necessary for them to be successful. So for this year, it wasn’t just traditional Lutron controls as a platform, which is what 95% of designers are familiar with. We also wanted to give them that additional benefit of the Ketra lighting advantage.
And we ended up with about seven of the spaces using the advanced eco-system of the Lutron/Ketra products where the intelligence isn’t just in the control system but is also in the individual fixture itself. And that’s where we could individually tune the lighting depending on what the designer wanted to be highlighted.
And don’t forget that with Ketra, we can place that technology in conventional decorative lamps, downlights, and linear fixtures, and that is the opportunity we gave the designers within their individual spaces.
ROBERT I’d like to close by saying how important the Kips Bay Show House is regarding raising funds to support the Kips Bay Boys & Girl Club. It is a beautiful event for anyone in the design-build community to attend.