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Condé Nast's Penthouse at 1040 Park Avenue

PhotobucketThe solarium and location of many of Conde Nast's grand parties at 1040 Park Avenue.

"Nast's specially designed apartment had ten entertaining rooms on the roof and a suite of sleeping and domestic rooms on the floor below, the two floors connected by a main staircase. A glassed-in conservatory or solarium was added later, sometime between 1926 and 1928.

The interior of the apartment was decorated by the current darling of the design world, Elsie de Wolfe, a former actress who became the first professional female interior decorator in America when she "did" the rooms for the Colony Club, the famous woman's club on Park Avenue. She covered American living rooms with chintz, after seeing it in England, where they had been doing it for years. But her undying passion (if passion she knew) was for the French look. Every room in Nast's penthouse reflected this enthusiasm- Louis XV furniture upholstered in pale green damask, Chinese screens, Regence needlepoint sofas, grisaille walls, gilt-framed mirrors, Savonniere rugs, organdy curtains, ceilings covered in silver tea-paper. The floor of the solarium was made of a fascinating waxed blue-green slate, laid in a random mosaic.

The piece de resistance of Miss de Wolfe's extravagant vision was the ballroom, which was decorated with an eighteenth-century Chien Lung wallpaper, salmon-pink moire curtains edged with blue-green fringe, silver gauze undercurtains trimmed with Chinese blue ribbon and silver banding, and a parquet floor made in France and laid by specially imported French workmen. The solarium, entered from this shimmering room through French doors, was a glass-enclosed bower of flowers and greenery where guests sat at tables and admired the view of Park Avenue at night...

Wonderful copy, all in all, for a spread in Vogue, where, naturally, photographs of the apartment ultimately appeared... Nast's apartment was designed as a mise-en-scene, a production center for the publisher's creations. Like Jay Gatsby, he had created a palace of hospitality "where he dispensed starlight to casual moths," a milieu whose purpose was not entertainment but the fulfillment of an obsession, a painstakingly constructed dream.
Hannah Lee Sherman being helped out of a car (with driver) by doorman outside 1040 Park Ave., New York City (Condé Nast's address), wearing 'the wrong costume for travel': tweed coat by Chanel, brimless hat, fox stole, suede bag, umbrella, orchid corsage, snakeskin shoes, and unmatched luggage.

"The parties of Condé Nast," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "rivaled in their way the fabled balls of the Nineties." Going up in the private elevator to the penthouse at 1040 Park Avenue, jammed together with Asors, Vanderbilts, and other personages of consequence, Groucho Marx was overheard by the writer Helen Lawrenson to remark to his brother Harpo: This is a classy joint." It was indeed.

The twenties are now considered frivolous and irresponsible. Revisionist historians say the decade was not much fun. Maybe not. After all, the best representatives of the younger generation had been decimated in the trenches. "It was a time of escape from reality," wrote John Lardner, "of stunts and swells, of midnight bathing parties at the Plaza fountain of skies filled with confetti that took $16,000 to clean off the streets of New York. In an age of artifice and exhibitionism, everybody had a 'line,' a come-on, a stylish facade."

Text and first photo from: Seebohm, Caroline. The Man Who Was Vogue. New York: The Viking Press, 1982.

I would die to see that ballroom- I've been trying to find good photos of it (preferably in colour) but no luck yet. I have to go to the Condé Nast archives next week so I plan on searching there for a full set of photos of this legendary apartment.

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