We’ve just moved into a prewar apartment whose previous owners stripped it of all the old hardware and installed cheap and ugly doorknobs, latches, and pulls. Where can I go for attractive replacements?
You’re not wrong for caring about the hardware: Savvy renovators know that the value of an apartment can be significantly increased just by upgrading knobs, faucets, and spigots. The clever hands at P.E. Guerin (23 Jane Street; 243-5270; by appointment only) could actually custom-make copies of your building’s original fixtures. This family-owned firm – purveyor of the city’s haute-est hardware – has a foundry in Spain, so its craftsmen can make anything, including reproductions. Mostly, their work is brass or bronze, but they will also do nickel and stainless steel.
Though Kraft (306 East 61st Street; 838-2214) does most of its business with the pros – architects, builders, and designers – its salesmen are tolerant of the novice, and the prices are reasonable. Solid-brass pieces are the company’s own designs, made for it in France, Germany, and Portugal, but customers can choose from seventeen finishes, included nickel and verdi antique.
Another trade-oriented but customer-friendly store, Simon’s Hardware (421 Third Avenue, near 29th Street; 532-9220) is worth a detour for its selection. There’s a whole department filled with doorknobs and locksets, and there are floor-to-ceiling displays of pulls and hooks in every conceivable style.
A homewares supermarket, Gracious Home (1220 Third Avenue, near 70th Street, 517-6300; and, opening September 28, 1992 Broadway, at 67th Street, 231-7800) is decked out with scads of pulls, knobs, and hinges in every style – ornate to sleek – and all sorts of materials, including Lucite. It’s a great source for the do-it-yourselfer.
After schlepping a suitcase around Europe this summer, I want one of those bags on wheels.
I’ve just confronted the rolling-Pullman problem myself. Experts say that the important things to check are the fabric (ballistic nylon is tearproof and the most durable), the zippers (should be industrial), and the wheels (Rollerblade or ball-bearing). Tumi was rated one of the best by Consumer Reports, but that was in 1995. Though it’s still considered excellent, it’s also one of the most expensive of the commercial brands, and no one will admit (at least openly) to discounting Tumi. The luggage pros give Andiamo and TravelPro high marks for performance and durability, and these two pass the checkout test with flying colors: They’re covered in ballistic nylon and have industrial zippers and Rollerblade wheels. And TravelPro (made by the company that introduced the first flight-attendant bag-on-wheels) is considered the best buy for the money. Altman Luggage (135 Orchard Street; 254-7275) and Bettinger’s Luggage Shop (150 Allen Street; 674-9411) offer deep discounts and will deliver in Manhattan.
I just moved into a one-room apartment, and I need a sofabed. What should I look for, and who carries the best?
They’re never as comfortable as regular sofas and they’re a hassle to pull out and fold back, but they’re a New Yorker’s rite of passage. What you want are kiln-dried wood frames, a heavy-gauge-metal mattress frame, innerspring mattresses, and plenty of padding. My designer friends tell me that Avery-Boardman (979 Third Avenue, near 58th Street; 688-6611) makes the best in town, but it’s a to-the-trade-only house. The good news is that the sleep sofas at Carlyle Custom Convertibles (1056 Third Avenue, at 62nd Street; 838-1525) and Carlyle Studio Collection (1375 Third Avenue, near 78th Street; 570-2236) are made in the Avery-Boardman factory and offer many of the same features: Frames are kiln-dried, springs are eight-way hand-tied, backs and sides are fully padded, and the innerspring mattress is supported by a woven steel frame. Even the folding mechanism is the same. The styling is traditional, but each of the styles can be had in five sizes, and you can add custom touches with piping and skirts.
That vintage Art Deco clubchair is so yesterday, but I’m crazy for leather furniture. What’s great today?
With the newest breed of leather sofas and chairs resembling Pillsbury Doughboys (all puffed up and covered in stuff so unnaturally soft you have to wonder what it could be), I have a yen for leather that looks and feels like the real stuff. And I’m a pushover for styles that hint at libraries in great old houses, like Ralph Lauren’s tufted and oversize Writer’s Chair covered in distressed leather, and his regal tufted-and nail-headed North Hall Queen Anne-ish armchair. They’re available at Polo/Ralph Lauren (867 Madison Avenue, at 72nd Street, fourth floor; 606-2100), and Bloomingdale’s (1000 Third Avenue, at 59th Street, sixth floor; 705-2000). Also appealingly bookish is ABC Carpet & Home’s (888 Broadway, at 19th Street, fifth floor; 473-3000) distressed-leather sofas, replete with nail heads. But if your style cravings demand something more moderne, check out Le Corbusier’s classic leather sofa on a chrome-plated frame at Cassina USA (155 East 56th Street; 245-2121). More radical? Ralph Lauren’s new chaise (at Polo/Ralph Lauren and ABC) – all woven leather and stainless steel – looks hot, hot, hot.
We just moved into a new apartment, and it’s dark. I need lighting – hanging lights, lamps, the works. My furniture is pretty eclectic. Where should I look?
Attempting to single out just one store makes me break out in a sweat. So many styles, so many sources. Don’t go to Remains (19 West 24th Street, Second floor; 675-8051) looking for the ordinary: This neat gallery is a secret resource for many of the city’s top interior designers when they need plummy vintage hanging lights. Hundreds of globes of every age, style, and size hang from the ceiling and owner David Calligeros can marry them to all manner of fittings – nickel, copper, brass.
Looking like stalactites, glittery hand-blown Venetian-glass chandeliers cover every inch of the ceiling in the Parlour Cafe at ABC Carpet & Home (888 Broadway, at 19th Street; 473-3000), and there are hundreds more hanging from the ceiling on the fourth floor. A kind of chandelier Eden, ABC stocks at least 500 mostly European nineteenth-century beauties at all times: crystal, iron, wood, gilt, milk-glass, and alabaster globes, in addition to the Venetian glass. Also on four is an excellent selection of table and standing lamps.
An antidote for anyone grumbling about the disappearance of the old-fashioned neighborhood store, Barry of Chelsea Antiques (154 Ninth Avenue, near 19th Street; 242-2666) is appropriately dusty and cluttered, and, like the best of the old-time stores, is presided over by an owner – Barry Lewin – who is a pundit of what he sells. Among the hodgepodge of his lovingly restored lighting is Art Deco milk-glass hanging lights, thirties schoolhouse globes (some looking like inverted wedding cakes), sconces of every age, desk lamps, and twenties boudoir lamps.
Nowhere is there a greater concentration of Art Deco hanging lights and sconces than at Uplift Lighting (506 Hudson Street; 929-3632). The store has been around for twenty years, so most items are originals, but there are some nicely executed reproductions, too, and these are clearly marked. Adding to the overhead clutter are hand-painted globes from the twenties, and retro glass and brass hanging lampshades.
The fourth generation of the Liroff family oversees City Knickerbocker (781 Eighth Avenue, near 47th Street; 586-3939), a seemingly endless jumble of converted gaslights, Victorian sconces, crystal chandeliers, thirties floor lamps, and retro sixties fixtures. But it’s not all vintage: The leaded art-glass lamps are new and Kenneth and Scott Liroff (the present owners) do nifty reproductions using old molds, so this is the place to come if you need six identical hanging globes.
An Italian company known for producing the most technologically advanced lighting, Artemide (46 Greene Street; 925-1588) has a sleek SoHo outpost where you can see the full range of its designs. Artemide, which enlists a coterie of international architects, artists, and craftsmen, creates everything from conservative desk lamps to funky luminaires in zillions of color variations.
Trendy lighting by top European designers is jammed into Lee’s Studio (1755 Broadway, near 56th Street, 581-4400; and 1069 Third Avenue, near 63rd Street, 371-1122). In addition to the usual modern icons (Artemide’s Tizio lamp and Koch & Lowy’s Footsteps and Delta), there are reproductions of Art Deco classics.
The Bowery is known for lighting bargains, but you have to be prepared to sift through a lot of junk, and it’s a good idea to shop around and know prices before you look here – that bargain could end up costing. Two of the area’s largest lighting emporiums are Lighting by Gregory (158 Bowery; 226-1276) and New York Gas Lighting (195 Bowery; 529-2651). The former fills four stores (formal to casual, everything from chandeliers to wall sconces to standing lamps to track) at a full range of prices, some surprisingly high-end. Gas Lighting has a more traditional selection of mostly brass and bronze chandeliers and brass floor lamps.
I’m tired of Calvin Kleinish boy-girl underthings. I want sexy lingerie.
Good for you. Prada and Gucci have recently introduced haute little nothings, but you might want to check out the city’s lingerie-only shops. La Petite Coquette (51 University Place; 473-2478), a tiny pink emporium, has some of the prettiest underpinnings around, wispy little numbers by haute names, as well as La Perla and Cosabella’s saucy bras and G-strings in luxe fabrics.
Snappy unmentionables from such hot European lingerie designers as Chantal Thomass, Princess Tam-Tam, Fifi Chachanil, Leigh Bantivoglio, and Deborah Marquit can be found in the shoebox-size Le Corset (80 Thompson Street; 334-4936).
Samantha Jones (996 Lexington Avenue, at 72nd Street; 628-7720) is mostly filled with this fetching diva of underthings’s own designs. She does ribbon bras in scads of colors and, for fall, divine little splurges in gray, aubergine, raspberry, and ombre.
Period and Vintage Jewelry
After the accessory-less looks of the last couple of years, I’m hankering for jewelry, and I haven’t a clue where to look. I’m drawn to period or chunky costume pieces. Any suggestions?
Baubles of serious pedigree fill the glass-obelisk vitrines at Edith Weber & Associates (994 Madison Avenue, near 77th Street; 570-9668). This family-owned business (now run by Edith’s son Barry) prides itself on its diversity: Renaissance and retro pieces and everything in between, with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a specialty. Each piece is handpicked based on its condition and on whether it’s an excellent example of its type. Though the gems go up to $80,000, there are gold stickpins for as little as $150, earrings for $300.
Fabulous twentieth-century classics from such haute houses as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Boucheron are always available at Primavera Gallery (808 Madison Avenue, at 68th Street; 288-1569). Audrey Friedman has just refurbished her shop, but it’s still home to her special passions – Art Deco and Art Nouveau gems by Réné Lalique, Georges Fouquet, and assorted other top European and American designers.
If you’re into chunky, James II Galleries
(11 East 57th Street, fourth floor; 355-7040) offers a splendid variety of Victorian costume (or secondary) jewelry: Scottish agate, intaglio, French and English paste, cut-steel, jet, marcasite. Afraid of the pesky prospect of stagecoach robberies, Victorians would have worn these brooches on country weekends (leaving their important gems in London). These days, they’d look rather groovy on fall’s bulky sweaters.
Once, gold and bold ruled at Kentshire Galleries (37 East 12th Street, 673-6644; and at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue; 872-8652), but recently Marcie Imberman and Ellen Israel have become enamored of diamonds. So, along with their signature architectural pieces, they now have fab Victorian and Edwardian diamond butterfly, floral spray, and bow brooches; foliated diamond necklaces; and diamond bracelets. Their new love is pricey, but there are always gold brooches starting at around $1,500 that are the antithesis of ordinary.
Dogs are the obsession at Malvina L. Solomon (1021 Lexington Avenue, near 73rd Street; 535-5200), and they appear in sterling silver, copper, Bakelite, rhinestone, marcasite, and glass, all neatly arranged on velvet-backed trays. But if you should be into boats, horses, palm trees, or flowers, they’re here as well. Much of it is funky forties, but there are Bakelite cuff bracelets from the thirties and forties, vintage Mexican sterling-silver bracelets, neat copper pins from the fifties, and some early Georg Jensen sterling-silver brooches. It’s all decidedly affordable: Except for the Jensen pieces, there’s little here for more than $150.
Walking into Ilene Chazanof (by appointment only; 254-5564) for the first time is one of those moments collectors dream about. It’s so chock-full of everything that it’s impossible to negotiate the aisles jammed with boxes, filing cabinets, small pieces of furniture, and glass-fronted vitrines without sending something flying. Chazanof claims she has everything from plastic to platinum, but don’t chalk that up to her exuberance: She really does. And, though you seem to be surrounded by total chaos, the jewelry is obsessively organized. Ask Chazanof for a faux-amethyst Schiaparelli bracelet or an Eisenberg clip, and you’ll have it in seconds. The vintage costume jewelry is filed alphabetically by designer (from Art to Weiss, and including Boucher, Hattie Carnegie, Chanel, Coro, Trifari); Egyptian Revival, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and retro by period. Figurals – animals, bugs, palm trees, sports figures, fish – each have drawers of their own. You’re guaranteed to leave happy with the prices – there are scads of things for $5, and the bulk of her jewelry stock is under $100, with not much costing more than $500. All you’ll need is lots of time – it’s a playground for the acquisitive – and highly developed decision-making capabilities.
Tennis and Soccer
I need a new racquet and soccer stuff for my kid, but it’s hard to get personal attention at mega-sports stores. Where should I go?
The antithesis of a sporting superstore, Mason’s Tennis Mart (911 Seventh Avenue near 57th Street; 757-5374) has a staff that will help you navigate through the maze of racquet possibilities. Owner Mark Mason has a passion for the sport, most of his staff are players, and they’ll ask you dozens of questions (how often do you play? Are you a competitive or recreational player? What’s your swing speed?) before selecting a racquet they judge right for you and your game. Mason carries only top-quality names – Wilson, Head, and Prince – and the more esoteric Volkl and Fischer of Austria and Yonex of Japan. But he’ll special-order any one a customer may want, and he encourages play-testing on freshly strung racquets: The $5-a-day demo charges can be applied toward the purchase. Surprisingly, you don’t pay extra for such personal care; prices are competitive with the big boys in town.
A Yorkville institution, Soccer Sport Supply Company (1745 First Avenue, near 90th Street; 427-6050) has been around for 65 years. Its friendly staff is expert at rescuing the sartorially and equipment-confused soccer moms and dads whose kids are obsessed with the hot sport of the moment. Though the trappings are bare-bones, this shop is the purveyor of the most complete stock of soccer and rugby equipment in the country, importing much of it from around the world. So if your junior jock can’t play without Diadora Classico shoes, an Umbro shinguard, or Doss foul-weather shorts, your problems are solved.
I’m tired of those ill-fitting rental tuxedos with their elasticized waists. Where can I buy a tux that’s cheap but stylish?
Most rentals are $100 a pop, so if you have even just two black-tie events a year, buying makes financial as well as sartorial sense. Moe Ginsburg (162 Fifth Avenue, at 21st Street; 242-3482) is certainly drab and bare-bones, but you might not even mind the industrial pipe racks and fluorescent fixtures when you take a look at the jam-packed rows of tuxes – and the prices. Bill Blass, Oliver, and Italian designers Leonardo and Manzoni are some of the names, and there’s always a full range of sizes (from extra-short to portly). Most of the formalwear is tagged around $320, but if you can wait for a sale (not difficult, since there are sales six months of the year) you’ll find a good selection for as little as $220. At no-frills Eisenberg & Eisenberg (16 West 17th Street; 627-1290) you can also save a bundle on a designer tux. Though you’ll find fewer racks and slightly higher prices ($199 to $585), there’s always a full range of sizes and names, such as Perry Ellis, Bill Blass, Dior, Chiavari, and Ralph Lauren Chaps. Don’t expect to find any ultravoguish Guccis or Super 100s (wool from Australian merino sheep) at either place, but all the tuxes are wool and classically cut, which means they’ll be in style for at least the next eight years. Unlike with rentals, however, alterations are extra, and you’ll have to spring for a shirt and accessories.