Home Design 2002: Blass From the Past

Photo: Francois Dischinger

Nilsson’s dining room is blue, “like an oxford shirt,” he explains. “I love it – I’ve always had stationery this shade. When I moved in, I wrote my landlord a note to show him what color I wanted to paint. Of course he said yes!”

The print above the living-room fireplace is by Man Ray. “It was a gift from my parents when I graduated from a tailoring course in Sweden. I’d always wanted this print specifically because it reminds me of a spool of thread.”

When Swedish native Lars Nilsson moved to New York from Paris in 2000 to design the Bill Blass collection, he looked at a lot of apartments. After realizing that the trendiest of New York staples, the loft, was not for him, he settled on two floors in an East Village townhouse that, with their wide-plank floors and three working fireplaces, feel almost like a quiet farmhouse in the country. With a few coats of paint, he had the perfect showcase for his collection of fashion memorabilia (Irving Penn photographs, sketches by Lacroix) and his scrapbooks – hundreds of pages of meticulously assembled inspiring images. Plus there’s plenty of room to relax with his preferred drink: champagne.

Nilsson’s City Guide
playing host: “I entertain at home at least once a week – dinner or cocktails, brunches. I like to bake scones, actually. It’s impossible to worry about a collection when I’m baking scones! But I’d say that my signature is four-o’clock tea. And having champagne. Always. It’s a bad habit I got from Paris.”

the soundtrack: “I listen to a lot of Mozart, and to classic Swedish music. I also love disco; I have a huge collection from 1977 to 1981. It goes very well with champagne!”

eating out: “I like Casimir 103 Ave. B; 212-358-9683, Il Buco 47 Bond St.; 212-533-1932, and sometimes Union Square Cafe 21 E. 16th St.; 212-243-4020.”

coffee and pastries: “For coffee, 71 Irving 71 Irving Pl.; 212-995-5252. It’s wonderful to sit on the benches outside. For a bakery, Veniero’s 342 E. 11th St.; 212-674-7264.”

booking up: “I go to the Strand 828 Broadway, at 12th St.; 212-473-1452 at least three times a week. And Gallagher’s for fashion books 126 E. 12th St.; 212-473-2404.”

personal styling: “I work with a tailor in Paris and make most of my own clothes. For shirts and ties, I go to Barneys New York 660 Madison Ave., at 61st St.; 212-826-8900 or Bergdorf Goodman 754 Fifth Ave., at 57th St.; 212-753-7300.” (N.B.: Nilsson’s menswear collection will be launched in fall 2002.)

Opposite: Nilsson (holding a photo of model Erin O’Conner wearing Blass) in the dining room. Above the fireplace is a print of Oscar II, a Swedish king, that belonged to Nilsson’s grandmother. The table and chairs were found at the Paris flea market, and the rug is Swedish, a gift from Nilsson’s mother. The napkins are made from Josef Frank fabric (available at Brunschwig & Fils; 979 Third Ave., at 58th St., Ste. 1200; 212-838-7878), and the silver is from Pavillon Christofle (680 Madison Ave., at 62nd St.; 212-308-9390).

Left: The Napoleon III sideboard was found at the Paris flea. The shelves are stocked with boxes from the likes of Hermès and Tiffany, filled with clippings and old textiles. The print on the right is an Irving Penn. “I got it when I was working at Dior,” Nilsson says. “It’s so inspiring.”

To create his couture bed – the headboard of which is fitted into the apartment’s one non-working fireplace – Nilsson made the rounds of Parisian ateliers: The pinstripe on the headboard is Vuitton, the fur on the pillows is Dior, and the cashmere bedspread is Lacroix – “all fabrics that were used for different collections,” Nilsson explains. He then had the parts custom-sewn in Paris. The rugs are handwoven Swedish textiles from the turn of the century, and the bedside lamp is from the Chelsea flea. The pillow, from E.A.T. Gifts (1062 Madison Ave., near 80th St.; 212-861-2544), was a gift from a French friend sad to see Nilsson go.

The fireplace in the living room, where the curtains are bright yellow in contrast to the dining room’s cool blue. The small collection of statues are gifts, and the drawing on the right, of Lars underneath an umbrella, was a birthday gift from Nilsson’s partner, Vincent Daudin. “He also gave me a real umbrella,” Nilsson remembers. The two vases were found at an antique shop in Paris.

Nilsson’s many bookshelves house his massive collection of first editions. The illustration is by Christian Bérard, who worked with Coco Chanel. To its left is a framed sketch by Christian Lacroix – for whom Nilsson once worked – and below that is a sculpture by Line Vautrin, a French costume jeweler. “It’s an original piece from the fifties,” says Nilsson, “that I found at the David Gill gallery in London.”

Home Design 2002: Blass From the Past