Kips Bay Designer Bryant Keller’s Storybook Christmas Room at Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
by Lynn Byrne
When blogger buddy Tamara of Nest by Tamara told me that designer Bryant Keller expressed interest in doing a storybook tree at Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, I was thrilled. The lovely Bartow-Pell Mansion is tucked away in the Northeast corner of the Bronx and I have been working hard to raise its profile since I began volunteering there last winter.
Attracting a Kips Bay designer to decorate for Bartow-Pell’s holiday celebration is fabulous for the Mansion! (Speaking of raising the profile, did you see the stunning spread featuring Bartow-Pell in the WSJ Magazine? Not my doing but I am overjoyed!)
Then Bryant came to visit the Mansion with a gorgeous handful of silk fabric swatches from Scalamandre. He took a look around his room, and asked so humbly if it was all right with us if he decked out his entire room, instead of limiting himself to a tree. Um, YES PLEASE!!
Bryant chose Raggedy Andy Stories as his storybook and he selected the upstairs parlor, where the Bartows would relax as a family, as his room. The parlor is significant because it houses Aaron Burr’s desk, who was married to a Bartow. Here is a peek of the room as it looked before Bryant got his hands on it.
Bryant wanted the room to feel as if the family had decorated it themselves. He was very sensitive to what would be period-appropriate.
Bryant’s ornaments and other decorations are inspired by Raggedy Andy’s clothing. All of the fabric decorations are fashioned out of fabrics donated by Scalamandre. (A thousand thank you’s Scalamandre!)
Here are some shots of the famed Aaron Burr desk dressed for the holidays. All of the blue and white decorations in the room were fabricated by Bryant to evoke the overalls worn by Raggedy Andy. In addition, all of the packages in the room are wrapped in Scalamandre silk.
Since the room functioned as the family’s private space, it has always included period toys. Bryant added more period appropriate toys to enhance that theme, plus he brought in charming topiary giraffes.
Bryant’s tree features cookie ornaments that he baked and decorated himself. Some cookies were left for Santa (and some hungry board members–delicious!). I love the cute gingham ties for the cookies and the pretty striped skirt.
For the room’s two windows, Bryant created wreaths from pages copied from the storybook. The beautiful ribbon on each wreath is another Scalamandre fabric.
Bryant brought in his grandmother’s plates and other finery to decorated the mantle and tabletops. Fruit was used, as it would have been back in the Bartows’ day.
Bryant’s room really came from his heart. It is a personal, thoughtful fantasy creation of a charming Christmas scene from the late 1800’s. You can see Bryant’s room throughout the month of December.
The rest of the trees and inspiring holiday decor next.
HOLIDAY SCHEDULE AT BARTOW-PELL MANSION MUSEUM
First Friday! with the Metropolitones
Friday, December 7, 5:30–8:30 p.m.
Experience the magic of the mansion decked out for the holidays and delight in the festive, fun sound of the a cappella Metropolitones. Do a little holiday shopping and enjoy refreshments. The free Bronx Seaside Trolley makes a continuous loop from the #6 Pelham Bay Park subway station to BPMM to City Island. Registration requested. Cost $10 adults; $8 seniors & students; members free
Bronx Arts Ensemble Holiday Concert
Saturday, December 15, 1 and 3 p.m.
The Bronx Arts Ensemble and Singers present a wonderful holiday concert with music for St. Nicholas. Concert is free, but space is limited and tickets are required. Call Bronx Arts Ensemble at 718.601.7399 for tickets. The museum will not be open for tours on Saturday.
Holiday Candlelight Tours and Victorian Carolers
Saturday, December 15, 6–8 p.m.
Experience the mansion by candlelight with costumed docents highlighting 19th-century holiday traditions. Victorian carolers add to the festive atmosphere while you enjoy light holiday fare and wassail in the Orangerie. Christmas trees throughout the house evoke beloved characters in children’s books. Reservations required. Cost $12 adults, $8 seniors & students
Bronx Arts Ensemble Holiday Concert
Sunday, December 16, 1 and 3 p.m.
The Bronx Arts Ensemble and Singers present a wonderful holiday concert with music for St. Nicholas. Concert is free, but space is limited and tickets are required. Call Bronx Arts Ensemble at 718.601.7399 for tickets. The museum will not be open for tours on Sunday.
Visiting Hours During December and Location
A National Historic Landmark located in New York City’s largest park, Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, an 1840s Greek Revival mansion, is the last of the country estates in the Pelham Bay area. BPMM is located at 895 Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx, New York. The mansion and carriage house are open to the public for guided tours on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The gardens and grounds are open daily from 8:30 a.m. to dusk. For more information about Bartow-Pell, visit www.bpmm.org.
Merry Christmas, Curious George Storybook by H.A. Rey; Tree design by Bartow-Pell docents Linda Sacewicz and Christine Williams
Eloise at Christmastime Storybook by Kay Thompson, tree decorator; City Island artist Anoosh Donahue
Paddington and the Christmas Surprise Storybook by Michael Bond; Tree design by interior designer Jennifer Mehditash
How the Grinch Stole Christmas Storybook by Dr. Seuss; Tree design by New York artist Mary Rumser
The Velveteen Rabbit Storybook by Margery Williams; Tree design by interior designer Tamara Matthews Stephenson
Babar and Father Christmas Storybook by Jean de Brunhoff; Tree design by City Island artists Mary Colby and Marguerite Chadwick-Juner
Christmas Eve Blizzard Storybook by Andrea Vlakhis; Tree design by artist and Wave Hill Family Art project manager Ilse Murdock
Raggedy Andy Stories Storybook by Johnny Gruelle; Tree design by interior designer Bryant Keller
Except for 2 of the before pictures, all photos by Lynn Byrne for Decor Arts Now.