LUCKY ME, WHEN IT COMES TO having friends with houses in desirable locations. My BFF, Linda Kastan, a specialist in Greek and Roman art at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, lives with her psychoanalyst husband in a sleek, contemporary apartment in NYC. She also owns a farmhouse about an hour outside the city in the Hudson Valley.
Having just spent a couple of days in her Upper East Side digs, followed by a weekend in her country abode, I got intrigued by the way she uses art to define each space.
Her mostly black-and-white photography collection (she started buying in the mid-’70s) dominates the living and dining room walls of the city apartment. Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus and Helmut Newton are some of the notable names. The color scheme in the apartment is deliberately muted with browns, beiges and some ochre.
“The idea was to create a calm, quiet environment, leaving behind the hustle of the city,” she says. More sentimental, inexpensive art hangs in the hallway — a 1938 photo of a girls camp with her mother and her three aunts, a photo of her grandfather with Jackie Robinson, her uncle’s bar mitzvah picture. “They’re not just boring snapshots.”
The decor of the farmhouse near New Paltz, which they bought in 2005, is worlds away from New York City. The foundation dates to 1850, but after a fire the house was rebuilt in 1900. Two boxy wings — the living area and the bedroom — were recent additions by the previous owner.
The focus here was on using natural materials to blend with the greenery that surrounded the house. In keeping with the feel of Early American farmhouses, they put in wood floors, took the paint off the banister and stairs and refinished the wood, and replaced the brick fireplace with a stone one. A cork floor makes cooking in the kitchen easy on the feet.
Kastan say the decor evolved from a Maggie Taylor photograph (“Birds of a Feather”) that she bought in NYC but decided was a perfect fit for the country. Taylor works with digital images layered over stills. It was the photo’s element of fantasy and color that appealed to Kastan, who has since bought several other Taylor works. “There’s so much vibrant color here — so many shades of greens and blues that change with the light that I wanted the house to reflect that.”
The furnishings and art are an amalgam of interesting objects that have a folk art feel. A psychoanalyst’s daybed made by Stickley, Scandinavian pillows from the 1950s, a sailfish her grandfather caught in Florida and a metal sculpture of a rooster mix it up in the modern living room. In the small (original) living room [next door? now used as a family room? whatever…the living room. In the small living room (original to the house), an American flag made out of San Pellegrino bottle caps and parts of Coke and Pepsi cans is a post-9/11 gift from an artist friend. The shelves in the kitchen are chock-a-block with pottery with a Mexican folklore feel.
Bottom line for Kastan: “My everyday life is about art and I consider it a major component of a room, not just an after thought. That’s true whether I’m decorating a place in New York City or New Paltz.”
— Janet Kelly