Gatherings on Starry Nights

Veranda May-June 2005

Written by Greg Firlotte

Photographed by Peter Vitale

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Some of New York City’s best “off Broadway” entertainment doesn’t take place in a theater but, instead, in a Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park. Hosting parties at her high-rise abode since the 1980s, Dorris Carr Bonfigli’s often has a guest list that reads like a who’s who in the arts world, including many whose names adorn marquees up and down the Great White Way.


From hosting “Dorris Carr’s Club Four” on NBC in San Francisco in the late ‘50s to co-producing stage shows in London in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, Ms. Carr has always moved amid a constellation of talented people. So it is no wonder that interior designer William R. Eubanks - based in Palm Beach, Memphis and New York - was commissioned to create visual drama and an atmosphere of warmth.

“Her gatherings are today’s equivalent of the great salons held in nineteenth-century France, which were filled with writers and artists,” says Eubanks. “Dorris and I concurred that her vintage 1980s interiors should be transformed into elegant spaces softened with a palette of ivory, cream and gold with a more feminine edge to the decor.”

Eubanks, working with design associate Mitch Brown, promotes a convivial atmosphere in the main room, or “salon,” by mixing Ms. Carr’s collections of oil paintings, Asian and French objets d’art and period furnishings within an envelope of pale tones set by silk-upholstered walls and Fortuny chair fabrics. Even in a room aglitter with celebrities, the Edo-period Japanese screen is a star in its own right with chrysanthemums against a field of silver leaf.

In the salon sits a baby grand that has been played by jazz legends Dave Brubeck and Barbara Carroll and composers Marvin Hamlisch and Cy Coleman. Songs are sung at Ms. Carr’s gatherings by cabaret vocalists such as Julie Wilson and Andrea Marcovicci. Critic Rex Reed has also been on hand to hear guests’ spontaneous performances.

 


While living in London many years ago, Ms. Carr fell in love with a Colefax & Fowler rose chintz that remained in her memory. “We used this fabric as the starting point for the master bedroom decor,” recalls Eubanks. “The ivory and rose tones on the bedding and draperies create a romantic mood here, furthered by motifs found on a Chinese famille-rose lamp on the nightstand.”

 

Objects displayed on tabletops in the library and dining room reflect the designer’s flair for creating vignettes using a range of styles, materials and historical periods. “We’re continually updating the interiors with the addition of accessories and artwork,” Eubanks adds. “In fact, this project is always evolving.” Nowhere is this evolution more apparent than on the south terrace. Eubanks refreshes the look every few months, taking color cues from Central Park below: “We reflect the seasons by switching out the furnishings, floral arrangements and plantings.”

For the last six months of the apartment’s renovation, Eubanks sent his client packing to Monte Carlo - a request to which she gladly acquiesced. “Dorris wanted to be completely surprised by the interiors,” says the designer.

With a touch of drama, the new look was unveiled, and Ms. Carr was thoroughly delighted. “My apartment is my most favorite place to be.”