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Designing History

New Scalamandré Book Salutes the Past and Celebrates Timeless Design

Rob Rizzo and Steven Stolman

On a frigid night amidst the sparkling holiday lights of downtown New Canaan, New York City mega-designer and Scalamandré president Steven Stolman gathered with fellow interior aficionados to celebrate the launch of his new book, Scalamandré: Haute Décor. Assembled for a signing over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the exquisitely decorated shop of Cobble Court Interiors this past Thursday, I had to wonder how this style provocateur found himself somewhere so quintessentially Connecticut.

"I grew up here," explains author/designer Steven Stolman, who was raised in West Hartford. "Connecticut is in my DNA. It feels like home."

As it turns out, Scalamandré has a special role in the Nutmeg state as well. "We're so known for historically accurate reproductions, and that plays well into the Connecticut resident," Stolman says. He accredits the company's reputation for making the best of the best to a "Yankee" sense of values for quality and "the good goods."

Cobble Court Principal Robert Rizzo seconds the brand's good fit. "Scalamandré has amazing product, the highest quality of fabrics," he says. One of Cobble Court's own projects is featured in the book, a patio outfitted in blue and gray Scalamandré outdoor fabric.

Stolman also says that "New Englanders have always been very good storytellers," which he hopes comes through in his book. Inspired by Dominick Dunne's memoir, The Way We Lived Then, the author laid out his book in a scrapbook format.

The compilation offered a bit of nostalgia for Stolman himself. Decorator Jeanette Ward, who the designer describes as the "epitome of exquisite taste in the '30s and '40s, the Sister Parish of Hartford," was Stolman’s neighbor growing up. "Imagine my excitement to find a letter from her dated 1939 in the Scalamandré archives," he says.

Company archives always provide a source of inspiration for Stolman and his team. Founded in 1929, the annals feature comprehensive documentation of liturgical garments, prayer shawls and textiles dating back to the 17th-century.

But what about the future? For 2014, Stolman says the look is "educated eclecticism—a brainy mix of unique textures and bold colors juxtaposed with classical antiques plus the return of brown furniture." He calls the one dimensional, Mid-Century Modern transitional look "boring" and is seeing it at all price points. "My rule: When it comes up at Target, we're done," states the designer.

Last, I had to ask: Why the zebra? Stolman answers that the iconic pattern "feeds into the current appetite for all things retro and swanky." First-printed as a wallpaper in 1945 and still in high demand as such plus as fabric and now outdoor fabric, "it says something of the timelessness of Scalamandré."