Friday, March 27, 2015

Suzanne Lipschutz and Secondhand Rose: Vintage Wallpaper Collector Extraordinaire

Good morning!

How are you? Man, am I pumped to get out to the flea market this weekend-- I've been through a relative dry spell lately with estate sales and the like, and come Saturday, am I ready to get down and dirty with a box full of clothes someone pulled out of a barn or basement or attic in search of hidden treasures! Bring onnnn the 1940's dresses. :) As I countdown the hours until tomorrow morning, however, how about you and I both take a leisurely look at the life's work of my new favorite person, Suzanne Lipschutz? Have you heard the good word? If not, I hope you'll be glad you did by the end of this post!!

Lipschutz in her soon to be former apartment . The lamp at left  is actually taking a year off my life.
I was skimming through the (always extraordinary) New York Times Home and Life section when I was struck by the headline "A Vintage Life in the Chelsea Hotel". The Chelsea Hotel has been a subject of fascination for me since being a Factory-obsessed Warholite in high school (one of my personal style icons, Edie Sedgwick, once managed to fall asleep smoking and start a fire in her apartment that evacuated the building and gutted the unit; the Nico theme song and movie of the same title, Chelsea Girls, refers to the same), so between that and the arresting image of the woman above (who is seventy one, somehow, by the way) in her rococo apartment, I had to read on! Suzanne Lipschutz is in the process of moving from this apartment in the Chelsea as the post-Stanley Bard era of the building (see this documentary for a good background on what the hotel's history is like and the situation with the changing of the old guard), and while she's sad to pull up stakes, she's looking forward to improvements in her new apartment and a fresh canvas to decorate in her own impeccable eccentric taste. Take a look at this room and tell me it doesn't leave you just a little breathless:

Note to self: pink ceiling and chartreuse drapes, please, thanks.

How do you get a room like this? You stay at something you're already good at for OVER FIFTY YEARS. At twenty one, Lipschutz and her partner Jeff Joerger opened the first incarnation of her world-famous Secondhand Rose store, which later specialized as a rare source of period wallpaper, with, as the NYT article says, "a busted Tiffany magnolia lamp she found in a junkie’s apartment and 19th-century furniture harvested from the street". My little heart skipped a beat somewhere in between reading about celebrity clients like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and learning that her wallpaper is in movies like The Untouchables (here's Sean Connery getting massac'red in front of it) and Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and her apartment looks like something out of an Edward Gorey fever dream I had.....?! I now have hearts for eyes and all I can see are these beautiful textures and patterns and pieces and scraps. This is the closest to actually being a Victorian crazy quilt a room can get.

Nick Sweeney did a segment on Suzanne Lipschutz for NOWNESS in 2012....and if it was an au courant moment in that year, I can't say it's any less fascinating to look at in 2015. Can you imagine Woody Allen walking into your kooky antiques store in the 1970's and ordering an apartment's worth of 1930's wallpaper? Understand Lipschutz owns this space with just hundreds upon hundreds UPON HUNDREDS of rolls of antique and vintage wallpaper-- all gleaned simply by being in the right place at the right time with that keen, keen eye for fabulousness-- wouldn't you have loved to be a pretty, smart blonde on the Left Bank in the seventies' who'd just found a cache of Wiener werkstatte style wallpaper rolls in an old vendors's dusty flea market offerings? Again, I wish I were her.

How my heart just sings out for this grape wallpaper:

SL describes the wallpaper below  as being throughout Woody Allen's apartment. I tried like all hell to find a photo of his apartment before he moved in the early 2000's, but need to take a trip down to the library to dig up the Archictectural Digest he did in the seventies' and sate my curiosity. Note: the colors and geometric patterns of these florals are enough to knock you eye out. Gorgeous.

Look at her perfect gel nailpolish while describing this wallpaper embedded with actual predeceased butterflies...wwwwwoooowwww....

But the fun only starts with these little tips and tidbits from the internet. The grand motherlode comes from the Cooper-Hewitt design museum's archive. Cooper-Hewitt is pretty amazing in and of itself, housed in a Victorian mansion built by and lived in by rail magnate and historic philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the museum just went through a several million dollar renovation to put it on the cutting age of 21st century curation (see this New Yorker article for more information). Lipschutz donated a substantial number of sample swatches from her wallpaper archive in 1991...and OH. MY. GOODNESS. Get ready to flip your honest to God wig.

What kind of wallpaper theme do you favor? How travel?

"Artie, get some footage of this! Seriously! You're not gonna wanna miss this!"
Planet earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do....


Weird, abstract sports collage! I can't say I don't like it!

Yerrrrrrr OUT!

Off to the races...

How art deco! I vote all you pupsters as best in show.

Landscape (underwater and otherwise) ?

"My bones denounce the buckboard bounce/And the cactus hurts my toes..."

This one is actually my favorite out of all of them. While it would look best in a bathroom with tons of mirrors, I'd prefer to put this on every available surface in any current or future home.



Isn't it interesting how NARRATIVE this particular panel is? Check out the mesa in the background.

Being a teenager in 1947 was way cooler than being a teenage in 1997, let me tell YOU.

A dance under the stars (les estrellas)!

(classic cowboy instrumental here)
These just look like houses I could live in!



This last swatch interested me the most....seeing as....wait a MINUTE, I HAVE something in this pattern!

Bonjour, Paris!!!!

Nick and Nora apparently took a heavy dose of "inspiration" from this wallpaper panel and used them in their pajamas. I'm not home to take a snap of the ones in my bureau, but here's the link on ebay and some photos of the same model:

I guess that's within their legal rights, but honestly I was scandalized!!!! At least I know my "it looks retro" pattern radar was fully calibrated and ready to detect such duplications!

I have to scoot, but what do you think? Are a magpie collector, or a wallpaper enthusiast? What's the best surreally super swatch you've seen out on your travels? Have you heard of Suzanne Lipschutz? Could she BE cooler? What's your latest stylespiration? Let's discuss! Make sure you check out Secondhand Rose on Facebook, Pinterest, and the world wide web, you'll be glad you did!

Got to get back to work, but have a FABULOUS weekend, keep your fingers crossed for me at the flea, and hopefully I'll have a boatful of goodies to share with you next week! Til then. :)


  1. Great post! I can't even imagine what a paradise for salvaging antiques and wallpaper '70s New York was--and I was absolutely salivating over the NYT slideshow of Lipschutz's apartment. All that ebonized furniture, plush velvets, and gorgeous wallpapers are giving me major inspiration/envy. I love the provenances she gives for everything too, like the plaster walls from an old Vaudeville theater! What a dream!! It's too bad the Chelsea's current management doesn't recognize what a treasure the place is in its current state.

  2. !!!! Love this! The cactus wallpaper is my favorite. The only thing preventing me from going vintage wallpaper crazy in my house is that several of the rooms have a 1950's era faux stucco technique and the rest aren't the smoothest plaster going. Great post, thanks for sharing.



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