Books: Through the looking glass

Books Places To Write Home About Polly Devlin

Polly Devlin new, glossy 224-page book offers readers a voyeuristic chance to peer through the windows of 24 of New York’s most exclusive residences

Anyone who has ever visited New York would be forgiven for spending as many of their hours wanting to know what is inside the homes of New York’s residents, as they do admiring the sights outside of them.

Now a new glossy 224- page book allows people to look into 24 different residences belonging to artists, designers writers and other creatives, scattered around the city from Harlem to Brooklyn.

The creator of New York – Places to Write Home About, Polly Devlin interviews each of the owners, and each chapter is accompanied by vibrant images (photographed masterfully by Annie Schlechter) to fully showcase the interior masterpieces of their homes.

Books Places To Write Home About Polly Devlin
Intellectual Eden – Gina Alhadeff and Francesco Pellizzi’s house in the Upper East Side. Among the many rare objects in the main salon is the large standing female figure on the left, used as a grave marker (Sudan, Belanda)

Polly’s own love affair started in 1967. The Tyroneborn writer and broadcaster started her career in Sixties London four years previously, when she took on the role of features editor of Vogue in 1964. It was her first job away from her home in rural Ardboe and four years later she took the plunge to work as features editor under Diana Vreeland for American Vogue.

The future sister-in-law of Seamus Heaney was sent all over the world, and Polly has previously said that one of her most memorable trips was with Richard Avedon in Paris photographing Barbra Streisand in haute couture.

Books Places To Write Home About Polly Devlin
Fantasy in Harlem – James Fenton and Darryl Pincney’s house in Morris Park. The kitchen stove occupies the space where the space where the original stood, and is surrounded by the original tilework, found under a layer of plaster. The red chairs are Emeco’s classic ‘Navy’ chair. To the right of the cooker hangs a Tom Phillips print based on an old postcard.

As her literary career developed, Polly became a Booker Prize judge in 1984, the Irish Times Literary Award judge in 1994, as well as a Pushkin Prize judge in 1998. This was after being awarded the OBE for Services to Literature in the 1992 Birthday Honours.

“The book dedicates a chapter to each house.

“This book is called Places to Write Home About because my only criterion for choosing these apartments, lofts, studios and houses is that I like them so much I want to tell other people about them,” she writes.

Books Places To Write Home About Polly Devlin
Polly Devlin

“They are fired by imagination and created by people who refuse to live in a narrowly functional world: they know that creativity and imagination are essential to our lives.

“There is something else. The most important future source of historical information about how some people live in New York today is in books like this and certain magazines.

“In 1848, the great English historian Lord Macauley wrote ‘Readers who take an interest in the progress of civilisation and of the useful arts… will perhaps wish that historians of far higher pretensions had sometimes spared a few pages from military evolutions and political intrigues, for the purpose of letting us know how the parlours and bedchambers of our ancestors looked.’

Books Places To Write Home About Polly Devlin
Head Over Heels – Linda Pollak and Sandro Marpillero’s New York loft. The office, on the first floor at the front of the building, is a more public space than the rest of the house. Each step of the staircase is connected by the next by the lightest of struts.

“So here we are, with no pretensions, in the parlours and bedchambers of artists and writers and garden designers, jewellers and professional decorators, photographers and art dealers, architects and fashion editors – in short, the ordinary people of New York – in different niches of the city, who opened up their domestic arrangements to show their ways of living – idiosyncratic, curated, aesthetic, unique, and also spontaneous, unrehearsed and everyday.

“Their places are never just stationary backdrops – they are provocative presences that elicit interaction, conjured up by people who know that living gracefully does not require attempting the impossible.”


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