Modern Furnishing Selections by Katonah Museum of Art Executive Director Neil Watson

Neil Watson creates an art lovers' haven filled with mid-century modern furnishings, beautifully designed objects, and lots of ambient lighting.



Photography by John O'Donnell

We’re not collectors, but we love to create beautiful spaces,” says Katonah Museum of Art Executive Director Neil Watson about the 1920s, cottage-style home he has “curated” with his wife Judy Blundell (an award-winning YA novelist, better known by her pseudonym, Jude Watson). Married for 27 years, Watson and Blundell moved into their charming, 1,900-square-foot Katonah home in 2005, after stints in San Francisco, Montauk, Manhattan, West Palm Beach, Tacoma, and Delaware. Culling their belongings along the way, they’ve held on to their most cherished items and added on whenever they’ve discovered something special. “Our aesthetic is a mix of both high- and low-value items; what’s important to us is that it’s interesting and well made,” Watson says. In addition to enjoying the occasional splurge at upscale galleries and shops, Watson has a great eye for finding stylish furnishings in second-hand and salvage shops, catalogs with excellent reproductions, and even the trash (including an Eames chair another art museum was about to throw out). Here are a few of his favorites.


Chair-ished Belongings
Bought at a West Palm Beach vintage furniture store, this rare plywood chair was created circa 1950 by American furniture designer Norman Cherner. “Chairs have a certain karma,” says Watson, who’s amassed quite a collection of them, including designs by mid-century modern masters Charles and Ray Eames and Harry Bertoia.

Like Father, Like Son
The Watsons discovered this chrome-and-wood side table beneath a pile of blankets in the SoHo atelier of Thomas O’Brien, Aero Studios. The table, which today adorns their office-cum-playroom, was created around 1930, by Wolfgang Hoffman, the “not as famous” son of renowned Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffman. “There should be a martini shaker with Cole Porter nearby, but we use it as a charging station for our electronics,” Watson says.

Light of My Life
Among the 21 light sources in the Watsons' combined living and dining rooms is the Zettel’z chandelier by German designer Ingo Maurer.  Instead of crystal drops, the chandelier features clipped-on pieces of Japanese paper with scribbled notes, poems, and drawings. The couple bought the fixture in a SoHo showroom in 2008 and have added penned contributions from artist and illustrator friends—and, of course, 10-year-old daughter Cleo.


Perfect Union
Watson bought this bowl by pioneering glass artist Sonja Blomdahl from a San Francisco art gallery in the mid-'80s. A birthday gift for his wife, the banded bowl was made using a technique called incalmo, in which two, separate pipe-blown glass vessels are perfectly merged. How romantic!

For Real?
Perched on a wall near Watson’s dining-room table, this Holonzki wall sconce (also by Ingo Maurer) tricks—and treats!—the eye. The red incandescent bulb is actually a hologram over a real metal socket, with the true light source coming from overhead. “It’s funny and beautiful at the same time,” says Watson, who made the purchase 10 years ago at a high-end furniture store in Seattle.


All Screwy
Handcrafted by French artisans in the small French town of Laguiole, this corkscrew was a Christmas present from Watson’s wife. A wine-lover at heart, Watson loves that it's “beautifully constructed and absolutely gorgeous…probably the best corkscrew ever made.”

All Grown Up
This eco-friendly birch bookcase by Argington hails from Design Solutions in New Canaan, Connecticut. Originally intended for a toddler’s room, the unit was adapted to house Watson’s beloved cookbooks (he’s quite the chef), as well as his daughter’s art supplies.

 

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