NYSD, October 7, 2014 alt


As seen on New York Social Diary — October 7, 2011
“I guess at the end of the day, I’m a romantic,” is how the poised interior designer, Maureen Footer describes
herself – a romantic with an MBA, that is, hard won she admits for
someone who naturally gravitates towards the arts. “It took some naïveté
out of my view of the world,” she says. She once wanted to be a dance
critic and was a ballet-dancing debutante who went to Wellesley and grew
up in a grand house in San Francisco but is now happy with her elegant
little New York studio apartment furnished with antiques that she sees
as alive with the narrative of the past. Antiques she says remind us
that “It’s not all about me here in 2011—the human race and its
aspirations have been going for thousands and thousands of years.”
So how long have you been living in a studio apartment?

know I’m so bad with sequences – it was one of those things when you
just think you’re going to be passing in and out but it suits me

It’s easy, just to have a studio.

is if you live alone. Everybody needs some privacy and their own little
retreat, but you can’t do that with two here. So for me, it’s just
perfect. I grew up in a house with a conservatory, a ballroom and a
paneled library and all of that but pretty much since I moved to New
York, life changed radically! [Laughs]. I grew up in San Francisco but I
was reading, from about the age of nine, The New Yorker, just dying to
get to this city.

Peeking into the main
living area from the foyer. The walls are covered in a chinoiserie
Gracie paper and the dictionary stand was found at a Stamford antiques
In the ‘library’ two mismatched Louis XV chairs flank a French marquetry table was purchased at Bermingham Antiques.
The main living area
combines a sofa of Maureen’s own design with antiques she has collected
over the years. The standing acrylic lamp is from Hinson and the red
lacquer coffee table by Atelier Midavaine was purchased in Paris.
Louis XV marquetry writing table with 18th century landscape drawing, shagreen box and hydrangeas. A corner bookcase is filled with novels and travel books.
A 17th century verdure tapestry purchased years ago at a Paris antiques market covers the living room wall.
What did you find when you came to New York then? Did it live up to expectations?

I think it did…there is an energy and an autonomy and a very
cosmopolitan spirit in New York and I always feel it’s the one place
that really pushes you forward. It’s very easy to be complacent in other

It’s exhausting too, don’t you think?

That’s what my mother says when she comes to visit. But when
you live here you learn how to carve out your own rhythm. My favorite
place in the world is my bathtub and my second favorite place is my bed.
I take two baths a day…I really don’t like showers…water dripping
down my back—it’s creepy!

A view across the living
area. In the far corner a Gothic-style rattan chair from McGuire is
tucked under a late 19th-century French black lacquer desk.
A small Chinese chest is topped with some books and objects, including a brass oil lamp from Jaipur.
Fresh flowers pick up on the mustard and red tones of the apartment’s color scheme.
An Italian giltwood
hippocampus and a French bowl rest on a red lacquer coffee table from
Midavaine in Paris. Green Fortuny pillows complement the sofa.
Yes, I’m British, so I like baths too. You must do well in France too.

Yes, I do.

Googling you, I found out that you wanted to be a dance critic – do you have a background in dance?

I’ve always loved [ballet] and it’s sort of the way I learned
to listen to music. When I was at Wellesley there was a professor who
wrote for Dance Review and he used to write about New York City ballet
and it was so vivid you didn’t even have to go to the ballet…it
captured everything and I was an English and French major and I thought
it was just the most amazing use of language and I wanted to do all of

Did you dance at all?

Not seriously. I got up to pointe shoes.

A Chinese Tang dynasty figure stands against a folding screen covered in Braquenie Chambord Vieux silk damask.
A French marquetry and ormolu commode is signed ‘Migeon,’ Madame de Pompadour’s cabinetmaker.
More fresh
flowers perk up a small marble topped chest of drawers in the bedroom
niche. The18th-century Italian mirror is from Doyle.
Maureen created a
comfortable and elegant sleeping area out of her L-shaped studio by
using Cowtan & Tout’s Damas de Poitier for the bed hangings and
Hanging over the headboard is an abstract oil painting by Melissa Meyer.
Maureen separates the sleeping area from the living area with a folding screen that she upholstered in damask. A bedside table holds all of Maureen’s ‘necessities’.
Night time reading.
So why did you decide to do an MBA?

Well, you only need so many dance critics and at the time,
when I first came to New York from college, I worked at Vogue magazine
and there was this wonderful girl who was a copywriter there and we took
ballet classes together—and her name was Holly Brubach…who ended up
winning a National Magazine award [for writing on dance]…I’m kind of
not the most competitive person in the world and I thought this is
really Holly’s territory. At that point, I took the already-discovered
path. At that time, I wasn’t sure what to do. It was the eighties…the
world of finance and leveraged buyouts…the go go world at the time.

Did you struggle to do the MBA?

I think that’s a very astute question—and yes. I think it took
some naïveté out of my view of the world. It took away the fear—a lot
of my clients are very impressive people and I’m not even quaking in my
shoes trying to justify an invoice. I went into investment banking for a
couple of years…one morning [a colleague] walked in and said, “I
can’t wait it’s the weekend and Barrons comes out on Saturday.” [Laughs]
And for me a weekend means I get to go to ballet class and stay in bed
late and read a novel…it was the light bulb moment.

Watercolor by artist and legendary gallery owner Betty Parsons. Works
by Louise Bourgeois, Melissa Meyer and Betty Parsons hang above a black
early-20th-century French desk in a corner of the living room.
Maureen separates the sleeping area from the living area with a folding screen that she upholstered in damask.
A side view of the living from the bedroom alcove.
Do you feel dread now—overwhelming projects or anything?

Not really. Sometimes I need quiet space. I’m working on this
book [about the decorator, George Stacey] and I find when I’m
overwhelmed what I really need to do is stop looking at all the facts
and think about what’s in between the facts, what’s the narrative and
the story…and it’s the same for anything in design. The older you get,
the other things are just like…mechanical.

There’s got to be something to be said for experience.

You can only do what you can do and you’re best just focusing at one
thing at a time and then you can knock them off the list. If you try to
do ten things simultaneously, nothing gets done well. Nothing gets

You have a sophisticated, classical style—do you ever feel the pressure to bend to trends?

You always have to keep your voice there or you’re not excited about it
and it loses its coherence. On the other hand, this is a service
business. I’m not in a studio with my paint palette doing whatever I
feel like doing.

A 19th century Persian
rug helps define the main entryway. The walls are covered in a
chinoiserie Gracie wallpaper and the doors are a painted a bright tomato
A pair of apple-green
Christopher Spitzmiller double-gourd lamps stands atop an English chest
of drawers purchased at an antiques store in Millbrook.
On the rear kitchen wall Avedon’s, ‘Dovima with Elephants.’ View from the kitchen into the entryway.
Views of Maureen’s galley kitchen.
I notice a book over there with the
title “Debutante” and you were a debutante—what did that entail and when
you look back on that, do you kind of roll your eyes?
For me it didn’t entail very much because the traditional
summer when you go to all the parties and meet people, I spent in Japan.
In my opinion, the idea of being introduced and put on the marriage
market, is definitely an outmoded idea but one of the nice things is an
introduction to a more adult life. You meet people, you learn how to
talk to people. You stop being one of those monosyllabic teenagers.

Don’t you eventually learn that anyway?

I think we all get it.

[Being a debutante] seems bigger here…in Britain it doesn’t really exist at all any longer.

Part of it is, that in Britain, people already know their
place in life. In America, the great American story is that those places
can change. We’re so fluid. Being a debutante or whatever, for so many
people is a way to mark their territory.

Peeking into the bathroom. Maureen’s dressing room is complete with a painted Edwardian chest, crystal chandelier and Versailles wallpaper by Zoffany.
Family photos including a Jock Sturges portrait of Maureen’s sister, dancer Patrice Lovato, surround the dressing room walls.
Are you nostalgic?

Not about that…and I want to point out is the reason that
book [“Debutante”] is there is that all of those people were clients of
George Stacey.

No, I know you’re not trying to singlehandedly bring back the debutante…

You know where I am nostalgic, is—and I was reading an interview with
Tom Ford—we must be about the same age—and he said, people used to
actually compose their thoughts and write them in notes to other people.
Now it’s an email with abbreviations and there’s no punctuation.
There’s something about doing things in old-fashioned way, I think we’ve
missed something.

It’s hard to know what we’ve sacrificed and what we’ve gained. That old-fashioned charm is very time-consuming.

Also, I’ve kind of been living in the 1930s [for the book on George
Stacey] and I’ve been looking at these old Vogue magazines, but it’s not
even the formality of protocol and courtesies…but just the way people
dressed! The perfection to put your sportswear on, you know! [Laughs]
With all tradition, you kind of need to think, does it make sense? I am
big on handwritten notes and I try to get those out the next day while
the party’s still fresh and I love to stop and entertain, which I try to
do once a month.

What do you do?

I can put up six at a table and I love to cook. The trick of
getting [it right] is to see how much I can in advance so that I can sit
here with my guests. I look to make things like a navarin that can come
out of the oven and I want it to be elegant.

Do you ever watch TV?

I don’t have a TV…I did miss [not having one] for the royal
wedding. I had to get up at four a.m. and go over to [a friend’s] house
for the royal wedding…

Was it worth it?

It was. I guess at the end of the day, I’m a romantic.

• Sian Ballen

• Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch