Published Work

A Bucks County Farmhouse Showcases Rustic Design

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on September 29, 2014.

One interior designer’s passion for fashion and love of antiques has inspired the bold design within a historic bucks county farmhouse.

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The 100-acre Bucks County property on which this historic and daringly decorated farmhouse sits includes a Chinese pavilion and a 17th century English-style hedge maze.

When designer Andrew Hartnagle traded his Rittenhouse Square townhouse for a place in the country, he considered his new Bucks County farmhouse as another antique to collect, just on a larger scale. What he did with the home over the next 25 years was everything that no one expected. “I wanted it to be dramatic, so I put an explosion of different finishes, colors, and fabrics throughout, so people looked alive in it,” he explains of incorporating his bold fashion sense and many English antiques into the house.

In fact, it was serendipitous that Twin Silo farm, as it is known, was just down the road from a home he created for the then-head of design for Vera Wang. The two would talk about fabrics and colors for everything from walls to clothing during the process. Some of these conversations influenced Hartnagle’s décor decisions, such as the foyer, done in bright yellow grasscloth with ebonized floors and featuring a curved staircase. In other rooms, he lacquered pine floors and used luxe materials like mahogany for doors and ceiling beams or onyx for floors. Bright, glossy elements were the perfect contrast to the “boringly grand” furniture he had bought over the years at auctions with his partner, Wayne Stark, a retired investment banker. Hartnagle credits his foundations as a designer to working for Philadelphia’s Carl Steele, whose eclectic interiors have been featured in The New York Times and House Beautiful.

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Hartnagle mixed English antiques with unexpected colors and patterns to arrive at his distinctive designs.

Perhaps Hartnagle’s favorite room at the farm was one that was ever changing—the great room—one he envisioned as a French salon. With vermilion and pink striped walls, he likens this treatment to the inside of a jewel box. “We used to have grand parties here, so I changed that room a lot. Varying the space from time to time was like changing the set design. When you fill the room with people, it’s spectacular,” he says. The walls dramatize the serious Chippendale mirrors, William Kent tables, and eight bronze d’or griffon sconces that make the room sparkle. To encourage guests to sit and talk, the designer put two sleek silk velvet sofas back to back and scattered four chairs from the 1840s in sapphire blue and gray stripes around the space. He added doors and trim made of mahogany. “The mix provides harmony in the space.”

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The dining room features Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls and sleek mahogany ceiling beams.

In the gallery, which connects the main house to one of the two additions, his painter applied six coats of brilliant red paint, and then he worked with him on buffing the walls with wax. For an added dose of glamour, he chose metallic silver paint for the ceiling. The dining room was given a luxe makeover with Chinese-patterned fabric on the walls, replacing the rough-hewn beams with sleek mahogany ones, and covering the 10 chairs he bought at an auction with embroidered silk green velvet. In each room, sculptures and large oil canvasses of New Hope Impressionists give guests more eye candy. Of the unusual choices he made throughout the house, Hartnagle admits, “Some don’t understand it, but they’ve always loved it. They thought it was fresh and forward-thinking.”

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The hedge maze has been a talking point of many a garden tour.

The designer also made sure certain rooms would offer a bird’s-eye view of the 100-acre property. In the study, there is a set of three doors, two of which open to a New Orleans–style balcony, which overlooks the patio, pavilions, barn, and garden. Years ago, when there was little there, he studied books on the famous English gardeners of the late 19th century to develop his plan for a garden that has since been the scene for many a tour. “I wanted to create gardens that would further embellish and give continuity to the iconic 18th century structures on the property,” Hartnagle says. The gardens include alleys, a 17th-century English-style hedge maze, and a three-acre pond replete with a peninsula and a Chinese pavilion. Each morning, he gets his hands dirty working there and planning new areas.

Now that the property is complete, the couple will move to a new place nearby, where Hartnagle will develop a residence that has a more modern feel. “I look forward to working on a new home and garden, but I will miss this one,” he says. “There is a mystique about this property. Everyone who knows this farm loves it as we have.” Linda Danese, Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty, 6038 Lower York Road, New Hope, 215-794-1300

Home Tour: Dan and Sarah Keating’s Dream Abode

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on August 28, 2014.

As Dan And Sarah eating embark on their next chapter in life, the couple reflects on their rustic main line dream home.

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A new wing was designed to respect the rustic, vernacular nature of the existing house.

Twenty years ago, Daniel Keating bought an enviable seven-acre property that overlooked the 100-acre Morris Arboretum in Gladwyne, tearing down the existing house and building a Colonial for his wife, Sarah, and their six children. But even then, he dreamed of an addition that reminded him of his trips out West. “I wanted a product that showed the talents of the craftsmen working on it,” says Keating, a third-generation builder and the owner of The Keating Companies, Philadelphia-based real estate developers best known for buildings like The Union League and The Phoenix.

He wanted this new wing to echo the work of architect Peter Bohlin, whose designs include The Barn at Fallingwater outside Pittsburgh and the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York. “He creates extraordinary buildings,” says Keating. “He has a passion for the vernacular that is rustic, highly artisanal in outlook.”

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The swimming pool, designed by BLTA architects, predates the renovated house and became the redesign impetus for the whole structure.

Bob Henderson, master architect on staff at Keating, began to sketch plans. It would sit on a hill and feature a 20-by-40-foot pool, a guest suite, and a fireplace. After completing a 3-D sketch, he suggested it be fashioned in timber and steel.

The onus then fell to architect Alfred Dragani of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to articulate a plan. Keating provided recycled wood he’d purchased from an old barn in Connecticut, and Dragani pieced it together, with sweeping glass expanses helping unite indoors and out. The end product looks as though it belongs in a luxe ski resort. “The world unfolds when you step onto the property,” Keating says. “It’s as if you are at a resort in Montana or Wyoming.”

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The main entrance sets the tone for the western-themed interior.

Once the addition was complete, the Keatings had Dragani reconstitute the house exterior to match the style of the addition. Keating wanted a more open floor plan, so Dragani took down existing partitions to create space. “A palette of natural and recycled materials was utilized throughout for a rustic, yet modern character,” says Dragani. Rooflines and windows were altered. The exterior would now seem much better connected to the outdoors. “The home now feels like a Frank Lloyd Wright house,” Henderson says. “It’s part of the land.”

Another unlikely meeting paired Keating with interior designer Floss Barber, who joined the expanding team. Barber and her firm did the interior finishes, walls, furnishings, and some art.

Keating emphasized that the home had to feel accessible. “We wanted to be able to enjoy all the rooms,” he jokes.

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The dining room is an intimate space that recalls the old West.

Barber began with the dramatic entrance, which includes a monumental staircase. An oversize bronze bunny purchased at a gallery out West greets incoming visitors; in a humorous twist, both Dan and Sarah wanted to get it as a surprise gift for the other. Barber was forced to play the secret middleman—fielding surreptitious calls from both Dan and Sarah before convincing Dan not to buy it so Sarah could surprise him with it. “Their tastes are really that in sync,” Barber laughs.

The rugs are works of art as well—Barber had them custom made through the New Moon Mesa collection—and she found Spanish colonial antiques at Colonial Frontiers in Tucson.

The couple will downsize this fall when they move to The Phoenix to begin a new chapter in life, but they are leaving with happy memories. “The house has been fantastic,” says Keating. “We have raised our children here and used every room.” Eva McKendrick, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Fox & Roach Realtors, 1149 W. Lancaster Ave., Rosemont 610-527-6400

The Woman Behind Nicole Miller’s Success

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on August 18, 2014.

Entrepreneur Mary K. Dougherty has made fashion designer Nicole Miller a household name in Philadelphia.

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Mary K. Dougherty dresses Philadelphia women for a lifetime—from prom night to wedding continued on page 56 day—in Nicole Miller.

A few years after Mary Dougherty was recruited to be a road rep for a young New York designer named Nicole Miller, then company president and current CEO Bud Konheim approached her about opening a store in Philadelphia. It was 1993. Dougherty took Konheim and the brand’s team to the little-known town of Manayunk, where just a few restaurants and two retailers made up Main Street. “It was getting dark, and we were at the edge of town,” recalls Konheim with a laugh. “It was like being in a western—Mary showed us the building, which seemed like it was right next to the O.K. Corral. Mary said, ‘I think this is the next big thing.’ I said, ‘You know best.’ ”

With Konheim’s blessing, Dougherty took the leap of faith and opened the boutique the following March. Void of a marketing budget, Dougherty called in favors, recruiting then Philadelphia mayor (and later Pennsylvania governor) Ed Rendell, sports figures, local celebrities, and Miller herself to attend the opening party. The epic affair was the first of many bashes. “I was told I was nuts to open a store there,” remembers Dougherty, but this spring, she celebrated 20 years in retail in Philadelphia.

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Nicole Miller produces stylish bags and heels.

Dougherty now owns and operates the Center City and Manayunk Nicole Miller stores and is the wholesale representative for the brand in six states.

Looking ahead, she feels the fashion future is bright for the brand, the city, and the industry. “In the beginning, we worked from 11 am to 11 pm on weekends,” she says. “We added a second store at the Bellevue in 1997, back when the only things in that neighborhood were Le Bec-Fin and Susanna Foo.”

On Mondays, she’d hit the road, heading out in a 22-foot recreational vehicle built to house the entire collection for retailers. “If I had more Marys, I could quadruple my business,” says Konheim. “When people talk about entrepreneurs, she is the poster child for the American entrepreneur.”

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Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell with Miller and Dougherty.

The youngest of eight children, Dougherty was already working in the fashion business at 15, first in retail, then for a clothing rep in Philadelphia, and even doing some modeling at fashion trade shows. When she was recruited to work for Miller, the designer was the enthroned queen of the little black dress, a new icon of contemporary women’s fashion. But it would be the printed men’s tie—made of leftover fabric from a seasonal collection—that sold thousands and made the designer a household name. “Nicole Miller is an incredibly talented designer who makes my job easy,” Dougherty says.

For Dougherty, the brand’s impact cannot be understated. “Whether you’re going to dinner or the Academy Ball, Nicole Miller has played an important part in the fabric and style of fashion in Philadelphia,” says Dougherty. “One of my hobbies is counting how many of our dresses are worn at a single event. The record is 50-plus sightings at a local gala.” But at the same time, she has dressed many a Philadelphia woman for myriad milestones. “Girls come for a bat mitzvah or party dress, then they return for prom, graduation, and wedding dresses.”

Keeping Philadelphia fashionable for two decades has lent Dougherty a sense of permanence. “There is a feeling of vindication,” she says. “At our store, you can get a $500 dress and $5,000 dollars worth of service—that’s what distinguishes us.”

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The Manayunk and Bellevue locations stock dresses for every occasion.

Success has also created numerous opportunities to give back, and Dougherty and her family—husband, Erik Neumann, and teenage sons Nyle, Alex, and Ryan—are longtime supporters of Homefront, Juvenile Diabetes, and Philadelphia Academies Inc., where friend and famous customer, Philadelphia’s “first lady” Lisa Nutter, is president and chairman. “The charity work is hers alone,” gushes Konheim. “She does honor to our brand name.” Philly-themed printed ties and scarves were a recent merging of the two spheres—a hit for the retail stores with proceeds going to area charities.

But through it all, Dougherty remains humble about her contributions and her awards. “We have a lot more to do and give,” she says, citing a desire to become a job creator for Philly’s next fashion generation. “My hope is that Philadelphia continues to evolve and provide jobs and opportunities. I see showrooms, manufacturing, trade shows, an entire fashion district here. Now, the sky is the limit.” 4249 Main St., 215-930-0307; 200 S. Broad St., 215-546-5007

Home Tour: A Laid-Back Beach Home on the Jersey Shore

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted in the Philadelphia Style Magazine on May 18, 2014.

A suburban couple’s beachside home reflects their new, laid-back lifestyle at the Jersey Shore.

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The living room at Karen and Hubert Jasinski’s Bella Condos penthouse showcases their style.

It is rare someone winds up thankful that a deal for a potential dream home falls through. But for Karen Jasinski and her husband, Hubert, being narrowly outbid for a Millionaires’ Row home on the Inlet in Atlantic City turned out to be an unexpected boon. With their disappointment still fresh, a call from Karen’s business partner led to the purchase of a unit at Bella Condos in Atlantic City. She was always against living in an “elevator building” as she was accustomed to the wide-open spaces of her five-acre Montgomery County farm, where she drives to her mailbox daily. But with a little coaxing, Karen was convinced to give high-rise living a trial run.

She soon found that she really loved the many conveniences of a staffed 24-hour concierge building and became a quick convert to this more pampered lifestyle. Before long, a penthouse became available, and she and Hubert—owners of a medical manufacturing lab in Lansdale—traded their unit for the two-floor, three-bedroom standout, commissioning the condo’s main designer, Janet Espenshade of Espenshade Interiors in Bryn Mawr, to have the place move-in ready in 30 days. Espenshade’s contemporary “upscale seashore style” interiors had already earned rave reviews from many of the building’s other residents, and she was up for the challenge.

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The kitchen features stainless steel countertops.

Espenshade, who also crafted the interiors for 1706 Rittenhouse, used glistening travertine floors throughout the Jasinskis’ home. The contemporary kitchen now boasts Italian cabinetry, glass hood and tile, and a built-in cappuccino machine. A stainless steel counter peninsula overlooks a dining area with rich wood and upholstered dining chairs.

Espenshade kept all the windows uncovered so the focal point of the home would be the view. “I was able to make it so much more than what you see at the Shore,” she says, admitting that while the home is not your typical Shore house interior, its modern elegance sets it apart: “I think it is the most glamorous building in Atlantic City.”

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The designer, Janet Espenshade, decorated the house with a contemporary “upscale seashore style”.

In the penthouse’s living room she constructed a custom glass and marble fireplace, and in the master bedroom, Espenshade used a creamy yellow for the sumptuous linens. The guest bedroom is done in shades of slate gray and pink. Off the master bedroom there is a curved balcony with impressive views of the city. “I think most people who have second homes want cleaner and lighter,” says the designer. “They may have the big, traditional home in the suburbs and now they want something that is easier to care for but has plenty of room.” The Jasinskis’ country home is just that—an Italian-style design with generous rooms that flow into one another and that are filled with art and collections. But for Karen, the Shore condo is her modern version of a European-style pied-à-terre, complete with a collection of vintage pin-up art curated by her husband.

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The guest bedroom in creamy yellow.

Now Jasinski and her husband hop in the car and enjoy the dining, gaming, and entertainment that have become part of their weekend routine. “During the day, we take our bikes and go to Gardner’s Basin near Borgata in the afternoon. It is like a mini Key West with its bars and restaurants.”

But the couple treasures quieter time in their beachside home when they need to press pause on their busy lives. “The unit is an oasis—an elegant functional home away from home,” says Karen. For Hubert, the vibrancy and accessibility of the city is the most exciting aspect of their luxe retreat. “When I go to turn in at night and look at the city lights, I often wonder how I can sleep when the city is so alive.” Bella Condos, 526 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-6200

Nicole Miller Toasts 20 Years in Philadelphia

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on WWD.com on April 25, 2014.

TWENTY IN PHILADELPHIA: Designer Nicole Miller, chief executive officer Bud Konheim and Mary K. Dougherty, who owns and operates both Nicole Miller Philadelphia boutiques toasted 20 years in the city at her Bellevue Hotel store in Center City. Some 200 guests enjoyed music, Champagne, Millertinis, hors d’oeuvres and an interactive photo booth while models showed looks from the past two decades. “It’s been an extraordinary journey with Nicole Miller,” said Dougherty, who has been a rep in six states for the brand.

Philadelphia has been one of the designer’s best-performing cities since the brand set up retail locations there in 1994.

Patrick Kelly’s Career Feted in Exhibition

By Kathleen Nicholson Webber

Originally posted on WWD.com on April 25, 2014.

When museum curator Dilys Blum interviewed more than 50 friends and business associates of the late fashion designer Patrick Kelly, she was taken aback by the admiration all had for the designer.

This story first appeared in the April 25, 2014 issue of WWD. See More.

Kelly’s career was cut short when he died from AIDS in January 1990 at the age of 35. “Everyone adored him. Everyone he met in his career tried to help him get ahead,” Blum said. His work is being celebrated with an exhibition of 80 ensembles opening Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love,” is the first exhibition to showcase the full scope of Kelly’s head-to-toe runway collections, and will include selections from the artist’s significant holdings of black memorabilia, videos of his playful fashion shows and Horst photos and Oliviero Toscani ads featuring his work for Benetton.

Kelly’s story is the stuff of movies. Born in Vicksburg, Miss., he left for Paris in 1979 where he designed costumes for performers at the Palace nightclub for two years. He dressed his model friends in his signature tube-knit dresses shaped with raw, deconstructed cuts. Models wore the dresses to go-sees and Kelly’s star was quickly on the rise. In 1985, Kelly went from selling clothes on the streets to a six-page spread in French Elle.

After that exposure, the Paris retailer Victoire gave him workroom space and, as payment, he designed exclusive collections for them. Yves Saint Laurent chairman Pierre Bergé personally sponsored Kelly in 1988 to form the Paris-based women’s wear house Patrick Kelly Paris. He was the first black designer to be voted into the prestigious Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. While he only designed collections for five years, his impression on fashion was a big one; he was known for playful clothes that stood out on urban streets, runways and nightclubs. “His idea was to make high fashion affordable,” said Blum.

While Kelly had many fans (a young Vanessa Williams among them) and treated his employees and models like family, it was elderly actress Bette Davis who wore his clothes hoping to find him financial backing. She sported his wares on the David Letterman show twice, causing then-Warnaco honcho Linda Wachner to take notice. Wachner backed him under the Warnaco umbrella, where he remained until his death. While he never showed in New York, retailers like Martha, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s carried the collection.

The exhibition is broken into six sections featuring looks from his five years of runway shows. While many know him for his bow appliqués on knits or button-encrusted slinky knit evening dresses, his career represented much more than that, according to Blum. He was the first designer to draw on his upbringing in the south and push racial boundaries in his work. While his own signature look was denim overalls, sneakers and a cap, his collections featured glamorized denim in baby-doll dresses, tiered bandana-print skirts and dresses and black baby-doll brooches on suits that he handed out to editors and buyers at his shows. “He was into head-to-toe dressing, taking the church lady look from his southern upbringing and glamorizing her,” said Blum. Some of his playful looks were inspired by his muse Josephine Baker. One section of the exhibit is a nod to designers he admired: Coco Chanel-inspired wool bouclé dresses and suits, Elsa Schiaparelli-style dresses, Yves Saint Laurent animal-print trenchcoats and beautifully draped Madame Grès jersey dresses. He once said Grès was his muse and he would do anything for the designer including pick up her pins in her atelier.

His work included a line of swimsuits for Eres that converted into dresses, and he also worked with textile company Bianchini Ferier on printed textiles for dresses featuring golliwog logos. His power suits with strong shoulders always had a bit of whimsy — whether sprinkled with buttons, nails, pearls or balls. Blum used the exact accessories that were shown on the runway (Maud Frizon shoes and David Spada jewelry) or had pieces made to look like the ones Kelly used.

Kelly’s runway shows were like a party, with models crowding the catwalk and dancing rather than marching. He once said his clientele was “the woman who wasn’t dead yet.” While the French press adored him, the Americans were more skeptical. “He was touted as being an African-American rather than for his work,” said Blum, who feels his story resonates with young designers today. This past season, designer Michael Bastian paid homage to Kelly in his collection. And when researching the exhibition they found another designer, Gerlan Marcel, who used Kelly as an influence throughout her work from 2009 through 2014. The museum has a concurrent exhibit, “Gerlan Jeans Patrick Kelly,” in the Perelman Building, which shows Kelly’s legacy in the work of this young designer.

“He was a master at maximizing his brand,” said Blum, the museum’s senior curator of costume and textiles and organizer of the exhibit. “What Kelly achieved in the Eighties has continuing resonance today. His branding and self-marketing were unique at the time, but now in the age of fast fashion and brand-driven sales, it is a perfect time to reexamine Kelly’s contribution to fashion history.”

The exhibit runs from April 27 through Nov. 3.