Gideon Mendelson Remembers his Last Project with his Mother

A dedicated bibliophile, Mimi transformed a bedroom into a proper, gentlewoman’s library.
A Gustav Klimt drawing hangs above the bed in this rosy room, covered in a toile from Cowtan & Tout.

Life has a way of bringing us up short, leaving us to rue the words unspoken, the gift never given and the time not shared. Even when we hold our loved ones close, there is always something left undone. This was all too true for New York designer Gideon Mendelson, who was collaborating with his mother Mimi on her new apartment when she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away before she could enjoy her new home. That home-to-be was an apartment in the same building where Gideon lives with his own family in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. “My mother lived in Manhattan and the idea was that now she could live near her grandchildren,” shares Gideon. “We actually finished it three days after she died. It was a tragic ending to what could have been a very nice experience.”Gideon reimagined the breakfast nook from Mimi’s Park Avenue apartment.A landscape by Anne Chu hangs over the bed in this restful guest bedroom.Woodblock prints by historic Santa Fe artist Gustave Baumann have a new home over the living room sofa. His work was internationally recognized and he set a new standard for woodblock prints by carving his own multiple blocks (one for every color), made his own pigments, and did his own printing. His woodblocks and paintings are sold by Gerald Peter’s Galley in NYC or Santa Fe at Nat Ownings Galley.Gideon designed the 40s’-inspired buffet, fashioned from bleached walnut with a stone top and brass sabots.His more contemporary sensibility is evident in the comfortably appointed living room.The next generation of Mendelsons share family time.

A graduate of both Columbia University with a degree in Architecture and The New York School of Interior Design, Gideon launched his business in 2003. Mimi, who had enjoyed her own successful career, was his business partner. Of course, by the time Gideon asked her to join him, he had already learned a thing or two from his designing mother. “My mother had her office two blocks from my elementary school in Westchester County and I would walk over at lunchtime where I would see her and her team drawing or looking at fabric swatches,” he recalls. And at home, he couldn’t help noticing the attention his mother gave to their surroundings. “Our house was her laboratory. And if we were having guests over – whether it was just fluffing the pillows or setting the table, there was just a real awareness of detail.”A warm breakfast nook, adorned with wooden plaques depicting Greek philosophers.A sunlit guest bedroom.

Mimi was a solid traditionalist, whose influences, suggests Gideon, included “Mario Buatta, Renzo Mongiardino and even Thomas Britt.” Hearing that, it’s fair to wonder if Gideon grew up with a chintz-covered slipper chair in his bedroom. “She didn’t include me in any design process, that’s for sure,” he laughs, “but she took into consideration my own little needs. I had a cool music system and space for my trophies and stuff. But it didn’t look like my friends’ rooms, with Christie Brinkley and Michael Jordan posters on the walls. But I was fine with that. It had a mod vibe that would look pretty cool today.”The Klimt takes a favorable place above a wooden settee.The foyer does double duty, providing a formal welcome and serving as a library.The dry bar, ready for entertaining.

The Park Slope co-op – a 2,000-square-foot residence in a 1929 building – required a little architectural intervention in the kitchen and home office. Mimi left this to Gideon, but did put in her two cents when it came to decor. “Putting together the textiles and fabrics and all that, we did collaboratively,” relates Gideon. “I was very sensitive to her traditional vocabulary and she was open to my modernity. I would suggest something really traditional and she would say, ‘Great, now let’s do a modern lamp with that.’”

The result was a home with a very personal stamp, recognizably traditional, but leaner and brighter than Mimi’s former place on Park Avenue. Looking back, Gideon remarks, “She was my partner for many years, so I knew her tendencies and her little idiosyncrasies. At the same time, she was my client, and as a designer, my job is to make recommendations that I think will be the most successful. At this stage of my career, I am pretty good at recognizing how much I can push and how little I can push. And with my mother, this was even more obvious. It was a nice collaboration. Perfectly lovely.”

Photography Courtesy of Annie Schlechter.

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