Deborah Buck in her garden at Buck House on Madison Avenue
"I call it emotional decorating," says art and antique gallery owner Deborah Buck when asked to explain her style mantra. "Pick things that make your heart sing. Then they will all speak to one another and it will be very personal. You are the thread that holds it together."
The lively proprietress of Buck House, on upper Madison Avenue in Carnegie Hill, is currently infatuated with the work of Indian-born sculptor Haresh Lalvani, which she is showing now through April 29. The stainless steel sculptures, which are laser-cut, jet-washed, and manipulated to look like soft waves, hang at the intersection of art and science.
I recently visited the bright and buoyant Buck House, run by Deborah Buck who is unafraid to mix styles, colors, or periods when decorating. She likes mixing people too, and operates the gallery as a design lab and salon where people in the worlds of design and art can gather and meet.
Originally from Baltimore, Deborah trained as an artist. "I painted my brains out for twenty years," she says. When she designed her family's apartment – she's married to philanthropist Chris Buck and they have a 17-year-old son – she realized "it didn't have to be paint. I teach at the School of Visual Arts and I tell my students, 'You think you're a photographer but what you are is an artist.' Then you are free to make whatever you want, whether it's a beef burgundy or an oil painting."
Buck decided to start a gallery and was in negotiations to open on September 11, 2001. "No, it really sucked," she recalls. But she forged ahead and now regularly heads to destinations including London, Paris, Antwerp and Amsterdam to stock her gallery with art, antiques and jewelry. "I travel, shop and ship," she quips. But she buys only things that she really likes. "It has to feed my head."
That approach has worked for her gallery. Now she is producing Buck House furniture, fabric and wallpaper. "I'm using my sensibility as an artist to create a business. I've made a lot of things in my life as an artist and one of the funnest is money." She figures that her valuable mix of entrepreneurial spirit and artistic talent came from her grandparents. Her grandfather was bleach baron John Wylie Jones of Jones Chemical, and her grandmother was an artist who painted rocks and made necklaces out of chicken bones. "I come from a witch's brew of eccentrics," allows Buck.
On the way out we stop at the door.
A silver stainless steel sculpture by Lalvani hangs over a live bed of shocking pink carnations and an antique Italian bench which has been upholstered with a woolly sheepskin rug. "I told you," said Deborah Buck, "I'm fearless."