Ah, to Be Rich and Considered a Setter of Style

Over the weekend, I was flipping through "Bright Young Things" (Assouline, 2000) by Brooke de Ocampo, a socialite and former editor at Vogue, when I decided on one of my goals for the New Year: to be fabulous. The book, lavishly photographed by Jonathan Becker, features style-setters in their fabulous personal spaces.

De Ocampo, 34, got the idea from "Vogue's Book of Houses, Gardens, People," first published in 1963. In the now out-of-print book, people like Doris Duke, Pauline de Rothschild and Emilio Pucci were photographed in their houses. Back then, style was the purview of the social set, the upper classes, heirs and heiresses, De Ocampo said in a telephone interview from her home in London. But today, style is about the mix--of bohemian and bourgeois, expensive and affordable. It's anything and anyone goes, which must mean that fabulousness is attainable, right?

I looked to "Bright Young Things" to find out. De Ocampo limited her scope to New Yorkers, most of whom are friends. Michael Rockefeller, a descendant of John D. Rockefeller Jr., is photographed with wife Tara in their Asian-art-filled Gramercy Park apartment. Of course, much of their furniture and art is inherited. Drat. I'm not descended from anyone famous, except maybe, and this is an ongoing debate in my family, John Wilkes Booth. And I'm guessing collecting art was not one of his top priorities.

Documentary filmmaker and photographer Sebastian Guinness is featured with his wife, Peggy Stephaich. Their 19th century loft in SoHo is full of Tibetan religious pieces, Indonesian textiles and other exotica, including a pillow embroidered with the name of Foxcroft, the prep school Peggy attended. Again, Guinness is an heir of Irish brewery founder Arthur Guinness, and wife, Peggy, is a Mellon, as in the Mellon Bank. How can I compete?

Aerin Lauder, who is poised to take over her grandmother's cosmetics empire, has an apartment with leopard print chairs, a Jean-Michel Frank coffee table, and a chandelier that was once in the Paris house of designer Jeanne Lanvin. Sister Jane Lauder, however, has more modern tastes. Her penthouse near the Carlyle Hotel is filled with paintings by Warhol and Matisse, tables and stools by Frank Lloyd Wright, a dining set by Richard Neutra, and, in a chandelier's place, a Calder mobile. "My father started giving me art when I was younger," Lauder says in the book. Well now, doesn't that make it easy to decorate!

But the book does contain a glimmer of hope for ordinary gals seeking fabulousness. "Bright Young Things" can be self-made. Vogue fashion writer Plum Sykes, who arrived from London without so much as a bed, shares with readers her Greenwich Village flat, with its lavender walls and flea market finds. "A white room is the most boring thing in the world," Sykes says. "Painting is the cheapest, easiest, fastest way to transform it."

And, posing in his sparsely furnished "Zen-Scandinavian" downtown loft, DJ Moby is quoted as saying, "I don't like stuff." At last, affordable style!

De Ocampo says the juxtapositions of the different styles and personalities make the book interesting. "No one person could have held the book alone."

Now that she and her investment banker husband have moved from New York to London, De Ocampo is considering a follow-up about British style-setters. I'm just hoping by the time she moves on to "Bright Young Things" in L.A., I'll be fabulous enough to be included.

SoCal Confidential runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Booth Moore can be reached at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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