At Home with Special Events Maven Harriette Rose Katz
NYC’s premier event planner gives us a peek at her designer pad — and her two adorable dogs
September 26, 2014, Kathleen Squires
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It was 1967, she was newly married and she just about had given up looking for an apartment. “I had listed myself at the apartment locating bureau and I said to them, ‘I want two bedrooms and two bathrooms’ and they kept sending me to one bedroom, one bathrooms,” Harriette Rose Katz, the doyenne of NYC’s event planning industry, recalls. “I knew I wanted to have a baby, and would need more room, so that didn’t work for me.”
But just when she had given up hope, she received a phone call. Finally, the right space seemed to come through. Though she couldn’t see it until the following morning, “I immediately went to pass by this great-looking, recessed building here, and all these elegant, older people were coming out — really old, about in their 80s. I thought, ‘Oh my God, it looks like an old age home.’ But I loved it anyway. There was something really charming about it,” she says of the circa 1930 building, set on a tree-lined stretch of East 68th Street.
She got her wish within it — a two bedroom, two bath, 1,350-square-foot apartment. Years later, that wish would come true again when she took an identical apartment upstairs to serve as the offices for Gourmet Advisory Services, the event planning company that she has helmed for 36 years.
Throughout the years, she has shared the “living” apartment with two husbands, one daughter and currently two bichon frises, Zoe and Izzy. Upstairs, the “work” apartment buzzes with her co-workers, which include her daughter and her niece. Together, they produce 130 events per year while raising the profile of The Chosen Few, an elite society of premier event professionals hand-selected by Katz, which launched this past May. This group includes caterers, photographers, entertainers, florists and event designers, among many essential others. “These are my relationships that go so far back,” Katz says. “I want The Chosen Few to be to the events industry what Michelin is to restaurants.” To accomplish that, her next step is to take the initiative global.
Her previous life as an interior designer, however, is what marks her downstairs home, with an eclectic collection of antiques and art, contemporary and classic, that represent Ms. Katz’s grand taste. “I love to decorate,” she says. “But I will never do it by myself. I think that would be so foolish. I would be my own worst client.” As a result, she turns to many of her own Chosen Few for help.
She has renovated the apartment four times in the 47 years she has lived in it, most recently two years ago. Designer Harry Heissmann won her over because of his clever vision of the foyer, where guests are welcomed by a painted daisy in the center of the wood floor, and smoky mirrors that enlarge the area. An 18th century secretary adds a classical touch. “It’s a small foyer, but it feels like a whole separate room — that’s what I love about it,” she explains.
It’s clear that Katz is a lady who loves to entertain. Her living room is dominated by a large dining table that can seat 12, with Tiffany candlesticks adorning its center. She likes to keep her bar well-stocked with top shelf liquors and there is always plenty of fine wine on hand, which she enjoys serving out of antique crystal liquor decanters.
There’s one item, though, that she feels the apartment lacks in order to be the perfect den of entertainment: a baby grand. “It’s the one thing I wish I had in here,” she says. Her efficient use of space includes two brass-and-glass Karl Springer coffee tables, which she just had refinished, and which have wheels. “When I entertain, I just wheel them out of the way,” she says.
There’s also a working fireplace, with an ornate marble mantelpiece, that becomes the focal point on wintry nights. Atop the mantelpiece, a rhinoceros clock sits among some awards honoring Katz, such as one from the International Special Events Society, and Gilda’s Club (a cancer support center in honor of comedian Gilda Radner), which she helped found.
An oil painting that belonged to her late husband Martin serves as an opulent background. Dramatic crystal vases, blooming with flowers, flank it, while a 19th century bronze and ormolu andirons, depicting a reclining man and woman, dress up the hearth even more. Elaborate window dressings and bright natural light complete the regal setting in the living room. The sun glints off two brass Etruscan horses she keeps by the window, along with a sculpture of a mother and child by Henri Pernot.
Throughout the apartment, Katz’s art collection would impress the most esteemed museum curator. Her favorite piece is a 17th century Claude Vignon, best known for his work on the ceilings of Versailles, that hangs in her bedroom. It depicts Helen returning to Troy. “It was my first auction,” Katz remembers. “It was a snowy day in March, and it was the Christie’s right here on 67th Street — Christie’s East. I started bidding, and then my heart began to palpitate because I was so nervous. I was sitting with my sister, and she took my hand and raised my paddle and I got it,” she says, still astonished. “I’m never getting rid of it.” Another, just sitting over her bed, is a festive portrayal of harlequins by Marina Grigoryan. “It’s a perfect bedroom piece,” she says.
Among her high-gloss bedroom furniture, her walk-in closet is the pièce de résistance, three closets combined into one, filled with furs, gowns, purses, shoes. Katz says her favorite room, however, is the second bedroom/office. “I just feel very comfortable sitting in here,” she says. She adores chandeliers, and her apartment sports four, including the striking gold and glass one that serves as the centerpiece in the office. Otherwise, she enjoys heading to the kitchen during breaks, where she makes good use of her favorite appliance, a Nespresso machine.
As to where she likes to spend time in the neighborhood, there are a couple of spots that can also be called her “chosen few,” such as the Gotham Coffee Shop at the bottom of her building. She is also excited to welcome Grace’s Marketplace, which will be opening soon just across the street, complete with café. As she mentions it, one can see her mind turning with the entertainment opportunities this new convenience will offer.