Monday, February 20, 2017
"Everywhere we find that modern life is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The golden egg was the stark beauty of individuality, and the goose was the social conditions that allowed for it." So wrote Cecil Beaton in his book, The Glass of Fashion, describing the modern (as in 1954) problem of the "failure of the personal". Sixty-three years later, this observation seems just as canny, especially at a time when most people strive hard to behave like their peers, dress like their peers, and decorate their homes like their peers- the failure of the personal writ large. Could this be why, in an age of increasingly homogenized taste, so many of us find the homes of Cecil Beaton to be so refreshing?
Throughout his adult life, Beaton conjured up interiors that assumed any number of personalities, the most constant one being that of the Edwardian dandy. His early efforts at decorating seemed, at times, trying too hard to impress with its originality, while his later homes feel more aesthetically self-assured and settled. But no matter its style or success, a Beaton interior was more often than not singular and, subsequently, memorable. His English country pile, Reddish House in Broad Chalke, was no exception, as you can see in these photos, shot by the homeowner himself sometime in the 1950s. Although I have read much about Reddish (and I'm sure you have, too), I'm not familiar with some of these images, which I found in an old issue of Connaissance des Arts, although I believe they were originally published in Country Life.
Claret-colored velvet, floral-strewn chintz, and Edwardian light fixtures are just some of Reddish's more notable decorative flourishes. None of it terribly popular with homeowners today, and that's just what makes these interiors noteworthy. May individualism eventually win the day.
Monday, February 13, 2017
The Georges Geffroy book, about which I wrote last week, has prompted me to revisit my paltry collection of fifties-era issues of the French arts and design magazine, Connaissance des Arts. Dipping back into these magazines, I became reacquainted with a series of advertisements that have long intrigued me: those of J. Cellier, a Paris-based antiques restorer. What initially caught my eye were the ads' black-and-white photographs of gilt sunbursts. (You know how I love a decorative sunburst.) Reading the ads' text, I came to understand that this restorer specialized in Louis XIV-era sunbursts (the motif that was, of course, the symbol of the Sun King), though gilding and lacquer seemed to have rounded out the firm's expertise. Looking at these ads in 2017, when the audience for antiques sadly seems to be shrinking, I find it remarkable that a restorer, one who, perhaps, could have even been a dealer in these wares, once had the luxury- not to mention the depth of knowledge- to specialize in such niche forms of the decorative arts. But then, looking at the magazine's other ads, I see that such specific concentrations were not unusual, but, to some degree, standard practice. In fact, one Paris antiquaire advertised its expertise in wooden cherubs! My, how times have changed.
I've Googled "J. Cellier" but have been unable to unearth much information about this firm. Did the business trace its roots back to Jerome Cellier, an eighteenth-century clock-maker? How long was J. Cellier in existence? And, was it the go-to sunburst restorer for French connoisseurs? Unless you can share any information, I may never know. Nevertheless, now seems like a good time to indulge in some photos of the always-radiant and always-pleasing sunburst.
Monday, February 06, 2017
I've spent the last few days engrossed in a book that has become a new favorite: Georges Geffroy: 1905-1971, Légende du Grande Décor Français. Geffroy, the high-style French decorator known for his elegant touch, was, during the mid-twentieth century, the ne plus ultra of French decorators, boasting an impressive roster of clients that included café society stalwarts, such as Daisy Fellowes and Gloria Guinness, and couturiers, like Christian Dior and Marcel Rochas. (You'll find photos of their Geffroy-designed homes below.) Study a Geffroy-designed interior, and you'll see what true luxury is: fabrics by Prelle and Le Manach (including the latter's famous Velours Léopard, which Geffroy seemed to have employed quite frequently), eighteenth-century furniture by Georges Jacob, and Savonnerie rugs. No one-trick pony, Geffroy employed color in sophisticated and unexpected ways. Some interiors are awash in clear, vivid hues, while others are grounded by chic, muted shades of brown, camel, and drab.
Today, Geffroy's work is not as well-known as that of other star decorators, likely because he catered to a rarefied and thus small group of people. But to those of us who take our design inspiration from the past, Geffroy ranks up there with the better-known design greats. In fact, I often refer to Geffroy's work when making design decisions in my own home.
Now, back to the book...if you are a fan of those great mid-century French design books such as the Connaissance des Arts series, Decoration, as well as The Finest Rooms in France, then you will likely cherish this book. Yes, as the title suggests, the book's text is in French, which means that those of us not entirely fluent in the language might find reading the text a challenge. However, in the vein of "a picture is worth a thousand words", if you study only the book's photos, you'll still gain so much. How can you not be inspired by such gorgeous and immensely stylish interiors as these? One last note- if you already own the Connaissance des Arts series, you will likely recognize some of the photos found in Georges Geffroy. However, I don't find this a detraction. In fact, I'm happy to finally have Geffroy's work compiled into one book.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The antiques-show season is upon us, and one show that many of us particularly look forward to is the Cathedral Antiques Show, organized and sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women of The Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. This year's show, which runs from February 9-12, is going to be an especially exciting one. For the first time in its 48-year history, the antiques portion of the show is being administered by The Antiques Council, which means many dealers will be new to the show. Dealers will include Antique American Wicker of Nashua, New Hampshire, William Cook of Berkshire, U.K., and show stalwart Thomas M. Fortner Antiques of Memphis, Tennessee. Also new to this year's event will be a Live Auction during the show's Patron Preview Party (February 8); a highlight of the auction is a four-night trip to Venice, including a two-night stay at The Gritti Palace and two-nights at Hotel Ca'Sagredo.
But wait, there's more. This year's lineup of speakers is equally as impressive and includes Alexa Hampton, Chuck Chewning, Cathy Kincaid, Margot Shaw, and Laura Dowling, the former chief floral designer at the White House. (The ever-popular Flower Festival is returning to this year's show.) Plus, the Tour of Homes and Young Collectors' Home Tour will, once again, help to round out the event.
The 2017 show, chaired by dynamos Laura Cullen and Beverly Gwynn, will benefit First Step Staffing. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit the show's website.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
The 2017 trend forecasts have been announced, and if what the prognosticators are saying comes true, we have French food and a return to elegant entertaining in store for us over the next year. (Down with the Mason jar, and up with the Baccarat!) But will this renewed appreciation for refinement find its way into the world of decorating? Will fine fabrics, shapely antique chairs, traditional wallpapers, sophisticated paint schemes, porcelain birds perched on gilded brackets, and dining tables appointed with linen cloths and silver candelabra- all seen here in fine form, courtesy of a sophisticated gentleman's Paris home- once again find favor with a larger audience? It might be a stretch, but it's certainly a nice thought to ponder.
All photos from A Home in Paris by Catherine Synave, Guillaume de Laubier photographer
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Private elevator lobbies and vestibules- it's been quite some time since I've seen one appear in print. Granted, these bijou spaces are not very common, existing mostly in cosmopolitan, residential high-rises where they usually serve as private entrances to sprawling, whole-floor apartments. More discreet and gracious than an elevator that pitches people directly into an apartment, an elevator lobby offers visitors a moment of anticipation before entering an apartment's front door. Think of them as an aesthetic greeting, one that serves as a sign of things to come once inside the apartment's realm.
I was recently charmed by two images of elevator lobbies that were published in 1930. The photograph at the top of this post shows an elevator entrance with "walls painted black, with panels of antique etched glass. The ceiling is silver and a contrasting floor in black terrazzo." Now, that's chic. Even more elaborate is the lobby immediately below this text: "In the elevator foyer there are alternating panels of black and silver glass with a scalloped valance of gold glass and a draped ceiling of yellow satin. The floor is black with silver metal inserts. The console is black and gold." I find the gold-mirrored, scalloped valance, which serves as a transition between the fabric-draped ceiling and mirrored walls, to be particularly clever.
Of course, an elevator lobby doesn't have to be over-the-top in order to be stylistically effective. Mark Hampton created a classically-inflected, barrel-vaulted vestibule for one client (see below), while the elevator lobby of Anne Bass's apartment is rather calm-looking. But, like Carroll Petrie, whose shimmery vestibule I included below, I think elevator vestibules seem made for mirror or, though lacking the enticing quality of reflection, an astounding mural. After all, these spaces are usually so small, why not lavish them with wit, whimsy, or a dash of theatricality?
Image #3 from Manhattan Style; #4 and #6 from New York Apartments: Private Views; #5 from Private New York
Thursday, January 12, 2017
If you follow the international real estate pages of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you are likely familiar with Château de Castille. Located near Uzès in southern France, the 18th-century château with a 13th-century foundation was put up for sale in late 2015. Still on the market (or so it seems), the château has a rich history, especially during the mid-twentieth century, when art collector and historian Douglas Cooper owned and inhabited the residence. (Cooper's then partner, art historian and Picasso expert, John Richardson, lived there for a stint during Cooper's ownership.)
A friend and patron of Pablo Picasso, Cooper engaged the artist, who supposedly coveted the house, to create a series of sandblasted murals, which appear on the walls of the château's loggia. Now officially protected as historic monuments , the frescoes are touted as the château's most famous feature, not to mention its greatest selling point. But as enticing as the murals are, it's the château's interiors that compel me more. Decorated by the under-the-radar American designer, Dick Dumas, the house's interiors are an enticing blend of traditional French fabrics (such as Le Manach's Pommes de Pin, the pinecone print seen in the blue bedroom below) and modern-looking prints, installed alongside antique furnishings and modern artwork. Despite a few tell-tale signs that Dumas likely decorated the château decades ago (namely, the prominent ceiling spot lights), little about these interiors seem dated to me.
Since Cooper's tenure as owner, the château has belonged to a French family, whose heirs made the decision to sell. After seeing these French AD photos of Château de Castille, I can only hope that a buyer sensitive to the château's unique qualities will purchase it.
Photos from French AD, François Halard photographer.