Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Van Day Truex Envy

Jealousy reared its ugly head last week as I was perusing the February issue of House Beautiful. It was while reading the article on designer John Peixinho's attractive Newport house that I about fell out, so to speak. Right there on page 78 was a photo of Peixinho's dining room, which featured a wall devoted entirely to wash drawings by designer Van Day Truex. To someone like me who covets Truex's drawings (and who dreams about the day I own one of my own), this photo was simply awe-inspiring. In fact, I believe that the moment I saw this photo, I heard the proverbial choir of angels sing.

Of course, I'm not really jealous of Peixinho and his enviable collection of Truex art. Rather, I admire his keen eye and his good taste. The House Beautiful article mentions that one of Peixinho's Truex drawings (seen in the second photo, above) had originally been painted for Brooke Astor. I don't know the extent of Astor's collection of Truex drawings, but I do know that at least two were sold at the mammoth Brooke Astor Sotheby's sale in 2012.

Another person who owned an enviable collection of Truex drawings was Albert Hadley, who was Truex's great friend.  Hadley had a number of his friend's drawings on display in both his Manhattan apartment as well as his Connecticut house, and he even included Truex's drawings on an Elle Décor-published list of the designer's favorite things.

If you wish to learn more about Truex and his drawings, then you must read Adam Lewis's wonderful biography of Truex, Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style.  And speaking of Lewis, he also owns a couple of Truex drawings, which you can see below.  And rounding out this brief list of Truex collectors is Christopher Spitzmiller, whose Truex drawing graces the foyer of his Manhattan apartment.  Look closely at the photos below, and you'll see that Truex drawings seem to get passed down amongst friends, which is really as it should be. 

Van Day Truex wash drawings in the home of Van Day Truex.

In the Manhattan apartment of Albert Hadley...

...and in his Connecticut home.

Albert Hadley even included the wash drawings on his list of favorite things.

Two Truex drawings in the Manhattan apartment of Adam Lewis.

A Truex drawing graces the foyer of Christopher Spitzmiller's New York apartment.

Images #1 and #2 from House Beautiful, February 2015, Thomas Loof photographer.  Truex apartment photos from Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style by Adam Lewis.  Photos of Hadley's Connecticut home from American Homestyle and Gardening, November 1999, Simon Watson photographer.  Photos of Adam Lewis and Christopher Spitzmiller's homes courtesy of New York Social Diary, Jeffrey Hirsch photographer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Versailles on a Small Scale

Look at many of today's formally-decorated, French-inflected houses, and you'll likely find that the inspiration for their interiors was Versailles. Yes, Louis XIV's palatial exercise in self-aggrandizement remains influential in interior design, something which has unfortunately produced a mixed-bag of results.  For any small-scale interpretation of Versailles to be successful, it must be reimagined with a modern sensibility.  Otherwise, it won't be very livable.

In the hands of a lesser designer, a Versailles-inspired home can be a flaming disaster. (You know what I'm talking about.) But, when such decorating is left to expert hands, the results can be delicious. Take, for example, the Paris pied-à-terre featured here. Decorated by Jacques Garcia, a designer of great skill, and furnished with antiques from star dealer Luc Bouveret, the apartment might be grand, but it could hardly be called imposing.

The homeowner, who, along with her husband, was based in New York, had long wished "to live in Versailles", a wish that Garcia worked hard to grant her.  Walls and windows are lavished with sumptuous silks and damasks, while a contrasting color palette (light tones for the living room and dark shades for the bedroom) creates a sense of both brightness and intimacy.  Although the antique furniture, which includes an Henri Wirtz marquetry games table and a rare desk with painted glass and silver-backed panels, is quite formal, it's not overwrought.  The furniture's mostly clean lines help to counterbalance the pattern that is found on both fabrics and rugs.  As Bouveret says of eighteenth-century French furniture, "There is a modernity to this furniture in its cleanness."

If only all Versailles-fueled decorating would produce such beautiful results.


All photos and text from House & Garden, October 2002; François Halard photographer.

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Exotic Fantasy

Bear with me as I give you the back-story to this blog post. A month or so ago, I read decorative arts historian Haydn Williams's fascinating new book, Turquerie, with the intention of reviewing it on my blog.  After I realized that the book had been featured in most shelter magazines, I decided that any review of mine would simply be redundant.  I encourage you, though, to get a copy of Turquerie and read it.  The book, which explores the 18th-century European fascination with Turkish culture and its influence on the decorative arts, is enthralling, but it's the text that makes it so.  The book's images, no matter how sumptuous they are, will only tell you a fraction of the story.

Shortly after reading Turquerie, I read Valentino: At the Emperor's Table.  That book, of course, is about the designer's passion for entertaining, table settings, and luxurious china, crystal, and flatware.  So, with Turkish fantasy and Valentino on the brain, I started to think about the designer's 1971 party (photos of which are seen here) that celebrated the opening of his New York boutique.  The party, which was held at The Pierre, was meant to be a "Scheherazade fantasy", according to the House & Garden article in which these photos appeared.  But once I read on, I realized that the party didn't totally stay true to its Persian roots.  (Scheherazade, of course, was the Persian Queen and storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights.)  The party also featured Indian furniture, "Oriental" prints, a Chinese buffet, and Turkish coffee.  The article even made reference to "Little Egypt".  It seems that the party's décor and food borrowed from a number of exotic lands and cultures, something which made it one big fantasy.  And if you read Turquerie, you'll learn that this creative approach to exoticism isn't new.  When it came to 18th-century exotic-themed art or décor, for example, it was often fantasy that trumped cultural accuracy.

Now you understand why I have been pondering Valentino's party at The Pierre, not to mention the event's elaborate decor .  I have to say that it looked like quite a party, if the first photo is any indication.  Valentino, Oscar and Françoise de la Renta, Barbra Streisand, and Nan Kempner seated together on one banquette. It doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Dash-ing Rugs

As much as I love the holidays, I can do without those "let's rehash the year in entertainment" segments on television and online. Honestly, I don't know how much more I can handle of George Clooney's wedding and anything having to do with Miley Cyrus. I think we should put both to rest.

Although I have no plans to write a year-end review of design, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the highlights of 2014: Bunny Williams's rug collection for Dash & Albert.  When I first saw the collection, I immediately thought of those snappy, modern-yet-rooted-in-tradition rugs that were used by Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley, and Angelo Donghia.  All three designers seemed to gravitate to rugs that offered a contemporary foundation for a room's furnishings and suffused the space with a relaxed American attitude.  The same can be said of Williams's rugs, I think.  They hark back to the not-so-distant past, when American design was really coming into its own, and yet, they still manage to look fresh and of the moment. 

Alongside images of the Bunny Williams for Dash & Albert collection, I have selected photographs of rooms by Baldwin, Hadley, Donghia, and one or two others.  As far as the rugs in these photos go, what looked good forty years ago still looks good today.  In fact, I wouldn't change a thing in most of these rooms.  It just goes to show that classic design never goes out of style. 


Clarence Indoor/Outdoor Rug

The New York City apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Harding Lawrence, which was decorated by Billy Baldwin.

Daisy Indoor/Outdoor Rug

An Albert Hadley-decorated show house room in Southampton, New York.

Elizabeth Green Indoor/Outdoor Rug

The Master Bedroom in the Southern California ranch of Mr. and Mrs. David H. Murdock.  The home was decorated by Mrs. Murdock.

Elizabeth Sand Indoor/Outdoor Rug

The living room of Oscar and Françoise de la Renta.

Cleo Blue Indoor/Outdoor Rug

A McMillen-decorated apartment in Manhattan.

Lucy Juniper Indoor/Outdoor rug

An entrance hall that was decorated by Angelo Donghia.

Annabelle Moss Indoor/Outdoor Rug

A Billy Baldwin-designed living room in the Manhattan apartment of clothing designer Mollie Parnis.

Marco Juniper Jute Soumak woven rug

The foyer of Mrs. Clive Runnell's Florida house, which was decorated by Billy Baldwin.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wishing You the Happiest of Holidays

As we go our separate ways for the holidays, I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.  A heartfelt "Thank You" for your support, your readership, and your friendship over this past year.  I look forward to seeing you again at the first of the new year. 

May the Joy and Peace of Christmas be with you now and throughout the new year.