Monday, July 27, 2015

Revisiting David Hicks Carpet

Around the time I started blogging, David Hicks's carpet designs were all the rage, just as they had been when first introduced decades ago.  Everywhere I looked, I saw hexagons, octagons, and the rest of Hicks's favored geometric shapes and patterns.  But because Mr. Hicks's designs were all anyone seemed to talk and blog about, I lost interest, choosing instead to focus on other topics that had not yet reached critical mass.

Almost ten years later, though, David Hicks carpet is back on my mind.  I was recently looking at photos of Hicks's later work, and I was reminded of the range of his carpet designs, many of which are no longer in production.  Take, for example, the carpet sample in the photo, seen above.  According to Suzanne Trocme's Influential Interiors, this Brussels weave carpet was produced by Avena carpets.  Like most of Hicks's floor-coverings, this carpet boasts a geometric pattern, but because it is small-scaled, it appears much less bold than some of his more famous designs .  The colorway is quite attractive, too.

Then take a look at the carpet in Hicks's Oxfordshire home, which can be seen in both the second and third photos, below.  This particular Hicks carpet possesses the verve for which the designer was so well-known, but its neutral tones help to tone down the swagger.  In fact, look how well the carpet works with those voluminous- and fetching- curtains. And speaking of fetching, what about that carpet in the blue bathroom, also seen below? Hicks originally created this carpet for the Prince of Wales, which explains the inclusion of the feather-motif within the overall octagonal pattern. If you look at the fifth photo, a scrapbook of David Hicks's carpet designs, you'll see a rendering of this Prince of Wales pattern, minus the feathers.

I've included a few additional photos that show other Hicksonian carpets and rugs, all of which I think are ripe for reissue.  To me, these examples have the flair and pizzazz that people still desire, but they're not quite as brazen as those designs that were all the rage almost a decade ago.

The Art of Reprotique

I recently learned of Reprotique, a line of art-inspired home accessories. Based in Virginia, Reprotique was founded by Susan Stanley Sprinkle, who specializes in reproduction 17th and 18th-century art. Sprinkle recently expanded her line to include, among other things, coasters, sconces, and light-switch plates, many of which incorporate images of centuries-old paintings and maps.  I'm especially taken with the shield sconce, seen above, which features a leaping stag, as well as the sets of hunting-themed coasters.  For something more modern, there are coasters emblazoned with patterns, such as blue agate or tortoise, as well as whimsically-shaped, clear acrylic sconces and switch plates, which allow wallpaper to show through.  And the great thing about this line is that it's all hand-made in Virginia.

For information, please visit the Reprotique website.

All images courtesy of Reprotique

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Work of Diamond Baratta

I was saddened by the recent news of designer William Diamond's death. With partner Anthony Baratta, Diamond founded Diamond Baratta, one of America's most dynamic, not to mention colorful, design firms. Known for their unabashed love of vibrant hues and bold pattern, Diamond Baratta produced work that was transformative- and not just in the decorative sense. Brimming with exuberance, a Diamond Baratta interior could also serve as a mood-enhancer, capable of uplifting one's spirits.

In honor of Diamond, I'm featuring a home that the design duo decorated in the early 2000s.  Located in New Jersey, the house contains an intriguing mix of Asian antiques, contemporary art, and English furniture, all of which the clients brought with them.  Armed with their clients' collections, and with the wife's favored pink-and-green palette in mind, Diamond Baratta managed to synthesize these diverse elements under one roof, doing so in their colorful, inimitable way.

All photos from House & Garden, October 2002, Jason Schmidt photographer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Winterthur's Chinese Parlor

Of the many images that I have filed away in my head, two images in particular have made the greatest impressions on me: those of the Chinese Parlor at Winterthur. Specifically, detail photos of the Chinese Parlor's magnificent Chinese paper mingling with damask furnishings.

Found for Henry Francis du Pont by Nancy McClelland, the parlor's superb Chinese paper needs no decorative assistance, but when photographed partnered with that yellow damask, camelback sofa, seen above, or those vivacious green damask curtains, below, the paper appears to brim with color and vibrancy.  And to the series I can now add a third image, which I recently found in American Elegance: Classic and Contemporary Menus from Celebrated Hosts and Hostesses: a table set for an imagined "Before the Theater" dinner, which was conceived by Mario Buatta.  Placed in the Chinese Parlor with a green damask sofa and chair providing seating, the setting seems to blur the line between decoration and reality.  It's as if this elegant dinner is but one of the paper's myriad scenes, playing out as Chinese figures merrily go about their business in the background.

By the way, if you're wondering why some photos show yellow damask while others capture green versions, it has to do with the seasons.  The room's curtains and slipcovers are changed out seasonally, with some seasons ushering in yellow damask or silk taffeta, while other seasons are heralded by the color green.

Image #1: House & Garden, October 2002, Simon Watson photographer; #2: House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration, 1960; #3: American Elegance.

Catesby Engravings at Auction

I know that a few of you collect Catesby engravings, which is why I want to bring an upcoming auction to your attention.  This Saturday, Case Antiques of Knoxville will be auctioning off a pair of my family's Catesby prints (see above) as well as a wonderful boxed set of Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and The Bahama Islands , which includes color plates and a bound catalogue. (It had been my plan to frame and hang many of the color plates from the boxed set, but sadly, I couldn't find the space in my home to do so.)

The auction takes place this Saturday, July 18 at 9 a.m. with live, phone, online, and absentee bidding possible.  For more information, please visit the Case Antiques website.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Crazy for Cartouches

While reading A Curious Friendship, I was reminded of Rex Whistler's proclivity for cartouches, which he incorporated into his murals, like those he painted for Brook House, above, as well as his myriad illustrations:

See what I mean? The man was mad for cartouches.

Best described as an ornamental frame, the cartouche has been a presence throughout time, from Egyptian hieroglyphics to Baroque architecture and Rococo-style furniture.  From an aesthetic standpoint, the cartouche, with its typically sinuous lines, might look fanciful, but it does seem to serve an important artistic purpose.  When an artist wishes to introduce text or a scene into, say, a drawing, the cartouche provides the artist with the decorative framework to do so, allowing the text or scene to be decoratively, and cohesively, incorporated into the overall work.  This concept is best illustrated in two different Brunschwig & Fils textiles, shown below.  Without their surrounding cartouches, the Chinoiserie scenes of Chinese Leopard Toile and the ocean-faring ships of Clipper Ships would likely look at odds with their surroundings.  But with their frames, these scenes get absorbed into the overall design while still maintaining their distinctive looks.

Gaming table, German, c. 1755-58

Screen by Jacques de Lajoüe, French, c. 1740

Cartouche Design by Jean-François Cuvilliés, 18th century.

Cartouches can be found in textile design, most memorably (to me) in Brunschwig & Fils' Chinese Leopard Toile and Clipper Ships.

The ballroom of Atlanta's Calhoun house has plasterwork topped by a cartouche-motif.

The appliqués on this Schiaparelli dress are reminiscent of cartouches.