Monday, June 30, 2008

Lee's Timeless Design




It goes without saying that many people have long been fascinated with Jackie Onassis- no surprise there. But Jackie's sister Lee Radziwill is also a style icon, albeit one who still stands in the shadow of her more famous sister. Certainly Radziwill is known for her keen fashion sense, but she seems to be quite confident in how she chooses to live (I'm talking about the actual interiors of her homes- NOT her personal life!) .

Through the years, her homes seemed to reflect the zeitgeist of interior design. Remember her wonderful Renzo Mongiardino designed drawing room from the 1960s? That said, her interiors have also had a classic quality to them. Many photos of her homes are hard to date which to me is the ultimate compliment.

I've found some images of both her country home in England as well as her Fifth Avenue apartment. Radziwill was a decorator for a time, so I believe she was responsible for her New York interiors. I'm not sure who decorated her English country house- possibly Renzo Mongiardino? If anyone can clarify, please do so!



The dining room of Radziwill's country house Turville Grange c. 1971. The walls were covered in Sicilian scarves that had been lacquered. Painted panels were superimposed over the scarves. If this was not designed by Mongiardino, it certainly looks it. (Photographer Horst P. Horst)


The garden room of Turville Grange certainly had an English country house feel, but some of the furniture gave it a modern twist. (Horst, photographer)


The front hall at Turville Grange, again c. 1971 (Horst, photographer)


The dining room of Radziwill's Fifth Avenue apartment, c. mid-1970s. The walls were covered in silk moire. Don't you think the Regency dining chairs and pedestal table are stunning?


I think this is one of my favorite rooms in Radziwill's New York apartment. The walls of the library were covered in blue-gray fabric, which was also used for the curtains. You can't really see any delineation between the window treatments and the walls.


The drawing room was also a vision in red.

Image above: That famous photograph of Radziwill and her daughter in their Mongiardino designed drawing room.

39 comments:

  1. The garden room is fabulous -- they are all wonderful. A while back I posted Mark Hampton's illustration of her country bedroom. I think it was a Mongiardino collaboration -- I'll go back and check :)

    Great post.

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  2. Yep, the book I have says Renzo. And it's wall-to-wall pattern :)

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  3. Thanks Courtney! It definitely had that Mongiardino look, so thank you for confirming this!

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  4. I just read a bio of her. But I don't remember. Good thing Courtney's on the job!

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  5. Long, long ago I visited, very briefly, the apartment with red dining room -- thanks for the photos, what a flashback! Still green from California, it was the first time I ever saw fingernail polish red upholstered walls trimmed with gimp but when I looked at the photo I thought "where's the leopard?" Funny that so many years later I remember the leopard upholstery most.

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  6. atticed- How lucky you were! Isn't it funny the things we remember? Was the apartment as chic in person as it is in photos?

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  7. Jennifer - one of her homes was in the AD Celebrity Homes that I put in the basket for the DIFFA auction. Now I'm regretting my altruism! The dining room is a dream.

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  8. Anonymous10:35 AM

    I would very happily live in that NYC apartment today. The image of that red dining room has stuck with me for years.

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  9. Patricia- Yes, it's the same NY apartment. You're much more noble than I- I can't give away books!

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  10. Anon- Me too! It seems like that red dining room has inspired a lot of people- understandably!

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  11. Anonymous11:30 AM

    The dining room at Turville Grange, as well as the drawing room, were by Renzo Mongiardino and his frequent collaborator Lila di Nobili.

    Here is the story of those rooms, via The New York Times, which published LR's Paris apartment in 2000:

    For the Radziwills' small Georgian brick house near Buckingham Palace, Mongiardino designed an Orientalist fantasy living room paneled and bordered with block-printed Indian paisleys. The dining room walls were covered in faux Cordoba leather left over from a Zeffirelli opera production. For Turville Grange, the Radziwills' Queen Anne-style house near Henley, he completely reinvented the simple, not overly large country house.

    ''The most wonderful room was the dining room,'' Radziwill says. ''On the walls, Mongiardino applied Sicilian scarves printed with flowers on a background of blue. Then, over the scarves, his friend Lila de Nobili painted more flowers and, in oval shapes, portraits of Christina and her favorite animals, which included a lot of birds, and for Anthony's portrait there were dogs and horses. It sounds cute, but it wasn't. It had lots of atmosphere. I don't like dining rooms. I think they have too much structure and are too formal. I thought this was magical. Lila de Nobili thought the room had a very Turgenev feeling.''

    Mongiardino died in 1998. Lila de Nobili now lives in Paris, where she ''teaches underprivileged children how to paint,'' Radziwill says. ''She's a wonderful, eccentric lady, not unlike my aunt who had millions of cats and lived very much as an original in East Hampton.''

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  12. Turville Grange, located in the village of Turville Heath, later was owned by Henry Ford 2nd, the American automotive titan (its Ford contents were sold through Sotheby's London in 1988). And the gardens of Turville Grange were done in 1969 for the Radziwills by Lanning Roper.

    Here is a picture of Jackie Onassis at Turville Grange, Christmas morning, 1970, opening a present that is a drawing of her first husband: http://www.photos12-vintage.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=214&products_id=60553

    The house is described by Nikolaus Pevsner as:

    TURVILLE GRANGE, facing the E side of the Heath, is an early C18 doublepile house of vitreous and red brick, five bays and two storeys. To this Walter Tapper added a parallel rear wing after 1904 when Julia Stonor, wife of the Marquis d'Hautpoul, bought the estate. Lionel Brett re-Georgianized the house for his father, Lord Esher, in the 1950s, with pedimented dormers and a heavy bolection-moulded, segmental pedimented door surround. He added the single-storey bays flanking the entrance front and the Tuscan loggia (E). Wrought iron GATES of c. 1906-8, given by Queen Alexandra who often visited the d'Hautpouls.

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  13. To my mind she's always been the epitome of chic.
    Those houses and apartments were very much ahead of their time.
    One wonders what her surroundings look like nowadays. Has anything been published of late?

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  14. Anon and Aesthete- This is very helpful, so thank you. And thank goodness for knowledgeable readers!

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  15. Toby- Not that I'm aware of. Is she now based in Paris?

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  16. Ms. Radziwill has always been a woman of great style. After I finished the article I immediately ran to my file cabinet to dig up more recent articles on her Paris apartment, which a previous commentator referenced. For anyone interested in her newer - very elegant but spare style the article referenced by the previous commentator was written by William Norwich and appeared in the Sunday, October 22, 2000 issue of the New York Times Magazine. There was also an article by Hamish Bowles in Vogue, August 2003, though this has far fewer photos of the apartment. One can't help but be struck by the contrast in styles from her look in the 1960s and 1970s to present day. It's interesting to see how all of our tastes have evolved over the years.

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  17. 1. NYTimes Magazine had photos of the spartan but still chic Paris Apt a few years ago, simple Liagre upolstery ala the Mercer Hotel...

    2. Saw a photo with the exact same animal print sofa in Lee's son's NYC apartment a few years ago... amazing that it lasted the 40 years, without being recovered.

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  18. Anonymous1:33 PM

    That New York Times article says she goes back and forth between Paris and New York.

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  19. Anonymous1:34 PM

    What are the starbursts hanging on the walls of the NYC living room?

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  20. Wow! You all are a fountain of information. This is fantastic, and I obviously have some reading/research to do!

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  21. Anon- They are a collection of portraits that have been placed in starburst frames. Neat, huh?

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  22. I envy you all for being so up on all of this!!!! I thought I was knowledgeable..but my gosh, you are all so on the ball!!

    Great post, divine rooms!!!

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  23. I'm with you Poppy! I'm getting left behind in the dust. This is a wealth of information :)

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  24. Anonymous3:23 PM

    I just read an article from 1976 in the "New York Times" about Lee becoming a decorator. She definitely decorated the New York apartment herself. Her new firm was a one-woman show and operated out of her Upper East Side duplex. Her clients included the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour, Florida, and the El Presidente Hotel in Acapulco. The New York apartment was published in Arch Digest. She did a model dining room for Lord & Taylor, but said, "I detest dining rooms, but you have to eat somewhere, so I decided to do a dining room-living room, with a big round table in one corner." The Times described the New York apartment as "a sea of staunchly elegant French and English period pieces, with acres of fabric—pale red taffeta moiré, gray-blue velvet and ribbed raspberry velvet all over the walls; floral expanses of carpets on the darkly gleaming floors, and paintings ranging from scenes of boarhunting in India to an imposing Francis Bacon ..." And she described her decorating philosophy as "Light, comfort, the charm of personally collected objects; fireplaces, going night and day, if at all possible ... and whatever colors and styles of furniture you are happiest living with." Sound like a good philosophy to me!

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  25. Anon- That is a good philosophy, especially the part about choosing "colors and styles of furniture you are happiest living with." I wonder why her decorating career did not last longer than it did.

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  26. beautiful pics. such incredible taste. i especially love the library.

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  27. Peak... I think like a lot of people, Lee got bored with the details of running a viable business. The book I read talked about how she didn't really have a sense of economy, and while the hotel rooms she decorated were beautiful, they were not practical for the daily grind of hotel living.

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  28. I loved this, and all the comments. What really sets this apart is that there are some good period antiques here. In the dining room the three light hanging fixture is tole(painted metal)the three cylinders would have held oil: this was an oil lamp of the Directoire period. The table is indeed regency,English about 1810, with tripod dolphin carved supports with a mahogany top. This was originally a center table, but converted cleverly for dining here. the ebonized Regency chairs are indeed smashing, with carved dolphin supports and pied de biche feet. I suspect the sideboard is also first quarter 19th century. The epergne on the table is incedible, fire gilt bronze...it appears to be supporting numerous glass vessels.
    The drawing room's mantle appears to be period, Neoclassic. Check out the bergere to the left in the quilted silk velvet. Is the bust on the mantle Roman?
    Thanks so much for showing these rooms!

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  29. This was an absolute treasure trove of information. I always thought Lee had the most taste. Jackie actually detested redecorating and people who did so often. Even back to the time that the Kennedys were in the White House, Lee had the most style, innate style. What the two sisters shared was an almost encyclopedic knowledge of history, literature and the arts.

    If you will get LR's book, Happy Times, I think you will see that Jackie seemed so much at ease in Lee's home. She looked normal, relaxed.

    I am trying to remember in the last photo. Is that a bust of Anthony Radziwill? If not it surely must have influenced her, as it favors him.

    Also see LR's (Montauk?) beach house. Very contemporary but impressive.
    She consorted with Andy Warhol, and a very young Jed Johnson, the great designer who perished in TWA 800.

    This was a great post, Chic!

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  30. Philip- I think you're going to become my antiques consultant!

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  31. Anonymous8:34 AM

    The tiger-stripe sofa in the New York living room is a bit Versace.

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  32. Halcyon- I think I do need to read "Happy Times". I also agree with you about Lee being the more stylish of the two sisters. I will see what I can find out about the bust.

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  33. Her country home has long been a favorite of mine. I would be a fool to try to add anything substantial to the comments, ha! but what a history lesson here. Just wonderful. This is what blogging should be.

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  34. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Hi,
    I've been a fan of Lee's decor for quite a long time. It's been great to find all those photos I'd never seen before. I hope someone could post some more. Meanwhile, I leave you some pictures of Lee's Paris apartment taken for The New York Times early 2000. You'll see she has clearly evolved to a more stark and bare style, although I read in a 2001 Tatler interview that her apartment was all done in black and white, so the photos I post here may not be her current style.
    Here she chose her furniture from Christian Liagre and Conran. Pictures by François Dischinger

    http://www.megaupload.com/?d=HZUG2824

    Vanina

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  35. Vanina- It seems as if Lee keeps up with the times in terms of her interiors. Thank you for this link- I'm going to check out the images right now.

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  36. Anonymous6:21 PM

    I hope you like the pictures. I know US Vogue featured a story on Lee's style in the August 2003 issue.
    I love Lee's taste in decorations as much as in clothes. Do you have any other pics of Lee? They're so hard to find.
    Thank you,

    Vanina

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  37. Hi, I came across your blog whilst researching my family tree.
    My gt gt gt uncle was Head Gardener at Turvill Grange C1900 , you don't have any info on the gardens or any links to where I could find out some more about the house?
    Thanks
    Kevin

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  38. Kevin, I'm afraid that I don't. Maybe a Google search might come up with something??

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  39. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Courtney--My favorite image of Lee is the one taken on Capri--ca.1970--Jackie and Lee are traipsing barefoot through the narrow cobblestone streets with the designer Valentino pulling up the rear--its a photo that shrieks: What a Good Life I have!

    I also love the photos of Jackie Lee, the Prince, Caroline and Lee's kids relaxing at Ravello Italy--this would be the summer of 1962--Jackie and Lee both have exquisite cheek bones--like portrait busts of noble women from the First Empire--totally Napoleanic.

    I think Jackie was a great student of style--she understood it intellectually but for Lee Style was deeply embedded in her DNA--she was stylish to the core--effortlessly while Jackie had to learn style from Bunny Mellon, Jayne Wrightsman, et al.

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