Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evangeline Bruce Went Out On A Limb




I have wanted to feature the image at top for a while. And just this minute you're probably asking yourself "Just what in Sam Hill is that? " Well, it's Evangeline Bruce's attempt to prettify her television circa 1984. Some of you might have hives just looking at that floral chintz. And if you're like me, you might even think it looks like a turban wrapped around a TV. Still, there's something rather enchanting about it, in an eccentric sort of way. As the French say, it's jolie laide.

Here's the thing, though. I must admit that my opinion of Mrs. Bruce's taste- which I think was fabulous, by the way- might have tainted my judgement. Had this fabric festooned TV been in a not so grand environment, I really might have questioned the homeowner's taste and even his sanity! But the fact that this TV belonged to Mrs. Bruce somehow made it OK. (Not great, but amusing.) Perhaps I shouldn't admit that, but it's true. It's the same thing as flipping through a fashion magazine. You might see a dress or a jacket that looks so-so, but when you read the credits and see that it's Chanel or Balenciaga, it starts to look a lot better. Am I the only one guilty of this?

So, what's the point? I suppose that if you've got style in spades, if you're a rule breaker or an iconoclast, or if you've led a life of exemplary chicdom, then perhaps you can get away with doing some weird things- like chintzing up one's television.


John Fowler decorated the Bruce's London dining room. That jib door alone gave Mrs. Bruce license to later swaddle her TV.


The Bruce's drawing room by John Fowler. This shade of yellow has inspired many a room. Note too the oyster silk curtains, some of the most famous curtains ever made.


Mrs. Bruce bought this Gothic chair from Nancy Lancaster, who previously had it installed in her bedroom at Haseley Court. If you own chairs that are this fabulous, people won't care what you do to your television set!

(Image at top, courtesy Architectural Digest, 12/84; photos of the Bruce's London flat from John Fowler: Prince of Decorators; image of chair from House & Garden, 10/02, Eric Boman photographer)

24 comments:

  1. Definitely I'll look harder if its someone who's style I usually respect; and after looking twice, I still think the chintz wrapped TV looks terrible and very makeshift. John Fowler's curtains, however, are magnificent in that great room. Cathode ray television's are difficult to disguise. The best TV solution I've seen was built into a mantle/chimney(actually sunk into the wall) behind one way glass that looks like a mirror unless the set was turned on. The glass was framed, naturally. This was at my furnace repairman's house.

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  2. Balsamfir- I agree that the chintz wrapped TV looks odd. I certainly couldn't get away with that, but I guess Mrs. Bruce did as it was lauded in an AD article. Like the way your furnace repairman hid his TV- very clever!!

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  3. Dear Peak, I've asked myself that question many times
    and have decided that we do tend to give a wider berth to those icons of style than we would to lesser mortals who might be tempted to swath their little television sets in Old Rose chintz. That gesture would seem, paradoxically, to draw more attention to the TV!
    What Mrs Bruce would do about big screen plasma television sets is anyone's guess.

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  4. Even I, a Vangie Bruce fan from way back, have to say the TV swathing is horrible. Simply horrible. Then again, every idol has clay feet.

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  5. So funny! As I was sitting here reading this post I started to imagine a white plaster of paris version of the fabric, TV and plaster sitting on a white pedistal. Kind of Michael Taylor-ish.

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  6. OK. You have now solved many of my life problems for me. If I just find a really really famous chair and pool my life savings to buy it, no one will ever question my judgment again. So worth it.

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  7. An Hermes scarf would have worked better.

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  8. delightful- wonder what Fowler thought? Clients do things to rooms after designers leave that- for better or worse-"mark their territory." I find this quirky, humorous-We live in rooms without cameras, thank God.Do as you please.Great post- as always- G

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  9. Great post! I am very captivated by Evangeline Bruce and her amazing life. I wish someone would write a biography!

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  10. You have almost made me fall in love with yellow.

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  11. this last shot is too fabulous.

    love your taste !

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  12. Anonymous5:46 PM

    An absolute GENIUS of a find!!! The fact that you get it that it's not beautiful is just the point of your always insightful take on decor. Thank you for reminding us that something wrong can just be SO right!! Clearly
    Vangie a painfully unhappy over-stylish woman with a limited capacity for anything off or human had her moment of imperfection..... how sweet.

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  13. I've asked myself this question, too. Lately, I've been considering a related one - namely, what if enough people ooh and ahh over someone's so-so style, do I just buy in and agree that they're an icon? Some are not debatable... I dare someone to say Jackie O didn't have style oozing through her blood, but others just get talked up so much and, although they're certainly not slobs, I just can't see what all the fuss is over. I say call a spade a spade - a tacky tv get up in a style icon's home is still a tacky tv get up. But, they're probably still a style icon, too :)

    Fun post!

    Jacci

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  14. the tv scarf looks like a beautiful oldie but goodie from colefax and fowler - great idea to cover up the ugly box - i wonder what tv shows she watched in 1984

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  15. I love this post. Yes, as much as we fight it, we are a little prejudiced---but that yellow and those antiques, yum--with taste like that, maybe a TV with a babushka(sp?) made the rest of the house work..I loved seeing what Mrs. Bruce was reading. Thanks!

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  16. Anonymous11:56 PM

    Wow! What a wonderful post! Everything Vangie did was with wonderful chic style. I think the slightly imperfect effect of the TV wrapped in the Chinctz is perfect for that time and place and even now. TV's are a part of our lives. Happily not as much as they had been in the past. I am really looking forward to putting a big one up over my fire place in the county on the wall with no applogys. No chest at the end of the bed to hide it for me! Bravo with this awesome post!

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  17. Jennifer, brilliant post with many layers of ideas and provocation.
    Note: an Hermes scarf would have been too small, plus it's a crime to do that to an Hermes scarf.

    The time and era of the photo: don't forget that in the eighties and into the nineties, tvs were bulky and not attractive and for a top designer they were never a part of decor, always concealed and banished.
    Read this wild swathe of fabric as a way -- her attempt--to integrate the tv into a chic room, or at least to try to make it work. She was acknowledging at least and admitting that a tv was an important/essential part of a room, and the scarf was a try, to keep it out in the open but to make it look pretty.
    The result is a little odd, a bit charming, a tad eccentric. Like Evangeline.
    Bravo, Jennifer, for crediting the photography and publications where you found these photos. It adds so much to the enjoyment of your blog. Cheers.
    DIANE

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  18. Hmmm... maybe my mother-in-laws doiles on the tv aren't so bad afterall! If only she had the pedigree to get away with it!!!

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  19. Jennifer,

    As everyone has said, this is such a great topic! Some people seem to be granted "design immunity" just as diplomats receive immunity :)

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  20. S. Adler4:56 PM

    I just returned home after hearing Charlotte Moss give a wonderful presentation earlier today. She is now the owner of the wonderful gothic chairs -- there are two of them. It was so odd to see her slide/photo and hear her talk about the chairs and their provenance. I read many decorating books and was confused because I had a real deja vu moment and felt as if it had just been yesterday, that I had seen this chair. Well -- yes -- it had been yesterday that I had seen an image and read about their unique provenance -- it was here at the Peak of Chic!

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  21. Put that television in Grey Gardens, and you've got the Little Edie Beale television. It is a matter of perception.

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  22. Jennifer this is brilliant post on so many levels! Thanks for your ever wonderful posts and insight!
    Ronda

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  23. what I love the most is your frankness, it's refreshing!

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  24. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Thank you for remembering Mrs. Bruce. She was delightful, and person who had great style; and most memorably, she was an interesting person and genuinely interested in the experiences of others.

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