Thursday, April 30, 2009

Orlando Diaz-Azcuy

Sometimes it's easy for the ennui to set in. You know, you see images of interiors and think "Been there, done that". Sometimes, you just want to be shown something new. Well, I found that in Diane Dorrans Saeks' upcoming book Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. Of course, Diaz-Azcuy is not a Johnny come lately. In fact, he has been in the design business for more than forty years. And while I was familiar with his name, I knew nothing about the Cuban born, San Francisco-based designer's work- until now.

I certainly wouldn't call Diaz-Azcuy's look traditional, but there is a luxuriousness to his interiors that appeals to this traditionalist. Some of his interiors are spare, some are edgy. But on the whole, they make me want to step outside of my comfort zone and try a little something new. I think that the rooms that appeal to me most, though, are the richly layered ones. There is one media room that had me swooning. Unfortunately, I can't show the image here, but trust me, it's to die for (think dark green silk walls, gold painted ceiling, and marbleized door frame).

I've long been a fan of Diane's books, so I had high hopes for her newest tome. Fortunately, the book did not disappoint. The author gives the reader great insight into Diaz-Azcuy's design process- both the nuts and bolts and the inspiration too. I love how she described Diaz-Azcuy's work as minimal but with a "touch of va-va-voom". Each chapter focuses on a specific project, including the designer's own homes, and there is also an interesting section titled "Talking Design", a conversation between the author and the designer. And the icing on the cake? Diaz-Azcuy has included a brief list of books that have inspired him. Beautiful images, a story well-written, AND a book list? What more could you ask for?

(Diane Dorrans Saeks is currently at work on her upcoming blog,
The Style Saloniste. Look for the official debut in the next few weeks. I'm confident that not only will it be well-written (would you expect anything less?), but supremely stylish as well!)

This tableau seems quite poetic. In fact, it's Diaz-Azcuy's Pacific Heights penthouse. (© David Duncan Livingston, reprinted from Orlando Diaz-Azcuy by Diane Dorrans Saeks, Rizzoli New York, 2009)

A closet cum media room. Definitely va-va-voom. (© Tim Street-Porter, reprinted from Orlando Diaz-Azcuy by Diane Dorrans Saeks, Rizzoli New York, 2009)

The lush outdoor terrace of one of Diaz-Azcuy's homes. (© Matthew Millman, reprinted from Orlando Diaz-Azcuy by Diane Dorrans Saeks, Rizzoli New York, 2009)

Image at top of Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, © Tim Street-Porter, reprinted from Orlando Diaz-Azcuy by Diane Dorrans Saeks, Rizzoli New York, 2009.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Want Everything In This Room!

I can't stop looking at this photo of antiques dealer Louis Bofferding's (former?) Manhattan living room that was featured in the 1996 book The Table. One reason of course is because the room is just so good looking- clean, uncluttered, airy, masculine, restrained, and immensely chic. What I also like about it is that there isn't a shred of mediocrity in this room. Each piece is magnificent on its own, but when mixed with other important pieces? Decorative Arts Heaven! Would you expect anything less from such an admired dealer?

When you start to dissect the room and study each piece, it's hard not to be impressed by the provenances. A 1950s Jansen table with blue steel legs. Fornasetti faux malachite plates. An iron elephant mounted on a red silk pedestal from Geoffrey Bennison (on table). A Louis XVI armchair with antique Chanel purple silk velvet. And barely visible in the far left hand corner, an iconic "Bird Table" by Meret Oppenheim, c. 1939. Yep, I swooned too. But rather than seeming ostentatious or even "full of it", the room- gold chip furniture and all- comes across as personal and well-thought out. It is truly the room of an erudite man who really knows his stuff!

This Royal Dining Table by Maison Jansen looks similar to that of Bofferding except for the legs which are black steel rather than blue. (Available at Todd Merrill Antiques)

Gold leafed Bird Table by Meret Oppenheim, available at Eccola. The listing on 1st dibs says this specific table is 21st century, so obviously this table is a much later version than that of Bofferding.

Bofferding's table was set with these Fornasetti plates. Also, you can get a better look at the Bennison piece.

A pair of Fornasetti gold and malachite plates, available at Gallery 25.

The pineapple on Bofferding's console appears to be tole. This pair of lamps from John Salibello Antiques have a similar look.

(Images of Bofferding's apartment from The Table, Diane von Furstenberg)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hall of Mirrors

And it's not the one at Versailles. Those clever guys at Downtown- David, Robert, Onik, and Carlos- as well as Elizabeth Dinkel and Kim Alexandriuk created a fabulous entrance hall (see above) at the recent Los Angeles Antiques Show. The array of mirrors included examples of Art Deco, Modernism, and French 20th century. Note too the trompe l'oeil painted walls. Wouldn't this be great to do at home in a hallway, an entry hall, or even on an outdoor terrace?

Downtown's booth included pieces by Arturo Pani, Jay Spectre, Line Vautrine, and Mito Block. David and Robert are always on the cusp of the next hot thing, so it's no wonder that everyone pays attention to what they display.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't Spare Me The Symmetry

One thing I notice about pre-1970 interiors is the rather rigid symmetry on and around fireplace mantels. I suppose that one reason for this is because rooms used to be more formal than those of today, and formality many times begets symmetry. The other explanation may have been the popularity of garnitures- porcelain or other decorative objects that were sold as a group and meant to be displayed together. Many of the garnitures I've seen are comprised of two identical objects plus one central object. I suppose garnitures have gone the way of period rooms- out of style. Still, they did make an impact.

Today, I still like a symmetrical grouping of objects on mantels and flanking fireplaces. There is something very calming and orderly about this fireplace-centric symmetry. That said, things do have to be loosened up a bit. Call me uptight, but I have to have bookend symmetry, meaning that the outermost objects on a mantel have to be identical and symmetrical. I then loosen things up by displaying unique items in between, placing them to the right or left of an imaginary central axis. Basically, the central objects are artfully off-kilter while the outermost objects serve as sentries. Heaven forbid if this formula is reversed and the symmetry is in the middle rather than the ends- that would truly send me into orbit!

So after that little explanation of what my symmetry sensitive mind can and cannot handle, I'm curious if you decorate your mantels using strict symmetry, relaxed symmetry, or absolutely none at all!

(All images are from Decoration (Vol II); the book goes to great lengths to explain the importance of symmetry.)

The composition at Petit Trianon, Versailles was as tight as a drum. According to the book, "The objects surrounding the centre piece are strictly aligned like soldiers on parade."

The drawing room at Château de la Lorie, where the symmetry was described as being "precise".

Château de la Verrière. Woah! There is a lot going on here. The author wrote, "A profusion of ornaments creates a fantastic display on Romantic mantelpieces. The little symmetry that remains is hardly perceptible: small objects are huddled together, merging with the background so that they become almost indistinguishable." Do you agree?

While I think there is too much stuff on the mantel, there is some symmetry here which I do find appealing- like those two candlesticks at both ends of the mantel. The off-center fireplace and the varied composition of paintings keeps things from being too rigid. (Room by J.P. Hagnauer)

Image at top: The drawing room of Charles de Beistegui. Major symmetry here...and yet, it looks fabulous.

(All images from Decoration (Vol II), Librairie Hachette, 1963)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Picnic on My Balcony

Have any of you caught the recent airings of Picnic on Turner Classics? I have, and it's one of those movies that sucks you in. If you're not familiar with it, the 1955 movie stars William Holden and Kim Novak as two people in a small Midwestern town who find themselves mighty attracted to one another. One of the most famous scenes in the movie- and one of the sexiest dance scenes of all time- is when Holden and Novak share a charged dance together during the town's Fourth of July celebration. Had I been a teenager back in '55, I know that I would have been on the floor after seeing that scene. Not out of shock mind you, but because I know that I would have been wishing that I could live out that scene in real life!! Even in 2009, this movie seems to have held up pretty well.

Every time I see this scene, I'm captivated by the music and the attraction between the two characters. But the other thing that gets me are those gorgeous lanterns that were strung along the dock of the river. Those colors! The shapes! The tassels! It's so beautiful that I find myself struggling to pay attention to the acting. I'm planning a party for my sister this summer, and I've decided to string a few on my balcony for some colorful illumination. Am I trying to recreate the Picnic scene? I don't know, but I'd sure be willing to try!

I like this accordion style lantern from Pearl River. Great color combo.

The upside is that these lanterns come with LED lights that flicker. But, they lack the interesting shape and pattern that those from Picnic had.

Nothing like the movie, but this reminds me of that great Clarence House print "Flowering Quince".

This silk lantern is a bit more along the lines of those in the movie. At $19 each, a little pricey, though.

And though I don't usually include You Tube videos on my blog, here is the scene that got everybody hot and bothered fifty years ago. Just try to ignore the fact that Holden wasn't the world's best dancer:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bunny's Making a Beeline for Atlanta

I won't be posting much this week as I'll be traveling, but I did want to let you Atlantans know about Bunny Williams' Beeline Home launch party this Friday, April 17 at Mrs. Howard. With Bunny and her fantastic furniture and accessories being present at the event, you know there will be quite a crowd. I hope to post photos of the furniture in place next week.

To see more of Beeline Home, visit their website and my post from a few months back.

(The event starts at 6pm. It is requested that all attendees RSVP at

Friday, April 10, 2009

Someone Else Who Is Rethinking Chintz

Remember my post last week about solid chintz? Well, Lulu deKwiatkowski has obviously been thinking about it too. Two new additions to the Lulu DK fabric line are Pierre and Ginger chintzed linens. The fabrics have a subtle sheen rather than the "shiny" finish of traditional chintz. I can't wait to see the fabrics in person because it seems like these fabrics are spiffy versions of linen. It might also be an option for those of you who are allergic to high sheen chintzes.

I had been thinking about upholstering two armchair seats in leather, but now I'm considering the chintzed linen. Have any of you seen it in person?

(Images at top: Ginger in Gold; Pierre in Fig)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

And Yet Another Mr. Hadley Opportunity

First, we had the opportunity to purchase books from Mr. Hadley's library, and now we can buy a bit of his creative process too! Gerald Bland will be exhibiting a selection of Mr. Hadley's sketches that were drawn throughout his career. This is really a wonderful opportunity to own a bit of America's design history.

And if you're not able to visit the exhibit, I would suggest reading
Albert Hadley: Drawings and the Design Process. It's a great book that provides insight into Mr. Hadley's vision.

(Gerald Bland is located at 1262 Madison Ave.)

In a Chinoiserie State of Mind

I certainly do not need any reminders that Chinoiserie is my favorite style. Still, I couldn't help but notice that it has been on my mind more often than usual. Just in the last week I've been thinking about these items:

My new black linen hand towels with a coral, Chinois monogram on them. I can't wait to use these at my next party. (Hand towels from Gramercy Fine Linen. This great linen shop is a block up the street from my home...meaning I will be getting into a lot of linen trouble.)

While flipping through a circa 1980 magazine, I found this old Tiffany ad. I wonder if they still produce this clock? If not, they really should.

I'm considering buying a copy of Cecil Beaton's Chinese Album, mainly for the dust jacket. And because what I just wrote makes me feel guilty, I will end up reading the book too.

And, I was checking out Charlotte Moss' "Virginia" AirEssence Diffuser. Why? Because her "Virginia" fragrance smells divine; I love the decanter with the Chinoiserie pagoda stopper on it; and, I think I'm the only person in the world who has not yet tried one of these stick diffuser systems!

Image at top: Dancing Figure Holding a Mask, part of a series designed by Jean-Baptiste Pillement, c. 1759. Image courtesy of The Getty.

Verde Home Earthday Sale

There is a great store here in Atlanta that made me change the way I felt about green design. Located at the Brickworks building, Verde Home sells furniture, rugs, and accessories that are environmentally friendly and good looking too. I think that's been one of my beefs with green design- sometimes the pieces just aren't very attractive. And that is why I was pleasantly surprised by the offerings at Verde. I think many of their rugs and upholstered pieces would work well in traditional homes. Oh, and they also sell gorgeous antiques, and that's green too.

Verde Home will be hosting their annual Earthday sale from April 18 to April 25. Discounts will be offered on upholstery, Tibetan rugs, lighting, and custom hardwood furniture. If you're reading this post and you'd like to hit the sale early, by all means do. Verde has offered readers the opportunity to take advantage of a one week presale from April 13-17. Go see what good green design is all about- and get a discount too!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Nymphenburg to the Rescue

I too would share Wallis' glee at visiting the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory in Munich. Wallis had a thing for porcelain (amongst, um, other things), and so do I. Why is porcelain perceived to be something old, fussy, and outdated?

I find it depressing that many of today's brides forgo the fine china and sterling flatware for something low maintenance. Well, whoever said life is easy? Isn't it nice to have special, exquisite things for which to care? And don't you behave a little differently, perhaps in a more civilized manner, when you're dining from formal china? It's the same thing in terms of your wardrobe. I find myself slouching when I'm dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, but when I make an effort and wear a dress or suit, I tend to stand more erect and mind my manners too!

One porcelain manufacturer that is attempting to keep porcelain relevant for today's society is Nymphenburg. With a history that dates back to the mid-18th century, Nymphenburg honors its past by manufacturing historical pieces that have been part of its collection for over two hundred years- perfect for those traditionalists. But they also are embracing modern design by engaging artists like Ted Muehling and Hella Jongerius to design more contemporary pieces. It's really the best of both worlds.

Lest you think that some of Nymphenburg's porcelain figures and accessories are too traditional, perhaps it's time to rethink them. I believe it's all about the environment in which you display the porcelain. I like the incongruous look of a very traditional piece of porcelain in a starkly modern room. And if you need further evidence, look to design guru Murray Moss. He displays all kinds of Nymphenburg porcelain amongst the more cutting edge wares at his eponymous Manhattan shop. Moss, and Nymphenburg, are making porcelain cool again.

Bavarian Lion paper weight, based on a design by Johann Peter Melchior, c. 1800.

Chinese group with vase, ivory glazed, design by Konrad Linck around 1770.

Egg vase in glazed coral red by Ted Muehling, 2000

The "Atlas" pattern is inspired by ikat weaving. Would it surprise you to learn that the pattern on this china was designed in the late 18th century?

Butterfly collection, plate sky; by Ted Muehling, 2000

Nymphenburg Sketches, Game series; Hella Jongerius, 2006

I'm now coveting Mare Nostrum fish service. The rococo shape was taken from Nymphenburg's Cumberland service of 1760, but the variation with the fish motif was added in 1928.

Bonbonniere Eye container, 2009

Hare in Cabbage, Luise Terletzki-Scherf, 1960. Not for everbody, but this figure made me smile.

Image at top: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, accompanied by Princess Hella of Bavaria, visited Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg in 1954. All images from the Nymphenburg website.