Friday, February 05, 2010

My Favorite Blue Room




I believe that most of us have blue on the brain. House Beautiful's current issue is dedicated to the color, which also makes an appearance on the cover of March's Elle Decor. That's certainly fine by me because I adore blue. I've got a blue living room, blue dining room, blue eyes, even blue champagne coupes. One of my very favorite blue rooms is one with which many of you are familiar: the London drawing room of the late Fleur Cowles.

Located at Albany, the room, originally a ballroom, dates back to 1780 when it was designed by the architect Sir William Chambers. From what I've read, the ceiling has ornate plasterwork which I imagine must be exquisite. For me though, it's all about that glorious shade of blue- descriptions range from sky blue to Wedgwood blue- which really intensifies the other colors in the room. The artwork, the potted geranium, even the mahogany library steps seem to perk up when placed against that blue. Really, it's no wonder that Cowles deemed her room "the most beautiful in London."

I don't know when this room was decorated (I can only assume it was many years ago), but to me this room is utterly timeless. It's comfortable, and yet it's also rather grand. Why don't we live and decorate this way anymore? It's such a shame, really, because this is the type of design that has staying power.

A few more tidbits. According to a 2003 New York Times article, Cowles and her husband often served dinner to their guests in this room. Dishes included deviled chicken and ice cream with caramel sauce. You see, the food was nothing fancy and yet people clamored to be invited to her home. We need to remember this next time we get stressed out about what to serve our guests.

And what I also learned while doing a little Fleur Cowles research this week is that she also designed china for Denby called Jardin de Fleurs. On a plate like this, I bet deviled chicken looked divine.


36 comments:

  1. Absolutely one of my favorite sites, Jennifer! Always inspirational and informative!
    Thanks for being so creative.
    Michele

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  2. This would be one of my favorite blue rooms, too. Town & Country did a profile of Cowles recently.

    And the plates? Delightful.

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  3. Jennifer, I have an old article written by Cowles about style/art, if you would like it.

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  4. P.S. Disagree about the deviled chicken - I got heartburn just reading the phrase! Lovely plate, though, with the auricula.

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  5. I adore blue as well (its even my oldest daughter's middle name). You are right, that room is timeless...a true classic.

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  6. Thank you Michele! You're very kind indeed.

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  7. Blue- Would love to see the article. I'll make sure not to serve you deviled chicken the next time you dine at my place.

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  9. This is a wonderfully classic blue room. But it still feels current in so many regards. For example this style of library steps have been reinterpreted in many furniture lines we all shop from today. And as I said before, atmosphere and conversation are the key elements. I'd be clamoring for an invitation too regardless of what was being served on those beautiful plates! Great post.

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  10. I really believe that very few people really like 'fancy' food. How much more fun to relax with friends with simple food, well prepared. No one feels anxiety over the preparation nor the unease over how to eat such a creation and the time lavished over it. Invite friends over for a meal in your prettiest room on your finest china, but please....not exotic fancy foods for me!

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  11. Check out a vintage copy of European Travel & Life, March 1989,
    pages 88-91 for the most elegant Ms. Cowles and her beautiful blue Wedgwood ceiling at Albany. Great detail!
    And, yes, she liked "simple" dining...a huge,hot pastrami sandwich in Kansas City was among her favorites...along with American Fig Newton's which I gifted her with on trips to London.
    An admired friend to the end.
    She's truly missed.

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  12. I am pretty excited about the abundance of blue that is popping up right now. This blue room, even decorated so long ago, does remain fresh. Several reasons come to mind. The lines of the furnishings are actually very clean (almost 'contemporary'). The art work plays a major role, too because the interplay between the red in the painting and the light blur of the walls is quite dynamic and bold. Finally there is a playfulness in the pediment motif bookcase, almost Michael Graves-esque. The combination of clean lines, a dash of bold and something to talk about will never get stale, even to a modernist like me :-)

    Thank you for bringing both the room and Ms. Fleur (what a name!) to my attention.

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  13. Beautiful. I love to try new dishes, however I do agree with Stefan, keep it simple and everyone will love what you've done!

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  14. Forgot to mention how much I love the Art and China Featured!

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  15. There are a couple of blogs featuring blue rooms today...and for good reason with a couple of magazines featuring blue in their current issue! I love blue rooms and especially like the one you featured! I can't wait to do a posting on my daughter's blue room...the right shade of blue is so feminine, but for some reason blue is often over looked for little girl's rooms.

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  16. LJ- The fact that she liked Fig Newtons makes me admire her that much more! What wonderful memories. Thank you.

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  17. I missed your posts so much!! Love the Blue Room!

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  18. I can see why it's your favorite!

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  19. Love your writing! I am also a fan of blue. I did my entire flat in Delhi, where I moved last year, in blue/white and everyone who visits loves it! There is something about blue.

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  20. Yes, I always wanted to say it: You can't know just HOW important and inspirational your splendid blog is to me. Thank you so much!

    Nora from Germany

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  21. Jennifer- your blogs are some of my favorites. Love the blue room---my favorite color. And, I've always thought Fleur Cowles seemed very intriguing. The china is gorgeous and I can almost taste the food!

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  22. Thank you all for the kind comments. They made my weekend :)

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  23. I, too, am delighted to see so much blue, but I it was not all that long ago I had to look high and low for the perfect dark blue couch since the budget would not permit custom. Enjoy your blog!

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  24. I so enjoyed the Town and Country article about her in this month's issue. She was an amazing woman. There is something so nice about a blue room, and I do like your sentiment about simple food when entertaining. Simple equals less stress, which equals a more enjoyable host! :)

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  25. This emerging interest in blue is really very interesting. Seems to me the general public is getting tired of the light rooms. I just did a post on a bedroom overhaul from all blue to neutral. Even though all comments were very positive on the new look I sensed many of them really preferred the old blue room! Thank you for another interesting and informative post...
    Nancy

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  26. i love a blue bedroom the most. for some reason i have a green one now and i'm just biding my time to change that!
    Joni

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  27. I love Fleur Cowles. Such an amazing person. I, too, long for life lived the way it used to be. I guess I'm just an old soul, but it seems this kind of refinement is something our society has lost. Makes me sad. Trying to keep some of it going within my own walls. Yes, we eat with cloth napkins, real silver & a set table every night. Nothing fancy but at least we can do that.

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  28. I painted my bedroom a pale blue, keeping the ceiling white. It's so peaceful.

    I am thinking of painting my guestroom blue too.

    I need to grab this mag! Thank you for the alert!

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  29. OK. Enough already!
    First I get my March Elle Decor with an uncharacteristic traditional Navy Blue Library.
    Then Joni at Cote de Texas does a blog on Blue and White striped rugs. Then you do this blog on Fluer Coles' Blue Drawing Room.
    And then I get my March House Beautiful, and it is "All About Blue"!
    What is this? A plot? A conspiracy?
    I am afraid that I do not have any blue in my house. What do I do??

    PS. But I am the proud owner of all of the original issues of Fleur Cowles'Flair magazine! They are inherited from my Aunt.

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  30. WM- You better lock those copies of Flair up b/c you're going to have design groupies descend upon you like locusts! Lucky you! Yes, it's a blue conspiracy.

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  31. Love the blue story! I shared your story in our post today on madebyhickorychair.com!

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  32. ann pyne10:17 AM

    Ann Pyne, McMillen. Jennifer, I have some plates from 1870's designed for Minton by William S. Coleman, an important aesthetic period artist. I will e mail you pix. maybe that's where the inspiration for the Denby plates came from. See what you think...

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  33. Anonymous1:29 AM

    I bought a service for 8 of this china on Ebay in 2007. Have never seen it previously or since. Must have been sold originally at Gumps in San Francisco as it contains felt seperators with their name on it.

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  34. LOVE LOVE LOVE!

    I actually knew Fleur Cowles. I was such a fan; when I was about 25 she was in Los Angeles to plan for a benefit at the Museum. I introduced myself to her at a little reception at I. Magnin (another loss!) and she asked me to be on the "COMMITTEE" Good Lord!
    The most "important women" in Los Angeles were on that committee! (by "important"; I mean it in the "old way". The women who made enormous contributions to the community and cultural life in Los Angeles. It isn't like that any more!)

    She always loved young people. What a wonderful experience I had!

    I am now lucky enough to own 3 of her original paintings......thanks to ebay.

    Hunting for the china right now!

    I could move into that blue room with my toothbrush; and not change a thing!

    I did have all of her magazines.........(from my mother) ; but they burned when our house burned down in 1982. Thank God she republished them in one volume.

    That was a brilliant, charming, loving, warm and encouraging woman. She had a long and rich and exciting life!

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  35. I actually have a full serving for 8 of these plates, teacups, saucers, etc... Never use them though. I'm too afraid they would scratch if you did so they instead display in a hutch. I've never seen them listed anywhere for sale again.

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