Friday, July 09, 2010

All That Glitters is Not Always Gold

I'm mesmerized by these Cecil Beaton photos, above. Of course, the costumes are really something else, especially that worn by Tilly Losch in the second photo. But what really fascinates me are those backdrops. The top photo (that's Beaton's sister, Baba) looks as though the subject is sitting in front of a wall covered in aluminum foil. And in the Losch photo, the background looks a little more liquidy. I can't quite tell what it is. And despite the fact that both photos are black and white, you can tell that the backdrops are reflective. I love it.

These photos started me on a roll looking for unusual uses of metallics. Of course, one of the most memorable "metallic moments" was Rose Cumming's use of metallic foil on her bedroom's walls. Eccentric, perhaps, but genius as well. And I always thought that the curtains were lamé, but I was wrong. According to Adam Lewis'
The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955 (from which I took this photo), the fabric was actually a silk like that used for saris:

Metallics seem to be a popular choice for tablecloths. Mai Hallingby chose quilted Mylar for her The Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook tablesetting. Very tongue in cheek-or at least I'm assuming. I do think, though, that you would have to wear your sunglasses and sunscreen should you be sitting at a Mylar covered table under the noontime sun.

Sirio Maccioni's tablesetting for Tiffany Taste included a gold lamé tablecloth. Now remember, this is fantasy. I'm not suggesting anyone run out and buy lamé. But...if you wanted to be cheeky and over the top, it could be fun.

If all of this metallic is a bit too obvious, there are other ways to add a little glimmer and shimmer to your rooms. Think polished sterling silver bowls or trays. A not so shiny metallic wallpaper. Gold or silver leafed frames. And let's not forget metallic fabrics. I love much so that I used a Celerie Kemble for Schumacher metallic fabric for my living and dining room curtains.

Glimmer by Schumacher

(Beaton photos taken from Beaton by James Danziger; Cumming photo from The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955 by Adam Lewis; Hallingby photo from Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook, The and Maccioni picture from Tiffany Taste)


  1. I had a gold lame cape made for halloween (don't it was large enough that I used it for my christmas tree skirt this past year and had so many comments on it. It was so pretty! The fabric store sells gold lame super cheaply so I think it would make for an inexpensive and really beautiful tablecloth! I may have to try that :-)

  2. I've always loved metallic fabrics!

  3. The Beaton photos reminded me that Andy Warhol covered the walls of the Factory in aluminum foil in the 60s. Actually, it turns out that Billy Name was the inspiration for and the one who "silvered" the Factory on East 47th St., which was referred to as the Silver Factory.

  4. Let's not forget tea paper covered walls and ceilings, Japanese gold and silver leafed screens, gold leafed frames against color saturated walls, silver plated fixtures of any kind. Mary

  5. You can achieve the look by using spray mount on a board and covering with mylar or foil, having a friend use a hair dryer on low and cool to insert some "bubbles" as you press the shiny material in place, capturing the air.

    As a boy, I had tropical fish and used to crinkle up and slightly smooth out the crinkled foil and apply it to the back of an aquarium, letting it "belly out from the back of the glass and securing it firmly along the edges. It makes a spectacular backdrop, full of interesting depth, reflections and light. You can try the same idea with an old mirror which has lost its silvering, but use silver leaf or silver tea paper.

    I must own that my former secretary used to say, "What is it with you guys and shiny things?!"; a joke that received play several times on "Will and Grace" Suffice to say, I know and love metallics, mirror and all those surfaces that shine, multiply and dematerialize the visual world.

  6. Tricky-but I like it.One room to add to your list is a Nicholas Haslam Dining room-His own in a previous apartment-silver metallics, Its in the Sheer Opulence book. He is one of the best. pgt

  7. John J Hanson6:10 PM

    Mona Bismarck had silver lame curtains in capri. I now have a silver lame canopy over my bed!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Metallic anything!!! I've always been a fan. When I was doing faux finishes, the copper metallics were always my favs. I wonder how you put metallic foil on the wall...hmmmm.

  9. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Those Cecil photos are beyond fantastic, and I am loving the metallics.

  10. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Glimmer - Celerie Kemble for Schumacher

  11. I am totally agreed with you such that all the shining things are not always stars. As all the things and the pictures are very self expressive.