When I first saw photos of Gloria Vanderbilt's patchwork bedroom a few years ago, I did not know what to think. Oh, okay, I did know what to think- I thought it was rather unfortunate looking. That's blasphemy to many, I realize, but I'm just telling the truth. I really didn't get the concept of covering walls and ceiling in patchwork quilts.
And then last week, while I was reading Wendy Goodman's new book on G.V., The World of Gloria Vanderbilt (what a fun read), I started to rethink this room. In fact, thanks to Goodman's text, I developed an appreciation for the room's floor especially. G.V. painstakingly cut up old quilts to cover the floor in a collage of fabric pieces that were later varnished to a high shine. Now let's stop here to look closely at that floor:
The famous patchwork bedroom (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) with its lacquered floor. Horst P. Horst, photographer.
I get that patchwork isn't for everybody. Quite frankly, it's not for me either. But the idea of lacquering fabric? That's a concept I do get, and it's one that can look absolutely fetching. G.V.'s lacquered floor was inspired by one she had seen years earlier in the apartment of Juliana Force, the first director of the Whitney Museum, the museum founded by Vanderbilt's aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In Force's home, the floors were covered in a floral fabric that had been sealed with numerous coats of lacquer. A rather original idea, don't you think?
The apartment of Juliana Force as photographed by André Kertész.
Reading about G.V.'s lacquered bedroom floor reminded me of a Karl Springer table that I had recently seen on dealer Liz O'Brien's website. The c. 1970 table, seen below, is wrapped in a glazed batik fabric. Not only do I find the batik print charming, but the glazed finish seems to impart some spiffiness to the rather humble fabric.
While I honestly don't think that I'll ever do a lacquered fabric floor in my home (especially a patchwork one!), I can absolutely see one of Springer's glazed fabric pieces fitting in quite nicely. Do you?
A c. 1970s Karl Springer glazed batik low table, available at Liz O'Brien.
A pair of glazed batik Karl Springer tables that were sold a few years ago through Rago Arts & Auction Center.
A Karl Springer batik wrapped hanging console and mirror from the 1970s, available from Palumbo.
A Springer trunk with lacquered batik finish from Lobel Modern.
Another Springer table sold a few years back through Rago Arts & Auction, although this one has a far more graphic batik than the previous examples.
(Photos of Vanderbilt and Force homes courtesy of The World of Gloria Vanderbilt by Wendy Goodman.)