One of the things that I love most about old magazines is that they are full of surprises. You might discover the work of a "new" decorator with whom you are not familiar. Perhaps you might find photos of your favorite fashion icon's home. Or maybe, you'll come across an old project done by a friend, a project that you have never seen before. That's precisely what happened to me last week. Imagine my delight when I saw the December 1990 issue of House & Garden, only to discover that my friend Ned Marshall's project was not only featured in the magazine but on the cover too.
Now based in New Orleans, Ned is a wonderful designer who once lived in New York. Some of you are probably familiar with Ned's New Orleans house that appeared in House Beautiful, March 2009. The design blogosphere lit up over his deft use of bold colors like ultramarine and shocking pink. Just in case you don't remember it, click here to see the article; it's definitely worth revisiting.
But let's go back to the 1990 H&G article. The featured project was an impressive Park Avenue duplex owned by Ned's longtime friends. The decor is somewhat formal and entirely appropriate for the clients' collection of fine antiques. And yet, if you look at the rooms, they appear to be quite comfortable too. It seems that the homeowners' dog agreed as he was photographed in almost every room looking quite content.
What I think is really interesting to note is the attention that Ned gave to the decorative details. Look at those curtains in the dining room, below; that took skill to both design them and to construct them. I know that elaborate curtains have fallen out of favor with today's designers and clients, and that's really a shame because there is a real art to curtain making. Ned also had the dining room's metallic paper glazed to make it less shiny. When interviewed for the article, Ned commented that it could use another coat of glaze to make it look aged. And what about the photo which shows an Adam-style faux marbre painted floor, a door frame painted with an Vitruvian wave motif, and a trompe l'oeil painting of a cow above the door? This type of decorating took time, energy, and loads of creativity; a quickie job this was not.
Now I do realize that much has changed in twenty one years, and formal living isn't quite so formal anymore. If you look at Ned's New Orleans house, you'll see that Ned's style of decorating has kept up with the times; his look is classic and yet current too. But what struck me while reading both articles is that regardless of one's style or desire for comfort, all rooms greatly benefit from thoughtful details.
All images from House & Garden, December 1990; William Waldron photographer.