Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Breakfast in a Bird Cage


Lately, I've been dreaming of a breakfast room decorated to resemble the inside of a beautiful bird cage. Never mind that I don't have a breakfast room in my apartment, but it's a nice fantasy nonetheless. What brought on this notion is the photo, above, that shows a wallpaper border of birds, ribbons, and bird cages. Would you believe that this border dates to the late eighteenth century? Part of the collection of the V&A, this border is believed to be of British origin and was possibly intended for use in a music room.  (Brunschwig & Fils used to carry a reproduction of this border in their wallpaper collection, but I don't know if it has since been discontinued.)

For some reason, birds and breakfast rooms seem to go hand in hand, perhaps because birds' cheery songs often mark the dawn of each day.  One of the loveliest rooms in Atlanta is the Goodrum House's octagonal breakfast room, painted by artist Athos Menaboni to resemble a bird cage. You can see a photo of it below.  Wouldn't you love to take your morning Wheaties in such a pretty room?  Then there is the very elegant breakfast room at the late Marjorie Merriweather Post's estate, Hillwood, that reminds me of a gilded cage, one in which I wouldn't mind being trapped.

On the other hand, if birds seem too animated for early morning repasts, you could always festoon your breakfast room with painted flowers and trellis, another pleasant way to greet each day.  Although I doubt that I would take my breakfast room to such extremes, I do find designer David Barrett's morning glory room to be one of the most exuberantly decorated rooms in my recent memory. (See it towards the bottom of this post.)  I don't know if the vines were real or not, but I like to think that they were.  After all, that's part of the fantasy of such a fantastical room.

The bird cage breakfast room, painted by Athos Menaboni, at the Goodrum House, Atlanta. The house is currently undergoing a major restoration, one which should return the house to its former glory.



The Breakfast Room at Hillwood, the Washington D.C. estate of the late Marjorie Merriweather Post. Although the room is meant to evoke a winter garden, the domed ceiling makes it feel a little like a bird cage.




The book from which I found this photo only identifies it as a thirteenth-century Gothic room that had been decorated with Chinese paper.  An internet search for more info led me to Architect Design, who identified the house as Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, England.


I have admired the Duc de Talleyrand's dining room for years. I think it's so chic. Rather than painted or papered bird decoration, the birds here were porcelain.



The drawing room at Palazzo Colonna, Rome. Chinese paper covered the walls, while lattice and flowers were painted onto the ceiling.  That ceiling would look marvelous crowning a breakfast room, I think.


Allyn Cox painted this decorative bird-cage panel for the New York library of Mrs. James C. Rogerson. The panel served to protect the library's rare books from dust.


David Barrett created this dining pavilion in 1971. A morning glory strewn canopied bed-frame was placed over a small dining table. The fern print table skirt fabric was by Quadrille.


Although this trellis and butterfly mural appeared in the entrance hall of Maurice Moore-Betty's New York home, a similar mural would look great in a breakfast room, too. Moore-Betty, by the way, was a prominent cooking school teacher who taught out of his home.


24 comments:

  1. I love birds so i love this post!

    You might want to check out a new lamp from ROche Bobois - it is the birds lamp and quite fun!

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    1. I'm going to check it out right now. Thank you for telling me!

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  2. Love these rooms and style -interestingly enough the Hillwood house breakfast room was imported from her apartment in NYC ( I visit often as Hillwood is about 6 blocks from my apartment). I'm sure you could turn your dining room into a birdcage of sorts....
    Why the solid panels and not glass at Mrs. James C. Rogerson's library I wonder, to showcase her collection

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    1. Stefan, I wondered the same thing. An odd pastiche, but kind of charming, too!

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  3. You could have a set of breakfast dishes with birds and sunny place mats. As one who has kept canaries, when I think of bird cage decor I immediately think of floor coverings (newspaper!)

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    1. Good call! Come to think of it, my fine china has birds on it!

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  4. Don't know if this counts, but thanks to my 15 year old Welsh terrier, my dining room floor always looks like the bottom of a birdcage

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    1. Those of us who own or have owned dogs can certainly understand that, unfortunately!

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  5. How I adore birds + they are such architects! There nests are works of art. Great post! xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  6. We love the retro flavor of your photos! Our Serpentine Chest has hand painted birds and you can see it at NYDC.

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    1. That sounds lovely. I'm going to search for it online considering that I'm not near the NYDC. ;)

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  7. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Try a 'faux bamboo' paper, over the walls and ceiling, for the cage effect. Maybe Coles (of London) have something suitable or good old Sandersons? If don't have a dining room have a go in the Kitchen!

    Best HERTS (Not Diane Vreeland)

    PS My late mum was an artist, this was the sort of thing she was always up to!

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    1. Herts, My kitchen is in need of a redo, so bamboo or trellis wallpaper would be a nice change. If I were an artist like your late mother, I could paint it myself. Alas, I better rely on wallpaper.

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  8. There's a John Fowler connection with Grimpsthorpe Castle, as you probably know. He restored the tower
    room with Lady Ancaster (daughter of Nancy Astor). As Stefan's original post indicates, that was a spectacular
    house.

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    1. Toby, indeed it was a spectacular house. The bird room alone is priceless.

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  9. Oh my, what beautiful rooms! I'm especially fond of the room in Grimsthorpe Castle. It's so whimsical!

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    1. I know, it's beautiful and whimsical and exquisite! :)

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  10. Try this book:

    Biedermeier to Bauhaus [Hardcover]
    Sangl Sigrid (Author)

    Don't let the name fool you, it goes way back in stylistic time and has many, many fabulous photos, including treillage rooms and rooms done for the various German courts of the 18th century that have stucco palm trees, parrots, swallows, etc. molded onto the walls and ceilings, along with brackets for porcelain, etc. Fits right in with the spirit of this post. Enjoy!

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    1. Quatorze, a million thanks. I am not familiar with this book, but it sounds so interesting. I'm off to purchase a copy now. Wow! Thank you!

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    2. The title puts many people off and it went through two different dust jackets to attract buyers. The book itself, once opened, is amazing! I think that you will really enjoy it.

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  11. Just loved every bit of this, Jennifer, thank you. I, too, am crazy about a bird cage. I'm also going to hunt down Quatorze's book. I wouldn't be surprised if it is lurking in my archives somewhere...

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  12. I find this post very encouraging, because I'm in my studio right now designing a lattice + garden mural wallpaper! I'm glad to find I'm not the only one with the "bird cage" mural fantasy. Thanks for all the lovely and inspiring images.

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    1. Susan, Your mural wallpaper sounds lovely! I'll look for photos on your website sometime soon!

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