Monday, February 04, 2013
Last Thursday, half of Atlanta- literally- turned out for Miles Redd's lecture. Looking at the packed pews of the Cathedral of St. Philip, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was Easter Sunday. Well, the talk was most interesting, and Miles was most charming. I think that I could have listened to him speak for an additional hour, especially considering that Miles packed his slide presentation with numerous photos of interiors and swells of yesteryear.
One memorable part of the talk was when he referenced the photo, above. As you can see, it's the dust jacket for the highly coveted book, Jansen Decoration. According to Miles, that photo shows the Jansen decorated dining room of designer Mary McFadden's grandmother. But connections aside, what struck Miles were those plaster palms, so much so that he chose to indulge his home's entry hall with plaster palms too:
If you look through Miles' book, The Big Book of Chic, you'll see a black and white photo of his entry hall where you can just barely make out the plaster palm to the right side and at the end of the hall.
Miles mentioned that the plaster palm trees of the Jansen Decoration photo reminded him of those at Spencer House. Now that he mentioned it, they do look similar to those at Spencer House, the magnificent 18th century London house built by John, First Earl Spencer. What makes the palm trees and fronds of Spencer House so spectacular is their lavish gilding, as you can see below.
I consulted my guide book to Spencer House, and it notes that The Palm Room was designed by architect John Vardy and was intended for use by gentlemen after retiring from dinner. (The ladies retreated upstairs to Lady Spencer's Room.) According to this guide, the design for the Spencer House Palm Room was based on the King's Bedchamber at Greenwich Palace, conceived by John Webb. Vardy's interpretation can also be seen in the c. 1755 drawing, above. One interesting tidbit about the palm motif with which I wasn't familiar is that the palm tree symbolized marital fertility.
Funny enough, just days before Miles' talk, I was reading through Biedermeier to Bauhaus, a wonderful book suggested to me by Quatorze, a very knowledgeable reader of this blog. Quatorze advised me not to let the book's rather dry title dissuade me from buying it. I am still going through the book, but so far it is very interesting. And one of the book's beautiful photos portrays yet another Palm Room, this one at Neues Schloss in Bayreuth, Germany. Don't you think it's beautiful:
This particular Palm Room dates to 1757. Here, carved and gilded palm trees stand alongside walnut veneer walls and a ceiling dotted with gold stucco dragons.
I am sure there are many more Palm Rooms in some of the great European palaces and houses, and if you are familiar with them, please tell me about them. I did find a few more photos of rooms in which palm trees- of the decorative kind, of course- play prominent roles.
The private dining room of the ocean liner Ile-de-France was decorated by Atelier Martine around 1927. The walls were decorated with some type of mural or, possibly, wood veneer or inlay. You can just make out the palm trees that appeared on the room's walls.
Here, an American room from 1938 captures the design trends of that time, from the Serge Roche-type plaster palm floor lamp to the zebra upholstery.
And finally, the Palm Room of Schloss St. Emmeram, the Bavarian estate of the Thurn und Taxis. The striking palm tree was inspired by Brighton Pavilion.
Miles Redd photos from The Big Book of Chic, Paul Costello photographer; Neues Schloss photo from Biedermeier to Bauhaus; Atelier Martine photo from The Decorative Twenties and the following photo from The Decorative Thirties, both by Martin Battersby. Thurn und Taxis photo from Private Splendor: Great Families at Home.