Friday, June 21, 2013
A Chance To Learn From The Master
Let's end the week with a history lesson. Not just any old history lesson, but one given by the late educator and design historian, Stanley Barrows.
Featured in the September 1978 issue of House Beautiful (yes, I am obviously stuck on this issue,) the article was comprised of three different room vignettes, each of which captured the look of a different era in 20th century design history. There was the 1900: Turn-of-the-Century Opulence look, which can be seen above. Following that was the 1950: Mid-Century Comfort room. And after that, 1978: Contemporary Simplicity. The background for all three vignettes remained the same: the drawing room of an early 20th century Georgian Revival townhouse, which had classic moldings, an elegant fireplace, and dark glossy walls.
So why should we care about these room settings that were concocted in 1978? Because this is the closest most of us will ever get to being taught by the great Barrows, who counted Mario Buatta, Albert Hadley, Angelo Donghia, Thomas Britt, Edward Zajac, and many other great designers among his many students. Considering those designers' talents, I think we should listen up and pay attention to Mr. Barrows.
The caption for the Edwardian-era room above read: "The drawing room in Edwardian times was always ready to receive callers. A formal space for 'at home' afternoons and evenings, it was filled with art and accessories. This room has an atmosphere of flowery fantasy, enhanced by the exuberant use of massed plants and flowers. A rose-and-lilac patterned chintz from Brunschwig & Fils carries out the floral theme on seating and stiffened valances and curtains. Alfred Maurer's striking full-length portrait shows the taste for dramatic poses during this era. A conscious diversity of forms associated with early 20th-century rooms is combined with a feeling of coziness."
1950-Mid-Century Comfort: "By mid-century, few families could afford the servants needed to maintain the Edwardian style. Room design, like life styles, is simpler, with an emphasis on personal comfort and relaxation. The treatment by the second generation of inhabitants reveals a more limited use of pattern, contrasted with larger areas of non-patterned textures. The concern for comfort is reflected in heavier upholstered chairs and sofas. A less complicated, balloon shade window treatment shows the generally softer look associated with interior design in mid-20th-century America. As in the earlier example, a conscious contrast of the lighter values of the fabrics is played against extremely dark porphyry-colored walls. This makes a dramatic background for the light and dark silhouettes of the furnishings. This is a timeless room. Its traditional look is as acceptable today as it was 30 years ago."
1978-Contemporary Simplicity: "Today, while some people seek to fill their lives with reminders of the past, others strive to unencumber themselves of objects. Room designs are based around a select few, or even one great piece. The modern generation in this house has achieved a present-day atmosphere through the elimination of all earlier furnishings and the selection of recently designed seating. A subtly-colored dhurri rug adds a restrained note of fantasy to this 'less is more' setting."
Photos and text from House Beautiful, September 1978, Ralph Bogertman photographer.