Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Modern Venetian Style

I watched the movie Top Hat on Turner Classics the other night for what has to be the twentieth time.  Of all of the Fred and Ginger movies, this one has to be my favorite for two reasons.  First, there is that silly little Irving Berlin song, The Piccolino, with its catchy lyrics like "Dance with your bambino, To the strains of the catchy Piccolino, Drink your glass of vino, and when you've had your plate of Scallopino..."  (I swear, that song will get stuck in your head for days.)  And the other reason that I adore this movie is its fantasy Venetian setting with fanciful gondolas floating in glamorous canals, topped by bright white gingerbread bridges.  Yes, there is something about Venice that seems to inspire over the top, theatrical decor.

Take, for example, this Manhattan dining, which was in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Parry Kennard.  According to the 1934 House & Garden issue in which it was featured, the dining room, which had white walls and ceiling and a black and white linoleum floor, was decorated in the "modern Venetian" style. (No mention was made of the room's designer.)  So, what made it Venetian?  Well, a mirror-topped table, mirrored panels above each window, and a Venetian mirror all lent a shimmery note to the room.  Venetian glass sculptural pieces dotted the space, perhaps intended as a note of authenticity.  And the room's doors were supposedly Venetian, too.  They were painted brown with gold monograms and were fitted with old, wavy mirror.

But my favorite decoration in the room has to be its dado, which was painted with architectural motifs.  This touch of pastiche looks like it came straight out of the Venice featured in Top Hat.  I don't know if it's modern or if it's Venetian, but it looks like just the room in which to drink your vino and eat your Scallopino.


  1. Love the built-in servers/sideboards. They are pleasingly shallow, which is perfect for a space-challenged flat and it gives useful serving/decorative surface.

  2. one hope this room survives to some extent -it's fabulous! How funny, I too watched the movie on TMC the other night (and my grandma too, we talked about it over the phone). It's always been my favorite Astaire movie.

  3. Could it have been a room by McMillan & Co? Those Directoire pilasters evoke the ones in Mrs Brown's famous oval dining room, no?
    In any case, the Kennard dining room was plainly the work of an architectural designer. Very impressive!
    (I too watched Top Hat and thought of Ms Peak)

  4. Venice as interpreted by Hollywood, so wonderful. I love the songs too. Have an album of Fred Astaire singing the songs from his movies.