Friday, August 30, 2013
Many of the great decorators have partially credited their success to their Parsons education. And some have specifically referred to their time spent abroad in Europe, where they were enrolled in the Parsons study abroad program, as an education from which they continued to benefit throughout their careers. It seems that their intensive studies, which included touring and learning about the great European houses and palaces, provided inspiration for years to come.
Such was the case with the late designer, Joseph Braswell, who studied at Parsons as a young man. According to the Jan/Feb 1975 issue of Architectural Digest, Braswell was engaged by his long-time St. Louis clients, the Yalems, to create a space for their inveterate entertaining. Braswell, with the assistance of architect William Bernoudy, conceived of the idea to create a separate pavilion that adjoined the clients' house, one which would be in keeping in the main house's architectural style. But when the designer began to flesh out his vision for this party pavilion, he thought thought back to his Parsons-era visit to Sanssouci, the Potsdam, Germany summer palace of Frederick the Great. Said Braswell, "I had seen it on a tour of Europe when I was a student at the Parsons School of Design. I never forgot it or any of its details. Certainly this was my inspiration for the Yalem pavilion."
Other than a reference to the Yalem pavilion's carved and gilded palm trees, the article does not mention other interior references to Sanssouci. However, I wonder if the Chinese House, a garden pavilion located in Sanssouci Park, provided the most direct source of inspiration. You can see that both structures are more or less similar in shape, and the Chinese House is surrounded by those glorious gilded palm tree columns, which also make appearances in the Yalem pavilion.
I think that Braswell did a marvelous job updating the notion of a pleasure pavilion. The pavilion's interior is certainly elegant and a little grand, much in keeping with the spirit of Sanssouci, and yet, it's got spunk, too, thanks to those lacquered red walls and that vivid yellow upholstery. In fact, one could imagine a modern-day Frederick the Great, perhaps a bachelor host and bon vivant, holding court, so to speak, in such style and splendor.
You can see Braswell's work on the Yalem pavilion, above. I can only imagine the fabulous parties that were hosted in those rooms.
Two images of the Chinese House at Sanssouci.
Braswell photos from Architectural Digest, Jan/Feb 1975, Norman McGrath photographer. Chinese House photos from wikimedia.