Monday, September 29, 2014

Two More Books for Your Consideration

Two fall book releases that I have highly anticipated are The Drawing Room: English Country House Decoration by British historian and writer, Jeremy Musson, and The Private Houses of France: Living with History by French writer Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery.  I collect books by both authors, and their latest efforts were well worth the wait.

As the title of Musson's book implies, The Drawing Room explores "one of the defining spaces of the English country house."  The author's introduction gives a concise history of this room, which evolved from the modest, early seventeenth-century "withdrawing" room to a space that, by the late seventeenth century, stood almost equal in importance to the dining room, thus earning the drawing room the sometimes expensive, usually well-appointed decor that defines these rooms today.  Musson has divided his book into chronological sections that trace the evolution of drawing room decor from the sixteenth century up to today, using numerous examples of well-known (and perhaps not so well-known) country house drawing rooms.  In the section devoted to the sixteenth- to eighteenth-century drawing room, expect to find photos of South Wraxall Manor, Kedleston Hall, and Broadlands.  Attingham Park and Renishaw Hall represent the elegant nineteenth-century drawing room, while the "opulence" of the later nineteenth-century can be seen in the rooms of Knebworth and Madresfield Court.  The drawing rooms of David Hicks, Detmar Blow, and Nancy Lancaster are prime examples of how tastemakers decorated and used these rooms during the twentieth century.  Finally, the book ends with a look at what the twenty-first-century drawing room looks like, specifically rooms decorated by Veere Grenney and Chester Jones.  (All of the country houses I have mentioned are but a fraction of the houses featured in Musson's book.)

As tempting as it might be ignore the text in favor of the book's beautiful photos by Paul Barker, don't.  Musson's brief but illuminating surveys of each drawing room are chock full of architectural history, social history, and descriptions of furnishings and decor, all of which tend to interest people like us.  And one more thing- Musson's book will make a nice companion to Mark Girouard's Life in the English Country House, a book that many of us own.

 The South Drawing Room at Althorp

The drawing room at Renishaw Hall, home of the Sitwells.

Deene Park 

The drawing room of Stanway House, with its pair of Thomas Chippendale Chinoiserie daybeds.

Veere Grenney's The Temple, whose drawing room is always a crowd pleaser.

Moving on to France.... I'm an ardent fan of author Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery, whose books give readers an insider's view of life in aristocratic French residences.  Although the concept of her latest book, Private Houses of France, is not markedly different from that of The Finest Houses of Paris or even The French Chateau, that's okay with me.  I never grow tired of looking at big, beautiful photos of sumptuously-appointed French homes.

De Nicolay-Mazery's latest endeavour profiles such private houses as Château d'Anet, Champchevrier, and the Paris apartment of Princesse G. There are also chapters on Hubert de Givenchy's Paris residence, Hôtel d'Orrouer, as well as Baron de Redé's first floor residence of Hôtel Lambert. (I believe that the book's photos of both residences have never before been published.)  Like Musson's work, the text in this book deals mostly with the history of each residence, although the author does delve into how the various aristocratic homeowners live in their luxurious abodes.  But it's the book's photos that might well send the reader into a reverie.  In addition to large, overall room shots, there are plenty of detail photos as well, which capture the personal details that say so much about a home.  Just take a look below:

The Paris residence of Hubert de Givenchy 

 A guest room at Château d'Anet

 The dining room in a hôtel particulier in the Marais

At Château d'Anet

*The Drawing Room is available via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and IndieBound. Private Houses of France also available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and IndieBound.

Photos from The Drawing Room by Jeremy Musson, copyright © Rizzoli Publishers 2014. Photos from Private Houses of Frances by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery, copyright © Flammarion Publishers 2014. Francis Hammond photographer.


  1. These look and sound like fabulous books Jennifer. I always love to see the detail shots over the large room spreads (maybe it is my eyes)

    The Arts by Karena

  2. No one does a beautiful drawing room filled with priceless pieces, but still comfortable, like the English! One can imagine sitting down for a drink or reading a book with a dog (a Cavalier!) on ones lap in nearly all of these lovely drawing rooms in England. A feast for the eye!

  3. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Now this is style, can't wait to purchase both books........Markham Roberts, not so much.

  4. Oh my goodness, look at these spaces! Beautiful! The staircase is stunning!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto Finishes

  5. I too instantly grabbed both of these publications and they are every bit as lovely as Jennifer says... What I particularly appreciate about both authors is that they really are authors, providing both historical background and personal anecdotes to bring the lovely photographs to life. Some details are unnecessary in Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery's book (frosted zinnias?), but it's a wonderful publication! The difference between the French and the English interiors is that the English ones are so much more comfortable. There are rarely squashy sofas on which to sprawl in a grand French interior, and much of the furniture is quite rigidly arranged. But both styles are exquisite in their way and there is much cross-pollination, as in my own design work. Notice that most grand English interiors also feature one or two French pieces (not vice versa, however!). We grudgingly defer to the French :-)