Tuesday, January 26, 2016
I'm too young to feel so out of touch with the times, but nevertheless, I do. So many things leave me asking, "Why?" Take, for example, the new Chelsea Handler show on Netflix. Why do I want to see Chelsea Handler do drugs and promptly get sick in a bucket? And why did Kate Hudson feel the need to Instagram a photo of herself, bare-bottomed and in a bubble bath, in an effort to make her boy toy, Nick Jonas, jealous? Perhaps the question I ought to be asking myself is, "Why am I spending so much time reading about this trash on the Daily Mail?"
And after reading last week's New York Times article, "The Art of Home Staging", I felt even more out of touch than before. If you haven't yet read it, I highly recommend doing so, because the piece confirms what most of us already knew- that flair and individuality, those once-lauded virtues in the world of interiors, have become real deal-killers when it comes to the buying and selling of residential real estate. The way to sell your home quickly and for more money? Hire a home stager to banish the old and bring in the new- and banal.
Before I go on, I should mention that I'm all for doing what is necessary to sell one's home. If staging means more traffic and more offers, then by all means, do it. What I find troubling is not home staging itself, but rather the innocuous décor that buyers seem to prefer. If what real estate agents and home stagers say is true, home buyers want to see white walls, plain-jane curtains, contemporary furniture, and a live-edge coffee table. Do these buyers not realize that the furniture moves away after closing? And is it really that difficult for people to see past a home's paint and wallpaper, furniture, fabrics, and- heaven forbid- antiques in order to assess a home's bones?
What really struck me is that one of the article's examples of a successfully staged apartment was that of designer Jean-Paul Beaujard. His New York City home was featured in Architectural Digest about five years ago, and I was so taken with the interiors that I actually wrote about it on my blog in 2011. But, sadly, such interiors don't sell homes these days, so the apartment's listing agents at Corcoran suggested bringing in a home stager. All of Beaujard's beautiful furniture was sent away to storage, while contemporary furniture and plain white fabrics were brought in. (Oh, and the walls were painted white, of course.) Beaujard was quoted as saying, "It's the complete opposite of what I like," but admitted that, "now, you see the proportions of the apartment better. Even I was surprised." The staging worked, because the designer recently accepted an offer on his apartment.
While I find traditional decor's lack of broad appeal to be depressing, I did take heart in readers' comments. It seems that many of them, like me, preferred the pre-staged version of Beaujard's apartment, while others bemoaned home buyers' lack of imagination. So with that in mind, I'm once again showing the "before" of Beaujard's apartment. If you'd like to see how it looked after being staged, please click here to visit the Corcoran listing.
All photos from Architectural Digest, Miguel Flores-Vianna photographer.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
About eight or nine years ago, I had the opportunity, thanks to a friend, to meet privately with Albert Hadley. Because our meeting was one of those "pinch-me" moments (at least, it was for me,) much of what we discussed is a blur. But Mr. Hadley made one comment that I will never forget. He said that today's magazines feature too few illustrations. His comment struck a chord with me, because I'm an avid fan of illustrations, especially those of interiors. When executed by a deft hand, interior illustrations can convey a room's personality in a way that photography simply can't.
Take these illustrations, for example, which appeared in a 1934 issue of House & Garden. Depicting an "all-metal house in a traditional style" (the house's architect, Robert B. Carr, specified that the make-believe structure be constructed of "enameled metal shingles over steel braced structural walls",) the illustrations show an inventive marriage of Regency-style flourishes and then-cutting-edge finishes. What I find so beguiling and, yes, inspiring is the style of the illustrations. They are colorful and concise in a way that really captures- and even amplifies- the decorative essence of each room. And because the rooms are anonymous, I find it easier to imagine myself inhabiting these spaces. Finally, although there are dated elements to these rendered rooms (that fish-tank table in the living room illustration should be left to the 1930s,) many of the colors and decorations still look fresh today. Can't you just see the bathroom's bright blue door with gold star (see below) in a stylish home of today?
Would magazine pages full of interior illustrations fly in today's world? Probably not. But I agree with Albert Hadley that interior illustrations still have relevance. The benefit to such illustrations is that they stimulate the reader's imagination, requiring the reader to flesh out details and adapt the illustrated ideas for use in his or her home. And it's imagination that gives design its flavor and its personality.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
After a long holiday, getting back into the swing of things has been a challenge, so much so that in the last few days, I've felt like saying, "Calgon, take me away." If a box of Calgon really could take me away for a respite, I'd wish to be transported to this Paris apartment, one of the more memorable Paris dwellings to have been published in the last fifteen years. (Well, memorable to me anyway.) Owned and decorated by financier Kristen van Riel and published in the September 2001 issue of House Beautiful, this Left Bank apartment is a bastion of elegance, good taste, and quality, three things that seem to be in short supply these days.
Look at the photos, and you won't see one piece of modern furniture. Contemporary art is absent, too, while antique engravings and oil paintings are in abundance. (By the way, I hear that the market for traditional oil paintings is tepid at best.) But rather than appearing old-fashioned, this apartment seems very much suited to our modern lives. The color palette is a pleasing mix of rich, energizing color tempered by anything-but-dull neutrals. The homeowner's many collections provide the home with those all-important, comforting layers, but the rooms have an edited feel, too, which prevent them from being too weighed down by the past. And how nice would it be to escape the hustle and bustle of emails, social media, phone calls, and interruptions by settling down on that sumptuous red-velvet sofa, a book or magazine in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other? In fact, that's such a nice thought that I'm ready to be taken there immediately. Calgon, I'm ready when you are.
All images from House Beautiful, September 2001, Alexandre Bailhache, photographer.
AmericasMart's biannual Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market takes place this week and next, and lucky for me, I only have to travel a few miles to attend. One of this Market's big stories is the opening of the Matouk-John Robshaw showroom, the first time the companies have partnered in a joint space. Located in Building One of AmericasMart, the 1426-square-foot showroom will showcase bedding from both lines, which are favorites of those with weaknesses for stylish bed linen.
During Market, both Matouk and John Robshaw will be debuting new additions to their collections. Shown above are Minerva, Delilah, and Cassidy, all by Matouk, while below, you can see John Robshaw's newest designs: Mahzar and Firat, respectively.
For more information on these Spring 2016 introductions plus their current collections, please visit the websites of Matouk and John Robshaw. Or, better yet, see them in person at their new AmericasMart showroom. They are located in showroom #9A4 and will be hosting a cocktail party on Friday evening at 6pm.
By the way, I'm looking forward to attending Market this week as a participant in the inaugural Style Your Season program, a collaboration between AmericasMart and a select group of bloggers. Soon, I'll report on the products and trends that caught my eye during my visit. Stay tuned.
All images courtesy of Matouk and John Robshaw.
Friday, January 08, 2016
For part two of my series on the Mill, I am leading off with a photo of the dining room, which is my favorite room in the house. Originally slated to be embellished with bold colors, the Duchess decided instead to decorate it in subtle shades. She employed John Fowler and Mrs. Claude Lancaster of Colefax and Fowler to assist her with this room. Fowler painted the room's bulrush and shell mural, which provided a charming backdrop for the Duchess's collection of trompe l'oeil porcelain as well as her painted furniture, while the floor's rush matting was another nice, tasteful touch. As you can see, the room is quite a contrast to the Mill's other rooms, something that the Duchess addressed in her article: "This room is a surprise to everyone- even to me- coming to it as one does from the brilliant colors and homey, chintzy atmosphere of the hall. Sometimes I think the very contrast of the world of one talented decorator like Stéphane Boudin (who worked with me on the rest of the mill) with that of an entirely different talent is more dramatic than anything you might deliberately plan."
Other excerpts from the article that you might find interesting:
"Every house as it is lived in seems to me to take on a personality of its own; the Duke and I have tried to foster for our mill one of serenity and relaxation- with just a touch of gaiety- for ourselves and for our guests."
"I enjoy my own parties but that's usually because everything has been planned down to the nth decimal place."
"Although I can never be casual about entertaining, or about anything in the house for that matter, yet when really terrible things happen, I'm completely calm."
"I am cursed- or blessed, I don't know which- with a photographic eye. I go into a room or a shop and I take in every detail, even without really trying, and can describe it all afterward."
And on that note, let's move on to the photos...
The Dining Room, above and below:
Bachelor Guest Quarters:
The Duke's Room:
The Bahamian Bar:
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Over the holidays, I was tickled pink when a neighbor gave me a 1954 magazine clipping about the Mill, the French country house of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (or, as the article referred to them, "the world's most romantic couple."). Titled Our First Real Home, the article was a two-part series written by the Duchess herself, who described at length the renovation and decoration of the couple's first purchased home. (Their previous homes had all been leased.)
Formerly owned by the artist Drian, the seventeenth-century mill, Moulin de la Tuilerie, consisted of a millhouse and three outbuildings located, naturally, along a stream. According to the article, the Duchess chose a fruit and floral theme for the home because "every house should have a theme in its decoration." She also established a vibrant color-palette for most of the rooms because she "wanted to have a fling with bright colors." The exceptions to this are the Duchess's pastel-colored bedroom and the lighter-toned dining room. Assisted by her decorator, Stéphane Boudin of Maison Jansen, the Duchess filled her country home with newly-purchased objects as well as furnishings from their previous homes, including pieces from York House and Fort Belvedere. (If, like me, you have spent hours pouring over the Duke and Duchess of Windsor auction catalogues, you'll likely recognize a number of the paintings and objects seen here.)
As I've said before, I don't consider the Mill to be on par with the Windsors' Paris home, which was really most attractive. I find the colors of these interiors to be jarring to the eye, and some of the decorative combinations are rather odd. (One such example, seen below, is the drawing-room banquette, which was accented with red satin cushions. Alongside it was a corduroy-upholstered chair. See what I mean?) That being said, I relish these photos, because they provide a glimpse into the lives of a stylish couple who, rightly or wrongly, fascinate me.
You might recognize some of these photos, for they later appeared in Suzy Menkes's terrific book, The Windsor Style. Because the article featured so many photos, I'm dividing them up into two blog posts. And I've also included the original photo captions, because they're too good to overlook.
So, now, the tour of the Mill...
The Big Hall:
The Drawing Room:
The Duchess's Bedroom:
The Duke's Bedroom and Bath:
To be continued....