Tuesday, June 28, 2016
A Timeless Townhouse
The Manhattan townhouse featured here today is the not the kind of home one sees very often these days, and that's a shame. Some might deem it too formal and stuffy, while others will simply declare it "grandma", the now-popular term of derision for any home that has antiques and traditional fabrics in it. But it's precisely those attributes- antiques, beautiful fabrics, and traditional furnishings- that make this townhouse remarkable. Oh, and the fact that the interiors, seen here in photographs from a 1984 issue of Architectural Digest, had changed very little since they were first installed in the 1920s.
The townhouse belonged to Mrs. Edgar W. Leonard (Adelaide), a popular figure in society who can be seen in the painting above. According to the AD article's author, Susan Mary Alsop, Mrs. Leonard was vivacious and fun, known for her "celebrated parties in the 1920s and 1930s." Mrs. Leonard's friend, Mr. Winston "Winky" Thomas, concurred, admiring the food she served ("Old-fashioned American food of the best kind- the first tiny green peas, the first corn, the first soft-shell crabs, and plenty of everything.") and the mischief she fostered ("Adelaide, who was flirtatious herself, loved to encourage her friends' flirtations. Nothing serious, you know- a man might have a summer's dalliance while his wife was somewhere else.") So even if you find the dining room, below, just a tad bit stuffy-looking, you now know that the dinner parties were anything but.
While the article credits Mrs. Nancy Pierrepont, the talented society decorator, with assisting with the interiors, Mrs. Pierrepont insisted that she only helped Mrs. Leonard refresh fabrics and furniture every now and then. What is extraordinary is that when you study the painting above, done by Troubetzkoy in 1925 and capturing Mrs. Leonard in her drawing room, and then compare it to the 1984 photo of the drawing room below, you'll see that very little changed through the years. The furniture placement, and, in fact, much of the furniture, remained the same. And speaking of the drawing room, have you ever seen such an elegant and gleaming room? The paneled walls positively glowed thanks to ample candlelight. Now, this is how a room used for nighttime entertaining should be done.
With a home like this, it's no wonder Mrs. Leonard's parties were first-rate.
All images from Architectural Digest, December 1984, Billy Cunningham, photographer