Friday, June 17, 2016
Madeline Stuart meets Cedric Gibbons
All too often, we see photos of legendary houses with once-legendary interiors that have been renovated and redecorated beyond recognition. It is so disheartening to see a prominent house's character, the very thing that made it special, be completely snuffed out by new homeowners and their overzealous architects and designers, who seem to care more about making an impression than preserving any vestiges of the past. And yet, when it comes time to market the newly redone house to publications or real estate websites, the house's storied past is what is most often used to promote it- despite the fact that very little is left to indicate that storied past.
So when I heard that designer Madeline Stuart had recently redecorated the 1930s-era Cedric Gibbons-Dolores del Rio house in Los Angeles, I was skeptical. It's not that I don't admire Stuart's work, because I do. It's just that I've gotten used to fabled houses being given insensitive makeovers. (It's just like what happens in soap operas. A character has a disfiguring accident, and when the bandages are removed, he or she has an entirely different face.) But when I saw photos of the house in the May/June issue of Veranda, I was very pleasantly surprised. Stuart worked her magic on the interiors, and yet, they still feel as though Gibbons and del Rio are lurking somewhere in the background. It's so refreshing to see a designer and homeowners respect the integrity of the house, working with its original architectural features and not against them.
It's fitting that Veranda featured this project in the issue, because the magazine has recently embarked on a new initiative on historic preservation, something that I know is near and dear to our hearts, too. Along with the issue's theme of "Historic Homes for Modern Living", Veranda also hosted an inaugural forum on preservation at Hearst Castle. I asked Veranda's Editor in Chief, Clinton Smith, to give me his thoughts on this new initiative. “We want this issue and our Preservation Forum at Hearst Castle to serve as a reminder that the kind of time-honored handiwork, craftsmanship, and ingenuity that have served the world for hundreds of years need to be discussed, appreciated, and looked at in order to be kept alive," said Smith. "While I know not every building can be saved, I like to remind people that once a building is gone, it’s not just the brick and mortar structure that has disappeared; the community and life around it also dissipates.”
And as for the Madeline Stuart project, Smith acknowledged that it fit the bill of the new initiative perfectly. “The Madeline Stuart project—the Los Angeles Art Deco residence of Cedric Gibbons—sort of landed in my lap, by coincidence, shortly after we decided to put a spotlight on historic preservation, but it became the cornerstone of the issue and the rest of the issue was sort of built around it. It was important to have a mix of houses featured. In the end, the assortment is varied and interesting: there’s Art Deco, antebellum, 1920s California Spanish Colonial, and a 19th-century farmhouse in the Hamptons.”
If you haven't already done so, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of the May/June issue, which contains the photos seen below as well as Stuart's thoughts on working on this legendary house. And although the last photo featuring Gibbons and del Rio is not part of the Veranda feature, it seemed appropriate to include it here.
All photos, with the exception of the last one, appear in the May/June issue of Veranda, Max Kim-Bee photographer.