Monday, April 24, 2017

The Decorators Club, circa 1931


The Decorators Club is one of the design industry's most storied organizations. Established in 1914, the group, which is made up of female designers, architects, educators, and other members of the New York Metropolitan design community, has long worked to promote design education and industry standards and foster a sense of community among designers.  Even more impressive is the caliber of membership, which, over the years, has included Rose Cumming, Betty Sherrill, and Nancy McClelland.

Because a number of club members read my blog, I thought it would be interesting to show these 1931 photos of interiors done by then-members.  Appearing in the publication, Arts & Decoration, these photos, accompanied by an article titled "The Decoration Charm of Entrance Halls...by members of the Decorators Club of New York", show spaces that capture the propriety of early Thirties-era traditional décor.  Antique furniture, pictures, and tapestries added notes of gentility, while trompe l'oeil wallpaper and murals introduced some dash into these small spaces. 

With the exception of Miss Gheen, a decorator whose work was published frequently in the 1920s and 30s, I'm not familiar with such featured names as Emma B. Hopkins or Violet E. Grosvenor.  No matter, because if they were members of The Decorators Club, they were likely leading lights of design.


Image at top: Hallway by Emma B. Hopkins. The blue and sea-green mural was by Lascari and modeled after a Frascatti painting.



An entrance hall by Evelyn Rosenfeld. The chairs were covered in red damask, while the rug featured unnamed "bright colors".



Ethel A. Reeve was the decorator of this small foyer. Trompe l'oeil wallpaper gave the effect of panels and pilasters. The floor was black marbleized tile, presumably made of linoleum.



This apartment hall, found in the home of Mrs. William Loucks, was decorated by Violet E. Grosvenor. Here, again, the architecture was trompe l'oeil, although the magazine doesn't mention whether the walls were papered or painted.



If you collect magazines from the 1920s and 30s, you're likely familiar with Miss Gheen, Inc., a decorating firm whose work, including this New York hall, was featured frequently.


Asian notes in the form of lacquer screen, rosewood Chinese chair, and antique Chinese root tile mounted as a lamp set the tone in this dramatic-looking hall, which was the work of Coleman-Meerkerk, Inc.


All images from Arts & Decoration, March 1931.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Burleigh Pottery


Since I started my blog ten years ago, Tiffany & Co. discontinued most of its china as well as its much-loved Bamboo sterling flatware, Steuben went out of business (although the Corning Museum of Glass is now reproducing Steuben's designs), and Wedgwood faced an uncertain future. Needless to say, times have been tough for heritage tableware brands, so when a manufacturer succeeds in today's world, it's news worth sharing.

Take hand-crafted Burleighware, for example. The famed English pottery, produced in Stoke-on-Trent for over 160 years, has been collected by generations, and thanks to its charming patterns, its popularity shows no signs of abating. Blue-and-white pottery has been part of the Burleigh repertoire for years, but the firm recently introduced one new pattern and a new color option that seem sure to appeal to traditionalists and modernists alike.

Black Regal Peacock, striking in black and white, is an update of Blue Regal Peacock, a pattern created in 1913 and presented to HM Queen Mary.  But this was no mere pattern update facilitated by a computer.  Rather, Burleigh went the old-fashioned and tried-and-true route, creating a new hand-engraved copper roller to produce this black pattern.  It's nice to see a company staying true to its roots.

Also recently introduced is Burleigh's Dove Grey colorway, available in their Calico, Felicity, and Pantry patterns.  I realize that for a number of you, gray is a color that does not always resonate, but I think that Burleigh's new color option is a sensitive update, one that maintains the charm of classic Burleighware.

Below, you'll see a few pieces from both introductions, but be sure to visit the Burleigh website to see the full range.  I've also included a video at the end that shows the Black Regal Peacock pottery being crafted by Burleigh artisans.  And, if you're so inclined, purchase a piece or two of Burleighware.  After all, it's up to us to ensure that Burleigh exists for another 160 years.


Black Regal Peacock:






Dove Grey Pieces:









All images and film courtesy of Burleigh Pottery

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Bunny Williams Collection for Currey & Company


The are a number of major launches scheduled for High Point Spring Market, including the already much buzzed-about debut of the Bunny Williams Collection for Currey & Company.  Masterful at creating rooms that are warm and welcoming, Williams recognizes the need to light rooms using a variety of sources: table lamps, wall sconces, and ceiling lights, all of which help to create an attractive glow.  Williams' table lamps, part of her popular private-label Bunny Williams Home collection, continue to be much in demand.  And now, partnering exclusively with Currey & Company, she is branching out into ceiling and wall fixtures.

The new collection's inspiration comes from antique and vintage fixtures that Williams has purchased and collected over the years.  The Malvasia Wall Sconce, perhaps my favorite piece in the collection, was based on antique fixture that Williams found at Scott Antiques in Atlanta.  Of vintage origins is the plaster and gold leaf Weslyn Wall Sconce, which takes its cue from a 1930s Italian model, as well as the Biddulph ceiling lamp, which is reminiscent of a 1940s Neoclassical fixture.

If you plan to attend High Point next week, be sure to visit the Currey & Company showroom (IHFC#M110) to see the new collection in person.  Or, visit the Currey & Company website or the Bunny Williams Home website for more information.



Wagner Wall Sconce, Antique Brass


One of my favorite designs from the new collection, the Malvasia Wall Sconce in Vintage Brass



Weslyn Wall Sconce in Gesso White/Contemporary Gold Leaf



Westley Wall Sconce in Verdigris with Antique Gold Leaf Accent



The Bentley Chandelier in Antique Green/Gold Leaf/Silver Leaf



Biddulph Semi-Flush Mount in Gold Leaf/White


All images courtesy of Currey & Co.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A D.C. Delight


To me, some of the most memorable homes featured on the pages of Architectural Digest are those Seventies and Eighties-era nighttime apartments. I call them nighttime apartments, because not only were they presumably photographed at night with curtains usually drawn and interior lights blazing, but also because it's obvious that these apartments were decorated to look their best at night, when the homeowners were either relaxing after a long day's work or entertaining guests. And although these apartments were usually minimal in size, they were impactful in style.  In these sophisticated dwellings, pretty much everything was top-notch, including art, fabrics, and furniture.

I've written about many of these apartments in the past, and to the mix I add this one, which appeared in the March 1983 issue of AD.  The home of designer John Irelan, the apartment was located in one of Washington, D.C.'s "grandest beaux arts buildings."  Here, choice antiques and traditional furnishings were updated by clean, almost restrained backdrops in some rooms and richly-colored walls in others. Neoclassical-style chairs and Asian antiques rubbed shoulders with modern upholstery and contemporary art, while patterned fabrics, used skillfully as accents, were not allowed to run riot over their more subdued compatriots.  On the whole, the effect is one of balance and harmony, made all the more interesting thanks to a few dramatic flourishes of color and light.  What more could you ask for in a nighttime apartment?






Photos from Architectural Digest, March 1983, Peter Vitale photographer.

Join Alex Papachristidis and Me at Design aDAC


I hope you'll join designer Alex Papachristidis and me at Design ADAC, where, on Tuesday, April 25th, we will be discussing "The Eye of the Collector".  An inveterate collector himself, Alex has much to say about the ins and outs of collecting, including how his collections and those of his clients have influenced his work.  Following the 1:00pm talk, there will be a reception at the new Cowtan & Tout showroom, where Alex will be signing copies of his book, The Age of Elegance.

For more information on Design ADAC, one of the design industry's premier events, please visit the ADAC website.  And to join Alex and me at our conversation, click here to register.  We hope to see you on April 25th!

Monday, April 03, 2017

Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home


The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg debuted a new exhibit last week, one that should appeal to anyone with an interest in fashion, fabrics, or design. Organized by Linda Baumgarten, Colonial Williamsburg's Senior Curator of Textiles and Costumes,  Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home presents an array of printed textiles, including an impressive selection of Indian Chintzes, that were made between 1700 and 1820.  With an emphasis on printed cottons and linens that were used for both apparel and furnishings, the exhibit includes dresses, such as the c. 1790 frock seen above, bed coverings, and curtains.

I was not able to find much about the exhibit on the museum's website, but I did manage to find a video on YouTube that featured Baumgarten discussing the show.  As the exhibit's textiles flashed onto my computer screen, I was reminded of how fashionable people of today continue this tradition of decorating their homes with printed fabrics, whose origins can be traced back to centuries-old chintzes.  Take, for example, this c. 1770-1790 Indian Palampore quilt, which is surely the star of the Williamsburg exhibit:


Quilt, India (center panel) Europe (quilting), 1770-1790 Mordant-painted and resist-dyed cotton, silk Museum Purchase, 1930-690

I'm sure that most of us immediately think of Braquenié's much-loved tree of life print, Le Grand Genois:


Perhaps used most famously by Givenchy, the fabric has also been used to great effect by Caroline Sieber at her home in London...:


...as well as by designer Alessandra Branca at the 2015 Kips Bay Showhouse, where the fabric was made into a throw for a sofa.:



Also part of the exhibit is this chintz curtain panel, which dates to sometime between 1750 and 1790:


Curtain Panel India (center textile), France (borders), 1750-1790 Printed cottons, silk trimming Museum Purchase, 1937-165, 6A


The panel bears a striking resemblance to Ménars, a document print offered by Brunschwig & Fils...:


...which was memorably used for upholstery in Jayne Wrightsman's Palm Beach home, whose sumptuous interiors were assembled by Denning and Fourcade:






Any idea what the textile is below?  It's a c. 1750-1775 barber's apron, which gentlemen wore to protect their clothes while being shaved or having their wigs powdered:


Barber's Apron, printed, 1750-1775, France (probably), Tabby cotton, block printed to form with pencil blue and overprint green. Museum Purchase, 1951-482


The apron's red flowers, reminiscent of poppies, brought to mind Robert Kime's oft-used poppy prints, including Opium Poppy:


and Field Poppy,...:

...with which Dallas designer Cathy Kincaid swathed this room, using yards and yards of it:



And last, but certainly not least, the exhibit includes yet another example of stylish attire, a banyan, which was a dressing gown worn by a gentleman.  This example dates to the late eighteenth century or early nineteenth:

Man’s Banyan East Indian textile Worn in Britain, 1770-1790 mordant-painted and resist-dyed cotton, trimmed with silk Museum Purchase, 1954-1010

Again, my thoughts turned to Braquenié and its tree of life companion print:


which got the stamp of approval by designer and architect Daniel Romualdez, who enveloped his bedroom (located in the former Connecticut home of Bill Blass, no less) in both Braquenié prints:



As they say, everything old seems new again, especially when used in such stylish, classic ways.


Image at top: Woman’s Jacket and Petticoat East Indian textile, worn in New York, ca. 1790 from an earlier textile, Mordant-painted and resist-dyed cotton, lined with linen, reproduction kerchief Museum Purchase, 1990-10, 1-2




Image credit: Williamsburg images: Courtesy of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Both the Sieber and Romualdez photos by Oberto Gili; Kincaid photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Joy of Flowers



Spring is here, the flowers and trees are in bloom (and have been for quite some time here in the South), and that annual layer of yellow pollen covers everything, my dog's feet included. Irritants aside, Spring is the time of year when flowers, in all their vibrant glory, seem to especially command our attention, both in their natural habitats and indoors, where they add bright notes to our homes' interiors.

Today, many of us limit our houses to a vase or two of peonies, a potted orange tree, or even a ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig, but back in the early part of last century, the enthusiasm for indoor plants and floral bouquets was unabashed, so much so that plants were often incorporated into interiors in inspired and splashy ways.  Take these 1933 House & Garden images, for example.  It was not uncommon for flowers to be the main decoration of a room- and this didn't only occur in expected spots like sunrooms.  Below, you'll find a living room where a floral chintz banquette was crowned by a generous number of potted plants and flowers, lacing a large bay window.  In another, a Chippendale-style bird cage and window boxes- so cheerful and gay, to use a popular phrase of the day- stand prominently in front of a window, which gazed out onto a rather stifling view of neighboring high-rises.  Even a dining room was made to feel like an indoor garden, this time with an imagined design of planters and trellis, built to flank a window.

In fact, flowers were such an important part of indoor decor that many homes had shelves built inside of windows, where plants had the luxury of basking in the sunshine, blurring the line between indoors and out.  And while I think these indoor window shelves look a little dated, I appreciate the way in which they allowed plants to command a room's attention.

As Dorothy Draper once said, "It isn't enough just to love flowers- you do them an injustice if you don't make the best possible use of their beauty"- a sentiment obviously shared by the owners of the houses seen here.  But beware of the predilection to decorate with a profusion of flowers, at least, according to the late decorator Michael Greer: "Too many flowers in a room imply the presence of a corpse and should be avoided unless there is one, and even then too many flowers can distress anyone of delicate taste."