Friday, May 30, 2008

Suzanne Kasler for Hickory Chair

Last night I attended a great party at Max & Company in honor of Suzanne Kasler's new furniture line for Hickory Chair. Kasler's gorgeous line made its debut at High Point this past Spring where it generated A LOT of buzz. And it was only natural that the Atlanta party was held at Max & Company, a fabulous shop owned by another Atlanta designer, Phoebe Howard.

I haven't been able to find any images of the new line on Hickory Chair's website, so I took copious photos of the entire first floor at Max & Company. Most of the furniture in these photos are Kasler's pieces. And if you're interested in anything and everything, by all means call Max and Company for info- everyone who works there is very nice and courteous. (Telephone- 404-816-3831). I think it's safe to say that Suzanne's new line is going to be a big hit!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A New Look at Jean-Michel Frank

Known for his spare interiors as well as his use of humble, natural materials, Jean-Michel Frank is one of those designers who is often credited by contemporary designers as being a major influence, yet he has remained a bit of an enigma. Perhaps this was due to his all-too brief career and life, having committed suicide in 1941. Or maybe it was because some critics labeled Frank a society decorator. Whatever the reason, critical study of Frank's career did not begin in earnest until the 1980s with a monograph written by Leopold Diego Sanchez. Unfortunately, this book is a bit scarce as well as cost-prohibitive. There is, however, a new work on the design legend that is not only quite comprehensive and informative but will probably prove to be yet another authoritative work on Frank.

Jean-Michel Frank: The Strange and Subtle Luxury of the Parisian Haute-Monde in the Art Deco Period (Rizzoli) initially took shape as the doctoral thesis of Pierre-Emmanuel Martin-Vivier, a historian and authority on twentieth-century applied arts. The book provides the reader with a biographical account of both Frank's life as well as an in-depth look at his career as a designer of both spaces and furniture. While Frank's success was certainly guided by his talent, it was also nudged along by Frank's fortuitous friendships with the French and European beau monde, something which is explored in the book.

But Frank certainly developed a style that was all his own, and this is really the heart of this book. Much attention is given to Frank interiors, including his work for Jean-Pierre Guerlain, Andre Meyer, Templeton Crocker, Cole Porter, and of course Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles. Today, Frank seems to be recognized more for his furniture designs than his interiors, so the text and photographic record of Frank's tables, lamps, and chairs are a major asset of Jean-Michel Frank. Also, Frank's career was characterized by collaborations with other gifted designers and artists, most notably Adolphe Chanaux, Alberto Giacometti, Christian Berard, and Emilio Terry, and this work is given due diligence in the book.

I'll admit that I have not yet finished this book; I'm taking my time reading the text, and I find myself getting lost in the gorgeous black and white photos chronicling Frank's work. But so far, I do feel that I better understand the genius and the style of this sad artist, and for this alone I highly recommend this book.

The Sitting Room in the penthouse of Templeton Crocker, San Francisco, 1929. The walls and ceiling were covered in squares of parchment, while the armchairs were upholstered in white leather. One of the Parsons-style cocktail tables was covered in brown shagreen, while the other was sheathed in patina bronze.

The Music Room in Cole Porter's Paris apartment. Although Armand-Albert Rateau was responsible for the paneling (silver lacquer at that), Frank designed the furniture.

Image at top: A Fire Screen covered in straw marquetry, c. 1924. The cabinet at bottom was covered in parchment, c. 1931.

A set of parchment nesting tables and an X lamp made from terra cotta.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Fate Beholds the Goodrum House?

There has been much talk lately about the fate of Brooke Astor's apartment. I think many of us are on pins and needles waiting to see if the new owners (whoever they might be) will destroy the famous interiors, preserve them in all of their glory, or simply refresh them. But closer to my home there is another prominent house I'm worried about: the Goodrum House located on West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta.

Built in 1929 by famed architect Philip Shutze, the house is considered to be a prime example of English Regency architecture. Before it housed its current tenant, the Southern Center for International Studies, the house was a private home. While growing up, I always heard it referred to as the "Peacock Mansion" because the homeowner kept peacocks on the estate. (In fact, I remember on a few occasions going to school and seeing traffic held up because a peacock had gotten loose and was wandering the streets!) There were many other wild stories associated with the house which I won't print on my blog, but needless to say they only added to the home's allure- at least to this wide-eyed gal.

And now the Southern Center is selling the home. My biggest fear is that whoever buys the Goodrum House will rip it asunder and remove anything original and unique to the home. Believe me, Atlanta is losing its beautiful old homes at an alarming rate. The whole thing upsets me, so perhaps I should put my money where my mouth is and join the Preservation Center. In the meantime, I wanted to show you a few photos of this beautiful home. They certainly don't make them like they used to. I just hope whoever buys this home realizes it.

A few shots of the entryway. Is that a banister or what! Wouldn't you be thrilled to have that in your home?

The dining room is famous for its glorious Chinoiserie mural painted by Allyn Cox.

The ceiling of this octagonal breakfast room was painted by Athos Menaboni. The effect is like being inside of a bird-cage. Menaboni also painted the niches as well. Can you imagine a better way to start your day than by having a cup of coffee in this room?

The living room. Although it's sparsely furnished today, the room has real potential. Just look at the molding and carvings.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Branca... the Store!

You Midwesterners are certainly lucky. Alessandra Branca, doyenne of snappy and snazzy design with a lot of sizzle, has just opened a new retail shop in Chicago (17 East Pearson to be exact). The shop, called Branca, is filled with things that Alessandra both loves and actually uses. Table accessories, furniture, books, candles, and African feather headdresses are all here, much of it in Branca's beloved black, white, and RED color scheme (the red is what gives everything the sizzle.)

Travel plans aren't taking you to Chicago this summer? No worries, because currently a limited selection of items are available for sale via the
website (you'll need to call the shop at 312-787-1017 to actually place the order, but online shopping on the website will be up and running this summer.) While you're visiting the site, you can also view some images from Alessandra's gorgeous portfolio.

Here are a few items from the website that caught my eye (also available in the store for those of you lucky enough to visit in person!):

Pair of 19th century German Neoclassical style fauteuils (the fabric is vintage red Turkish ticking)

White glass optik glasses- highballs, lowballs, and stemless champagne glasses

Branca Signature Candles: I-Mint, Musk, & Tea; II-Tomato Leaf, Basil, & Black Currant; III-Fig Tree; IV-Green Tea with Lime

Branca Red Hide Rug

Images at top: A view of the new shop, and one of the shop owner herself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Todd Romano Candles

Todd Romano Antiques & Decorations is one of my favorite stores in New York. For me, no trip to the Big Apple is complete until I pop into this stylish mecca of design. Romano has such an amazing eye, so it's no wonder why he is such an in-demand designer. Everything in the shop- deGournay wallpaper, antique porcelain, Christopher Spitzmiller lamps- is perfection!

And now, Romano has added candles to his repertoire. The candles, available through his shop, come in two fragrances:
Thé and Tige de Bambou. Thé (the brown candle) is a fitting name as it does smell a bit like spicy tea- the scent is really unique and totally intoxicating. Tige de Bambou is a bit lighter and is redolent of Spring flowers and freshly cut grass (at least to this nose). The added bonus is the chic yet discreet "TR" monogram on the votive.

So if these crazy gas prices have cut into your design budget and the de Gournay wallcovering and porcelain have been put on the back burner, why not indulge in one of these candles? What a great way to add some Todd Romano flair to your home!

(To order candles dial 212-879-7722. Retail price is $50. And make sure to stop by the store on your next trip to New York.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Top Ten Fabric: La Portugaise

A while back, I wrote about the much loved Le Lac print and its popularity with designers. Well, with so many wonderful prints on the market, Le Lac is not alone in the pantheon of iconic designs. What other prints seemed to have passed the test of time? Why, La Portugaise by Brunschwig & Fils, and it's one of those prints that seems to pop up over and over again.

According to Brunschwig & Fils Up Close,
La Portugaise is reminiscent of indienne prints and is "a nineteenth-century adaptation made up from the borders of a palampore formed into stripes." And in Keith Irvine: A Life in Decoration, Irvine notes that the print, one of his favorite fabrics, used to be available at Rose Cumming's shop before Brunschwig & Fils began to offer it. Just another tidbit to add to the print's illustrious history.

Now, I know that many of you might look at this print and think "No way!"
La Portugaise is certainly not for everyone. I like how the print has been used in the rooms below, but would it work in my home? Probably not. Still, there is a delightful quality to this print that lends to its allure. And as it is a favorite of so many design legends, it certainly deserves recognition as a top ten fabric!

How can you argue about a print that is found in THE most famous room in the history of American design, Brooke Astor's famed oxblood lacquered library designed by Albert Hadley. (My tip to you: save any photos you can of this glorious room- just in case the new owner decides to disassemble this masterpiece.)

Keith Irvine has used La Portugaise throughout his career. It seems that this print as well as Le Lac are his two favorites.

Jeffrey Bilhuber used the print on an upholstered chair in this room; it's a nice counterpoint to the hushed neutrals used in the rest of the room.

And that charming, erudite Mark Hampton used the print in the living room of his Hamptons home. With a painting like this, who needs a photograph?

Image at top: A close-up shot of a La Portugaise upholstered chair in the library of the late Brooke Astor.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Christmas House

Well, we've all had showhouses on our minds lately, so I thought it fitting that I mention the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Christmas House which will run from November 14-December 7. The showhouse, which benefits the Alliance Children's Theater, will feature the cream of the crop of Atlanta designers, many of whom have been featured in national publications. Designers include Phoebe Howard, Suzanne Kasler, Liz Williams, Gretchen Edwards, Stan Topol, Jared Paul, Mallory Mathison, Carole Weaks, Scott Laslie, and many more. (And if some of you designers are reading this post, congratulations and we can't wait to see you work your magic!)
For more information, click here. November will be here before we know it!

Time to Revisit a Late Designer's Work

I've recently become enamored with a designer whose work is no longer featured on the pages of shelter magazines. I read or hear very little about him these days, which probably adds to the mystique. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this designer, although to me his work is quite new. (Back in his heyday in the 1980s and 90s, I was preoccupied with homework and school activities, preventing me from focusing too terribly much on the design world.) Of course, the fact that he died almost 13 years ago is part of the reason why this designer's work is no longer at the forefront of our design consciousness, and it's really a shame because this designer- Richard Lowell Neas- created rooms that were stylish, sophisticated, beautiful, elegant, and timeless.

I first became familiar with Neas' name when I found out that he was responsible for Brunschwig & Fils' "Bibliothèque" wallpaper- one of my all-time favorite wallpaper designs. As Neas was an accomplished muralist and trompe l'oeil artist, it's no surprise that he would design such a charming print. Then I learned that Neas gradually made his way into a career as a decorator. And what decorating he did!

I've tried to collect a few images of his work, and in some ways it surprises me that I'm so taken with these very traditional rooms. While I am a traditionalist at heart, I do like to mix in some modern pieces- it's a bit like a design checks and balances system. I think that what has drawn me to his work is the fact that Neas created rooms that were completely livable. His New York projects seem to capture the spark that is so evocative of that city: urbane, sophisticated, and cosmopolitan. Yet there's nothing cold or stiff about these rooms. Neas imbued his projects with a softness and warmth that was so inviting. Perhaps it was the collection of unique and striking furniture and objets. Or maybe it was the mix of prints and patterns that was so pleasing to the eye. I actually believe it was a combination of all of the above.

I think Neas described the success of his rooms perfectly when he quoted his friend Annette de la Renta, "some of the most wonderful rooms are ones that seem as though all the objects were inherited from relatives with different styles and tastes- yet everything fits together magically." And this, to me, is the magic formula- and one that makes Neas' work so appealing.

An image of Neas' tiny Manhattan apartment. Note the trompe l'oeil swagged curtain at the top of the mirror. I just love this room.

Two photos of a Manhattan apartment that Neas designed around 1990.

I believe this dining room and bedroom were part of Neas' home in Charente, France. Neas certainly created environments that were appropriate for their surroundings.

A close-up shot of the "Bibliothèque" wallpaper.

Nina Campbell used "Bibliothèque" in her home.

Image at top: Richard Lowell Neas with a chicken at his home in France. (This image and those of his French home courtesy of House Beautiful, 2001. Images of the Manhattan project from HG, September 1990.)

Neas/de la Renta quote from the New York Times, "Home Design; Objects of Much Affection" by Carol Vogel, October 21, 1984.