Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grant Gibson, Sacramento Street, and a Rant

Seeing that we have no gas here in Atlanta, I've had to severely limit my running around. I use very little gas as it is because I live in the heart of the city and I don't drive an SUV. But still, it's chaos here with people spending all of their time driving around and around trying to find gas. And when you do find it, you have to wait in line for HOURS. It's absurd. Absolutely maddening. And on top of that our governor is in Europe and seems to be doing little to solve this mess. Needless to say, I'm staying close to home and to the office knowing that the situation may not improve for another few weeks. (That's the rant.)

So, my shopping and browsing is now limited to the internet. It's not as gratifying as the real thing, but it will have to do. And the timing couldn't have been more perfect to do a little vicarious shopping with
Grant K. Gibson.

I've admired Gibson's work for some time now. The San Francisco designer aces that fresh and clean traditional look with some gusto thrown in for good measure . Recently, Gibson was featured in a
California Home and Design article (Oct. '08) extolling the virtues of the shops of Sacramento Street. He's definitely the one to ask. After all, his design studio is located on Sacramento.

I always make a point to visit the Sacramento St. shops during my twice yearly visits to San Francisco. There is something about that street that is so appealing to me. It's not frenzied nor frenetic but rather low-key and charming. In fact, during my last trip there my sister took me to a very trendy, still rather gritty part of town to visit some hip design stores. I took one step out of the car, assessed the situation, turned on my heel and said "May we please just get back into the car and go to Sacramento Street?" What can I say? I'm a creature of habit- and comfort.

There is legendary shop
Sue Fisher King- one of my favorites for linens (Porthault included), tabletop, and accessories. And of course there's Kendall Wilkinson Home. These too are favorites of Gibson. But another Gibson recommendation is new to me: Ribbonerie. Gibson suggests shopping there for ribbon for pillows or lampshade trim. Who doesn't love a good ribbon and trim shop?

And one more gem-
Birch, a floral shop with a black interior (almost like a retail version of Mrs. Delany's Flowers!) Gibson likes the shop because the black walls make the flowers pop.

So for those of you whose style is being cramped by the gas shortage or those who just want to spend some time looking at beautiful things, visit
Gibson's site and those of the featured shops for a little inspiration.

A few glimpses of Gibson's portfolio.

These are the types of beautiful things you'll find at Sue Fisher King

A view inside of Kendall Wilkinson Home

This is just one of many ribbons you'll find at Ribbonerie (both in their store and online.)

A floral arrangement by Birch

Image at top: Gibson about to embark on some Sacramento Street shopping with the doggies. (Photograph by Jen Siska)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Have I Been Under a Rock??

How did I miss this?? William Yeoward has a new book coming out at the end of this month (meaning tomorrow!)- William Yeoward on Entertaining. I loved Yeoward's first book Perfect Tables as it has provided me of lots of inspiration for styling my table.

According to the publisher, the book will feature 21 table settings AND menus, including Breakfast for Two and a Boating Lunch. Reminds me of my beloved
Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook and Tiffany Taste from the 1980s!

Relishing Regency Redux

On to another book review...

I have posted a few articles about my anticipation of the release of
Regency Redux by Emily Eerdmans. And now that I've received my advance copy, all I can say is "instant classic". I'm actually suffering a bit of those post-reading doldrums- you know, that down feeling you get when you've finished a book that was pure joy to read. No matter because I might just read it again this week!

Eerdmans begins her book by giving the reader a brief history of the English Regency and French Empire styles- an important starting point as the 20th century interpretations of Regency are based on these two similar styles. Then, it's on to explore all of the different sub-genres of 20th century Regency. There's Neoclassical Moderne, Vogue Regency, Hollywood Regency, and Decorator Regency. I'm being a bit vague here as I don't want to spoil it for you, but let me just say that each distinct style is explored in great detail- and with copious amounts of scrumptious photographs (meaning... I want the furniture and interiors featured in this book.)

Also, the gang's all here, with Draper, Fowler, McMillen, Maugham, Arbus, Leleu, and others being prominently featured. And as the Regency look played such an important role in Hollywood cinema of the 1930s and 40s, there are scores and scores of movie stills that are a delight to see.

Now, I must say that I was prone to like this book as 1930s and 40s design suits my aesthetic. But no matter what your style is, if you're interested in classical, modern, traditional, stylized, theatrical or sophisticated interiors, then you too just might find this book to be as captivating as I did.
Regency Redux is a must-have for any design library.

A still from the 1932 movie Transatlantic, which won an Oscar for art direction. The look here is referred to as "Deco Greco".

Another still, this time from the 1935 movie No More Ladies (appropriately named as Joan Crawford starred in it!). Eerdmans makes note of the Regency swags and the Neo-Grec furniture in this room.

Can you tell I'm a sucker for old movies??? Here is an image from the 1945 movie Week-end at the Waldorf. Wouldn't you have liked to attend this staged cocktail party??

The Palm Beach resident of Mrs. Hugh Walker Mercer, designed by Ruby Ross Wood. Wood is one of my all-time favorite decorators (and she was a Georgia girl too!).

A room designed by McMillen for Millicent Rogers... a match made in heaven. Note the Neoclassical details in the room.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marie Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles

Attention all Marie Antoinette fans! (Oh yes, and you Francophiles, gardeners, and historians too!) There is an upcoming book release that you must not miss. Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles (Christian Duvernois author, François Halard photographer, Rizzoli New York, October 2008) is an enthralling look at the doomed Queen and her gardens at Petit Trianon, the royal retreat at Versailles. Now, I'm familiar with certain aspects of Marie Antoinette's life, but I knew little about her involvement in the creation of the glorious gardens at this chateau. Marie Antoinette had a keen interest in gardens and the pastoral life (albeit a luxurious one), and she was determined to create a landscape like no other.

According to the book, there was great debate in mid to late 18th century France about formal gardens versus more naturalistic ones. Louis XIV's Versailles was of course noted for its rigid gardens designed by André Le Nôtre. But by the time Louis XVI ascended to the throne, there was a growing group of aesthetes who championed gardens and landscapes that were more loose and natural. And Marie Antoinette fell into this camp. When she became chatelaine of Petit Trianon, she set out to create a Franco-Anglo-Chinese garden complete with man-made lakes, ridges, and vistas. To me, the most interesting parts of the gardens are the structures that were built, including the Dairy House, the Tower of Marlborough, the Hamlet, and the Rock- a folly meant to resemble the mountains of her Austrian homeland.

The text of the book, written by Christian Duvernois, provides us with an engrossing account of how these magnificent gardens came to be. I think the author does an excellent job in helping to correct the misconception that Marie Antoinette was simply a vacuous and supercilious woman. And for those who can't get enough of beautiful photographs, there are plenty of those too. François Halard's haunting images capture the awesome splendor of this thoroughly unique place.

A bust of Marie Antoinette by Louis-Simon Boizot (c. 1775)

A view of the French Pavilion at Petit Trianon. The pavilion, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel for Louix XV, anchors the main axis of the French Garden.

The ornate interior of the Queen's Theater. The plain exterior of the Theater belies the sumptuousness of the interior.

A marble fountain inside of the Dairy House. The walls were painted in trompe l'oeil to resemble real marble.

Vibrant pink roses in the Queen's gardens.

A view of the Dairy House (right) and the Tower of Marlborough.

(Photo credits: François Halard from Marie Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles, Rizzoli New York, 2008.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another Gene Hovis Creation

Remember my post on the late Gene Hovis- the man whose gorgeous home and envy-inducing linen and silver collection piqued my fascination? Well, he popped up again, this time in the Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook. (Not that this is news or anything. The book was published in 1992.)

Hovis' library/dining room was the setting for this elegant meal. I know, I know- I've read where many are tired of the library cum dining room concept. But don't you kind of fall in love all over again with the idea when you see how smashing Hovis' dining room looks? Good books, good food, and a beautifully appointed room. Really, what could be better?

The menu consisted of Crown Roast of Lamb with brussel sprouts, deviled carrots, and pan-fried shredded potatoes, served on Tiffany's "Yellow Bird" faience platter. Hovis also included a yummy looking tomato aspic with shrimp and crawfish nestled on a Tiffany ribbed silver tray. (And please, don't knock the tomato aspic- it's really good. I swear!).

The dessert course- coffee profiteroles with chocolate sauce- is laid out in front of a 19th century French hand-blocked paper screen- yes, I am coveting this. And wouldn't you be pleased to take tea or coffee served from this Louis XIV service from Tiffany's?

So my question is- do any of you still entertain like this? And if so, how often? I love formal entertaining but don't do it often enough. I think Mr. Hovis has inspired me to do so.

(You might also be interested in Gene Hovis' Uptown Down Home Cookbook. Truth be told, the dust jacket is not the most elegant looking thing, but the recipes look really good. A lot of classic, tried and true recipes as well as some Southern favorites. If I can find the time, I'll test out a few and let you know!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Spencer House

One of my favorite sites in London is Spencer House, located in St. James. Built in the mid-eighteenth century for John, first Earl Spencer (yes, those Spencers), the house's first architect was John Vardy, a student of William Kent. It was Vardy who was responsible for the exterior of the home as well as some of the interior rooms, though unfortunately for him, he was later replaced as chief architect by James "Athenian" Stuart, a disciple of Greek architecture. Stuart's influence is seen in the classic Greek detail throughout the interior, making it one of the first examples of neoclassical architecture in England.

Throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, subsequent generations of Spencers set about at refreshing and remodeling the interiors of the home, including a remodeling led by Henry Holland. After all, the Spencers were a prominent and highly social family, so Spencer House had to reflect this. Interestingly, the Spencers lived in the home until the late 1800s, at which time they leased the house to the Duke of Marlborough and his wife (Consuelo Vanderbilt) as well as various organizations. During the blitz in WWII, the contents of the home, including the fixtures, were removed and shipped to the Spencer estate Althorp for safe keeping.

Fortunately for us, Spencer House is now restored to its former glory and is open to the public. Of course, the fact that Spencer House is one of the few remaining private palaces in London makes it important. But the other nice thing is that it doesn't seem to be on many tourists' radar, meaning no long lines!

(One tidbit of info that I just gleaned- Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was the daughter of first Earl Spencer and thus lived in the home until her marriage to the Duke of Devonshire. For a great book on Georgiana, you might want to read Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. Or, I suppose you can wait for the upcoming movie based on Foreman's book. But the book is really a good read.)

The Palm Room was used by gentlemen after dinner. It was Vardy who was responsible for the design of this room.

The magnificent Great Room. According to Spencer House's website, the coffered ceiling and frieze were inspired by the vaults at the Temple of Concord and Victory in Rome.

The Painted Room (c. 1759-65) was one of the first completely Neoclassical rooms in Europe. Designed by Stuart to celebrate the marriage of the first Earl Spencer and his wife, the room is dominated by images of marriage and festivity, all inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

Vardy's design for the Ante Room- originally conceived as the Spencers' private dining room- includes a stunning coffered apse. It was Henry Holland who inserted the mahogany double doors under the apse in 1792.

I like to purchase guide books from the sites I visit- just in case I missed something on the tour. I also like to mark the date of my visit on the inside cover. This might become especially helpful when my memory starts to fail me- hopefully not anytime soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Billy Haines on Ice

Let's start our weekend with a big dose of glamour... as in these wild acrylic Ice Sconces designed by Billy Haines. Although the faceted acrylic pieces were created in 1953 for the May house of Holmby Hills, CA, they seem reminiscent of 1930s Hollywood. I like that the facets are rather aggressive- it's like a combination of Joan Crawford's brash personality and Carole Lombard's feminine allure.

The sconces have been reissued as limited editions and are sold as opposing left/ right matching pairs.

(Contact William Haines Design for more information- (310) 289-0280)

Spatter Pattern

And no, it's not the spatter pattern that is discussed so frequently in episodes of "CSI". It's "Spatter", and it's one of my favorite Hinson prints. Designed by Harry Hinson in 1974, the print was inspired by the spatter motif found often in Colonial ceramicware (this according to a 2001 New York Times article). The article also mentioned that it's a print that counts Albert Hadley and Jeffrey Bilhuber amongst its fans. I've also read that Billy Baldwin used it in his Nantucket home, but I can't find a photo.

So, just where can you use a print like "Spatter"? Well, Harry Hinson used it in his East Hampton home (shown above), and I was thrilled to see it in another Hamptons house designed by Tom Scheerer (and featured in the August '08 issue of House Beautiful). But I do think you can use it in a city home too. How about in a powder room? Or a kitchen? Just think of "Spatter" as a modern take on early Americana.

And speaking of Americana, I was curious about Hinson's supposed inspiration for this print. Just what was spatter and how was it used during Colonial times? Well, one of the prime examples is spatterware. According to a ceramic curator at
Winterthur, spatterware was originally manufactured in England where it was known as spongeware. As spongeware was not particularly popular in England, most of it was shipped to the American colonies where it became known as spatterware. And it was here in America where spatterware became extremely popular, especially amongst the Pennsylvania Germans. Sponge and spatter painting was also used on furniture, walls, and floors during this era.

So although I can't corroborate whether Hinson was actually inspired by spatterware or not, it's something to ponder. If you would like to learn more about spatterware, you should visit
Winterthur. Henry Francis du Pont was a major collector of it, and there is a magnificent display of his collection in Spatterware Hall at Winterthur. Or you can read more about his collection here in an interview with du Pont's daughter, the lucky recipient of some of her father's collection.

(Many thanks to everyone at Winterthur for assisting me in my research of spatterware.)

Two images of Scheerer's fabulous wallpaper selection for an East Hampton cottage (image from House Beautiful, Aug 08; Simon Upton photographer).

A Spatterware platter, c. 1825-1855, Staffordshire England. Does this not look modern to you? Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont; image courtesy of Winterthur.

Spatterware pitcher, c. 1825-1855, Staffordshire England. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont. Image courtesy of Winterthur.

Four examples of Spatterware jugs, c. 1825-1855, Staffordshire England. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont. Photo courtesy of Winterthur.

Image at top: "Spatter" in blue and white on the walls and curtains of Harry Hinson's East Hampton dining room.