Monday, November 30, 2009

Hadley Family Heirlooms

One of my weekend chores was to go through stacks of old magazines- a fun endeavor, actually, as I oftentimes find articles that had completely slipped my mind. Case in point, this Albert Hadley project that was featured in the March/April 2001 issue of Veranda.

This particular project was very personal to Hadley for a few reasons. First, the client was his sister, Betty Ann, who at the time was embarking on a move from the Hadley homestead in Nashville. Along with Betty Ann came Hadley family heirlooms, including several pieces of Victorian era furniture. While other designers may have seen these family pieces as an albatross, Mr. Hadley thought quite the opposite. To him, these family relics were old friends, and really, who wants to throw out a friend?

Even though I'm still not a fan of Victoriana, in the hands of Mr. Hadley the pieces actually become rather palatable. What strikes me about this home is the fact that it doesn't look too decorated, forced, and stripped of any life, an affliction that seems to affect more and more homes today. What's wrong with hanging on to a few friends from the past, even if it means trotting them out for show in the living room or parlor? Just a little food for thought... in case you didn't have enough of it over the holiday!

The c. 1940 French red-mirrored glass table formerly resided in Hadley's Manhattan apartment. Years ago, he mentioned to his mother that he was thinking of selling the table; Mrs. Hadley told him to please send it to her...and now it resides in Betty Ann's home. The wallpaper is a custom design by Hadley.

Butler's press is 19th c. American. The tureen appears to be Dodie Thayer, and the asparagus stalk tureen is also 20th c.

The Victorian bed, rocking chair, and cupboard-on-chest are all family heirlooms. The framed paper dolls, hung on the jib door, were drawn by Hadley for his sister when they were children.

The decoupage pictures in the guest bedroom are by Susan Crater, granddaughter of Sister Parish and author of the recent "Sister Parish Design". The wallpaper was custom printed from the archives of Albert Hadley Inc.

(All images from March/April 2001 issue of Veranda, Peter Margonelli photographer.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks for a Beautiful Table

How does Jonathan Preece do it? In addition to being an interior designer and stylist with Bunny Williams Inc. and serving as Creative Director of BeeLine Home, Jonathan also creates stunning holiday tables for a coterie of clients and friends. Obviously, Jonathan's creativity- and energy- knows no bounds. Need proof? Just look at a Thanksgiving table that Jonathan designed for a client. While most holiday tables are as dry as a Butterball turkey (mine included), Jonathan's is a delectable feast.

The setting was a Federal house in Westport, CT that had been decorated by Bunny Williams. The client often hosted Thanksgiving dinners for 30 to 45 guests, all of whom were seated at tables in the main Dining Room and the Hall. When Jonathan was brought in to assist with the Thanksgiving arrangements, he suggested creating an enfilade effect by having a table in the Dining Room and two 72" round tables in both the Hall and the Breakfast Room.

Because the client loves drama, Jonathan came up with a scheme loaded with "Wow". One of the first things you probably noticed in the photo above is the male turkey taxidermy. (I've always thought turkeys were actually beautiful birds, and if this shot doesn't prove it, I don't know what does!) Also woven into the mix were branches of pear, maple, and magnolia intertwined with pyracantha vines. Jonathan also nestled purple variegated decorative cabbage plants into the mix.

Blanc de chine cockerels were perched alongside pumpkin tureens that did double duty as cachepots. Mercury glass votives, compotes, spheres, and toad stools added a little shimmer to the table. Mother Nature was present in the form of seasonal fruits and vegetables like brussel sprouts on the stalk, shitake mushrooms, pomegranates, and grapes.

Jonathan's client asked him to include place cards and gifts for the guests. Keeping with the theme of the table, the male guests received turkey callers, while the females got silver old fashioned hand warmers. And the kids? Mini Coleman lantern key chains. The place cards were actually plaster leaves with painted relief. The china was Wedgwood and the etched wine glasses were Christofle.

Over-scaled branch arrangements flanked the Breakfast Room Entry and added color and height to the main Dining Room. Albino pumpkins and decorative cabbage were clustered around a 19th c. garden urn. Love the drama of the uplight. And if you look carefully, you'll notice little bird houses made of bark and moss that hung on the branches.

So...after seeing these photos, I'm completely rethinking my Thanksgiving table. (Anyone know where to get albino pumpkins here in Atlanta?) If you think this is good, just wait until I show you Jonathan's Christmas table!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Art of Entertaining

My apologies for being MIA, but I'm busy preparing for my talk tomorrow on "The Art of Entertaining" at the Atlanta Christmas House. Do come by if you have time! It starts at 2pm. For more information, click here. (You might also be interested in some of the other great lectures taking place there tomorrow.)

Now I must get back to My Way of Life, Joan Crawford's tome about what a perfect wife and hausfrau she was. You'll love her campy tips on entertaining!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winterthur, Part Three

As part of my Winterthur tour, I was treated to a behind the scenes tour of their textile collection. Curator Linda Eaton, who by the way is incredibly knowledgeable, took us into the bowels of the house where boxes and boxes of textiles are carefully stored. Textiles like this one- an antique English valance:

Isn't the craftsmanship amazing?

Some of my favorite pieces were the antique Indian Palampores. This one, below, is simply stunning in person. Would you believe that it's early 18th century? It's in pristine condition.

As it was in the days of Henry Francis du Pont, curtains, pelmets, and slipcovers are changed out seasonally. Winterthur has a room that's devoted entirely to curtain storage! There are racks and racks of out of season curtains, while pelmet covers are carefully hung on the wall. Many of the curtains have tags sewn into the lining identifying which season they should be displayed. I wish I had taken a photo, but I was so amazed at the sight of this space that I simply forgot!

One of the greatest surprises to me was Mr. du Pont's bedcover in the master bedroom.

Does the fabric look familiar? Remember these photos from my recent posts?

Braquenié's Tree of Life print as seen in Givenchy's country manor and Braquenié's "Le Rocher" print.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I entered Mr. du Pont's bedroom and saw this fabric. It was almost identical to the Braquenié prints I've been obsessing about as of late. Linda explained that the du Pont fabric is yet another antique Indian Palampore with the Tree of Life motif. Many of these Indian prints were copied by European textile makers back in the 18th century.

It's crazy how this print seems to be everywhere I look!

The day ended with a tour of Winterthur's Licensing group. In case you didn't know, Winterthur has teamed up with companies like Stark, Brunschwig & Fils, Kravet, Currey & Company, and others to design lines of products that have been inspired by or are replicas of items in the Winterthur collection. The paper above, a Chinoiserie print, is part of the Winterthur Collection for Stark. As lovely as this paper is, my favorite is this one:

How beautiful is that? You should visit Winterthur's website for a complete list of product partners. There are a lot of nifty things in these collections!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Winterthur, Part Two

So, on Friday I attended Winterthur's "Chic It Up!" design conference. Was I inclined to enjoy it because the word "chic" appeared in the title? Perhaps a little. But how could an entire day focused on 1940s design not be fantastic?

When Winterthur was organizing this event, there was discussion as to whether the 1940s had a distinctive style. After hearing the lectures, it seems that much of 1940s design was an extension of the previous decade. World War II played a great role in redefining design. The high style and sophistication of the 1930s fell out of favor as the realities of war set in. And of course after the war, the wealthy found themselves facing a far different society than that from before.

The day began with Pauline Metcalf's lecture on Syrie Maugham. Many of you may recognize Metcalf's name from her book on Ogden Codman; her upcoming book, due to be published next year, is on... Syrie Maugham. Thank goodness she's writing this book! I for one can't get enough of Syrie. Metcalf discussed Syrie's famous white drawing room on Kings Road, seen above. And while we may remember her most for this one room, Maugham's range did include color and non-pickled furniture. While Metcalf conceded that Maugham's heyday was more of the 1930s, she did note that Maugham continued with her design business well into the 1940s. What I found quite interesting were the photos that Cecil Beaton shot of bright young females posing in Syrie's famous room. The space's ramped up glamour was the perfect backdrop for Beaton's chic photographs, like this one of his sister Baba:

Metcalf mentioned that the mirrored screen, quite novel for the time, was a bit dangerous. When the drawing room got warm, the slivers of mirror would pop off and crash to the floor!

Another favorite decorator was also discussed: Dorothy Draper. Donald Albrecht of the Museum of the City of New York certainly knows a thing or two about Draper- it was he who curated the recent exhibition on Ms. Draper. Of course we all know that in Draper's hands, hotels, restaurants, and other public spaces were given the steroid treatment- furniture was large, colors were bold, and statements were made. (Albrecht humorously mentioned The Camellia House at Chicago's Drake Hotel, seen above. The dining room and entryway were supposed to be make one feel as if he or she was in a tropical the middle of windy Chicago. Albrecht admits it seems a bit implausable. I have a feeling Dorothy probably thought "Well, why not? Get over your will to be dreary!") He also explained that Draper's career hit its peak in 1948 with her decoration of the Greenbrier. Before she was hired for the redo, the Greenbrier was meek and mild mannered. After being Draperized, however, it had more than its share of personality.

There were so many great lectures so it's hard for me to summarize all of them in one post. But just to throw out a few more names- Chick Austin, J.A. Lloyd Hyde, Thomas Waterman, and H. Rodney Sharp were also subjects of discussion. I hope to write posts on them in the future. Oh, I want to leave you with a very fun clip that Albrecht showed to the audience. It's a dance number from the 1940s Fred Astaire movie "Yolanda and The Thief". (And I thought that I knew my Fred Astaire movies! This was a new one to me.) The movie was a box office bomb, but the sets and dance numbers are so evocative of 1930s/40s high style. And Albrecht was right- the dance floor is so very Dorothy Draper!

(Beaton photograph from the Cecil Beaton Photo Archive; Greenbrier image from Winterthur)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winterthur, Part One

I just returned from two glorious days at Winterthur, and I was dazzled. I don't really know where to begin because it was all so incredible. I'll first say, though, that if you ever have the opportunity to visit, you must. And if you don't know if the opportunity will present itself, then make it happen. I don't see how anybody could not be inspired after a visit there.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Winterthur, the Delaware estate (now a museum) was the vision of the late Henry Francis du Pont, one of the 20th century's foremost collectors of Americana. du Pont inherited the house and the sprawling property from his father and immediately set about creating a home in which to display his more than impressive collection of early American furniture and art, porcelain and ceramicware, and textiles. Through the years, du Pont enlarged the original house and created period rooms that were a shade different from what you might find in other museums. The look of the room- the interior decoration- was just as important to du Pont as historical accuracy, so it could be said that du Pont's rooms were curated through the eyes of a 20th century aesthete.

Now it's no surprise that I am a lover of history, so the provenance of the objects within the rooms was of great interest to me. However, I know that there are many people who don't have the same interest as I. (And if you don't like history, that's really okay.) But please don't think that because the words "history", "Americana", and "early American" are associated with Winterthur that the house has no relevance to design today. Hardly! If you really look at the rooms, you'll find architectural details, fabrics, curtains, and such that would look right at home in a 21st century house. I don't want to demean Mr. du Pont's work because it obviously has great historical significance. But you really can apply some of what you see at Winterthur to your own home. Just take a look...

This is the pine cabinet that sparked du Pont's love affair with collecting. Both the cabinet and the pink Staffordshire china once belonged to another famous collector, Electra Havemeyer Webb. And to think that this rather humble piece inspired all of this:

The room that I was most anxious to visit was the Chinese Parlor. Now who wouldn't want to have a room like this? The wonderful antique wallpaper was found by Nancy McClelland, a prominent decorator and wallpaper dealer. In order to accommodate the height of the paper, du Pont chose to create a cove ceiling. Note too that terrific chandelier. The room, where cards were often played, seems quite comfortable. I like the Early American antiques as this was the kind of furniture with which I was raised. However, if you're a fan of French antiques or even early 20th century pieces, just think how well they would look in a setting like this.

Many rooms feature interior architecture that was purchased from early American homes ranging from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Those pilasters framing the fireplace, the broken pediment, and dentil molding is stunning.

And that fabric on the armchair? Looks like something many of us would use today to great effect.

This mantel was purchased and removed from a Pennsylvania home. Isn't the detail incredible?

Molding in one of the rooms. A bit blurry, but I think the picture speaks for itself.

Another architectural detail, this time in the sleeping porch.

du Pont liked to entertain, and everything- flowers, linens, food- was carefully thought out. This room contains du Pont's candelabra and candlesticks. Ruby Ross Wood, the late, great decorator, wrote of dining at Winterthur and admiring the most perfect Battersea candlesticks.

And speaking of Ruby Ross Wood, many decorators clamored to visit Winterthur while it was still du Pont's private residence. du Pont's approach to collecting and decorating was so novel that decorators just had to see it for themselves. Wood wrote to du Pont of her employee's awe after visiting Winterthur. That employee was none other than Billy Baldwin. I wonder if this room below, decorated by Baldwin in the 1950s, could have been inspired by his visit to Winterthur:

I think that after my visit to Winterthur, I look at design and collecting much differently. du Pont believed that no one piece should dominate a room; rather, a room should have impact in its cohesiveness. (That may not hold true for the Chinese Parlor. That paper definitely packs a punch!) Well, that's not the way I have ever approached design. I always look for the statement piece. But I completely understand du Pont's point, and now I think I'll start looking at a room as a whole rather than a sum of its parts.

And in regards to collecting, once you see du Pont's porcelain, you'll never want to buy cheap or mediocre accessories again. You'll want to save your pennies to buy a piece that has value, not just monetarily but aesthetically too.

Tomorrow I'll post about the "Chic It Up!" design conference that I attended last Friday (it was really fantastic), and on Wednesday I'll share some photos of the textiles in the Winterthur collection. Actually, I could go on for days about Winterthur, but I'll try hard to condense it into a few days' worth of posts.

Oh, one more thing, Christmas decorations were being installed while I was there. The talented floral artisans at Winterthur created a dried floral Christmas tree. The flowers were collected from the Winterthur garden throughout the year and then dried in anticipation of the holidays. How great is that?

(All photos with the exception of the first photo were taken by me.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Appreciating John Fowler

One thing that I will never understand is why someone would move into a great old house and discard the good stuff. By that I mean a fabulous wallpaper, a good old linoleum floor, even antique or vintage bath fixtures. Perhaps some people think that old things have no value, or maybe it's an ego thing- the homeowner wants everything to bear his or her stamp. It's wasteful and in some ways disrespectful to the history of the house.

That's why I'm always pleased to read about homeowners who have no intention of stripping the life out of their homes. In the October issue of Tatler, there's a great article on
Cornbury, the Oxfordshire, England estate of the Cayzer family (Robin, 3rd Baron Rotherwick, and Tania, Lady Rotherwick). The house has only been in the family since 1967, though it dates back to the 15th c. Another claim to fame? It's the last house decorated by John Fowler. And guess what? They've kept Fowler's handiwork. Still installed are his magnificent curtains, bed hangings, even upholstered dog "pavilions". (Anyone who would be crazy enough to get rid of a John Fowler curtain deserves to be taken out behind the woodshed. Just my opinion.) But rather than seeming stuffy or old, the house's interiors seem fresh, comfortable, and welcoming.

Rotherwick says of Fowler's work: "It's so amazing you literally can't change anything. The most I've been able to do is put a bunch of flowers in a vase and decorate my own study." Amen. Obviously, the Cayzers and their young family seem quite happy in their home that was decorated decades ago. And why wouldn't they? I just hope that others will follow suit.

The Drawing Room

The Yellow Room's bathroom

The famous dog pavilion. Also, don't you love the armchair's fabric?

Harriette Cayzer's bedroom. She's 23, and you can tell that she appreciates her Fowler room.

Image at top: The family in the master bedroom. All images from Tatler, Oct 2009, James Merrell photographer.