Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wigs and Braids

So I read something about wigs yesterday, and that got me thinking of Madeleine Castaing. (And for those of you who are sick to death of reading about Castaing and her wig with the chin strap, I know and agree. She was so much more than that wig, but what a wig it was.) One of my very favorite Castaing rooms is the Paris bedroom of composer Baron de Banfield, which I am assuming was decorated in the 1950s or early 1960s.

I think that what strikes me about this room is the architecture. The apartment itself was in a modern building, so Castaing had to employ architectural improvisations. The designer chose to imbue the apartment with an 1830s feel (think Regency, Charles X, and Biedermeier), which explains the use of arches and columns throughout the space. Because Castaing felt the bedroom was too long, she added an arched alcove at one end with closets on either side. (Don't you love those closet doors?) A bronze Directoire bed was placed within the niche, but according to the accompanying text, it rested only halfway in the alcove. Quite honestly, it looks to me like it's pressed up against the wall, but what do I know. Still, if it was positioned the way the text says it was, it would have given the perception of depth.

Another bold design gesture was the color choice: red. An unusual choice for a bedroom certainly, but the fact that the walls were covered in red fabric might mean that the effect was more cocoon-like. But to me, the most striking aspect of this room (other than those fabulous closet doors) is the "braiding" that was used on the walls. Castaing trimmed the walls with it, and cleverly created crown molding with it as well. In the top photo, notice how she took the fabric over the edge of the ceiling.

The same fabric was used in the small hall that led from the bedroom to the bathroom. Note the criss-crossed braiding on the ceiling.

If I'm not mistaken, the braiding was one of Castaing's signature fabrics. If it looks familiar, it might be because the same Castaing fabric (or one that looks awfully similar) also made an appearance in Lisa Fine's Paris flat, featured in the current issue of Lonny.

See the fabric on the little slipper chair? Looks similar to the Castaing fabric, don't you think?

Many of the fabrics that were hallmarks of Castaing's work are available through Clarence House, including my all time favorite "Coppelia". But, for a fabric with a similar feel, there's also Cassaro's "Bergama" in Wineberry.

(Castaing photos from The Finest Rooms in France; Fine photos from Lonny magazine, Miguel Flores Vianna photographer.)


  1. All the best decorators have an architectural approach and Madame Castaing is no exception. That little room
    is positively brilliant! Thank you Jennifer, for this bit of inspiration.

  2. Madeleine Castaing! What an interesting woman. No one could ever accuse her of anything like being mundane or boring! How wonderfully eccentric she was, how interesting, and above all, how stylish, and chic. If I have to fasten a wig under MY chin to be remembered, I shall!! But then, it has been done already!

  3. It is so interesting to see these beautiful designs and then compare them to current homes!

  4. Thank you for the kind comment on the guest post I did for EEE. I think we both have tents on the brain.Wonder if Tessa Kennedy was influenced by MC? I have this smallish room with three doors and double windows. I took TK's lead (of course, on a much less grand scale!) and made drapes for all the openings. I didn't tent the ceiling. It's a small library and alternative dining spot. There's a special feeling about it. Fabrics, trims, dreamy cocoons: count me in! Thanks again for your kindness.

  5. J -- Love how you've highlighted the fabric Lisa used. For those of us who think we're not purple people, that chair definitely makes us rethink the color, doesn't it?

  6. I'm not a purple person either, except when it's aubergine! Then I just adore it :)

  7. Jennifer, The fascination with the chin strap et al is that Madame wore it with such unabashed glamour. applause applause. The room like all her rooms has Castaing written all over it-just like her lipsticked boudoir mirror. I love the Fine apt. very bohemian not for the faint of heart- Her mix is what delights-from its appearance the fabric-purple, aubergine or plumberry "went" color likely -little factor since an exercise in "matching", the correct design tenets-are like Castaing unabashedly out the window! Plumberry, it all grows on you as you age and mellow. GT

  8. La seule chose a dire: Absolument Magnifique!
    As Toby said, merci merci for this beautiful bit of inspiration!