Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blurred Boundaries

Continuing with lacquered walls...

Something that never ceases to capture my attention are rooms in which the walls, trim, and ceiling are all painted in the same color and the same finish. The effect is one which is often likened to a "jewel box", an apt description that unfortunately has become hackneyed as of late. Still, rooms painted in this manner do have a dramatic flair to them, don't you think? The planes of the room seemed to become blurred so that you feel like you're wrapped in a cocoon of color.

For me, the most memorable jewel box rooms are those that have been painted in dark, saturated color. Just look at the Los Angeles living room of designer Helen Partello, above. Wow, is that a room or what?? But, those rooms that have been bathed in lighter shades of yellow or pink are certainly just as charming. And I believe that I prefer for the walls and ceiling to have a high gloss or lacquered finish. All of that light bouncing around the room helps to soften the look. A matte finish, at least to me, seems to make a room feel like a dead zone. But that's just me.

It looks like Jan Showers chose a sang de boeuf color for this richly appointed library. The walls and ceiling really have a sheen, don't they?

Yes, the color may be a bit pale (it's corn-yellow), but the lacquered finish is what packs a punch in this room. The ceiling looks wet. This 1930s room was decorated by Jack Killick.

According to the book from which this photo came, the "deep flesh pink" walls and ceiling are a matte finish. Drawing room decorated by John Hill for Messrs. Green & Abbott, Ltd.

I know that this room is far more contemporary than anything I usually show, but it's a great example of not really being able to tell where the walls end and the ceiling begins. (New York apartment of Arthur Ferber.)

(Image #1 from Architectural Digest California Interiors; #2 from Glamorous Rooms by Jan Showers, Jeff McNamara photographer; #3 and #4 from Colour Schemes for the Modern Home by Derek Patmore; #5 from Architectural Digest New York Interiors)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

California Interiors

A pleasant surprise is always welcome, don't you think? That's what I got this past weekend when I bought an old copy of Architectural Digest California Interiors. I've collected most of the AD books (of which Architectural Digest New York Interiors and Architectural Digest Traditional Interiors are my favorites), but for some reason, I always avoided the California book as I thought that it would only feature homes that bore the " California Look". After all, the book was published in 1979, so maybe my assumption could be understood. And truth be told, the heavily publicized California look of the 1970s and 80s is not a favorite of mine. (I know- sacrilege. I'm prepared to take the heat for this.)

But...boy was I wrong. Yes, there is some of that look in the book, but not much. Instead, there are plenty of elegant interiors that one would expect in Los Angeles and especially San Francisco. And even more surprising, some of the interiors don't seem too dated. A few flouncy curtains and oversized upholstered furniture perhaps, but not much. Just take a look:

This has to be my favorite photo in the entire book. The Los Angeles dining room of Jerry Leen, founding partner of Dennis and Leen. How chic, even thirty years later.

I think that I'm taken with this room because it's truly a nighttime room. Those dark brown walls and black blinds are such a rich backdrop for the room's fine furniture and rug. (San Francisco home of Spero Arbes.)

To me, this room has a New York feel to it. Sally Sirkin Lewis designed this room in the Beverly Hills home of Harris L. Katlemans.

Another nighttime room, this time the Los Angeles dining cum sitting room of designer Helen Partello. The chintz covered walls are unexpectedly topped by a dark, dramatic ceiling. The tablesetting is rather nice as well. (And yes, there is a sofa trimmed in fringe, although it's a little too long for me.)

Okay, I realize that this bed is kind of funky. But, I think that's why I like it. I'm not saying I would have it in my bedroom, but there's something oddly appealing about it. The bedroom of Los Angeles designer J.P. Mathieu.

(All images from Architectural Digest California Interiors; images #1, #2 and #5 by photographer Russell MacMasters; #3 by Tim Street-Porter; #4 by Jerry Bragsted)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Memorable Introductions

While I was searching for images of brush fringed chairs, I came across all of these great photos of entryways and foyers that most definitely catch one's eye. Haven't we read umpteen times that entryways are an opportunity to make a statement? And really, it's quite true. Think of them as an amuse-bouche. Their small sizes allow you to really get creative with floors, walls, and ceilings.

Take that entryway at top, for example. I've been looking often at that photo for a few years now, and I still find it charming. There was no dramatic statement being made here; it's just a really pretty room. There is that marbleized black and white linoleum floor, the floral papered walls (green leaves against a yellow background), a Moravian star light fixture, and an elegant Regency table. All together, it adds up to a very proper introduction to the rest of the home.

There is this small hallway that was decorated by Marian Hall and Diane Tate (read about them in Adam Lewis' great new book, The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955). That wallpaper in yellow and sepia tones is a Directoire print, while the rubberized floor is brown with a green and yellow sunburst-type design. I'm a little iffy on the color scheme here (a brown, green, and yellow combo is not a particular favorite of mine), but unfortunately we're left to using our imagination because of the black and white photography.

Not quite an entryway, but rather a niche. This space is all about those green and white striped walls. You almost forget to look at the other objects in the room. (The Chicago residence of Mrs. John Alden Carpenter)

Sometimes, simple really is better. But, each piece must be chosen with care. That seems the case in this Regency style foyer in the New York apartment of decorator Mrs. Arthur James (James & Landor decorators). The stripes on the wall are bands of crumpled gold paper (according to the book from which this photo was taken). The floor appears to be some type of linoleum or composite- so simple with that banded outline. And of course, the Venetian blackamoors and gold and black bench add additional layers to the Regency theme.

Barbara Jaffe and Carol Ann Hayden decorated this foyer sometime in the 1970s. Look how super traditional the chandelier is, not to mention the William and Mary chest and the turned leg chairs. But, that wild wallpaper completely updates the look. If I were to walk into an entryway with a paper like this, I might think "this is going to be a fun night." And if it wasn't, I'd be sorely disappointed!

Leave it to the late Anthony Hail to create an entryway (this one in his San Francisco home) that was classically masculine. The walls were painted with trompe l'oeil rustication. Despite that bust of Napoleon on the console table, I think that this entryway, no matter how small it was, did not suffer from a Napoleonic complex. In fact, I think the same could be said of all of the them.

(Images #1, #2, and #3 from House and Garden's Book of Color Schemes; #4 from House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration; #5 and #6 from The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration by Norma Skurka.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fringe Benefits

I'm trying to figure out the seating situation in my bedroom. (After I wrote that, I realized that this is a loaded statement.) I think it's nice to have a chair in one's bedroom as a place to sit and read. I have a temporary one in there right now. It was my childhood armchair and ottoman that is, well, a little dated. Both pieces are a bit low to the ground which is perfect for a child (of which I am no more...), and they're upholstered in a Colefax & Fowler check. It was great for the 1980s, but not so much anymore. Those two pieces will, I believe, be heading to the consignment store.

What I plan to use in its place is a hand-me-down wing chair that used to be in my parents' library. I adore a traditional, honest to goodness wing chair. You can dress them up, you can dress them down. I want this wing chair to be a little glam, much like those you see in the old movies. And if you look closely at wing chairs from the 1930s and 40s, you'll notice that many of them have brush fringe. I'm thinking of doing this to my chair. Perhaps a solid mohair or silk velvet with a contrasting brush fringe. The deal is, though, that the fringe needs to be short. After trolling my books for images of brush fringe, I noticed that one trend from this era was adorning everything- chairs, sofas, lampshades- in a long fringe. No, this is not for me. I think I'll just stick to a well-groomed fringe.

Billy Haines used fringe on this armchair for actress Constance Bennett. Check out the fringe on the lamp shade!

It pains me to write me this because in my mind, Frances Elkins could do no wrong. But...that fringe is a little too long for me. Other than that, it's really pretty stunning. (Living Room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Wheeler, Lake Forest, Illinois, c. 1934)

A great example by Syrie Maugham in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Williams, New York. (Drix Duryea, photographer)

Leave it to Rose Cumming to make brush fringe so glam. This makes me want to upholster my wing chair in silk. Not the best choice for a home with a dog, but still... (Home of Mrs. C.S. Petrasch, New York City)

In the Beverly Hills salon of designer Adrian, Tony Duquette was enthusiastic in his use of brush fringe.

Image at top: Designer John Gerald trimmed this blue satin strie upholstered armchair in a beige fringe. I think this is a great example of what I may do with my chair.

(Image #1: House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration. #2 from Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator by Peter Schifando. #3 from Frances Elkins: Interior Design by Stephen Salny. #4 and #5 from The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870-1955 by Adam Lewis. #6 from Regency Redux: High Style Interiors: Napoleonic, Classical Moderne, and Hollywood Regency by Emily Evans Eerdmans.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Watch This Movie (Sort of): Ziegfeld Follies

I've been wishing a lot lately that I could have a day- just one day- to do nothing. Well, ask and ye shall receive...although I received in the form of a stomach bug. No fun at all. So what else was there to do than to watch a movie? Ziegfeld Follies had been on my list for a while, and I was dying to see Tony Duquette's handiwork on the film's set. In case you're not familiar with it, the 1946 MGM film was a musical tribute to the late Flo Ziegfeld, Broadway producer extraordinaire. The extravaganza included musical numbers and skits by Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Fanny Brice, Red Skelton, and others. If musicals give you hives, I wouldn't watch this movie. It was good but I was glad when it was over. (I now wish that I had watched a darker movie like Leave Her to Heaven or Born to Be Bad. There is nothing like whiling away an afternoon with a twisted movie.)

But back to Ziegfeld. I captured some screen shots of the Fred Astaire & Lucille Bremer number that is pure Tony Duquette. The scene begins in a red ballroom with enormously tall masked pages keeping watch over the room.

And then there's an impressive chandelier that crowns the room. Another uniquely Duquette flourish:

Outside the ballroom, guests are shown arriving in front of a naive but totally charming blue backdrop with white flowering trees.

When Fred and Lucille decide to take the action outside, the walls of the ballroom close to reveal more Duquette statues:

They dance amongst a faux bois bench with tasseled feet (wouldn't you love to have this on your patio?) I also am taken with the white painted urn with white branches. Hmmm, that might look nice somewhere in my home...

And after much twirling and dancing, the number ends with couples surrounding Astaire and Bremer on a revolving dance floor. How beautiful is this scene with the female dancers and their pink-hued dresses? See how the dancers are arranged according to the shade of pink that they're wearing? And look at white barren trees that they're standing in front of. At first, I thought they were holding horns above their heads.

There was one other number that charmed me- yet another involving Astaire and Bremer, only this time they're supposed to be Chinese. I don't believe that Duquette was involved in this number, or at least not that I have been able to determine. This gorgeous Chinoiserie set may be the work of one of the Art Directors, perhaps Cedric Gibbons or Merrill Pye. Don't you think these shots, below, look like handpainted wallpaper. Perhaps something from de Gournay or Fromental? This has to be one of the most inventive and fantastical sets I've seen.

If something like this were recreated today, it would be computer generated, something which would have far less charm than these sets from sixty years ago. Then again, I doubt anyone would do a Chinoiserie scene like this today. How many theatergoers would want to see something like this? Not many, except perhaps you and me.

(All screen shots from Ziegfeld Follies, MGM, 1946)