Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Sterling Specimen

The two photos above have become etched in my memory. You might think that the 18th c. Chinese wallpaper has something to do with it, but that's only a minor part of this story. It's those silver-plated orange tree tubs that I'm gaga for. Are they not beautiful? The tubs and the dining room housing them are located at Givenchy's château at Le Jonchet. (The photos above as well as many other images of Le Jonchet can be found in Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery's terrific book French Interiors: The Art of Elegance. You can buy a new copy on Amazon for $62.50 or a used one for $99,999.99. Take your pick.)

According to de Nicolay-Mazery's book, Givenchy was inspired to commission the silver-plated tubs after similar ones owned by M. and Mme. Arturo Lopez-Willshaw. Unfortunately, I can find no photos of the Lopez-Willshaw tubs, although I wonder if photos of them ever appeared in any old auction catalogues. I even turned my library upside down trying to find images of other silver-plated tubs, but to no avail. I did, however, find a mention of Louis XIV's own silver orange tree tubs in Nancy Mitford's
The Sun King. (Mitford's book is really quite interesting, and the dust jacket is attractive too.) Of the Sun King's collection of orange trees, Mitford wrote, "The King was passionately fond of them and had them in all his rooms, in silver tubs."

Since I'm only showing a scant two photos of silver tree tubs, I'm including photos below of the Orangery at Versailles as blog post filler. If any of you know of other examples of these beautiful tubs, please let me know.

The Orangery at Chateau de Versailles

French Interiors: The Art of Elegance. Images of The Orangery at Versailles from Orangeries by Sylvia Saudan-Skira and Michel Saudan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Watch This Movie- Roberta

Over the years, I had seen bits and pieces of the 1935 movie Roberta, but I decided to give the movie my full attention after my friend Ron van Empel encouraged me to do so. Ron, a very talented Dutch lighting designer, loves old movies as much as I do. In fact, unbeknownst to the other, we watched Lost Horizon around the same time and both of us were inspired by the movie's upholstered doors. (I was simply inspired; Ron actually acted upon the inspiration and designed Lost Horizon doors in his own home!)

Roberta's plot revolves around a hayseed American (Randolph Scott) who travels to Paris with his best friend (Fred Astaire) and their band. Scott visits his famous fashion designer aunt, Madame Roberta, who employs a Russian princess played by Irene Dunne. Romance and music and dance numbers ensue. But this post is all about the sets. Ron told me that I would get a kick out of the exuberant sets, and he was right. The art directors of the film were Van Nest Polglase and Carroll Clark. In typical 1930s fashion, the sets were very white. What struck me the most were the number of murals and painted designs on the set backdrops. While painting decorative motifs and murals was certainly cost effective, it would be safe to say that these sets were painted to within an inch of their lives. Most of the film takes place at Madame Roberta's Paris couture house, and the motifs and murals there are a curious mix of Roman, Greek, and pastoral scenes. Madame Roberta's was a far cry from the salons of Mademoiselle Chanel and Madame Lanvin!

To read my post on Lost Horizon, click here. To see Ron's Lost Horizon doors, click here.

The lobby of Madame Roberta was typical for the era. Glamorous zebra print chairs, a banister that is pure pastiche, and an elaborate door surround.

Madame Roberta's living area was probably the most elegant. Columns abound with two holding crystal lamps and one supporting a Deco looking sculpture.

But, the set designer couldn't resist adding something painted. This time, it's a Roman gladiator.

The Salon at Madame Roberta was most interesting. Inexplicably, there was a deer in the snowy woods mural as well as a door painted with a carriage and wagon wheel. I'm not sure what the thought process was behind this. After all, this was a Paris couture house.

One of the atelier's offices with some kind of mural in the background.

Ginger Rogers practicing her nightclub act at Cafe Russe. Russian motifs were (what else?) painted on the backdrop.

I actually like the faux ornamental tree. What kind of fruit is that supposed to be?

The finale was a musical fashion show of Madame Roberta's latest creations. Quite a production. And who would have thought that Madame Roberta's atelier on Avenue Montaigne was so large? I do want to point out the diamond patterned door and Greek key surround in the photo of the model in the lame dress.

Monday, August 29, 2011

From Paris to New York with Jean-Paul Beaujard

I must have offended somebody at the Postal Service because for whatever reason, I now receive all of my magazines two weeks after everybody else. Very annoying. I only just received the September issue of Architectural Digest at the end of last week, but that's okay. After reading it, I spent a pleasant weekend dreaming about antiques dealer and designer Jean-Paul Beaujard's Manhattan apartment. It's such a sumptuously elegant home.

I was not familiar with Beaujard's work, but a Google search showed that Beaujard's Paris apartment was featured in the September 2006 issue of Architectural Digest. You should visit the magazine's website to see the entire article, but what struck me is the similarity between the two apartments. Beaujard obviously has a well-defined vision of how he wants to live. Madeleine Castaing fabrics seem to be a favorite of Beaujard as evidenced by his use of it in both apartments. Also, his collection of antiques shows a great deal of consistency between both homes. (That is hardly a criticism, rather an observation.) In the 2006 article, Beaujard was quoted as saying, "I don't like to do fashionable decorating. I like things where you can close the room and open it up 10 years later and it doesn't look has-been." I think that "has-been" is a term that will never describe Beaujard nor his homes.

If you look at the photo at top of Beaujard's Manhattan apartment, you'll notice that the green velvet sofa has a gilt wood frame. In his Paris apartment, above, a gilt chair wears a darker green velvet. A collection of Old Paris plates is displayed behind.

In his New York home office, the walls are covered in a Castaing fabric while a swatch of a different Castaing print rests on the desk.

In his Paris guest room, the walls are covered in the very same Castaing print.

I remember tearing this page out of the 2006 Paris article because I was taken with the painted door, not to mention that beautiful Coromandel screen.

Beaujard has used an array of animal prints in both of his apartments. (Perhaps that's why I'm smitten with his work!) Here, in his Paris library, the designer covered the walls in a leopard print fabric. That's a very Castaing touch.

Paris photos plus quote from Architectural Digest, September 2006, Marina Faust photographer, text by Peter Haldeman. Manhattan apartment photos from Architectural Digest, September 2011, Miguel Flores-Vianna photographer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

King Penguin Books at Ben Pentreath Ltd.

If you're not familiar with Ben Pentreath, by all means go visit his website right away. (After reading my blog post, of course!) In addition to owning his own interiors and architectural practice, Ben also has a very cool shop in the heart of London's Bloomsbury. (The shop is run by the stylish Bridie Hall.) Unfortunately, I have not been able to visit the shop in person, but plan to do so on my next trip to the UK.

In Ben's email
newsletter, he wrote about his collection of vintage King Penguin Books. According to Ben, 76 of these books were published in the UK between 1939 and 1959. The subject matter ranges from "Animals in Staffordshire Pottery" to "Life in an English Village". I guess that I've been living under a rock because I had never even heard of these books before. What I'm most taken with are the books' cover art. Have you ever seen a series of books with such charming covers?

I'm showing some of Ben's photos below so that you can the illustrations for yourself. "Tulipomania" would look awfully nice stacked on a side table in my apartment. Then again, "Popular English Art" would add a little color to one of my tableaux. I even have a feeling that the text inside is just as interesting as the cover.

A selection of these vintage books is for sale at Ben Pentreath's shop. To inquire, email

All images courtesy of Ben Pentreath Ltd.

New Picks from Scalamandre

I made a trip to the Scalamandre showroom at ADAC yesterday to see part of the new Memories of a Voyage to India collection. It's such a pretty collection and includes Shalimar, above, as well as the very tactile Shalimar Dots (see below). The dots almost look little silver studs embedded in the paper. Of course, what started out as a trip to look at two papers turned into a much lengthier visit. I couldn't help but get sidetracked by all of the beautiful papers. See below for what caught my eye. I'm sure you'll recognize a few of them as they're oldies but goodies.

If you need assistance with Scalamandre wallpaper and fabrics, I suggest contacting your local showroom. If you're in the Southeast, you can email for more info. Holly and Chandler at the Atlanta showroom are super friendly and helpful too.

Shalimar Dots in Silver on Citron, Silver on Beige, and Silver on Aqua

The pink and red Barley Stripe paper reminded me of that used by Ronald Grimaldi in his entryway (click here to visit that post.) It would look especially chic if lacquered, just as Grimaldi did with his striped paper.

You might recall that I wrote about sweet floral prints a few months back. I love this paper (Jour de Juin in Pastels on White; forgive the dark photos); for some reason, it looks very Deeda Blair to me.

I adore Venetian Carnival. Despite its appearance in my terrible photo, the background is a true pink. I think it would be perfect in a powder room or vestibule in a 1930s house. Of course, it would look just as smashing in a non-1930s house as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Château de la Barre

You might remember Arnaud Chevalier. He is the talented artist and designer about whom I wrote last year. (Click here to read it.) Arnaud recently told me about Château de la Barre, a château hotel that he said was one of the loveliest in France. Located in the Loire Valley, the château has been the home of the de Vanssay family for over 600 years. In fact, the current Comte de Vanssay (who oversees the château and hotel with his wife) is the 20th generation of his family to live in the château.

You must visit
the website to see all of the gorgeous photos because believe me, after seeing them, you will want to take a trip to Château de la Barre pronto. (Make that immédiatement.) I'm showing a few photos here. Don't you think the interiors look charming?

To get a better look at the photos below, make sure to click on them to enlarge.

Grand Salon


Pièce à feu

Salon Rose

Grande Salle à Manger

Chambre Marin de Vanssay

Chambre aux Fleurs (looks like it's been "Draperized" in Dorothy.)

Chambre Esprit de Jouy

Chambre Jaune

The Château Garden

All images courtesy of Château de la Barre