Friday, August 31, 2012

Pleased as Punch

When was the last time you attended a party where punch was served? Today, it seems that most punch serving and imbibing occurs during Christmas when no holiday party is complete without a bowl of eggnog or milk punch. Traditionally, non-alcoholic punch was served at ladies' teas and showers. I recall on more than one occasion attending daytime parties where Lime Sherbet Punch was served. (Do you remember Lime Sherbet Punch? I bet many of you do.) To this day, I like the taste of that green-hued punch, although the frothy film that settled on top always bothered me.

I found these punch-y photos in a 1934 House Beautiful. Funny enough, the article's author wrote, "It's a long time since anyone has given a great deal of thought to punch. But now that the ingredients for those fine and mysterious concoctions are available again, there seems every reason why punch should regain its old popularity as a festive accompaniment to festive occasions." Ah, yes, that pesky Prohibition seemed to have put a damper on things. I do agree with the author's sentiments, though, that punch should once again regain its popularity. Next time you have friends over for cocktails, why not serve up some party punch in a great big bowl? No Hunch Punch, mind you, but something more mature. Perhaps Champagne Cup? I can't vouch for the taste of it, but based on the recipe below, I just can't imagine that it would taste anything less than delicious.

Champagne Cup

Use one quart of champagne, the cut-up peel of two oranges and two sliced lemons, a slice of cucumber peel, a jigger each of brandy and cointreau, a pint of club soda, a teaspoonful of sugar or more if desired. Place the peels of the oranges, lemons and cucumbers in bottom of punch-bowl. Over these pour the brandy and cointreau, then the champagne, and lastly the club soda. When mixed, place a large piece of ice in bowl and garnish top of ice with pieces of rock candy and a few slices of orange.

(The best part of the recipe is the suggested food accompaniments: Raisins chopped and mixed with sherry, spread between thin, diamond-shaped slices of white bread. Pâté de fois gras sandwiches, or small pastry shells filled with it. Small turnovers of pastry glazed with white of egg, without filling. Chopped lettuce, mixed with sour cream, a little sugar, lemon juice and salt- spread between thin slices of white bread or Boston brown bread. Sandwiches made with chopped sautéed mushrooms, canned shrimp, or crab meat, cut fine, mixed with cream sauce, on top of rounds of toast. Any kind of simple cookies, wafers, champagne Chantillys and cashew nuts.)

A red and white tablecloth sets the tone for a Claret punch party.

Swedish glögg served alongside oatmeal, rye and spice cookies, orange cake and almonds

A Victorian style table set with fringed fish net cloth. I don't suggest that you replicate this table.

Silver and glass accessories suggested for punch service.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Atlanta House Tour

I want to share with you a special Atlanta house, one that has both inspired me and influenced my style of decorating. Belonging to a dear friend of mine, the house made a terrific impression on me during my first visit as a young 23 year old. All these years later, the house still never fails to charm me.

My friend purchased her home 60 years, a decision influenced by the fact that friends lived across the street. Even today, it’s a home that she continues to love, nurture, and decorate. Two things struck me upon my first visit: first, it’s filled with all kinds of collections and personal treasures. Family heirlooms and mementos, porcelain, shells, and books are all displayed with flair and gusto, something that gives the home great personality and warmth. I wish that some of the world’s too-perfectly decorated houses could borrow some of these treasures as I think they would go a long way to warm up those houses.

The other thing that I learned during that first visit is that classic, tasteful design never goes out of style. Lacquered walls, Chinoiserie, mirror, collections, and antiques- all of which make appearances in this home- trump decorating trends always. My friend’s stylish trappings make the home feel exactly like a Manhattan apartment within the shell of an Atlanta house.

By the way, there are a few things that my photos do not capture, but they are things that add to the pleasant atmosphere of the home. There is always a fragrant candle burning, one that imbues the house with an appealing fragrance. When I shot these photos a few weeks ago, the subtle scent of spruce filled the air; it smelled divine. Also, I have never visited her when music was not softly playing in the background. Most often, it’s the Great American Songbook. And finally, thanks to the previously mentioned lacquered and mirrored walls, the house positively comes alive at night. It looks so lovely bathed in soft light. It’s also the most fun time to visit as that’s when the conversation seems to be at its best!

Brown lacquered walls serve as an elegant and dramatic backdrop to various collections.

Boxes of all sorts- Limoges, silver, and ivory- are displayed on a living room side table.

A secretary stands in one corner of the living room and is filled with antique porcelain.

This ornate sterling silver porringer and spoon, purchased by the homeowner's mother-in-law in England, was used to feed all four of my friend's children.

A collection of framed dried flowers and leaves includes the homeowner's dried Lily of the Valley wedding bouquet.

The Reading Room is used as a repository for books, paintings, and objects. The walls are mirrored, while the wainscoting is covered in a trellis wallpaper that has been made to look antique.

A portrait of the Colonel, a family ancestor, is displayed prominently in the reading room. An antique chest holding antique porcelain sits beneath it.

When he married, the Colonel gave his bride a horse, a bridle, a saddle, and a crop as wedding gifts. The crop is displayed here alongside the Colonel's swagger stick.

Shells and shell-encrusted objects can be found throughout the house.

The petite antique bed was a display piece purchased from the downtown location of Rich's.

Dolls, once owned by the homeowner's mother, are now framed and hung in the bedroom.

Also hanging in the bedroom is this Horst photo of Hubbell Pierce, the New York entertainer with whom some of you might be familiar. Pierce was a native Atlantan and life-long friend of the homeowner. Above the Horst is a baby photo of Pierce.

A collection of antique evening bags is displayed on the powder room walls. Some of the bags belonged to the homeowner's mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

The silver chalice to the right is a family heirloom. During the Civil War, silver was often buried underground to escape notice by Union soldiers. The chalice's dents were caused by soldiers striking their swords into the ground in an effort to find hidden silver. Fortunately, this piece escaped detection.

The homeowner's love of cats is evident in her kitchen where a wall is devoted to cat-themed art. I especially like the framed quotation by Jean Cocteau, seen above.

And The Winner Is....

Just wanted to announce that the winner of last week's C. Wonder/ The Peak of Chic contest is Michele Nichols of Atlanta!

Congratulations, Michele! And thank you to everybody who entered the contest.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Billy Baldwin Does Dallas

The photo above is one with which most of you are familiar. It shows the Dallas living room of the Harding Lawrences which was decorated by Billy Baldwin in the late 1960s. I first saw the photo years ago while reading Billy Baldwin Decorates, and there were two memorable things about this photo. First, the combination of those pink walls, floral print fabric, and modern artwork looks smashing. And secondly, there was some kind of color separation issue with the printing as the blue and white garniture looks strangely bleached out. (That problem seems to have been corrected in Adam Lewis' recent book, Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator, where the photo also appears.)

I was always curious as to what the rest of the home looked like, and I recently found additional photos in the May 1970 issue of House Beautiful. Now you know that I think Billy Baldwin was one of the greatest decorators ever. However, while the rest of the house was attractive, it seems to have lacked the punch that the pink living room had. The article did mention that when the Lawrences purchased the house, it was a dark, gloomy Tudor style house. Baldwin was charged with making the home bright and light, and that he certainly accomplished by painting walls and trim in soft, pale tones and upholstering furniture in colorful, cheery prints. Still, for me, the masterpiece of the house is that gorgeous living room, a room that ranks up there as one of the most attractive of all Baldwin's work. It just doesn't get much better than that.

In an effort to make the home feel comfortable, the Lawrences chose to forgo a formal dining room in favor of a combination dining room and library.

The sitting area of the dining room cum library with accents of sunny yellow.

When the Lawrences entertained (which, according to the article, was not often), they set up three tables to accommodate no more than twelve guests.

The "South Porch" where the Lawrences relaxed and took lunch. The cotton fabric was of French origin and made especially for Baldwin.

Mr. Lawrence's dressing room had walls upholstered in brown and white striped cotton.

The master bedroom, an oasis of beige cotton, boasted a view of Turtle Creek Park.

A view from the staircase. You can see the South Porch straight ahead on the first floor, with what I believe is a glimpse of the pink living room to the right. Note too the plaster palm torchères.

All photos from House Beautiful, May 1970.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fortuny Interiors

Even as a child, I was familiar with Fortuny. It was something about which I heard adults, including my parents, the family decorator, and others, discuss when the topic of houses and decorating came up. Fortuny was spoken of with great admiration, not to mention a Southern accented, drawn out second syllable. For-tooooh-nee.

Now as an adult, I too have an admiration for this venerable fabric firm, especially now that brothers Mickey and Maury Riad are heading the firm. It's nice to see the duo freshening things up a bit, something that seems to be winning them fans amongst a new generation of designers. And what about their new line of tableware and accessories that was created in conjunction with L'Objet? Fabulous!

I just got a peek at the new book
Fortuny Interiors by Brian Coleman and photographer Erik Kvalsik. Although I have not yet read the book, it looks like a beautiful tome based on the photographs. The featured interiors run the gamut from centuries old Venetian palazzi to more contemporary dwellings, something which shows Fortuny's range.

Take a look below for a little taste of the book. I think that no matter how you pronounce Fortuny, you just might find some inspiration in this book.

If you live in Atlanta, L'Objet pour Fortuny can be found at Owen Lawrence.

Photographs by Erik Kvalsvik from Fortuny Interiors by Brian Coleman. Reprint permission by Gibbs Smith Publisher

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rose Cumming Design Inspiration

Start clearing out space on your bookshelves. It's time for the new fall book releases! First up is Jeffrey Simpson's Rose Cumming, due to be released by Rizzoli on September 4.

For someone who was once a prominent figure in American design, Rose Cumming has become something of an enigma. I think that most of us know her as the purple-haired decorator who had a remarkable if at times strange sense of color and who slept in a bedroom with silver lamé curtains. But oh, there is so much more to Cumming than that. Thankfully we now have Simpson's book to help flesh out who Rose Cumming really was.

Some of the mystery that surrounds Cumming may have to do with the fact that few of her interiors were ever published. In fact, rarely do I come across her work in my old design magazines. Fortunately, this book remedies that problem. There are many black and white and color photos depicting Cumming's work, and I think it's interesting to see how her style evolved over the decades. You can see a few photos below, although there are many other treasures in the book. Additionally, Cumming's fabric designs figure prominently in this book, something that is fitting considering that Cumming may best be remembered for her iconic chintzes like Delphinium Stripe, Sabu, and Royal Swag.

While photos are obviously an important component of a designer monograph, I think that what makes this book such a gem is the text. Simpson has written a compelling, fascinating, and downright entertaining biography of Rose Cumming. Even if you tend to not read text in design books, I think you'll make an exception here. Cumming's story is like that of no other, but I think it was a story that only could have developed in the first part of the 20th century. Characters like Rose Cumming are unfortunately a rarity today, but thank goodness we have Simpson's book to remind us that magical things can happen if we chart our own courses, no matter how unusual they might be.

A Cumming designed interior replete with satin and a bear skin rug. (Photograph by G.W. Harting, Dessin Fournir Collections.)

One of Cumming's client files includes fabric swatches. (Photograph by Jayson K.T. Schwaller, Dessin Fournir Collections.)

Draped curtains in a Cumming designed room. (Dessin Fournir Collections)

One of Cumming's most famous prints, "Delphinium Stripe". (Photograph by Jayson K.T. Schwaller, Dessin Fournir Collections.)

The stairway in Cumming's own home featured a Chinese inspired mural. (Photograph by Harold Haliday Costain, Dessin Fournir Collections.)

All images copyright of Rose Cumming by Jeffrey Simpson, Rizzoli, 2012.