Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Bright Young Diana Mitford Guinness Mosley

I recently reread author D. J. Taylor's excellent book on the "Bright Young People", those 1920s-era young, upper-class whippersnappers of London whose antics were heavily chronicled by the British newspapers of the time. Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh, Brian Howard, Nancy Mitford, and their ilk made up this tightly-knit group of revelers who pretty much partied their way through the decade. I have to say that after reading Taylor's book for the second time, I am left with conflicting opinions of this group. On the one hand, I admire the writers that Waugh and Mitford became. On the other hand, I think that as a whole, the Bright Young People were mostly vacuous, self-centered people who seemed incapable of understanding- and filtering into- the world outside of their clique. No matter whether one finds the bright young set obnoxious or dazzling, I believe most would agree that this group makes for interesting reading.

One Bright Young Person who was mentioned numerous times in Taylor's book was Nancy's sister, Diana Mitford, seen above as a young woman. Mitford married Brian Guinness during the 1920s, and they went on to become two of the leading lights of their social set. (Or, to use today's terminology, they were a "power couple" amongst their cohorts.)  As we know, Diana Mitford Guinness scandalized her family by throwing over Guinness for Oswald Mosley, the fascist politician who founded the British Union of Fascists and later, the New Party, which included the infamous Blackshirts.  Diana and Oswald would later marry in Germany at Joseph Goebbels' house (where Hitler was in attendance, no less,) espouse fascism, be interned during World War II, and eventually end up living in France.

Political persuasions aside, Diana and Oswald Mosley did have a pretty home in Orsay known rather grandly as Temple of Glory.  While the interiors seemed to reflect their French locale, the house also had a very British feel to it, cozy thanks to books and bibelots.  According to The Finest Houses in Paris, in which these photos appeared, the house had few rooms, prompting one guest, the Duchess of Windsor, to query, "It's a charming place, but where do you actually live?"  Pale blue, Diana's favorite color, made appearances throughout the house, especially via walls and fabrics.  An enthusiastic entertainer, Diana often invited guests to Sunday lunches, where her Irish butler prepared the meals.  For her table settings, Diana preferred to use her rare Saxon porcelain china, placing it directly on the table sans place mats.  And candied fruit (see below) was frequently served after dinner. 

All in all, the Mosley house was very elegant and inviting.  It's too bad the same thing can't be said for their politics.

All photos from The Finest Houses in Paris by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery, I. B. Tauris publisher, 2000.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Remembering Joe Nye

I was heartbroken to learn that Joe Nye, a designer whom I considered to be a friend, died last week. I got to know Joe about six years ago when he gave my sister and me the grand tour of Los Angeles. It was then that I learned what a kind, gregarious, and generous person he was. I remember a day spent seeing the city's design hot-spots, chatting about Sister Parish and our favorite fabrics, and relaxing at his lovely, chic, jewel-box of an apartment in Beverly Hills. (You can see photos of his apartment, below.)  It was a day I won't forget.

Over the years, I enjoyed seeing his work featured in magazines such as House Beautiful, and I was thrilled when his first book, Flair: Exquisite Invitations, Lush Flowers, and Gorgeous Table Settings, was published. It seemed appropriate that Joe's book was about entertaining. After all, he was warm and hospitable and cared a great deal about creating beauty, both for himself and for others. He had great, effortless style, and he was a good old-fashioned decorator in the best sense of the profession. He loved Chinoiserie, antiques, modern art, books, Dodie Thayer lettuceware, Mottahedeh Blue Canton, and all of the other time-honored things that I also love. Perhaps that is why we always had so much to talk about.

I will miss visiting him, and my future trips to Los Angeles just won't be the same without our get-togethers.  At least we have his work, and his book, to remind us of what a talented man Joe Nye truly was.

Image of Joe from his book, Flair, Rizzoli 2010. Images of Joe's apartment from House Beautiful, August 2009, Roger Davies photographer.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Chance To Learn From The Master

Let's end the week with a history lesson.  Not just any old history lesson, but one given by the late educator and design historian, Stanley Barrows. 

Featured in the September 1978 issue of House Beautiful (yes, I am obviously stuck on this issue,) the article was comprised of three different room vignettes, each of which captured the look of a different era in 20th century design history.  There was the 1900: Turn-of-the-Century Opulence look, which can be seen above.  Following that was the 1950: Mid-Century Comfort room.  And after that, 1978: Contemporary Simplicity.  The background for all three vignettes remained the same: the drawing room of an early 20th century Georgian Revival townhouse, which had classic moldings, an elegant fireplace, and dark glossy walls.

So why should we care about these room settings that were concocted in 1978?  Because this is the closest most of us will ever get to being taught by the great Barrows, who counted Mario Buatta, Albert Hadley, Angelo Donghia, Thomas Britt, Edward Zajac, and many other great designers among his many students.  Considering those designers' talents, I think we should listen up and pay attention to Mr. Barrows.

The caption for the Edwardian-era room above read: "The drawing room in Edwardian times was always ready to receive callers. A formal space for 'at home' afternoons and evenings, it was filled with art and accessories. This room has an atmosphere of flowery fantasy, enhanced by the exuberant use of massed plants and flowers. A rose-and-lilac patterned chintz from Brunschwig & Fils carries out the floral theme on seating and stiffened valances and curtains. Alfred Maurer's striking full-length portrait shows the taste for dramatic poses during this era. A conscious diversity of forms associated with early 20th-century rooms is combined with a feeling of coziness."

1950-Mid-Century Comfort: "By mid-century, few families could afford the servants needed to maintain the Edwardian style. Room design, like life styles, is simpler, with an emphasis on personal comfort and relaxation. The treatment by the second generation of inhabitants reveals a more limited use of pattern, contrasted with larger areas of non-patterned textures. The concern for comfort is reflected in heavier upholstered chairs and sofas. A less complicated, balloon shade window treatment shows the generally softer look associated with interior design in mid-20th-century America. As in the earlier example, a conscious contrast of the lighter values of the fabrics is played against extremely dark porphyry-colored walls. This makes a dramatic background for the light and dark silhouettes of the furnishings. This is a timeless room. Its traditional look is as acceptable today as it was 30 years ago."

1978-Contemporary Simplicity: "Today, while some people seek to fill their lives with reminders of the past, others strive to unencumber themselves of objects. Room designs are based around a select few, or even one great piece. The modern generation in this house has achieved a present-day atmosphere through the elimination of all earlier furnishings and the selection of recently designed seating. A subtly-colored dhurri rug adds a restrained note of fantasy to this 'less is more' setting."

Photos and text from House Beautiful, September 1978, Ralph Bogertman photographer.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Andrew Calhoun House

One of the most beloved houses in Atlanta is the Andrew Calhoun house, more commonly referred to as the "Pink Palace". Built in 1922-23 and designed by architect Philip Shutze, who was at that time an apprentice at Hentz, Reid, & Adler, the Italian Baroque-style house was inspired by Shutze's studies in Italy.  When the house was originally built, one entered the drive from West Paces Ferry Road, through magnificent gates which gave visitors a stunning view of the house's garden facade (photo #2).  The entry was at the rear, where the view was rather austere though still quite dignified.  (Photo #1) 

Some of the more notable features of the house are the ornate plasterwork (just look at those door surrounds, below) as well as a few Allyn Cox murals, of which only one remains.  You might recall that another notable Atlanta house, the Goodrum house, also boasts an Allyn Cox mural.

The first seven photos of this post came from the September 1978 issue of House Beautiful. At that time, the interiors were the work of the well-respected Atlanta designer, T. Gordon Little. (Click here to see more of Little's work.) Little wisely chose quiet furnishings for the home, allowing the house's architecture to play the leading role. With plasterwork like this, who needs bold prints or bright colors?

To bring this story current, I am also including a few photos that appeared in the February 2012 issue of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. The magazine printed a really terrific article about the Calhoun House with recent photos by Atlanta architect Peter Block and comments by several other Atlanta architects. (Do click the link to read it; it's an intriguing read.) The house is currently on the market, although it very well could have sold recently and I'm just not aware of it. I sincerely hope that the future homeowners, as well as the designer of their choosing, will respect the house's architectural integrity and its stately Southern charm. The last thing this house needs is a makeover in the Belgian cum Southern rustic look or Hollywood Regency style.  Now that would be a crying shame.

One of three Allyn Cox murals originally executed for the house, the entry hall's Roman-themed mural is the only one that remains.

The living room as decorated by T. Gordon Little.

The dining room with its plaster medallion of Michelangelo, which is original to the house.

The doorway that leads to my favorite room of the house, the ballroom.

A detail shot of the house's front, or garden, facade.

This recent photo of the ballroom, taken by Peter Block, looks more or less as it did in the late 1970s.

The living room retains much of the furnishings that were selected decades ago by Little.

Photos #1-#7 from House Beautiful, September 1978, Peter Aaron photographer. Peter Block's photos, which appeared in the February 2012 issue of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles were used with express permission from the magazine.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dining with Mario

There seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm for last week's post on tablesettings, so if you'll indulge me, I've got one more for you. But the twist is that all of these photos feature "tableware at its finest in innovative settings by Interior Designer Mario Buatta"- to quote the November 1977 House Beautiful article from which these photos came.

This post seems especially timely, too, considering that Mario's work for Hilary and Wilbur Ross is featured in the July issue of Architectural Digest. Have you seen the article yet? All I can say is thank heaven for Mario Buatta!

And when you look at the photos below, I think you'll see plenty of the ol' Mario Magic.  Other than the quality of the photos (they were taken in 1977, after all), everything still looks fresh today.

In the photo above and at top: Interlude china and Castle Garden crystal by Lenox and Reed & Barton's classic Francis I flatware were set on a cloth made from China Seas' Ball fabric. (I don't think this print is in their current line-up.) The best part of this setting, though, has to be that beautiful bevy of blue and white porcelain.

This "English Country" table is set with Gorham's Minaret china and Chantilly sterling flatware and President crystal by Gorham. The grass green napkins are by Vera, while the cloth is Madeleine chintz from Clarence House. I wonder if the lettuce tureen and earthenware rabbit were part of Mario's collection. I also find the library setting very cozy.

The sweet ribbon print fabric is Brunschwig & Fils' Cecily Ribbon and the china is Indian Tree by Aynsley. The crystal is Eileen by Waterford and the flatware is French Empire.

A more subdued setting thanks to the neutral tones of Dragon Sorrell china by Royal Worcester and a tablecloth by Fabrications. The flatware is Grand Majesty by Oneida.

All photos from House Beautiful, November 1977; Feliciano photographer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place

On the off-chance that you are looking for something to do this weekend, perhaps you should considered organizing your home.  That, at least, was what I felt like doing after first seeing that collage of photos, seen above.  Published in House & Garden Guide to Interior Decoration, the photos show the extraordinary organizational skills of Mrs. John Barry Ryan III of New York City.

The gist of the article was that Mrs. Ryan was a real-pro at arranging tablescapes, collections, seating, and flowers.  And yes, after looking at the photos, I would agree that she was.  But she was also the most organized person I have ever seen, with the exception of my mother.  Mrs. Ryan's silver boxes were perfectly lined up on her desktop, while her drawer full of beaded necklaces was a study in precision and order.  And what has to be the world's most extensive collection of gloves was filed away in a drawer and arranged by color, all kept fresh thanks to a Porthault butterfly sachet.

This, people, is what I aspire to.  No matter how hard I try, though, my cache of beaded necklaces will never look anything more than a jumbled cluster.


The Hearst Design Group and Inside Design

Hearst Design Group will present Inside Design next Wednesday, June 19 and Thursday, June 20 at ADAC in Atlanta.  In addition to talks by Amy Preiser of Elle Decor and Leslie Newsom Rascoe of Veranda, Newell Turner, Editorial Director of Hearst Design Group, will give a keynote speech that explores how scrapbooks, journals, Pinterest, and other visual mediums help us to make sense of our lives.

You can see the full schedule on the invitation above.  For more information, or to register for these events, please visit the ADAC website.  I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Bedtime Story

The June issue of British House & Garden is a good one, but what especially caught my attention was the article about the Wiltshire house of Diane and John Nutting.  Not only is the house bright and airy, but it is filled with beautiful porcelains, antique furniture, and chintzes, all of which are arranged in a tidy fashion.  But the real show-stopper of the house, to me anyway, has to be that beautiful bed, seen above.  I'm not sure which part of the bed I like the most: the carved, gilded tester, or the bed curtains made from a now-discontinued Colefax & Fowler chintz.  The bedroom's seating area, also above, is quite fetching, too.

If you think you've seen this bed before, you probably have. It, along with most of the other furnishings ensconced in the Nuttings' home, once stood proudly in the couple's former house, the regal, early 18th c. Chicheley Hall. I found photos of the Chicheley Hall bedroom in Chester Jones's Colefax and Fowler: The Best in English Interior Decoration. According to this book, the late Tom Parr of Colefax & Fowler was responsible for Chicheley's redecoration, including the fabric chosen for the bed (which, according to the book, is Colefax & Fowler's "Charlotte" chintz.)  You can see this book's photos of the Nuttings' former bedroom below, including the fireplace seating area which was more or less recreated in the new home. You'll also notice that the Colefax & Fowler carpet that was chosen for the Chicheley Hall bedroom was also selected for the Nuttings' current bedroom.

And funny enough, the bed also made an appearance in one of my favorite books, The English Dog at Home by Felicity Wigan. Mrs. Nutting was photographed on her lovely bed alongside Scotties Matthew and Mollie.  (Little dogs seem to have a nose for fine bed linen.  I know that Alfie does.) 

You can see photos of Chicheley Hall below.  And if you have not already done so, I do urge you to take a look at the June issue of H&G to see the Nuttings' current house in all its lovely splendor.

Photos at top: British House & Garden, June 2013; Simon Brown photographer.