Friday, August 30, 2013

Study Abroad

Many of the great decorators have partially credited their success to their Parsons education. And some have specifically referred to their time spent abroad in Europe, where they were enrolled in the Parsons study abroad program, as an education from which they continued to benefit throughout their careers. It seems that their intensive studies, which included touring and learning about the great European houses and palaces, provided inspiration for years to come.

Such was the case with the late designer, Joseph Braswell, who studied at Parsons as a young man. According to the Jan/Feb 1975 issue of Architectural Digest, Braswell was engaged by his long-time St. Louis clients, the Yalems, to create a space for their inveterate entertaining. Braswell, with the assistance of architect William Bernoudy, conceived of the idea to create a separate pavilion that adjoined the clients' house, one which would be in keeping in the main house's architectural style. But when the designer began to flesh out his vision for this party pavilion, he thought thought back to his Parsons-era visit to Sanssouci, the Potsdam, Germany summer palace of Frederick the Great. Said Braswell, "I had seen it on a tour of Europe when I was a student at the Parsons School of Design. I never forgot it or any of its details. Certainly this was my inspiration for the Yalem pavilion."

Other than a reference to the Yalem pavilion's carved and gilded palm trees, the article does not mention other interior references to Sanssouci. However, I wonder if the Chinese House, a garden pavilion located in Sanssouci Park, provided the most direct source of inspiration. You can see that both structures are more or less similar in shape, and the Chinese House is surrounded by those glorious gilded palm tree columns, which also make appearances in the Yalem pavilion.

I think that Braswell did a marvelous job updating the notion of a pleasure pavilion. The pavilion's interior is certainly elegant and a little grand, much in keeping with the spirit of Sanssouci, and yet, it's got spunk, too, thanks to those lacquered red walls and that vivid yellow upholstery.  In fact, one could imagine a modern-day Frederick the Great, perhaps a bachelor host and bon vivant, holding court, so to speak, in such style and splendor.           

You can see Braswell's work on the Yalem pavilion, above. I can only imagine the fabulous parties that were hosted in those rooms.

Two images of the Chinese House at Sanssouci.

Braswell photos from Architectural Digest, Jan/Feb 1975, Norman McGrath photographer.  Chinese House photos from wikimedia.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cocktails at Asprey

I spent the other afternoon perusing the Asprey website, and, as would be expected, I found all kinds of jewelry, trifles, and objects that I now can't live without. What especially caught my attention was their barware, most of which harks back to the Golden Age of Cocktails. Think swizzle sticks, smoky glass decanters, sublime champagne coolers, and sterling silver flasks. The most fanciful of their barware offerings, though, has to be the stylish cocktail shakers. Yes, these shakers might be investment pieces, but they are indeed shakers that you will have forever. You know, one of those items that your children will fight over someday.

Anyway, I found these shakers so inspiring that I went off in search of classic cocktails that are in the spirit (or might that be spirits?) of these classic shakers themselves.

A Port Cocktail Shaker calls for:

Port in a Storm
*a punch recipe

4 oz. port
1-2 dashes brandy
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Use an ordinary ruby port since it is a mixed drink. Stir will with ice and drink on the rocks or strained in a wine glass.

The Rocket Cocktail Shaker screams for :

The Rocket

1 oz. acquavit
1 oz. kummël

Pour from ice-cold bottles into cocktail glasses. Stir.

Quench your thirst with the Thirst Extinguisher Cocktail Shaker and :

Oriental Cooler

2 oz. gin or vodka
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Tonic water

Mix the gin or vodka, lime juice and Angostura in a tall glass. Top up with tonic water.

With The Cocktail Shaker, Black you can make:

Black Velvet

1/2 champagne
1/2 Guinness

Half fill a tall glass with cold Guinness. Fill the remainder with chilled champagne (carefully, so it will not fizz up and waste precious drops).

If the Tell Me How Cocktail Shaker can't help you, then just:

Leave It To Me

2 oz. gin
1 oz. maraschino
1 oz. lemon juice
1 dash grenadine
1 egg white

Shake all the ingredients hard for a frothy delight and serve in a large cocktail or wine glass.

The Cocktail Shaker, Red could have you seeing a:

Flying Red Horse

6 oz. orange juice
1 oz. vodka
2 dashes Grand Marnier
1 dash grenadine

Stir with ice and serve in a tumbler.

Cocktail recipes from the Vogue Book of Cocktails.  Illustrations from The Twenties in Vogue, The Thirties in Vogue, and Society in Vogue.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Showing Some Leg.... or Not

Have you ever noticed that some upholstered ottoman/coffee tables look like fabric-wrapped, steroid-enhanced hunks that have been plopped in the middle of a room? Perhaps that's one reason why I find this particular upholstered table, seen above, so attractive. Designed by Paolo Moschino, the table is a lightweight, slimmed down approach to the traditional upholstered ottoman table.  The void in the bottom two-thirds of the table is so refreshing and airy.  The shelf, on the other hand, helps to visually balance the top part of the table and provides a perch for books.  And that fabric is so crisp and snappy, perfect for this former fisherman's cottage in Cornwall, England.

The table immediately made me think of those great upholstered ottomans, chairs, and beds in which the legs were upholstered in fabric, too.  This kind of seamless upholstery seemed to reach its height of popularity in the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s and counted all kinds of devotees like Angelo Donghia, Billy Baldwin, and Stephen Mallory.  Sometimes the piece of furniture was covered in a solid fabric, while on other occasions, a zippy print was used.  What's interesting to note is that there are times when a slipper chair or ottoman, for example, can look squatty with its upholstered legs.  For this reason, it's probably best to consider this kind of upholstery on a case by case basis.

And hopefully you'll notice that I didn't include photos of fabric-covered bun feet.  That is something entirely different and not altogether very attractive.

Angelo Donghia's raffia-like upholstered dining chairs are so timeless looking, especially considering that this room was decorated in 1975. Actually, the entire room still looks great today.

A white cotton upholstered daybed, feet and all, in this Kips Bay Show House room decorated by Stephen Mallory sometime in the 1970s.

I love this zebra print covered chair and ottoman in the apartment of decorating doyenne, Betty Sherrill. The photo was taken in 1968.

The bedroom of Jay Crawford and Anthony Tortora was swathed in a geometric-print chintz. See how the bed's short feet were fabric-covered just as the bed's box spring was?

I have always admired the East Hampton home of Harry Hinson. Ignore the crease down the middle of the photo and try to get a good look at the small upholstered slipper chair. The fabric, I believe, is Hinson & Co.'s "Merlin", a long-time favorite of mine.

The Library of a Park Avenue duplex, which was decorated in the 1970s by Arthur Smith. The green fabric that was used on the chairs and sofa add a splash of color to the otherwise brown-toned room. Smith even trimmed the legs and bottom edge of the chairs in nailhead trim.

These waterfall-style stools were completely upholstered in quilted fabric, as was the nearby sofa. (David Whitcomb, designer.)

Would you have guessed that this 1970s-era room was located in an 1882 townhouse in Savannah, Georgia? This space was a dining-sitting-garden room, which explains the choice of white fabric for the upholstery. (Home of designer Pratt Williams Swanke and her architect husband.)

So, the Crayola colors and flamestitch rug scream 1960s. Still, think about what these chairs would look like if covered in updated fabrics and placed in updated spaces. (Braswell/Cook Associates.)

Top photo of Paolo Moschino interior from House & Garden, British edition, August 2013, Paul Massey photographer; photos #2-4 from New York Interior Design, 1935-1985, Volumes 1 and 2 by Judith Gura; #5, 7, 8 from Architectural Digest New York Interiors; #6 from Architectural Digest Country Homes; #9 from Decorating American Style by Jose Wilson and Arthur Leaman; #10 from The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration.

Monday, August 19, 2013

International Set: Giancarlo Giammetti

October is not too far down the pike, and with it comes cooler temperatures, fall clothes, and House Beautiful's International Issue, which will be guest edited by Chesie Breen. It promises to be a most interesting, and most stylish, issue.

Coincidentally, I just obtained a copy of the January 1975 issue of House Beautiful, which, lo and behold, also happened to be devoted to international design. Reading this old issue made me giddy because page after page was filled with photos of the homes of style setters and aesthetes, all of whom we still admire today. So, this week's blog posts will be devoted to this one issue of House Beautiful.

Today's post features the Roman apartment of Giancarlo Giammetti, the perennially-chic, former business mastermind of Valentino. The apartment is pretty swinging, but this was to be expected in 1975. The upholstered furniture is very much of its time, while the home's objets help to soften both the contemporary furnishings and art. My favorite room of all, though, is the garden room, in which the ceiling, walls, and seating are upholstered in a Valentino-designed cotton fabric, while the floor's custom ceramic tiles echo the fabric's print.

One oddity about the article is that Giammetti's name was misspelled throughout the entire article. Someone must have been asleep on the job.

Photo at top: This colorful room was off of the entry hall, although I'm not sure of its purpose. The walls and furniture were upholstered in rose-colored silk.  I love the choice of black trim and black furniture to puncutate those sumptuous pink walls.

Giammetti's prized Picasso hung above his antique writing table and horn chair.  It is interesting to see the thin strips of mirror on the wall.

Giammetti's living room with its "undemanding beige walls", according to the article.

Giammetti's bedroom, which was also decorated in undemanding beiges. Note the lattice on the wall.

Another view of the bedroom.  I have a feeling that had this been my bedroom, I would have tripped constantly over that tiger's head.

The garden room. Aubergine isn't the first color that comes to my mind for a garden room, but I think it looks positively smashing.

All photos from House Beautiful, January 1975, Emmett Bright photographer.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Blue Ribbon Winner

I never cease to find inspiration from old interiors. It doesn't matter if a room was decorated thirty years ago or one hundred thirty years ago. As long as it was designed with style, taste, and authority, an old room can provide one with decorating ideas and even spark one's imagination.

It's rare, though, that I find an entire home that I would consider move-in ready, but such was the case when I stumbled upon these photos of Ferris Megarity's Manhattan apartment. This has to be my new favorite home. It's perfection, or at least, my idea of perfection.  The color scheme might be predominately neutral, but it's not snoozeworthy.  Those chocolate brown walls with crisp white trim help to wake up close-by beiges and caramels.  And can we talk about those snappy chairs covered in one of my all-time favorite fabrics, Brunschwig & Fils Les Touches?  Sublime.  I also spy bamboo shades, a tortoise-finish drinks tray, blue and white porcelain, needlepoint, silver-leaf wallpaper, books, and mirrored walls and screens.  Those too are like a hit parade of my favorites.  I'm getting heart palpitations just writing about them!

The late Megarity was publicity director and one-time home furnishings division director for B. Altman, so presumably he had access to the best of the best.  But access alone didn't guarantee such a beautiful apartment.  It also took a trained eye to achieve such a tasteful balance.  Megarity, who hailed from Waco, Texas, credited his University of Texas education in fine arts and art history with informing both his career and his style of decorating.  Of his education, he said, "It's held me in marvelous stead.  Every step of the way it has been a continual boon, especially when I traveled.  I found my training let me function as an editor when I had to coordinate the efforts of a number of people. It gave me a sense of the past and also put the present into perspective."  Yet another argument for the importance of an art and design history education.

Oh, and by the way, these photographs were taken in 1975.  Thirty-eight years later, and I can't find a thing about this home that needs updating.  Too bad we can't all age as gracefully.

Photos from Architectural Digest, March/April 1975, Richard Champion photographer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Night (and Day) at the Museum

By any chance, do you remember the December 2004 House & Garden article that featured this lovely table, seen above? The table was set with pieces purchased from the online gift shops of various museums, whose locales included Sweden, France, and Massachusetts.  It was such a memorable article, not to mention photo, because the table accessories were absolutely gorgeous.  (The pink cloth and flowers didn't hurt, either.)  If you didn't know better, you might think the china and crystal were purchased at auction or from an antiques shop.

I thought about trying to recreate the article's concept, but unfortunately, I don't have the time or budget to go on a freewheeling shopping expedition.  But, an online perusal of museum gift shops did yield some really interesting finds for the home, from furniture to tea towels to candlesticks.  Although a real-life trip to a museum is best, the next best thing might just be a virtual visit to their gift shops. 

2014 Versailles Calendar Tea Towel

A copy of Napoleon's folding stool

Reproduction of an 18th century Delftware candlestick- Rijksmuseum

Outdoor folding chairs from Musée de la Toile du Jouy

Reproduction Sandwich glass cobalt dolphin candlestick- Sandwich Glass Museum

Lion decanter from the Hermitage Museum.

Sèvres Gold and Turquoise Tin Plate from The Wallace Collection

Tiles from Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Portugal

Zodiac plates, based on illuminations from a 15th c. Italian Book of Hours, available at The Morgan Library and Museum.

Pillows based on the elaborately decorated Red Bedroom of the Herrenchiemsee Palace, the Bavarian palace that was modeled after Versailles.  Available from the Bavarian Palace Department shop.