Friday, January 31, 2014

A Georgetown Classic

I was looking through my file box on Southern Design (yes, I organize my magazine clippings by region and country) when I came across this 2008 Southern Accents article on the Georgetown townhouse of the rare book dealer, Kinsey Marable.  Upon seeing this clipping again, I remembered exactly why I saved the article in the first place: antiques; books; dogs.  Marable's home was an inviting and comforting mix of all three, and I don't think it gets much cozier than that.

The house was decorated by Richard Keith Langham and his then-associate, Lindsey Harper.  Along with Marable, the trio created a home that exuded grace, charm, and elegance.  And yet, thanks to a few choice pieces of contemporary-minded, twentieth-century furniture, the house looked anything but old-fashioned.

Take a look at the photos below, and tell me that you don't want to go out and buy an antique or two, build more bookshelves, and adopt a new dog.  I'm ready to do all three.  I just don't think that Alfie would appreciate a new canine addition to our home.

All photos from Southern Accents, March/April 2008, Erik Kvalsvik photographer.

Currey & Company in NYC

I always like to support Atlanta-based companies, so I want to let everyone know that Currey & Company will be opening a new showroom at the New York Design Center.  To celebrate the big event, Currey & Company will be hosting a grand opening event on February 5.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend, but I'll be there in spirit.  The folks at Currey know how to throw a party, so I'm sure that a good time will be had by all.

For more information, please see the invitation above.  If you do plan to attend, please RSVP.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Family Circle Style?

A few years ago, a kind reader gave me a stash of old magazines, one of which was the December 1975 issue of Family Circle. There were a few photos in this issue that bowled me over, because they were unlike anything I had ever seen before in Family Circle. When I opened up the magazine, I was expecting women in Mom jeans (or whatever the equivalent was back in 1975) and country quaint interiors. What I saw instead was disco-era fabulous.

The photos, which you can see here, accompanied an article on black and white clothing. It wasn't really the clothing that caught my eye, although I do think the black and white jersey sweater dress looks awfully chic. Rather, it was the photos' setting that had me gaga. This interior, which was located in Chicago (that was the only information that I could find in the photo credits,) was chock full of everything that I find to be luxurious. In some photos, you can see boiserie-covered walls, while in another shot, there is a mirrored wall. The floor is covered in a rough-textured carpet, which was then layered with some kind of stylish Asian rug.  And then there is the sublime French furniture, all of which appears to be upholstered in cream and café au lait-colored  silks, velvets, and damasks.  And what about the accessories?  Lacquered Chinese boxes, rock crystal, lacquered furniture, porcelain with gilt mounts, marble-topped cocktail tables, and animal prints.  Yes, please!  I'll take it all!

The great photographer, Victor Skrebneski, shot these images, so that might partially explain their high-style setting.  But the person who decorated this Chicago interior certainly deserves credit, too, because this interior is the epitome of mid-1970s glamour.  And to think that it appeared in Family Circle.

Join Me at the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville

One of the hottest antiques and garden shows in the country is that in Nashville.  Every February, visitors from far and wide flock to the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville to see the array of antiques, decorative vignettes, and garden displays and to attend the show's special events, which this year includes a keynote speech by the Countess of Carnarvon.

I am honored to be able to participate in this year's show alongside Alexa Hampton, Nina Campbell, and Mario Buatta.  The four of us will be part of a panel discussion on the Direction of Design in 2014, which will be held on Saturday, February 8 at 1pm.  There will be a book signing and Champagne reception after the panel.  If you plan to be in Nashville for the show, I do hope that you'll attend our event.  For more information on the show or to purchase tickets for our event, please visit the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville website.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Inspiration from Menshikov Palace

While recently reading Howard Slatkin's book, Fifth Avenue Style, I made two discoveries. The first one was that Howard Slatkin is quite the collector, and I secretly covet his collections. His Fifth Avenue apartment is a treasure trove of porcelains, books, candles, cachepots, and other decorative goodies, all of which I found very appealing.  But the other thing that really struck me was how Slatkin "aimed high" when decorating his apartment.  By that, I mean that Slatkin sought design inspiration in some very big and very grand places, including Pavlovsk, Schloss Favorite, and Menshikov Palace.

Perhaps I lack vision and confidence, because when I visit a palace or a grand house, I usually don't walk away with any decorating ideas for my own home.  No matter how in awe I may be of a grand interior, I simply file away what I saw in my memory bank, retrieving it only when I need to write a blog post or article about a particular palace.  It's as if I'm thinking, "What happens in XXX, stays in XXX."  Never once have I come home and tried to duplicate what I saw in these palatial residences.

But after reading Slatkin's book, I want to change the way I look at interiors.  If I really study the rooms of a palace, for example, I'm sure to find some great idea that can be replicated in my apartment, no matter how small it may seem when compared to said palace.  So, I decided to study the rooms of Menshikov Palace, the St. Petersburg, Russia palace that inspired Howard Slatkin's kitchen, to see what could be recreated in my own home.

As you can see, what makes Menshikov Palace special are its tiled-lined rooms.  There is blue and white tile on the walls and on the ceilings.  And check out the curlicue plasterwork on one of the ceilings; that's certainly some decorative flourish.  Slatkin did a masterly job of recreating both for his kitchen.  (In his book, Slatkin does make the point that many of his apartment's finishes are pure pastiche, meant only to evoke something grand rather than slavishly copy it.)   I, on the other hand, don't think that a similar treatment would work in my kitchen-sadly.  But, I could see installing a backsplash of Delft tile, a subtle nod to the tile of Menshikov Palace.  Or, I could hang a wallpaper that mimics blue and white Delft tile.  That would certainly be a far less expensive wall treatment than the real deal.  And finally, take a look at how some of the paintings at Menshikov are hung with blue or red fabric sashes.  Don't you think they look smashing against those blue and white-tiled walls?  That is an idea that could easily be copied in one's own home, especially if your walls are covered in a blue and white-patterned wallpaper or fabric.

I guess that the point that I'm trying to make is that inspiration really can come from anywhere and everywhere, no matter how small or how grand the inspiration might be.  It's all about keeping an open mind and being creative, especially when adapting a big design idea for a small space.

The four photos above show the interiors of Menshikov Palace. You could aim high and recreate both the tiled walls and ceiling as well as the inlaid floors in your own house. Or, you could simply borrow the easy-to-copy idea of hanging your pictures with blue or red sashes.

And Howard Slatkin's cozy yet still impressive version in his kitchen.

Slatkin photos from Fifth Avenue Style by Howard Slatkin, Tria Giovan photographer.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lyford Cay Design Weekend

A few weekends ago, I had the privilege of attending the Second Annual Design Weekend in Lyford Cay.  The weekend was manna from heaven for those of us who love design and beautiful homes.  There was a series of design-related lectures given by Nina Campbell and Hutton Wilkinson (both excellent,) not to mention a panel discussion that included Newell Turner, David Kleinberg, Mary McDonald, Miles Redd, and yours truly.  We also had the opportunity to tour some of the island's most charming homes.  Never before have I seen so much Quadrille fabric!  Of course, we all know that Tom Scheerer used a lot of Quadrille at the Lyford Cay Club, and the effect is really smashing.  But there are also many private homes which boast the fabric, including a few houses that were decorated by the seriously-talented local designer, Amanda Lindroth.  I loved Quadrille fabric before I converged on Lyford, but I must say that I love it even more now.

Another highlight of the weekend was Saturday evening's Elsie de Wolfe Dinner, which was organized by Alex Hitz in conjunction with Lyford Cay Club chef Pascal.  The dinner's menu was compiled from recipes by both Alex and Elsie de Wolfe.  The first course's Bloody Mary Aspic, which was delicious, was courtesy of Alex and is featured in his recent cook book, My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist.  The entree of Chicken à la King, on the other hand, came straight from one of my favorite recipe books, Elsie de Wolfe's Recipes for Successful Entertaining.  (I'm assuming that Alex tweaked the recipe for his dinner in order to accommodate a large crowd and modern palates.)

Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of the dinner, but you can get a sense of the dinner's decor in the photo above, which features Chesie Breen and David Kleinberg.  Each table had a black and white centerpiece and black and white napkins, while a few even had black and white umbrellas, all of which was a fitting tribute to de Wolfe and her love of the graphic color combination.  And speaking of black and white, Hutton Wilkinson began his weekend lecture on Elsie de Wolfe by playing Bobby Short's rendition of Cole Porter's 1919 tune, That Black and White Baby of Mine, which begins, "Now since my sweetheart Sal met Miss Elsie de Wolfe, The leading decorator of the nation, It's left that gal with her mind simply full'f ideas on interior decoration...."

And in case you would like to try your hand at Chicken à la King, I have included de Wolfe's recipe below. Until a few weeks, I had forgotten all about this dish, but it really is one of those classic party dishes that deserves to be rediscovered by people.

Miles Redd and me as we prepared for our panel discussion.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

That Reminds Me...

After spending last week in bed with the flu, I am finally beginning to feel like a human again.  Well, sort of.  But the thought of having to string multiple sentences together gives me a headache, so I'm not really going to attempt to do much writing for this post.  However, I can still connect photos with one another, so bear with me as I try to make sense of this semi-stream of consciousness blog post.

I was recently doing some research when I came across the photo at the top of this post.  The bed that you see once belonged to the fashionable 18th-century British actor, David Garrick, and his wife.  The Garricks were at the forefront of 18th-century fashion, and they, like so many other wealthy Europeans of the day, took a shining to chintz, using the fabric for bed hangings and a cover on their beautiful Thomas Chippendale-designed bed.  Chippendale crafted not only a bed for the Garricks, but also a set of wardrobes, a small bookcase, and a corner cabinet, all of which were painted with Chinoiserie motifs.  This set of Chippendale furniture, which is now part of the collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum (where this photograph was taken,) has to be one of the most charming sets of painted furniture that I have ever seen.  You can see just a hint of the furniture in the left-hand side of the photo.

But going back to that chintz. The Tree of Life chintz on the Garrick bed, which is a reproduction of the bed's original chintz, was a popular chintz pattern in the 18th century.  This might be the reason why Henry Francis du Pont chose a similar Tree of Life chintz cover for one of the beds at Winterthur, which I photographed during my visit there a few years ago.

And another fashionable man, Hubert de Givenchy, chose the same Tree of Life print for his guest bedroom at his French manor, Le Jonchet. I'm pretty certain that the fabric is by Braquenié.  And yes, I've shown this photo on my blog in the past, but it bears repeating.

And from France, we travel to California, where the same Braquenié fabric was used in a room of what I believe is Dawnridge. The corresponding rock-outcropping print, also by Braquenié, I think, was used on the walls of the adjoining room.  You can tell that the model can hardly contain herself, such is the chicness of her surroundings.  I can't say that I blame her.

But it isn't only this Tree of Life chintz that has inspired designers through the years. It's the Chippendale painted furniture that captivates some (myself included.) Here, decorative painter John Sutcliffe painted a mirror to mimic the Garrick's set of bedroom furniture.

And now, after that burst of energy, I'm going back to bed.

Cathedral Antiques Show & Tour of Homes

Please mark your calendars for the 2014 Cathedral Antiques Show & Tour of Homes, which will take place in Atlanta from January 26 through February 2.

I will be speaking at this year's show on Saturday, February 1 at 1:00 p.m.  My talk will feature a few entries from my book, design history anecdotes, and lots of references to the style-setters of the twentieth century.  Copies of my book will be available for sale at the Amazon-beating price of $22 per copy.  The talk is free with show admission, but reservations are required.  Please click here for information.

The antiques show itself, which features over two dozen antiques dealers, runs from Thursday, January 30 through Saturday, February 1.  In addition to the show, there will also be a Tour of Homes (Sunday, February 2,) a First Place Passion Tour on Sunday, January 26 (this tour includes homes of young professionals,) an avenue of designer vignettes, and a host of lectures and book signings.

I urge you to visit the show's website for more information and to purchase tickets.

One more thing- if you participate in the Tour of Homes, you might recognize one of the homes, which can be seen above.  It was featured in House Beautiful way back in 2008.  The home was also the first project that I ever "scouted" for the magazine.

Photo at top: Emily Followill, photographer

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Miles to Brooklyn

I just returned from attending the Lyford Cay Design Weekend, where I participated in a panel discussion with Newell Turner, Mary McDonald, David Kleinberg, and Miles Redd.  It was great fun, and I'll share some of my adventures with you later this week.  While I'm catching up on work, it's probably a good time to show a few photos of a lively and chic townhouse in Brooklyn, which was recently decorated by Miles. The house is a heady concoction of upholstered screens, red lampshades, rich-looking fabrics, and, most especially, exotic wallpaper.  Think peacock feathers, grasscloth, tea paper, and Chinese bird scenes. There's a lot of good stuff to behold, but here is just a sampling. The photos appear in the February issue of House Beautiful, which hits newsstands tomorrow.

*If you wish to read an online interview with Miles regarding this project as well as view a slide show with additional photos (both on the House Beautiful website,) please click on the links.

All photos courtesy of House Beautiful; Frederic Lagrange photographer.

Alexa Hampton in Atlanta

One of my regrets is that last fall's busy travel schedule did not allow me time to review all of the great fall design book releases. Perhaps I'll get around to writing my reviews soon, but I will say that one book that I have thoroughly enjoyed is Alexa Hampton's Decorating in Detail.  The book is filled with lots of attractive photos, informative and upbeat text, and good old-fashioned common sense.  What a winning combination!

Alexa will be visiting Atlanta's new Hickory Chair showroom tomorrow, January 14.  Although the Hickory Chair showroom is to the trade only, The Peak of Chic readers are invited to attend the event and meet Alexa, get a book signed, and enjoy a tour of the new showroom.  If you would like to attend, please RSVP to (404) 500-2074.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kevin McNamara Masters the Neutral Palette

If you have some of the old Architectural Digest books, you have likely seen these photos of a circa 1975 Manhattan apartment, which had been decorated to perfection by Kevin McNamara. Originally published in the November/December 1975 issue of AD, these photos are worth taking a second look at because they capture decorating with a neutral palette at its very best.

The 1970s was a great time for decorating with colors akin to "a Carr's water biscuit." Neutral-minded decorators often injected their beige-y interiors with judicious doses of dark, and sometimes glossy, shades of black, chocolate brown, and dark green, which helped to add drama and body to otherwise subdued settings. These same decorators were also adept at mixing antiques and modern furnishings, a combination that infused these spaces with both patina and sparkle. And finally, the fabrics that were seen in these interiors tended to be a combination of rough-hewn linen, glazed cotton, leather, and velvet, all of which imparted either luster or texture to their surroundings. Basically, these 1970s interiors were the antithesis of those seen in the 1990s, when neutral spaces, which were then all the rage, were meant to exude serenity, calm, and tranquility.  Back in the 1970s, chic interiors were arranged as backdrops for sophisticated living, not as inducements for contemplation and self-reflection.

But back to the McNamara-decorated apartment: I don't see much here that is dated, except, perhaps the wall to wall carpet in the guest bedroom. But other than that, I'd say that this apartment is a pitch-perfect example of the richness and elegance that can be attained when decorating with mostly non-colors.

Image at top:  The dining room had black lacquered walls and those great Billy Baldwin-style brass bookcases.

Another view of the dining room.

The living room contained 18th-century French furniture and Oriental porcelain.

More views of the living room.

The walls of the master bedroom were painted in a dark dill-green shade.  The bed came from Rose Cumming's shop.

The guest bedroom with its French Empire desk and wall to wall carpet.

All photos from Architectural Digest, November/December 1975, Richard Champion photographer.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Dash of Damask

Damask-style prints have long occupied neutral territory for me.  In the past, I haven't been wild about them, but then again, I haven't disliked them, either.  I suppose that I just never thought much about them.  That is, until last October when World of Interiors featured the London town house of decorator Veere Grenney and David Oliver, creative director of the Paint and Paper Library.  The whole town house is really quite fabulous, but it was the house's dining room and sitting room, above, that really captured my attention.  I found the pair's use of Louvres, a Fortuny-esque cotton made by Marialida for Tissus d'Hélène, quite striking.  Although the fabric's print is reminiscent of "Baroque foliate pattern found in flock wallpapers of the early 18th century," I consider it to be a damask print.  The dark brown and white coloration makes this traditional print appear cool and dignified rather than precious or ostentatious.  And, any of the damask print's long-associated fussiness has been banished thanks to the room's clean-lined, contemporary furnishings.

So, it seems that if you want to decorate with damask prints and maintain some sense of modernity, the key is to use neutral-toned damask prints (think caramel, chocolate brown, and even shades of grey) and to balance the print's inherent ornateness with simple upholstered seating, solid fabrics, and restrained-looking tables and case pieces.  Just look to the work of David Hicks, John Fowler, Tom Parr, and now Veere Grenney and David Oliver to help guide the way.

For this apartment in Paris, David Hicks created a wallcovering, made of white impasto on linen, that was inspired by 17th-century damasks.

Tom Parr chose "Double Damask" paper, which was based on an 18th-century design, for his Eaton Square, Belgravia drawing room.

John Fowler also used "Double Damask" paper in brown and cream at Nantclwyd Hall.

The fabric that covered the walls of this French study was a cut velvet, which featured a damask-type print.

Photo at top: World of Interiors, October 2013, Simon Upton photographer; Hicks photos from David Hicks: Designer and David Hicks: A Life in Design by Ashley Hicks; Parr photo from House & Garden Guide to Interior Decoration; Fowler photo from John Fowler by Martin Wood; last two photos from Architectural Digest- International Interiors