Monday, August 13, 2018

Chez Princesse Ghislaine de Polignac

A friend recently gave me the most interesting book about Marie Antoinette: To The Scaffold, by Carolly Erickson. To borrow my friend's description of the book, it is gripping. Although I knew well the history of the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette's sad fate, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I turned each page. But one central figure that I had forgotten about until reading this book was Yolande de Polignac, one of Marie Antoinette's closest friends and confidantes. Polignac's close relationship to the Queen brought Yolande and a whole host of Polignacs great wealth and power, which in turn led to much resentment among both the nobility and the average Parisian. A controversial figure, Polignac eventually fled to Switzerland, escaping the wrath of the Revolution.

What a coincidence, then, that I found a 1978 Architectural Digest article about another Polignac: Princesse Ghislaine de Polignac (1918-2011). Like Yolande, Ghislaine courted controversy. While married to Prince Edmonde de Polignac, Ghislaine engaged in affairs, including one with Duff Cooper, who, at the time, was also involved with Gloria Rubio (later Guinness) and Louise de Vilmorin. Recalling a party given by Gloria, where all three girlfriends were present, Cooper likened it to a ball in Balzac: "Everyone looking at everyone in suspicion." Later, after Ghislaine divorced Prince Edmonde, she was befriended by the wealthy American socialite, Rosita Winston, who generously flew Ghislaine to New York, where Winston treated her to a new Dior wardrobe. The only glitch was that just prior to a party they were to attend, Winston walked in on Ghislaine in bed with her husband. Later, at the party, a furious Winston proceeded to tell everyone about her discovery, before putting Polignac on the next plane back to France. Naturally, a gleeful Cecil Beaton wasted no time spreading word of the scandal to everyone, including Lady Diana Cooper, who responded: "I'm awfully sorry for her. True, in 100,000,000 Americans she was foolish to pick Mr. Winston, but poor girl to have to crawl back to Rheims, tail gripped between those ungovernable legs. Humiliation."

Back in Paris, Polignac settled into an apartment at Hôtel Lambert and pursued a career in public relations for Galeries Lafayette and Revlon. Later, she moved into the apartment you see here. Decorated by her friend, Baron Fred de Cabrol, the apartment was a jewel-box, both in size and appearance. Intended as an elegant backdrop for entertaining, the apartment's salon was dramatically lavished in red, reminding the article's author, Philippe Jullian, of "a box at the Opera." Taking heed of her friend Christian Bérard's advice, "You must always be careful to mix many different shades of red," Polignac and her decorator selected velvets and tapestries in a range of reds to accompany those richly colored walls. By contrast, Polignac's bedroom had a much lighter and more feminine feel. Even this room was a testament to Polignac's energetic social life. In addition to the numerous invitations tucked into her mirror's frame, there were also framed seating arrangements for her many dinners, charmingly sketched by the hostess herself.

Describing Fred de Cabrol's skill at mixing Second Empire decorations with other periods in the Salon, Jullian wrote, "He is able to adapt the past to the contemporary scene...careful never to indulge in a purely period décor. Actually only serious collectors--or perhaps the nouveaux riches--will have rooms that are impeccable Louis XV or Empire."

Like the Salon, the Dining Room was enveloped in red.

Ghislaine de Polignac's bedroom with evidence of her active social life. Note the attendees to one of her dinners, which she commemorated with an illustrated seating chart seen above: The Prentice Hales, Robert de Balkany, Paul Louis Weiller, and Baron de Rédé.

All photos from Architectural Digest, January/February 1978, Pascal Hinous photographer.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

What I've Been Up to Over the Past Year: Inspired Design

Goodness. It feels strange writing a blog post after a year-long hiatus. I was worried that I may have forgotten how to blog, but it seems that after eleven years of writing The Peak of Chic, blogging has become second nature. It feels good to be back.

As some of you know, I have spent the past year writing my latest book, Inspired Design: The 100 Most Important Interior Designers of the Past 100 Years (Vendome Press). I spent countless hours doing research (thank heavens for my library of design books and shelter magazines), writing, and selecting the photos that defined the careers of the featured 100 designers. In fact, I spent so much time working on this book while cloistered in my home, some of my neighbors assumed I had died or moved.

Now that the hard work is behind me, I can say that it was well worth it. The end result is a book that I feel honors a very diverse, influential, and talented group of individuals. The featured designers hail from around the world, including America, England, Yugoslavia, and even Iran. There are living designers who are currently at the heights of their careers, while others experienced their heydays back in the 1930s and '40s. A number of the designers can be classified as traditionalists, but for each of them, there is a designer whose work was, or is, at the cutting-edge. Some were known for their reserved personalities, while others aren't afraid to make statements with their appearances. Peter Marino, that would be you.

Did your favorite designer make the list? You'll have to wait until October 2, the book's publication date, to see the list in its entirety. In the meantime, we'll be releasing glimpses via my blog as well as on Instagram. For those who can't wait, visit the Vendome Press website today for a peek.

To pre-order the book, please visit Vendome's website for more information.

I'll be embarking on my book tour later this fall, so I hope to see many of you soon!