Chez Givenchy: Le Jonchet Revisited

Posted February 18, 2016. Filed in Chateaux, French Country Houses, French Style, Hubert de Givenchy

hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_21492497_800x1200Like many of you my mind has been drifting to Springtime, the season when everything begins to appear dew fresh and full of promise. The greens are greener, the days longer, and the light stronger. While falling down the rabbits hole that is Pinterest I discovered photos I had never seen before of Hubert de Givenchy’s country house in the Loire Valley, Le Jonchet, which he purchased in the 1970’s (you can see more of it on my post Le Jonchet le Doré). Resplendently poised amidst lush green gardens it seems Château le Jonchet embodies the old adage “Hope springs eternal”.

Following a retrospective of de Givenchy’s genius in the world of haute couture by Vanity Fair in October of 2014 at the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, Spain, the eighty-nine-year-old couturier and his longtime companion since the 1960’s, Philippe Venet, invited them back to his 16th-century manor for le déjeuner. It was then that Vanity Fair Espana interviewed the couturier and photographed some of the rooms that many of us have fallen under the spell of since they first appeared in magazines and books.

The classical facade of le Jonchet, which Givenchy bought in the early nineteen-seventies, displays mounted deer “trophies”, a symbol of Saint Hubert, patron of hunters. The property features labyrinthine boxwood hedges and topiary inspired by the monastery of San Giorgio in Venice, a rose garden designed by the late Bunny Mellon, a greenhouse, an artificial lake, a private chapel, a moat filled with water from the Loire, an indoor pool, and a dog cemetery. Over the past four decades the restoration and decoration of le Jonchet has been one of Givenchy’s greatest passions. Once again we are allowed a rarefied peek into the private world of Givenchy, Le Grand – a title anointed him by the world of high fashion.

hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_944527410_800x1200A portrait of “Givenchy, Le Grand”, as he is referred to by the world of high fashion.



The study of Philippe Venet, Givenchy’s companion, is filled with art and fashion books, sketches, art and mementos. The collage hanging above the sofa was created by Venet.
hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_285331048_800x1200Naturally, the presence of Audrey Hepburn was formidable at the Thyssen exhibition considering the success of Sabrina that skyrocketed Givenchy to global stardom. These sketches and reproductions of photographs of Audrey Hepburn, who Givenchy met in 1952, were on display in his workroom at le Jonchet. The designer reflected that on some mornings the phone rang in his atelier and it would be Audrey: “I just called to say I love you.”
hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_311784859_800x1200Tables are piled with decades of photographs, letters, mementos, sketches and personal caprices in Givenchy’s studio. A bas-relief  of a dove by Giacometti surmounts the fireplace.
hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_447312704_800x1200A painting of Château le Jonchet sets on a Louis XV chair in one of the manor’s rooms.
hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_791165180_800x1200Detail of the 18th-century chinoiserie panels covering the walls of the dining room.
Count Hubert de Givenchy posing in the dining room.
hubert_de_givenchy_en_su_mansion_del_loira_336843077_800x1200The main terrace.
From the Spanish edition of Vanity Fair; photography by Pablo Zamora.
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European Élan in Dallas


This is the story of a decades-long love affair and fascination with the Far East, and with the tradition of fine European antiques and objects. Long before the Belgian-Dutch look was en vogue in the states Betty Gertz, owner of antiques emporium East & Orient Company in Dallas, Texas, discovered its Old World allure while traveling to Europe and meeting antiquaire and decorator Axel Vervoordt at the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires, who at the time had done very little work in America. This chance meeting developed into a quick friendship that lead to a collaboration between owner and decorator on the design of the Gertz’s 1919 Georgian-style house in Dallas.

In years prior, Betty Gertz’s late husband’s petroleum business provided travel to Hawaii, Guam and Hong Kong, where the couple also maintained residences, stimulating Betty’s eye for Asian decor and culture. With her growing obsession for antiquities of the Far East, as well as her abiding love of fine European antiques and objects, the couple amassed a staggering collection that led to the opening of East & Orient Company in 1979.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

With the assistance of Vervoordt, Gertz oversaw the process of selecting furniture and objects, many of which came from the designer’s 15th-century Belgian castle, Kasteel van ‘s-Gravenwezel, outside Antwerp, where Betty was a guest during European buying trips. It was on these excursions that she acquired many fine European antiques and objects for her Dallas home, many of which now fill her new home recently featured in Architectural Digest, also designed by Vervoordt.

From past to present we are witness to a singular style and clarity of vision, a passion for quality, a fascination with the rare and unusual. We are witness to a keen understanding of the relationships of form, texture, color, scale and proportion, and of Vervoordt’s masterful juxtaposition of opposites. It is a lesson in knowing oneself completely, of being immune to fleeting trends and fashions. While the prior home was decidedly more sober and compartmentalized and the present one light filled and open, there is a unifying principle that transcends time, one that can only be achieved with great generosity of spirit, passion and a discerning eye for quality, detail and, above all, atmosphere. This is The Art of the Room.


Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

The crisp and classic entry hall of the Gertz’s previous Georgian-style residence featured a William Kent-signed George II carved giltwood console, a George II bookcase and a comfortable sofa with rounded contours to contrast the overall rigorous austerity of the space.

Scan Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

The living room represents an accumulation of objects, art, and books, and much of the furniture is 17th-and-18th-century English, with many pieces attributed to the workrooms of Thomas Chippendale. One of the finest pieces in the room is an 18th-century carved wooden games table by Daniel Marot I, a Franco-Dutch designer who worked for the princes of Orange and the English royal family. Within an envelope of creamy white the subdued color scheme draws from the 17th-century Persian Isfahan rug with shades of burnished terracotta, repeated on the taffeta window treatments.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

In one corner of the living room a writing desk attributed to Thomas Chippendale displays a collection of Ming porcelain, and an 18th-century silk fabric covering a books table compliments the Persian rug.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

In another corner of the living room a rare Dutch rococo corner cabinet was used as a champagne bar. Today it can be found in Betty’s bathroom (see below).

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

The Georgian-style home had many years prior been decorated by Dorothy Draper. The stained and worn silver-and-blue Chinese tea paper covering the walls of the dining room was the only design element Gertz retained, against the advice of everyone else, except perhaps Vervoordt, whom extols the virtues of patina. As seen elsewhere in the house, four-hundred-year-old Ming dynasty porcelain from the legendary Hatcher trove is not only displayed, but used. Silver gilt chairs are copies of George I originals from  Gertz’s collection. With its romantic silvery light, what a magical place to dine, day or night!

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

The solarium, or “White Room”, as it was referred to, is one example of Vervoordt’s achievement in the juxtaposition of opposites. Just off the living room, with its rarefied collections and soberly elegant ambiance, the new solarium designed by Vervoordt was a retreat for the senses, a spare and rigorous contemporary setting. There are so many lessons to be learned from this room – a room of contrasts of form, texture, hue, shade style and period, all seamlessly married into one cohesive decorative resolution.  The creamy white of the walls, marble floors, upholstery and window treatment creates a soothing envelope for a curated and restrained selection of antiques, art and objects. The rich palette of Concert, painted by Jan van Nijlert, above the sofa, stands in counterpoint to a rare Empire giltwood gondola chair from the Chimay collection, floating as a work of art before a 14th-century Thai bronze, each extending the rich tones from the painting across the room. Though not discernible from this photo, the modern base of the coffee table supports an Italian pietra dura marble top featuring a design of interlocking circles in the same rich hues. Another nod to the Classical past includes a Renaissance terracotta tondo framing one side of the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking a park.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

I wish I could uncover more photos of the solarium, my favorite of these rooms. If you happen to possess any, please, share them – I will include them here in an update. Somewhere in the solarium is this plaster niche  displaying more of the Hatcher trove, which was discovered on a sunken ship in the South China Sea and auctioned at Christie’s in 1984.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

The clubby appeal of the library, hung with English horse paintings, is imbued with a rich palette, from the burnished oak of the paneling to the cinnabar of the mohair sofa and terracotta velvet of the wingchair, to the chiaroscuro of the still life painting above the fireplace and the richly patterned French needlepoint rug. The ceiling is painted with a sepia-toned map, which include stars indicating places where the Gertzes have lived.

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

Axel Vervoordt-Dallas home of Betty Gertz-Southern Accents-Peter Estersohn

In addition to the solarium, Vervoordt installed the kitchen in his now imitable style, featuring a large mantelpiece surrounding an iron stove faced in plain Delft tiles with display niches. Eighteenth-century rush-seated Georgian chairs surround a breakfast table, and a pine cabinet is stocked with blue-and-white Spode porcelain.


Betty Gertz’s new Dallas home is one part contemporary villa, another Belgian manor. Calling once again on her friend Axel Vervoordt, the minute he laid his eyes upon her new home he made it clear he didn’t like it one bit. The two-story house is narrow and set deep into the lot, with little room for aesthetic improvement to its exterior, short of tearing it down.  Vervoordt proposed to surround the property with high garden walls to create anticipation upon arrival and a sense of mystery within. One now enters through a shaded garden leading to what appears to be the front door but which is, in reality, a door opening onto a small courtyard, which then opens onto yet another, larger, courtyard, culminating with the home’s proper entrance. A complete renovation of the house followed, resulting in higher ceilings, new finishes and materials, more light … and an abundance of atmosphere evoking the past and present.


A Louis XIV door marks the entrance to the property’s outer courtyard.
The inner courtyard’s entrance frames Texas mountain laurels beyond.




The entrance hall merges garden and interior into one light-filled gallery highlighting exceptional items of furniture and art selected and arranged with the eye of an artist and curator. To the renovated space Vervoordt installed old Carrara-marble slabs and trained bougainvillea onto lime-painted plaster walls applied by Flemish artisans. In the first photo a canvas by Japanese artist Norio Imai crowns an 18th-century marble console. In the next photo, just inside the front door, a Khmer bronze torso, an abstract painting and a 19th-century hibachi create a three-point composition. The last photo features a root table beneath a minimalist artwork by Axel Vervoordt.



The spacious library – divided into two sides, each with a fireplace – is the heart of the house, a virtual cabinet of curiosities designed for reading, relaxing and dining. To create a copacetic background for Gertz’s beloved collection of fine English antiques and objects from the Far East Vervoordt devised bookshelves built around c1700 French pilasters and installed timeworn wood parquet set into patterns for the floors. As your eyes scan the room you will identify many of the furnishings and objects used to furnish her previous home – the cinnabar mohair covered sofa from the library facing an English one from the living room; in one corner a chamois hued English leather chair pulled up to the round games table designed by Daniel Marot I from the living room; a 17th-century English wing chair from the library, its velvet wearing thin on the arms; as well as various lamps, objects and art. Gertz loved  the silk covered books table from her previous home’s living room so much it was repeated here, now covered with a Flemish tapestry. And in a daring stoke, the room’s walls are not neutral but eggplant, to which soft pink silk was selected to recover the English sofa and a pair of ottomans. Like the finest homes of Europe, the worn fabrics and rugs mingling with centuries old antiques and art imbues the home with the patina of age, as though it had existed here as such for generations.



Vervoordt recreated the Old World atmosphere inherent in Gertz’s prior kitchen utilizing cabinetry from an 18th-century Bordeaux apothecary and by installing walnut cabinetry that integrates antique French elements. The same blue-and-white Belgian gingham as used before was hung at the windows.


Walls limed the color of burnished apricot form a complimentary backdrop to the honeyed wood tones of an antique Belgian secretary bookcase in the master bedroom. The painting is by Ida Barbarigo.


The richly appointed master bath includes several of Betty Gertz’s most prized possessions, all from her previous home: a Chippendale secretary bookcase and an exuberant rococo corner cabinet laden with blanc de Chine, which Southern Accents attributed as Dutch but which Architectural Digest suggests is Venetian.


The design of the poolhouse was intended as a happy memory, incorporating a Colonial-style entrance salvaged from Gertz’s former home.


In the poolhouse, antique Chinese porcelain from one of the famous Hatcher cargoes perches on plaster brackets designed by Axel Vervoordt.

Photos and descriptions for this post from Southern Accents with photography by Peter Estersohn, and from the December 2015 issue of Architectural Digest, with photography by Björn Wallander.

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Winter Gardens


L’esprit du jardin d’hiver is in the air, a quest for a life-affirming sanctuary in colder climes. Russian royalty dedicated palaces to Winter, as with the sixteen-hundred room Winter Palace of the Romanov’s in St. Petersberg. Emperor Nikolai I decreed that Russian artist Eduard Gau create watercolor renderings of the Winter Palace’s interior, the Russian Empire’s official residence in the 18th through 20th centuries. Gau illustrated in his watercolor paintings all of the splendor, brilliance, and opulence of the imperial palace’s interior. It was then when the fashion for creating fantastical interior gardens originated, combining an eclectic mix of architectural styles- frequently combining Classical, Gothic and Oriental motifs in the same scheme, a verdant and magical escape from the harsh reality of winter in Russia.

The taste for winter gardens was soon adopted by the affluent throughout the Russian Empire, eventually spreading throughout Europe and beyond. These interior garden fantasies can be found today among the equally sumptuous Belle Epoque mansions, hotels and restaurants of France and England, in particular, and among America’s Gilded Age personal totems of wealth and power erected by captains of industry.  Yet, for all their sumptuous magnificence, perhaps it is the less ostentatious interpretations of these formal winter gardens that linger on in our thoughts and our longing for the promise of rebirth, a place to recharge. From Classical-Romantic Revival-styles to the eclecticism of the 19th-century to the comfort of English country house-style to the simplest and most elemental, the winter garden as escape from the bleakness of winter can be an antidote to formality – a theatrical statement, a whimsical folly, a comfortable retreat or a connection back to nature. Whichever your style, I’m sure you will find among the following jardins d’hiver one to love.


The small Winter Garden of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg rendered in gouache by Konstantin Andreyevich Ukhtomsky, c1850.


The Raspberry Study of Empress Maria Alexandrovna at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Watercolor by Edward Petrovich Hau, c1860.


The dining room of Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmine Bonaparte, Princesse Française, at 24 rue de Courcelles in Paris as painted by Charles Giraud in 1859.


The conservatory at Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, once the private residence of art collectors Édouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, designed by architect Henri Parent in 1869.

 La Fermette Marbeuf, Paris

The Art Nouveau restaurant La Fermette Marbeuf in Paris was created between 1898-1900 as the dining room in Hôtel Langham, later covered up when the style had become unfashionable. It was rediscovered by accident in 1978.
Movie Chéri conservatory
The Victorian era conservatory created for the movie Chéri.
The Palm Court conservatory-Biltmore House-Ashville NC-AD-Alderman Studio photography
Meanwhile, American robber barons were gilding the lily in their monumental estates, such as here in the Palm Court at Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1887. From Architectural Digest Historic Interiors, 1979. Alderman Studio photography.
The Elms-Newport Rhode Island-Golden Age-Horace Trumbauer architect-1899
Modeled after the 18th-century Château d’Asnîeres outside Paris, The Elms was designed for coal magnate Edward J. Berwind and his wife, Herminie, as their Newport “summer cottage” by architect Horace Trumbauer in 1899. The light and airy conservatory is a welcome relief from the formality of the rest of the mansion, and contains five of the original marble pieces not auctioned with most of the estate’s furnishings in 1962. From Architectural Digest Historic Interiors, 1979; photography by Richard Champion.
Elsie de Wolfe-Music Pavilion-Villa Trianon-watercolor by Scot William Bruce Ellis Ranken
The multipurpose Music Pavilion designed by Elsie de Wolfe at her beloved Villa Trianon reintroduced the art of treillage, which remains en vogue to this day. Watercolor by society portraitist Scot William Bruce Ellis Ranken.
Madeleine Castaing-30 rue Jacob-Paris-Shop conservatory-Derry Moore photographer
Madeleine Castaing-30 rue Jacob-Paris-Shop conservatory-Derry Moore photographer
Madeleine Castaing converted a former laundry at 30 rue Jacob in Paris into her eponymous shop in 1941 and ruled from there well into her nineties. Photographer Derry Moore was witness to her inner sanctum, open to the public, which appeared abandoned, a Ms. Havisham’s a la Parisienne. Castaing’s passion for 19th-century furnishings was inspired by the novels of Balzaz and Proust, with their detailed descriptions of rooms. A haphazard mix of styles and provenance, from Directoire to flea market finds, identified her idiosyncratic oeuvre.
Madeleine Castaing-1948 Salon des Antiquaires-Alexandre Serebriakoff watercolor
For her space at the 1948 Salon des Antiquaires Madeleine Castaing introduced what became fashionably known as le style anglais in a conservatory setting reminiscent of the Crystal Palace in London designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851. With daring bravado, Castaing mixed Regency furniture with a French Boulle cabinet, an Oriental ceramic “pillows” stool, garden furniture and flea market finds in a verdant oasis utilizing textiles and a carpet of her own design. Watercolor by Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Cecil Beaton- Reddish House solarium-1968
Cecil Beaton- Reddish House solarium-1968
Cecil Beaton posing in the solarium of Reddish House as featured in Vogue in 1968.
Baroness Pauline de Rothschild-Vogue-Horst 1969
Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, as photographed by Horst P. Horst for Vogue in 1969, peers into her Paris bedroom – a glorious verdant indoor “garden” conjured from luminous 18th-century Chinese wallpaper.
Henri Samuel-French country house-AD International Interiors-Robert Emmett Bright photographer
Henri Samuel celebrated the exuberant style of the Second Empire in his own jardin d’hiver in his country house outside Paris. Palms and other plants merge with the exotic mélange of trees and birds on the antique print wallcovering. The Victorian rug and bamboo furniture complement a Napoleon III tête-a-tête. From Architectural Digest International Interiors, 1979; photography by Robert Emmett Bright.
Henri Samuel-French country House garden room-Jeremiah Goodman watercolor
Henri Samuel’s winter garden rendered in watercolor by Jeremiah Goodman.
Renzo Mongiardino-Turville Grange-Oxfordshire-Lee Radziwil-HG
Renzo Mongiardino brought the garden indoors at Turville Grange, the Oxfordshire home of Lee Radziwill photographed by Horst P. Horst in 1971.
Renzo Mongiardino-Rome apartmen of Princess Galatzine-Vogue-1973-Henry Clarke
For Princess Galitzine’s Rome living room Renzo Mongiardino created the atmosphere of a winter garden enhanced with Oriental flourishes. To temper the abundant use of gold and sheets of mirror framed with appliqué decorative elements of malachite and lapis lazuli the designer introduced simple rattan seating. Photographer Henry Clarke captured the Russian born fashion designer with her poodle, Tschort, for Vogue in 1973.
Mongiardino-Lombardian Room for Drue Heinz-London-AD Feb 1991-Massimo Listri
Mongiardino-Lombardian Room for Drue Heinz-London-AD Feb 1991-Massimo Listri
The maestro of atmosphere, Renzo Mongiardino, converted a subterranean space from two converted mews houses in London into one fantastical salon de réception for Drue and Henry Heinz – an imagined formal garden the hostess named The Lombardian Room after Mongiardino’s foothold in Milan, which resides in the Lombardy region of Italy. In the tradition of the great Italian masters Mongiardino employed his talented artists to the task of creating trompe l’oeil vistas on canvas replete with abandoned gardens filled with mythological figures and painted objects juxtaposed with actual columns and doors, creating tension between the illusory and the real. A vaporous mist appears to shroud the garden in reverent nostalgia. From the February 1991 issue of Architectural Digest; photography by Massimo Listri.
Diane Burn-San Francisco dining room-AD Sept 1978-Russell MacMasters
The atmospheric dining room in Diane Burn’s early Italianate San Francisco residence evokes the ancient past with a mix of Roman, Venetian and French furnishings and decor. Photographed by Russell MacMasters for the September 1978 issue of Architectural Digest.
Renzo Mongiardino tempered his characteristically bold palette with an airier one in the late 1980s for a villa near Rome’s Appian Way owned by fashion designer Valentino. The stenciled walls and ceiling of the dining room were inspired by an 18th-century Sicilian veranda. Photography by Derry Moore.
Carole Weisweiller-Private Houses of Paris-François-Joseph Graf decorator-Photographed by Philippe Girardeau
When film and television producer Carole Weiswiller went in search of a home for herself in Paris she turned not to the formidable Right Bank where she grew up but rather to the less bourgeois, bohemian Left Bank. She called on decorator François-Joseph Graft to create a Proustian atmosphere utilizing 19th-century tiles from her family’s house on the place des-Etats-Unis to blend with furniture that had originally been found by Madeleine Castaing, creating a romantic jardin d’hiver in the center of the City of Light. From Private Paris, 1988. Photographed by Philippe Girardeau.
Maroun Saloum-Paris-The French Touch-Jacques Bachman photographer
What was once a ballroom became the living room in antiquarian Maroun Saloum’s Paris residence, an exotic oasis that could easily be found in Granada as it could be found in Beirut. From The French Touch, 1988; Jacques Bachman photographer.
Henri Quinta-Perpignan-France-Thibault Jeanson photography
The Paris apartment of my earliest dreams has a winter garden much like this one in the Victorian home of Françoise and Henri Quinta in Perpignan, France. Photographed by Thibault Jeanson for Elle Decor.


The winter garden, designed in collaboration with Jacques Grange, at the late Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Château Gabriel in Deauville, Normandy, was a recreation of 19th-century style, inspired by Princess Mathilde and always filled with orchids. Photography by François Halard.

KK Auchincloss-Paris apartment-World of Interiors-ritz von der Schulenburg

The main salon in the Paris apartment of KK Auchincloss mixed 18th-century formality with 19th-century eclecticism. From The World of Interiors. Photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg.

Susan Gutfreund-Winter Garden Room-NYC-NY Social Diary-Jeffrey Hirsch

Henri Samuel created a sumptuous jardin d’hiver for Susan and John Gutfreund’s New York City apartment. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch for the New York Social Diary.

Howard Slatkin-watercolor of Russian dining room in dacha-1900's

This richly layered Russian garden room is a watercolor from the late 1800’s owned by interior designer Howard Slatkin, featured on Instagram here.

Howard Slatkin NYC apartment

The high style entrance gallery of designer Howard Slatkin’s New York apartment features an atmospheric grisaille mural from 1810, the View of Hindoustan, framed by creamy French 18th-century doorways and pilasters and limestone tile flooring underfoot. Furthering the seductive ambiance are Louis XVI silver candle sconces, a regal Russian chandelier from Pavlosk, and luxuriant green-and-white foliage.




Imagined as a classical pavilion from the late 18th-century, designer Michael S. Smith’s Manhattan penthouse aerie is a confection of light and Fragonard sorbet lushness, denoted by banks of windows, silvery light and an antique Aubusson. The main living room is a garden room in the sky, with views over Manhattan from within, and from without on the expansive terrace – the ultimate luxury in New York City. The designer quipped “I love its wacky exuberance; Madame de Pompadour meets Jeff Koons.” From the September 2012 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by  Björn Wallander.




Henri Samuel created a beguiling fantasia for the Jardin d”Hiver in Valentino’s Château de Wideville, a multipurpose chamber furnished largely au chinois. From the October 2012 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by Simon Watson.

Timothy Haynes-winter garden room-french country house-elle decor

The newly created garden room in Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts’ château in the Vendôme region of France is romantic, airy, relaxed and comfortable. From House & Garden; photography by Pascal Chevallier.

Orangery+Swiss villa+Elle Decor June 2011

In the orangery of a lakeside villa in Switzerland 19th-century birdcages are suspended from a ceiling hand painted by Florentine artisans; the walls are decorated with framed dried flowers, the stool is wrought iron, and the cocktail table was made in Florence. From the June 2011 issue of Elle Decor; photography by Simon Upton.

Lorenzo Castillo re-imagined Madeliene Castaing’s romantic classic style in the solarium of his Madrid residence. Photography by Simon Upton.

Studio Peregalli-Milan-garden room-HG-François Halard

Who wouldn’t want to dine in this conservatory-dining room in a Milan residence designed by Studio Peregalli in any season? I can almost hear the pitter patter of rain on the glass-pane ceiling From House & Garden; photography by François Halard.

Sister Parish-NY apartment of Enid Annenberg Haupt-AD- Karen Radkay photographer

For gardener and art collector Enid Annenberg Haupt, Sister Parish introduced a romantic atmosphere inspired by the 18th-century to the living room where the owner’s prized tulips, roses, chrysanthemums and lily’s were on constant display. Photographed by Karen Radkay for the September 1985 issue of House & Garden.

mario buatta-conservatory-kips bay 1997

For the 1997 Kips Bay Show House Mario Buatta transformed a landing into a conservatory as garden fantasy, replete with painted, carved and real flora. Thibualt Jeanson photographer.

Mark Hampton-Louisiana garden room-L. Blaine Hickey photography

Mark Hampton created an Edwardian-inspired bower off the garden of a home in Munroe, Louisiana. L. Blaine Hickey photography.

Mark Hampton-Edwardian Garden Room-Scott Frances photography-

For the front parlor in a New York brownstone Mark Hampton created an Edwardian atmosphere with potted palms and a Bennison chintz mixed with Napolean III and Louis XVI furnishings. Photography by Scott Frances.

Lynn von Kersting-George Cukor estate-Beverly Hills-HG-François Halard photographer

After Lynn von Kersting, owner of Indigo Seas, purchased the legendary George Cukor estate in Beverly Hills she turned the oval screening room into a Victorian era garden room straight from a Merchant and Ivory film, retaining the room’s original copper cornice installed by movie star turned decorator William Haines. The Syrie Maugham sofa once belonged to actress Ina Claire in the 1930’s, whose portrait by Cecil Beaton hangs above the 19th-century jappaned highboy. Photographed by François Halard for House & Garden.

Thomas Beaton-winter garden room-HG

A conservatory in a 1920’s Beverly Hills residence decorated by Thomas Beaton merges traditional and orientalist design. Photography by Melanie Acevedo for House & Garden.

Richard Keith Langham-Tented Room-House Beautiful 2002-Fernando Bengoechea photographer

Richard Keith Langham channeled Dorothy Draper for the design of this Vogue Regency garden room in an Alabama Georgian manor. Photographed by Fernando Benchoegea for House Beautiful in 2002.

Michael S. Smith house-Beverly Hills-winter garden-Elle Decor

The solarium in Michael S. Smith’s previous Georgian-style home in Los Angeles is a delightful architectural statement in light, detail and comfort. From Elle Decor; photography by Simon Upton.

Thomas Jayne-Winter Garden-AD

A limestone solarium is at the heart of a Philadelphia house decorated by Thomas Jayne Studio, featured in the July 2011 issue of Architectural Digest; photography by Pieter Estersohn.


Ascetic simplicity blended with the warmth of natural materials informs the winter garden at Edouard Vermeulen’s Villa Rozenhout in Wavre-Saint-Catherine, Belgium. Featured in Traditional Home; photography by Eric Jansen.

Cecil Beaton

A mixture of modern and organic forms introduces a soulful presence in the solarium of antique dealer Robert Shapiro’s Los Angeles residence. From the May 2009 issue of Elle Decor.


The Sagaponack conservatory of interior designers Tim Haynes and Kevin Roberts featured in the June 2006 issue of House & Garden is crisp and classic. Photography by François Halard.


The traditional light-filled solarium of a California home designed by Miles Redd was featured in the January 2015 issue of Architectural Digest. Photography by Roger Davies.


The maximalist garden room in Alexis and Trevor Traina’s San Francisco home was decorated by Anne Getty. Photography by Simon Upton.


The conservatory at Carolyne Roehme’s Connecticut home is a garden aficionado’s delight. From At Home in the Garden by Carolyne Roehm, featured on One Kings Lane.

Bunny Williams-garden room

This Italianate-inspired garden room was designed by architects Ferguson-Shamamian and decorated by Bunny Williams. Photo via Ferguson-Shamamian


This tropical-inspired loggia in a Tudor-style house near the Hudson river renovated by California-based architectural designer James Nigro and Manhattan-based interior designer Alexa Hampton. From the February 2007 issue of Architectural Digest, with photography by Scott Frances.


Timothy Whealon looked to Le Style Jean-Michel Frank for the design of a conservatory in a Monaco residence. Photography by Simon Watson.

Jean-louis deniot-elle decor-richard powers photography

French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot created a sumptuous Winter Garden for a new build classically-inspired  mansion in New Delhi, India. From the November 2013 issue of Elle Decor; photography by Richard Powers.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Palm Beach dining room-Morrocan style-William Abranowicz photographer

For a Palm Beach dining room Jeffrey Bilhuber layered an oak leaf painting by Chester Arnold and Moroccan fretwork over an existing panoramic mural and a mix of disparate styles, from Regency to modern and refined to humble. Photographed by William Abranowicz

Furlow Gatewood-Cuthbert House-porch-Veranda-Max Kim Bee photographer

Furlow Gatewood layered colorful Ikats, a bold John Robshaw red-and-white textile, green-painted wicker furniture and a zippy blue-and-white dhurrie on the porch of Cuthbert House on his property in Georgia. Max Kim Bee photography.

Rooigem House-Belgium-antiques dealer and designer Jean-Phillipe Demeyer

Rooigem House in Sint-Kruis, Belgium, is the idiosyncratic creation of antiques dealer and designer Jean-Phillipe Demeyer. See it here


On the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium, interior designer Axel Vervoordt allows creeper to climb the walls of his orangery furnished in his imitable style. Photo from Axel Vervoordt.

Axel Vervoordt-garden room-Another garden room at Axel Vervoordt's s'Gravenswesel compound in  Belgium. From Vogue Living. Photography by Michael Paul

Another conservatory at Axel Vervoordt’s s’Gravenswesel compound in Belgium appreciates the balance of form, texture and meaning. From Vogue Living. Photography by Michael Paul

Melinda Ritz-garden room-Elle Decor-May 2012-William Abranowicz

Designed simply for the pursuit and love of all things botanical, Melinda Ritz designed this garden room for the creator of Will & Grace in Beverly Hills. Photography by William Abranowicz

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The Despont Difference

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 991

Architect and decorator Thierry Despont is finally getting his due. Or, perhaps, it’s just a case of a passionate aesthete doing his life’s work happily without much fanfare. Whatever the case, I have long admired his work but remain dismayed by lack of accessibility to his near-forty year ouvre. Even his own website has little to suggest that he has created magnificent properties, from the ground up, inside and out, for some of the world’s heavy hitters, including the Gutfreund’s, the de la Renta’s, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Leslie Wexner. But alas, Vanity Fair published a wonderful tribute in their Holiday Issue to his genius as architect and decorator, with special focus on two prestigious current projects for the Ritz Paris and the conversion of New York’s iconic Woolworth Building tower into trophy residences.

Apparently, Thierry Despont likes to keep a low profile. I can think of only two publications that have featured his work: American House & Garden and the long defunct Maison & Jardin. In my post Passion-Discipline-Savoir-Faire I featured the Maison & Jardin publication of a classic-modern home Despont refurbished from the ground up somewhere in the Pacific northwest. Its interiors reminded me of another house featured in an American magazine. I discovered, after rifling through old issues of House & Garden, that my memory pointed to Despont’s own New York apartment. I had intended to follow the Maison & Jardin post with it … but time slipped away, and so did the magazine back into its place.

I featured the following image in my post The Men’s Room, an interior indicative of a learned man who enjoys the arts and travel, and the occasional game of billiards. But, as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving. At the time of publication in House & Garden in 1991 Despont shared the apartment with his then wife, Anne, and two daughters, Catherine and Louise. To the contrary, this was a family home, not a bachelor’s pad, despite the evidence leading us to believe so – the clubby Edwardian-style paneled rooms, iconic modern furniture, Constructivist art, architectural renderings and a sober scheme of mellowed off-white walls seemingly stained by years of tobacco smoke and furniture covered in brown and black leather and simple natural cotton. All but for one dramatic flourish, the gold curtains revealing a shock of peridot lining, we are witness to a masculine point of view. But then this was the early 1990’s, the decade of the power suit (think Armani) and powerful women (think the fictional Alexis Carrington Colby). A defining moment when women were flexing their masculine muscle. Or was it really only the case of architect creating home as portfolio.

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 991

Yet, contradictions there are. Despite the appearance of the Edwardian-style paneling the apartment was constructed in the 1930’s. And despite the interior’s predominantly American point of  view Despont is French. Apparently, Despont welcomes this kind of unresolved struggle. To this task he painted the walls above the paneling in the entrance gallery (top photo) with contructivist forms reminiscent of America’s dislocation in the 1930’s. Perhaps it was his education at Harvard, not the École des Beaux-Arts, that informed many of his architectural and decorative decisions for his Gotham City apartment. A landscape by American artist Derek James spans the dining room doorway, while the billiards table converts to a dining table by flipping over the top.

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 991

Thierry Despont poses in the living room in front of a 19th-century pastel of an art collector and a curator.

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 1991

The main salon is reminiscent of a private gentleman’s club, featuring old prints, 19th-century-and-20th-century drawings alongside Despont’s own work hung stacked, salon style, as in the Louvre. A cubic layout of floating furniture includes a pair of facing George Smith sofas, an Anglo-Indian cane campaign bed as coffee table, and Marcel Breuer armchairs facing a pair of Dakota Jackson club chairs. In one corner a pair of French moderne armchairs are covered in Art Deco patterned velvet. The tattletale in the room is the pair of Donghia side tables, which gives the age of this room away. Then again, how many designers are creating neutral spaces today?

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 991

In the bedroom gallery Despont took what could be considered kitsch and made it monumental via repetition: along the top of the bookcase he placed a row of Liberty flame souvenirs. Portraits of French artists and writers are hung on the walls.

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 991

Barstools from a 1930’s Italian yacht  line the kitchen counter and a Bugatti dashboard inspired the gridded brass backsplash.

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 1991

Cabinets from a homeopathic pharmacy were remodeled for storage in the master bedroom. Shelves display drawings by Mike Glier, antique globes, and another Liberty flame beneath old ledgers which recall the apartment’s original use as offices.

From House & Garden, October 1991. Photography by John Hall.

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The Men’s Room

Southside House+Wimbledon, London

Long ago, before the Man Cave, there was the private gentlemen’s club. In the 17th-century the British male aristocracy formed private clubs in which to meet their peers to discuss business and pleasure, make connections, drink, relax, read … and, yes, escape their wives and family obligations. As the middle class became more affluent they, too, wanted their own clubs. The area around West London became saturated with these clubs, predominantly around St. James Street, which became known as Clubland. While many of these continue the men’s only tradition, many more now accept women as members, as they, too,  have become more affluent.

The “men’s room”, past and present, tend to exhibit a propensity for honeyed wood paneling, mellowed and worn tobacco hued leather seating, and a generally restricted color scheme of camel, brown, black and white – and most any Anglophile’s favorite private club inspired green-and-red scheme. For centuries men and women alike have found comfort in the clubby atmosphere of this timeless aesthetic , recreating its sense of permanence and respect for time-honored traditions in their own homes. Whether  thespian or billiards’s pro, the richly appointed rooms to follow are certain to attract your inner masculine magnetism.

Southside House+Wimbledon, London

Crumbling leather and piles of books invokes a sense of lived in comfort in the library at Southside House in Wimbledon, London, England. Photography by Tim Beddow.

Brooks's Club at St James London

Brooks’s Club in St James Street since 1762, London

The Smoking Room-Reform Club London-WoI November 1984-John Vere Brown

The Smoking Room at London’s Reform Club, originally designed as a library for this 1836 institution, is replete with suites of handsome worn tufted leather upholstered furniture. The World of Interiors, November 1984; photography by John Vere Brown.

Pratt's Gentlemans Club London 1841

Pratt’s Club, since 1841, was purchased by the Duke of Devonshire’s father in the 1920’s, leaving its decoration just as it had always been, replete with sporting trophies, a billiards room and a complete edition of Ruff’s Guide to the Turf, which ultimately found its way to the library at Chatsworth. The main room of the club resides in the basement, featuring an open fire next to the stove where all the cooking used to be done and a game table set for cribbage. “George”, as all stewards and other members of the staff are called, sits at his desk. From “Pratt’s: The Most Famous Private of Clubs” by the Duke of Devonshire for House & Garden, March 1986. Photography by Christopher Simon Sykes.

London flat decorated by Christopher Hodsoll+The World of Inteiors-September 1987-Photography by James Mortimer

London flat decorated by Christopher Hodsoll+The World of Inteiors-September 1987-Photography by James Mortimer

In a London flat decorated by Christopher Hodsoll a large photograph of a street in Philadelphia hanging above a billiard-room sofa and family pictures stacked along the walls evokes a private London gentleman’s club. From The World of Inteiors,-September 1987. Photography by James Mortimer.


In the antiquarian and decorator’s own Warwick Square flat in London, Christopher Hodsoll tapped into the spirit of the 19th-century aesthete with a passion for books and curiosities.

Mark Hampton-Library-Fifth Ave-Susuan and Carter Burden-Roberto Schezen Photography

Mark Hampton-Library-Fifth Ave-Susuan and Carter Burden-Roberto Schezen Photography

Mark Hampton-Library-Fifth Ave-Susuan and Carter Burden-Roberto Schezen Photography

American designer Mark Hampton created an an extraordinary Neoclassical-style library for Susan and Carter Burden’s Fifth Avenue apartment in New York that could have easily been pulled from one of London’s exclusive private clubs. Piled high with books and layered with exotic collections this library would be the envy of many a bibliophile and world traveler.

The Manhattan apartment of architect Thierry Despont as featured in HG, October 1991.

The billiard room in Ralph Lauren's Bedford residence.

Ralph Lauren also looked to England’s exclusive clubs for the design of his own Bedford, New York, library and billiards room. From Architectural Digest. Photo by Durston Saylor.

Man's Study-Thierry Despont-Maison & Jardin-Pascal Chevallier

This manly study designed by architect Thierry Despont resembles a movie set for the film Dick Tracy. From Maison & Jardin. Photography by Pascal Chevallier

thierry despont's manhattan apartment HG Oct 1991

The Manhattan apartment of architect Thierry Despont channels the modern aesthete’s love of books, art, history, travel and sportsmanship in a refined setting that embraces classic and modern design. Featured in the October, 1991, issue of House & Garden, with photography by John Hall.

Keith Richards Library

Keith Richards eschews disciplined order in favor of lived-in comfort in his highly personal London library . Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes.

 Andrew Lauren, NYC - Bright Young Things

Andrew Lauren announced his bachelor independence in his previous New York apartment outfitted with modernist furnishings, a black and white scheme tempered with wood, and a bar sign. From Bright Young Things by Brooke de Ocampo with photography by Jonathan Becker, 2002.

Darcy Bonner+Chicago apartment-House Beautiful-Scott Francis photography
A rich scheme of mellowed paneled walls the color of cognac and rebuilt 1920’s French armchairs wearing their original tawny leather combine with dark stained furniture and a veined black marble fire surround, providing a masculine foil for bold modern art in the Chicago apartment of architect Darcy Bonner. Photography by Scott Francis for House Beautiful.
David Cruz & Richard Hochberg -Schiff House-Los Angeles-Tim Street Porter
Gutsy mid-Century furniture, bold forms, exotic appointments, and contrasting materials revealing the patina of age fill David Cruz and Richard Hochberg’s  Schiff House in Los Angeles. Photography by Tim Street-Porter.

Randall Ridless-Elle Decor-March 2005-Simon Upton

Randall Ridless sheathed the walls of this clubby den with a hand-painted tortoiseshell design inspired by Billy Baldwin’s library for Cole Porter in the Waldorf Towers. Elle Decor, March 2005. Photography by Simon Upton.

Thomas O'Brien-American Thread Building Loft-HG-François Halard

For a penthouse apartment in New York’s  American Thread Building designer Thomas O’Brien  combined a masculine Machine Age aesthetic with contemporary forms in an open loft-style plan for a bachelor to relax and enjoy a game of pool with friends. House and Garden; photography by François Halard.

Thomas O'Brien 57th St NY apartment+Photography by Laura Resen

In his own New York apartment Thomas O’Brien layered collections, art, his own renderings and personal ephemera in the spirit of the 19th-century collectors, reinterpreted with a modern point of view. From American Modern: Thomas O’Brien; photography by Laura Resen.

Library--Melinda Ritz-Elle Decor-April 2012

Designer Melinda Ritz imbued the library in the Tudor revival home of Will & Grace creator Max Mutchnick with a rich palette, solid forms and strong contrasts.  Elle Decor-April 2012



Ally Coulter layered masculine forms, past and present, in this clubby paneled den she decorated for the 2012 Holiday House.

Jonathan Reed London flat-The World of Interiors+March 2015

For a London flat Jonathan Reed layered sober modern forms, natural materials, and handcrafted objects with a palette inspired by nature. The World of Interiors, March 2015. Photography by Simon Upton.


On Count Antonio Bolza’s 3,000-acre estates in Umbria his architect son, Benedikt,  converted a Modernist tobacco-processing plant into offices queuing the Industrial Age. March, 2015, issue of The World of Interiors. Photography Tim Beddow.




Roubi L’Roubi’s Veere Grenney-designed penthouse in London is a modern take on the 19th-century cabinets d’amateurs. Architectural Digest, May 2015. Photography by Björn Wallander.


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The Enchanting World of Las Tejas

Posted January 7, 2016. Filed in John Saladino, Mediterranean Style, Palladian-Style

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+Lisa Romerein

Greetings, and Happy New Year to each of you! I have been away from writing for The Art of the Room for some time, I realize. And I apologize for not providing explanation in my last post. But, you see, at the time I had no real inkling I would step away for as long as I have. Professional projects and personal obligations have taken precedence, and as the holiday season fast approached I found myself running to catch up. So, in the spirit of a new year and a fresh start,  I share with you a magical property that has long captured my imagination since I first discovered its secret charms, Las Tejas in Montecito, California.

Las Tejas is likely familiar to many of you for its gardens and interiors designed by John Saladino. But after searching the estate on the Internet, Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr I discovered very little has been posted or written about it. I would be disappointed to learn I am one of few who find the enigmatic qualities of Las Tejas sublime. It isn’t just the house, or the setting, or the interiors, or the gardens – it’s the ensemble, the whole, which captivates our senses. There is a poetry to living expressed here that is undeniably seductive, a dream of the past realized in the present.

My husband, Michael, and I recently returned from holiday in Montecito. In another life (not so many years ago!) I lived in southern California, where I was enrolled in UCLA’s Interior Design program. While working as an outside sales representative for Jack Lenor Larsen I became acquainted with Montecito, calling on interior designers and architects such as Mark Weaver and Jack Warner. Instead of stopping for lunch I would drive up Olive Mill Road into the hills below the Santa Ynez mountains and get lost in their amazing rugged beauty, dotted with walled estates on expansive properties inspired by the Grand Tour, in particular the romantic revival styles of Spain and Italy. Growing up in northern California I was not immune to the Golden State’s love affair with Spanish and Mediterranean-style architecture. But this was on a wholly different level than anything I had ever seen. And so, while driving along Olive Mill Road this past December we passed the turn for Las Tejas Road. My heart leaped! I knew the estate for which the road is named well from its publication in a 1990 issue of House & Garden and John Saladino’s monograph Style By Saladino. There is no gate, only a long, narrow road leading to the villa’s actual address on Pichaco Lane, where a formal gated entry guards the property. There are many narrow and private roads like this in Montecito, lined with towering mature eucalyptus and framed by private walls, luring us into their promise of a hidden paradise.

Las Tejas-Montecito-CA

Las Tejas began as a simple adobe with a central courtyard when built in 1898 by William Alston Haynes Jr. for his bride, covering its roof with 8,500 tiles that he obtained in return for providing shingles to Santa Barbara residents who wanted to replace their sagging roofs – ergo Las Tejas, which translates to “The Shingles” but what many refer to it as “The Tiles”. Unfortunately, Haynes couldn’t afford to remain there and was forced to lease it out for two decades to vacationing easterners. In 1917 Helen Seymour Starford Thorne, a highly accomplished landscape designer, and her husband, Oakleigh, purchased Las Tejas as a winter home from their base in Millbrook, New York. Inspired by their travels to Italy, and Giacomo da Vignola’s 16th-century Villa Farnese outside Rome in particular, they hired architect Francis W. Wilson to restyle it into a reinterpretation of a Renaissance villa for California living in the 20th-century. To the basic footprint of the existing house Wilson added a second floor, a new wing and the three arches over the veranda, altering its appearance significantly. In 1926 George Washington Smith was brought in to make further changes, including a new design for the front entrance, the installation of a retractable glass roof over the inner courtyard, and the refashioning of an outdoor patio into an Italian-style patio. Helen Thorne took immediately to the grounds, basing their design after the many gardens she had visited and studied in Italy, in particular those at Villa Farnese, creating a magical paradise with cascading gardens and water features. But, sadly, they felt they must leave their piece of Xanadu, shaken by the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, and sold the property for a mere $40,000 to Caroline and Frederick Leadbetter.

    The casino at Villa Farnese outside Rome designed by Giacomo da Vignola in 1556 inspired the architectural style and layout of Las Tejas.

The casino at Villa Farnese outside Rome designed by Giacomo da Vignola in 1556 inspired the architectural style and layout of Las Tejas.

Over the ensuing years under the Leadbetter’s stewardship Las Tejas declined, ending with Caroline’s death at the age of 102 in 1972. Purchased for $575,00 by its new owners, Teri and Manuel Rojas updated the villas plumbing and wiring, made renovations to much of the house and cleared the gardens of overgrowth, later selling it in 1988 for $6 million to preservationists Stephanie and Peter Sperling,.  With a vision to restore Las Tejas to its former glory, who better to call on than John Saladino to meet the task? Not only is the designer well-versed in the language of classical architecture, having studied in Rome, and for fashioning an interior design business on its ethos, he also had an intimate relationship with the house having years earlier lost Las Tejas in a bidding war. And so, with enthusiasm and funds to spare, the Sperling’s and Saladino embarked upon a major renovation of house and gardens. The fourteen-acre estate boasts a twenty-room mansion, a four bedroom/four bath guesthouse, swimming pool and cabana with spa, tennis court, the original chauffeur’s cottage cum artist’s studio, and terraced gardens.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

One end of the gallery-like entry hall introduces Saladino’s restrained vision with architectural interest as passage from one room to another. The pair of pedestals supporting  alabaster urns, the 18th-century console, and Régence-style stool beyond in the dining room came from Quatrain in Los Angeles.


Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

In order to control the overwhelming scale of the drawing room Saladino referenced the classicists by introducing a large scale trompe l’oeil coffered ceiling painted by Christian Granvelle and a de Medici tapestry hung high, flanked by a pair of columns to represent the residential scale over a high-back sofa, which represents human scale. This formula of three scales, in effect, allows our eye to experience a sense of proportion and harmony as it travels up and down throughout the room. The floating high-back facing sofas of Saladino’s design further establishes a distinct zone and carries the sight line from the top of the other sofa to the center of the room. A secondary zone at one end of the room is designated for music, and at the other is an area dedicated to books. Of course, all of this, too, adds a great sense of theatricality and opulence, combining antiques with his own comfortable contemporary designs based on classic models.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

At the opposite end of the drawing room Saladino installed bookcases flanking a pedimented doorway set into a triumphal arch hung with leather doors studded with oxidized-bronze nailheads in a Roman grille pattern – repeating the classical theme of the coffered ceiling and Ionic capitals on either side of the tapestry. This particular space continues to provide great pleasure and inspiration.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

The library opens onto the villa’s central inner courtyard on one side, evoking the spirit of an ancient Roman villa.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

For a small room with a high ceiling off the drawing room Saladino commented “I paneled the room, keeping the paneling low to reduce the scale, and painted the upper part of the walls a shade of blue-gray. What had been an awkward space was transformed into a cozy refuge.”

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

The romantic inner courtyard is the heart of the house and retains a modified electric retractable glass roof first installed by George Washington Smith in 1926. Saladino looked to Italy’s great houses, installing a central impluvium into a new rojo alicante marble floor, and replaced original corkscrew columns framing the arcades with simpler Tuscan ones. Rooms such as this conjures visions of a bygone era, of The Great Gatsby and Hollywood glamour. Again, the formidable scale of this room is tempered by the residential scale of the columns and human scale of the fireplace niche.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

Billowing parachute cloth adds a theatrical note to the south loggia with walls painted faux marbre in shades of sienna and ocher.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

The view from the loggia takes in the classically laid out gardens and cascading water features culminating with the tea pavilion.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

Saladino introduced a garden atmosphere into the dining room by referencing an imagined view from Villa Farnese, on which the Mediterranean-style villa was based, with trompe l’oeil frescoes evoking the illusion of dining in an Italian loggia. Furthering the indoor-outdoor quality of living so distinctive to California are pair of large-scale outdoor Adam-style lead urns on plinths, which conceal stereo speakers.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

The opposite view of the dining room reveals Saladino’s mastery at creating quietly romantic and sophisticated rooms that are timeless, comfortable and energized by an understanding of how we want to live in the present. While a draped banquet table lined with silver serving pieces and Venetian glassware points to the classical past the luxe sycamore and lacquer dining table and commodious chairs represent the present with a taste for luxury and comfort.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

The master bedroom is a study in warm white utilizing texture and a variety of shapes and materials for contrast and interest.

Saladino+Las Tejas+Montecito+HG Sept 90

A light and soft coral hued toile from Lee Behren Silks defines the romantic lower floor guest room, which opens onto the gardens.


Las Tejas+Montecito-Gardens photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston-1923

A view of the water chain as photographed in 1923.

Las Tejas+Montecito-Gardens photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston-1923

The reflecting pool as photographed in 1923.

Las Tejas+Montecito-Gardens photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston-1923

A terrace as photographed in 1923.

Las Tejas+Montecito-Gardens photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston 1920-30

A colorized view from the tea pavilion toward the villa as photographed between 1920 and 1930.


Terraced water features flow into the main pool of Las Tejas in Montecito in the style of the formal gardens at Villa Lante. Photo by Lisa Romerein.

The Rococo curves of the water chain, softened by yew hedges, contrasts the angular formalism of the reflecting pool lined with stone urns planted with agave. Beyond the next tier, framed by a broken stone balustrade, is the lowest tier, ending with an Italian-Renaissance-style pavilion. Archival photos taken in the 1920’s were referenced when restoring the gardens created by landscape architect Helen Thorne.

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

Hedges of boxwood and yew have been restored to their lyrical past, framed out by walls of yew and Romanesque columns supporting a pergola draped in wisteria.

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

Helen Thorne traveled far and wide – from Italy, France and England to the Far East – in search of beautiful and timeless sculpture for her gardens. Here, a marble statue of Quan Yin still resides in the arcaded tea pavilion overlooking the lotus pond.

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

An outdoor room is defined by a hedge of boxwood encircling a stone obelisk, quite possibly the same space featured in a vintage photo above.

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

The vast estate affords stylistic diversions from the classical, as in this Japanese-inspired garden on one side of the villa, which includes a ceremonial tea house set upon a small lake.

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

Las Tejas-Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens-Lisa Romerein

This vine covered arbor is yet another horticultural folly expressed on the property.

This concludes our tour of the forever romantic Las Tejas. Should any of you possess photos which I have not included, and you would like to share them, please forward them to I will, of course, credit your contribution!

HG, September 1990, photography by Langdon Clay; Santa Barbara Homes & Gardens, photography by Lisa Romerein (date unknown); vintage photographs of garden by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1920-30.

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St Giles House

Posted October 27, 2015. Filed in English Country Houses

St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

Personal events in the years of 2004 and 2005 and their memory will forever be emblazoned on the psyche of one Nick Ashley-Cooper of Dorset, England. It was in the year of 2004 that the then twenty-four year old Brit, a techno DJ and events planner living and working in New York City, learned a horrifying and haunting fate: his father, the 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, had been found dead, murdered, in a ravine in France. His older brother by two years, Anthony, had been preparing himself as heir apparent and found himself instantly thrust into his father’s role as the 11th Earl of Shaftsbury and chatelain of their ancestral estate, St Giles House. However, in six months time that would not come to be: Anthony would die of a heart attack at the age of 27. And if this were not enough, his father’s third wife, Jamila M’Barek, a Playboy model turned prostitute, and her brother were convicted of his father’s murder.

The approach to St Giles before (above) and after (below) the grounds were returned to their original plan.

Suddenly twenty-five year old Nick was faced with the dilemma of trading his music career in New York with that of saving his family’s crumbling pile from extinction. Though his father had hoped to restore and move into St. Giles, up to this point in time the house had been for over forty years merely used as a repository for generations of furniture and collections while the family lived  in the dower house, Mainsail Haul. St Giles was in a derelict state, its walls crumbling with damp and rot, floor boards buckling, plumbing outdated and with no electricity. Yet Nick, now the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, found himself in a position pivotal to the restoration of not only his ancestral home but to his family’s legacy. And so, he packed up his life in New York and moved to England with his soon-to-be-bride, Dinah Streifeneder, to take on his role as custodian of his ancestral estate. Ever since, the couple have been diligently and thoughtfully restoring St. Giles to its current state of grace.

The World of Interiors met up with Nick Shaftesbury in 2012 to report on the earl’s leviathan responsibility and his progress in restoring St Giles over the past seven years. Shaftesbury had cleared away debris and brought order to generations of furniture, paintings and things with a family connection. Realizing the need to begin somewhere the library was the first room he sought to bring order to, where stacks of books were piled on its floor in no particular order. After clearing the room each book was dusted, cleaned and put on a shelf, organized by period with the assistance of a Christie’s book expert. And so it has gone with many of the other rooms at St Giles since. In 2009 he and his wife Dinah made the decision to permanently move to St Giles after several years of commuting between the estate and their apartment in London. With the assistance of Philip Hughes, an historic-buildings conservation specialist, they devised a $1.97 million plan to renovate part of the south wing of the house to create a three-bedroom apartment for his family. The World of Interiors was invited to return to St Giles to celebrate their achievements, which you can read about in this October’s issue.

Nick and Dinah Ashley-Cooper at St Giles House-The Telegraph-Andrew Crowley

I would typically dedicate a large investment of time in retelling the history and documenting the magnificent architectural contribution of such an important property as this Classically-inspired 17th-century estate but, alas, I am lucky if I can find the time to write this much. It seems with each passing day, week and month it becomes more difficult to find the hours to write. Adding to my frustration, Firefox crashed while I was writing this – much of it lost. It took everything in me to return here rather than toss the iMac through the window! I have provided descriptions borrowed from The World of Interiors, The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph for each photo to assist in your appreciation of this remarkable story and historic property. While the tragic details of those six months from 2004 to 2005 is the stuff of tabloids the final chapter in this story has a happy ending: On Sunday, October 25th, 2015, St Giles was winner of this year’s Historic Houses Association and Sotheby’s Restoration Award. Congratulations to the Twelfth Early of Shaftesbury!



St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

A portrait of Mr. Hastings, an eccentric, sports-minded neighbor in teh 17th-century, presides over the White Hall. The east wall of the White Hall (second photo), with all its paneling and plasterwork, had to be entirely reconstructed in the recent restoration.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015 2

A marble bust of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, who campaigned vigorously for better working conditions for the Victorian poor, has now returned to the new entrance lobby.


By the 1980’s the Great Dining Room, which looks through to the Tapestry Room, was stripped out to cure dry rot. Family portraits are stored behind thick canvas drapes on the right.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

In c1744, Henry Flitcroft created the white-and-gold Palladian decoration in the Great Dining Room. Ravaged by dry rot, the wall was partially stripped back to its bare brickwork in the 1970’s, and has been deliberately left as is.


Many books in the library date back to the “Philosopher Earl” (1670-1713). It was Nick’s first challenge to safeguard the collection and put it back in order.

The south-facing Regency library was added by the sixth earl.

The 12th earl of Shaftesbury, Nick Ashley-Cooper, is now 33 years old.

Workers help restore books damaged by dampness and dust before the renovation of St. Giles House.



St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

Today the library’s walls are lined with family portraits hung against plum-colored velvet. Thomas Cundy modernized the room as part of general alterations to the house between 1813 and 1820.


The Tapestry Room owes its name to a set of Brussels tapestries depicting “The Triumph of the Gods”. It also used to contain the St Giles suite of furniture commissioned by the fourth earl from Chippendale, who was particularly admired by the earl’s wife.

The Tapestry Room during renovations.

After years of neglect, the home’s collection of heirloom paintings and furniture had been left to rot; now they have been carefully restored.


The North Drawing Room’s walls had once been covered in yellow silk but were redone in a dark green by Nick’s parents. A large portrait of the First Earl of Shaftesbury is flanked by the next earl and countess.

The walls of the North Drawing Room were rehung with yellow silk in the style of its original design. Oil paintings of previous residents line the walls, owned by the same family since 1651.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

The Shaftesbury’s use the Green Drawing Room – which incorporates a comfortable mix of upholstered furniture and Victorian and Edwardian  ancestors – as their private sitting room. Enough family portraits survived the sales in the 1970’s and 1980’s to furnish the restored state rooms. The flock wallpaper was carefully copied from unfaded sections  of the original early 19th-century paper that once hung here.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

The ceiling and giltwood details in the family dining room were restored by Humphries & Jones. The George II mahogany chairs are upholstered in green baize and the portrait, by Harrington Mann, is of Anthony, Lord Ashley — Nick’s grandfather — in 1904.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

Two strips cut from a rare tapestry portrait of the bewigged Augustus III, King of Poland, hang either side of a door in the Shaftesbury’s private apartment.

St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

The kitchen was once the bathroom of Nick’s great-grandmother, the ninth countess.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

Lord Shaftesbury’s study in lined with an assortment of family photographs and engraved portraits.


A plaque in the Avenue Room celebrates the memory of the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, and contains echoes of the family motto: “Love, Serve”. As its contents indicate, the space has for a while been used as a general store room.


Faded blue striped wallpaper lined the walls of the main staircase, and names above the doors — “Rose Dressing Room” and “Avenue Room” – – recall a golden age of country-house life.

St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

A doorway on teh first-floor landing leads to the Handel Room, named after the composer, who often visited the house. The fourth earl was his patron.


This bedroom’s chinoiserie wallpaper probably dates from the end of the 19th-century or early 20th-century.

The Chinoiserie Room’s private bathroom was most likely installed at the end of the 19th-century, when the 9th earl embarked on a program of modernization, including electricity and a new plumbing system. Boxed-in toilettes, like this one, were de rigueur at the time.


St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

A lace hanging worked with the Shaftesbury coat of arms serves as the headboard for the bed in the master bedroom.

St Giles-Nick Ashley-Cooper-Dorset-WoI-Oct 2015

The private bathroom is furnished with pieces found in the attics and restored. The 18th-century watercolors depict the surrounding St Giles Park.



The newly landscaped grounds recapture the original intent.

The grotto

The gardens on the 5,000-acre estate have also been restored.

In addition to The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph you can read more about St Giles House at their website

The World of Interiors, August 2012 with photography by Tim Beddow; The World of Interiors, October 2015 with photography by Tim Beddow; “How a Tattooed Young Raver Unexpectedly Became 12th Earl of Shaftesbury” for The Telegraph by Anna Tyzack, August 2015,photography by Andrew Crowley; “How a New York DJ Turned Earl Revived an English Manor” for The Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2015, by Ruth Bloomfield, photography by Dylan Thomas; Blouin ArtInfo, photography by Marcus Peel


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At Home with Angelo Donghia

Posted October 1, 2015. Filed in American Chic, Angelo Donghia, Classic Contemporary

“There are not very many creative designers in America, but Angelo is one of them.” — Halston

While Angelo Donghia may have been interior designer to the rich and famous he was, himself, no sybarite. Rather, he was a determined and hard working professional who happened to also appreciate the value of creating attractive and comfortable interiors that supported ones inner life. He created a new kind of luxury combining the classic with the modern, the high with the low, in his distinctive and refined minimalist decorative lexicon. Nowhere was his talent more on display than in his own New York City townhouse that he inhabited from the later 196o’s until his untimely passing at the age of 50 in 1985.

In my previous post, Angelo Donghia Retrospective, I briefly covered the designer’s career which is now the subject of a review on display at the New York School of Interior Design. Here we enter the designer’s personal world at that moment he had defined his mature style. Void of his previous taste for excessive luxury – pattern on pattern, balloony upholstery and surfaces teeming with collections –  his new interiors, first featured in 1973, presented a quiet balm of sophistication. Donghia’s retreat from the noise of city living was sensual, calming, and luxurious, but tempered by the casual and, often, throw-away. The most striking aspect of his style, that I recall when first discovering his rooms many years ago, was his appreciation of the void. He didn’t feel compelled to fill every surface, allowing select pieces to breathe and take notice. It was essentially the beginning of large-scale furniture floating within, often, theatrical framed vignettes. A sense of discovery permeates Donghia’s rooms, filled with curious finds and unexpected combinations. While much of its decor is a mirror (pun intended) of the hedonistic era in which it was conceived, Donghia’s respite from the world was also approachable, enormously comfortable and witty. One of the most original designers of his time, his legacy lives on at Donghia Associates.

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Mirrors  in the downstairs entrance hall refract the black-and-white spindled staircase whose graphic punch is repeated in the door surround and geometric floor pattern. A table  lavishly draped in metallic fabric displays Donghia’s affection for Asian arts. But, please, no more lacquered fans!

Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Angelo Donghia-Manhattan Style-1990

Angelo Donghia-Manhattan Style-1990

The garden room was where Donghia lived out daily life. In Angelo Donghia Retrospective I posted a photo of the garden room during an earlier period – a riot of color and pattern. The room later became more architectural, less boho and clubby, with an austere black-and-white scheme that introduced his plump furniture designs and the occasional burst of color in the form of a turquoise painted bamboo table, art, textiles and flowers. We are witness not only to his private domain but to his home as design laboratory, where art is mobile and casually propped, cushions are tossed on the floor, and curious objects are displayed for pleasure. The reflective high gloss of the white painted walls and graphic floor pattern is crisp and exacting, yet the overall atmosphere is relaxed and highly personal. From 1973, when the redecoration of the garden room first appeared in Architectural Digest, to the time just before his death in 1985, the room remained unchanged. Only a chair here or a table there were moved – a testament to the designer’s contribution to mobile furniture arrangements and a contemporary style of living.

Angelo Donghia- NY Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration 1976

The trellised upper terrace with built-in banquettes is just off the first floor garden room, extending the graphic black-and-white scheme found within.

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

The first floor mirrored entrance hall extended to the second level hall that introduced guests to the living room. Horizontal and vertical reflective planes created a dramatic affect that brings to mind the fractured quality of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. John Dickinson’s iconic galvanized metal faux draped table holds a Japanese vase filled with quince blossoms.


Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 painted by Marcel Duchamp, 1912.

Angelo Donghia NY apt-NY Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration-Jaime Ardelice


Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Angelo Donghia-Manhattan Style-1990

Within a classical envelope of formal architecture, including a pedimented door surround and dentil moldings painted crisp white, relaxed and over-scaled Donghia-designed furniture floats within a cocoon of deep viridian on a pale bleached wood floor beneath a glittering silver papered ceiling in the main living room. A wonderful balance of high and low pervades the room, where a central seating arrangement is defined by an imposing Coromandel screen from the estate of Coco Chanel and upholstered furniture covered in white satin and cotton duck is placed with mobility in mind. Donghia understood the times in which he lived, creating glamorous, highly edited and sophisticated rooms that were equally youthful, modern and comfortable. He also introduced us to changeable arrangements where furniture, art, and objects can be moved easily from one place to another. While working on Mary Tyler Moore’s Manhattan aerie the actress fell so much in love with his beaded glass chandelier that installed it in her dining room (you can see it here).  In 1977 his friend, film producer Joel Schu­macher, lived here while doing the costumes and sets for Woody ­Allen’s Interiors, and while writing The Wiz for Sidney Lumet – using the banquette as his bed. If you have an opportunity you can view an interview with Schumacher and others at the Angelo Donghia retrospectivce, Angelo Donghia: Design Superstar, at the New York School of Interior Design.

Angelo Donghia NYC townhouse

Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

Angelo Donghia- AD 1973

Angelo Donghia- NY Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration 1976


Angelo Donghia-AD American Interiors

Donghia used essentially only two colors, gray and white, in his bedroom. Gray wool suiting fabric was used on the walls, bed and banquette upholstery while quilted white fabric was used for curtains, the bed’s coverlet and pillows. Donghia often used this room for small dinner parties during the winter, pushing the bed aside to make space. With low, plump banquettes and a chaise on which to lounge beneath the golden sheen of the tea-papered ceiling a Bacchanalian atmosphere was assured.

Angelo Donghia NYC townhouse


Architectural Digest, November/December 1973, Jay Steffy photographer; The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration by Norma Skurka, 1976, Jaime Ardelice photographer; Architectural Digest: American Interiors, 1978, Angelo Donghia photography; Manhattan Style by John Esten and Rose Bennett Gilbert, 1990, Angelo Donghia Associates photography.

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Angelo Donghia Retrospective

Posted September 29, 2015. Filed in American Chic, Angelo Donghia, Classic Contemporary


Since I began my blog two years ago I have wanted to write a post about American interior design icon Angelo Donghia.  And now, with a retrospective of his work in full swing at the New York School of Interior Design Gallery, there may never be a better time to honor one of America’s most influential interior designers whose signature style and business savvy changed the landscape of interior design.

A high achiever since childhood, Donghia was president of five organizations in High School. He later went on to the Parson’s School of Design, and upon graduation in 1959 he decided to apply for jobs with three interior designers: Michael Greer, Yale Burge and Billy Baldwin. He happened to call Yale Burge first and was offered a job on the spot, which continued until Burge’s death in 1971 after the duo had formed a partnership, Burge-Donghia. It was during their partnership that Vice Versa was formed exclusively for Donghia’s rug and fabric designs. To display his fabrics he used the furniture he had designed for customers, which he eventually sold through the same outlets. By the age of forty-five the creative polymath had amassed four distinct corporate entities : a fabric company (Vice Versa), his eponymous furniture company, a licensing company and a growing collection of design showrooms to the trade throughout the country – all successfully without so much as fracturing his reputation in the eyes of high profile clients the likes of Halston, Ralph Lauren, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, and Liza Minnelli. Particularly rare among his peers of that era, Donghia successfully navigated the creative waters of high style interior design with assured business acumen, securing his success and longevity. His design and business models have since inspired a host of designers, providing a framework on which to build their growing businesses into successful enterprises.

Stylistically Donghia stood out from the crowd. From his early designs we are witness to the influence of his classical training that segued into a brief fascination with bohemian exoticism in the later 1960’s until arriving at his unparalleled classic-contemporary vocabulary. By the 1970’s he had defined his style, introducing overscale furniture like none seen before it into spare yet glamorous backdrops in which to showcase select pieces. A product of the times, his rooms were as sexy as his Studio 54 clientele. He approached color in much the same way one would to dress themselves, enveloping his clients in the same colors they felt comfortable wearing. His preference for neutrals allowed the nuance of form and texture to predominate while providing a quietly elegant backdrop in which to display important pieces. He was, as is now, particularly known for his use of large-scale, “fat” furniture, men’s gray flannel suiting for walls and upholstery, and reflective high gloss painted walls and silver-foil ceilings. Many of his furniture designs are still in production and near vintage pieces can be found on sites such as 1stdibs and Viyet. Furniture can sometimes be like clothing: Just when you’ve decided they will never come back in vogue and you dispose of them, they do. I wonder what became of my cream chenille c1994 Luciano club chair? But more importantly, I wonder what Mr. Donghia would be up to today. He would be eighty years old. In some small way, this post is an homage to one of our greats. Hail Donghia!

Angelo Donghia student watercolor

A 1950’s watercolor from Donghia’s student days.

An entrance hall that was decorated by Angelo Donghia.

A rendering for a classically crisp entrance hall that was decorated sometime in the 1960’s.


Angelo Donghia-Met Opera Club-1966

A sketch and photograph of the luxuriously urbane Metropolitan Opera Club, the 1966 New York project that made Donghia a star. The room featured a silver-foil ceiling, blue-glass chandeliers and black upholstered Regency-style chairs.


Donghia’s early decorating work for the Halston showroom in New York in 1967, with layered patterns and lush colors.

Angelo Donghia NY townhouse garden room 1960's

The garden room in Donghia’s Manhattan townhouse was decorated in a cacophony of color and pattern – a marked difference from the monochromatic glamour we’ve come to know of his mature style. The ceiling was covered in tangerine foil to reflect warm light. The wallpaper was by Zandra Rhodes; the fabrics were from Donghia’s own company, Vice Versa.


Angelo Donghia at his uptown New York City townhouse in 1970, seated on a chair from his Vice Versa collection.

Angelo Donghia-FIre Island

His Fire Island house by architect Horace Gifford in the 1970s.


The designer playing host at one of his legendary parties in his townhouse during the mid-’70s as photographed by Bill Cunningham.


The living room of a private client, completed in 1977, with Donghia’s Two Tier chairs and few architectural trimmings

Angelo Donghia NY apt-NY Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration-Jaime Ardelice

The living room in Donghia’s New York City townhouse, featured in the November/December issue of Architectural Digest, made a star of the magazine’s editor, Paige Rense, and catapulted Donghia further into the design world stratosphere. Mary Tyler Moore loved the Venetian chandelier so much Donghia installed it into her New York City dining room.

Donghia’s Key West living room, 1977.

Donghia’s Key West living room, 1977. Donghia bought a Key West house in the mid-1970s, at the height of his career. The living room’s toga-wrapped chairs and bamboo furniture reflected his elegant informality.

Angelo Donghia-Vice Versa

This ad for Vice Versa appeared in the July/August, 1979, issue of Architectural Digest.

Donghia ad - AD 1980

This ad appeared in the September, 1980, issue of Architectural Digest.

Ralph Lauren-Angelo Donghia-NYC


Ricky and Ralph Lauren’s all-white, minimalist Fifth Avenue duplex in 1980.

Version 2

The rich color scheme and watery silvered treatment of the room’s paneling conjures a modern take on a Venetian palace in Donghia’s installation at the Kips Bay Showhouse in 1981.


In the early 1980’s Donghia designed an apartment near New York’s United Nations building. The designer who had popularized gray flannel as an upholstery fabric once again opted for a monochromatic palette, as well as a silver-foil ceiling—a Donghia trademark.


Mary Tyler Moore loved the crystal beaded chandelier from Donghia’s apartment so much that he decided to install it in her New York apartment, which he designed in the early 1980s.



A New York City apartment designed in 1981 featured a warm palette, textured walls and upholstery, large scale art and reflective ceilings.

Metallics burnish a Donghia-designed Palm Beach, Florida, home, 1985.

Metallics burnish a Donghia-designed Palm Beach, Florida, home, 1985.


His Lake Hill Farm, CT, retreat - AD April 1986

The living room, top photo, of Donghia’s Lake Hill Farm, Connecticut, retreat included a pedimented doorway and a keystone over French doors to imbue the room with a classical context in which to decorate utilizing furniture of his own design. Of the oversize furniture in the comfortably cozy sitting room Donghia remarked “Better overscale than underscale “.

Angelo Donghia; Design Superstar  will be on view from September 17th – December 5th  at the New York School of Interior Design Gallery, 161 East 69th Street, New York City;

Next up … Angelo Donghia’s super-glamorous New York City townhouse!



Architectural Digest, November/December 1973, Jay Steffy photograher;  Architectural Digest, August 1981, Jaime Ardiles-Arce photographer; Architectural Digest, April 1986, Jaime Ardiles-Arce photographer; Manhattan Style by John Esten and Rose Bennett Gilbert published 1990, George Chinsee photographer; Architectural Digest, January 2000, Jaime Ardiles-Arce and Billy Cunningham photographers; T Magazine, September 23, 2015

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Bunny’s View

Bunny Williams CT retreat-An Affair with a House-2005

As the end of summer closes in my mind wanders to the comfort inherent in the traditions of country house style. The Virginian Nancy Lancaster introduced Americans to the British tradition of shabby gentility, bringing pared down comfort to stately homes and grand gestures to shabby ones, creating comfortable, inviting and elegant rooms, be they town or country. Today there seems to be not quite as many  interior designers and decorators who engage this tradition or understand and embrace what, to the undisciplined, appears haphazard or fortuitous at best. For success lies in their knowledge of architectural and stylistic appropriateness,  a grasp of proportion and scale, mastery of color, and a refined and informed eye for collecting and editing. One such American decorator is Bunny Williams.

Since An Affair with a House was published in 2005 shelter magazines, the Homes sections of print and digital media, and bloggers alike have waxed poetic over Bunny Williams’ slice of bucolic heaven in the countryside of Falls Village, Connecticut. Which may bring you to ask, “Why are you, then, writing this post?” Well, I simply couldn’t resist. For one, a current reiteration of Bunny and John Rosselli’s Connecticut rooms appeared last week on One Kings Lane, the impetus for writing this post.  For another, I had launched The Art of the Room six years after An Affair With A House came out and felt that it had been duly covered yet wished I had included it. And if these reasons aren’t enough then I must admit that I simply and selfishly want to add Bunny’s beloved country home to the Categories section of my blog to reference whenever, and wherever, I like.


Over the years I have retained, and in many cases repurchased back issues, of shelter magazines that date back to the 1970’s. I am constantly pulled between wanting to unload some and wanting to fill in the gaps to complete my collections. The latter applies now, as I’m certain there must have been an issue or two of House & Garden or House Beautiful that showed us inside Bunny’s world in the countryside at around the time she purchased it in the 1970’s. To date only a scant few photos have popped up pre-1988 on such sites as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. One lucky discovery conveys Bunny’s earliest decorative resolution for the living room which had originally been completely swathed in chintz – from curtains to upholstery to walls because, in her words, she lacked a decent collection of art to hang. Thankfully, years ago I created binders to organize clippings from magazines by style.  In one binder labeled “Country House Style” is a feature from either House & Garden or House Beautiful, c1988, featuring the library in its early decorative iteration conveying that era’s penchant for Anglo-American shabby gentility.

Bunny Williams CT retreat

The original farmhouse, now the dining room, dates from 1780. An addition in the more formal Federal Style reconfigured the house in 1840. Then a second story with dormer windows materialized on top of the carriage house wing in the 1930’s. The house and its outbuildings were in derelict state when she discovered the property – a blank canvas with just the right amount of age and patina to transform into her ideal of country house style, which she has shared with antiques dealer John Rosselli the past few years. For nearly four decades Bunny Williams’ love of home and passion for gracious living has transformed this once sleepy property into a magical and welcoming compound for family, friends, and beloved pets.


The entry hall, up until recently, had been glazed a warm cantaloupe with floors painted white – at once cheerful and warm, a welcoming gesture come all seasons. The Greek key border at the crown molding was eventually removed by the time the entry appeared again in An Affair with a House, and the prettily painted Italian chairs were switched out for simpler English ones. Today the entry is painted a complex neutral that goes from green to blue to gray and the floors are stained dark, patterned with a darker stencil design. The atmosphere is more sober, serene and edited. A new leopard pattern stair runner adds a dose of high style glamour.

 The entry in Bunny Williams' Connecticut country house. From An Affair With A House by Bunny Williams.


Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House


one kings lane_bunny williams_ENTRANCE HALL

one kings lane_bunny williams_STAIRCASE


The living room has evolved over the years from a chintz-enveloped paean to English country house style to a quietly elegant version of itself in subsequent years. The first photo was published in House Beautiful in 1987, after Williams removed the floral wallpaper and curtains and replaced both with solid material. I cannot determine whether the windows are stained or painted to match the walls. About ten years later the living room would take on a simpler, lighter look and feel with walls painted a warm yellow inspired by the Michelangelo designed loggia at Villa San Michele in Fiesole, Italy (see my post A Tale of Two Villas), with trim painted a crisp white. Accents of sylvan browns and greens ties the interiors to the gardens beyond their windows and doors in a quietly subtle homage. Williams told Veranda “I’ve come into a confidence that only time gives you. I’ve cleaned up. I’ve gotten stronger. I want big scale. I’m not so interested in little stuff in a room. I’m more serene about what I’m doing.” The results of her evolution are clear: elegant, edited, comfortable rooms that are pleasing to our senses and intellect.

Bunny Williams-CT-House Beautiful-Nov 1987

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

bunny_williams_living_room   one kings lane_bunny williams_FIREPLACE   one kings lane_bunny williams_BAR


The dining room had retained its Federal style decor until only recently. Walls were covered in green-and-white stripe wallpaper from Twigs & Company which Williams put up herself many years before. A table draped with one of William’s many antique textiles is surrounded by black painted antique Regency chairs beneath a tole chandelier. I’ve always admired the effortless balance of sober elegance and country house charm in this room. Today the dining room remains virtually unchanged save for changing out the wallpaper for a more subtle pale faux bois watermark paper – but what an impact it has on the overall aesthetic of this room. The absence of stripes and lighter color opens it up and allows the furniture and art to stand out.

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

one kings lane_bunny williams_DINING ROOM


The early decor for the library in its Spring and Summer dress reminds me of a Merchant Ivory film. Can you not imagine coming here from the garden, an overflowing flower basket set upon the library table, to break for tea and a few pages from Byron? The cool and powdery blue glaze of the walls is warmed by an open floral pattern linen with shades of pale wood, blue and green to coordinate with the pale blue-gray striped linen slipcovers all from Colefax & Fowler – grounded beautifully by a round English chinoiserie lacquer table. In later years the mood retained its richer Winter incarnation with golden tawny walls, fabrics the color of toast and masculine furniture and art. Today the room is more eclectic, furnished with Bunny’s shapely Nailhead Sofa and two-tone Black Beauty Side Table, along with dashes of crimson and red ocher.

Bunny Williams CT retreat

Bunny+Williams-CT-country house

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Alexandre Bailhache

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Wiliams-CT retreat-Veranda


Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House


Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams' CT retreat

one kings lane_bunny williams_SOFA

one kings lane_bunny williams_LIBRARY



The cozy and inviting kitchen incorporates the breakfast room and highly organized systems for storing their extensive collections of dinner and service wares. What could be more welcoming than a crackling fire on a crisp day? Certainly motivation for preparing a tasty feast. Little has changes, save for different dining chairs. Simplicity and warmth is all that’s needed here.

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

one kings lane_bunny williams_KITCHEN

one kings lane_bunny williams_KITCHEN TABLE

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

one kings lane_bunny williams_TEACUPS


It’s difficult to determine given the tawny quality of the first few photos but the walls of the master bedroom have been the same shade of an elegant gray-blue for quite some time. Since I’m not privy to earlier photos taken I can only suggest as much. You can see from the third photo that the room is much lighter and fresher, not dark at all. The same four poster and bed hangings, curtains and rug tesitfy. Today the room is painted a clear robins egg blue and the former bed has been replaced by a lighter one dressed in white and blue. Gone are the heavier curtains and pelmet in favor of a simply dressed curtains of an open link design.

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

one kings lane_bunny williams_BEDROOM

one kings lane_bunny williams_BEDROOM DRESSER


The only photo of the guest room I’ve located is this one which, I assume, is also not quite as dark as it appears.

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House


Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House


The scheme for the sunroom has remained virtually unchanged over the years with its blue lavender painted ceiling and smoky lavender painted floors. White wicker furniture and pink hydrangea patterned slip covers predominated in the early years followed by natural wicker, white slip covers and fern patterned cushions and pillows. Today black wicker rocking chairs replace the natural wicker ones.

Bunny Williams CT retreat

Bunny Williams CT retreat-Veranda

Bunny Williams CT retreat

Bunny Williams CT retreat

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

one kings lane_bunny williams_SUNROOM

one kings lane_bunny williams_SUNROOM TABLE


Bunny Williams’ passion for gardening led her to transform neglected land into a series of enchanted gardens. Utilizing stone and hemlock hedges to create structure and formal gardens, the effect is one of intimacy and nuance as you pass from “room” to outdoor room. Over the years a cutting garden was added to provide annuals and vegetables as well as formal parterres to frame the barn and conservatory.

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams CT retreat

one kings lane_bunny williams_GARDEN HEDGES

“As far back as my memory takes me, I have been smitten by gardens.  I grew up in the rolling countryside of Virginia, where I spent my summers tagging after my mother through beds of flowers and endless rows of tomatoes and cabbages.  Often it was my job to pick whatever was ripe, and that is the memory that stays with me now.  It’s a warm summer afternoon, the light is golden, the birds are chirping, and I’m out there happily picking peas for dinner.” — Bunny Williams, On Garden Style, 1998


Several years after getting the main house in order and imbuing it with emotion and intellect, B.W. hallmarks, Bunny and John tackled the dilapidated 1840’s barn cum garage, transforming it into a cozy haven to entertain and house guests. The partners had the barn dismantled and rebuilt, replacing garage doors with French ones and adding skylights to flood the soaring space with light. The cathedral ceilings and tall arched windows in the living area provided an opportunity to furnish the space with large-scale antiques and commodious seating in Williams’ imitable eclectic design vocabulary – where a Victorian armchair, a Regency bull’s-eye mirror, a 19th-century English oak sofa, and a 19th-century French marble top table with an iron base from John Rosselli mix effortlessly. For Williams it’s about atmosphere, the feeling of a place: “I think about scale, informality, and the uniqueness of each piece, whether it’s Italian, French, or English. It looks unplanned, but it’s actually very much planned.” Paintings of barnyard animals are hung on the living room’s back wall in honor of the barn’s original purpose. For the fireplace an Early American painted mantelpiece was added as the room’s focal point. To this windows from an 1860’s house on the Hudson River were added and an old glass conservatory was used to frame the attached dining room – a magical space to dine and entertain guests. Bunny and John love these spaces so much they have come to spend much of their time in them.

Bunny Williams-CT Barn-HG May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams CT barn-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams-CT Barn






Bunny Williams CT barn-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams CT barn-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams CT barn-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn



Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams CT conservatory-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams CT conservatory-H&G May 1999-Pieter Estersohn

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

Bunny Williams-CT-An Affair With A House

one kings lane_bunny williams_CONSERVATORY DINING TABLE

one kings lane_bunny williams_PLANTS

one kings lane_bunny williams_PLANTS 2


Bunny Willams acquired a Greek Revival house across the street as a place to house her collection of family heirlooms and overflow guests. It’s most charming attribute is the predominantly green scenic mural that wraps the dining room’s walls which is accented by more verdant color and blue-and-white porcelains, which pulls the sky color right off the paper. What a delightful and welcoming home for guests. I’d never want to leave. You know how the saying goes: “Don’t make your guests too comfortable. They may  never leave!”

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House

Bunny Wiliams CT Guest House - An Affair with a House


After installing a pool sometime later Bunny and John considered its distance from the house and designed a Greek temple of logs to function as a pool house and shaded veranda. The rustic temple design for the poolhouse is clever given its siting on a wooded knoll overlooking the property and the use of humble materials to create a classical-style structure. It is such a warm and inviting space –  I can envision it dressed for autumn as easily as for summer.


Bunny Williams CT poolhouse-An Affair with a House 2005







Bunny Williams CT poolhouse-An Affair with a House 2005


Bunny Williams CT poolhouse-An Affair with a House 2005



House Beautiful, 1987; House Beautiful, 1988,with photography by Alexandre Bailhache; On Garden Style by Bunny Williams and Nancy Drew with illustrations by John Roselli, 1998; House & Garden, May 1999, with photography by Pieter Estersohn; House & Garden with photography by Dana Gallagher; Veranda with photography by Fritz von der Schulenburg and Bill Geddes; An Afair with a House by Bunny Williams, 2005.


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Country Comfort


The spirit of autumn is on my mind but, thus far, not in the air. The countryside, with its abundance of tress, possesses the promise of changing color. It’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, the comfortably charming and stylish West Sussex country house of interior designers Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen is a welcome distraction from the final days of summer before the first signs of autumn appear.

The couple, whom own and run Nicholas Haslam, which makes and sells furniture, fabrics and lighting and also deals in antiques, purchased the half-Tudor half nineteenth-century house and barn practically on the spot. Without first viewing the interiors they knew it was perfect the moment they set eyes upon it through the front iron gate. Merely an hour from London by train its location provides them ideal proximity to life in the city and the restorative qualities of country living. Yet reality soon proved that two interior designers with exacting tastes would not settle on what lied within. In short, they tore out walls and ceilings, reconfigured rooms to bring in the light and allow the rooms to flow into one another, and renovated the barn into a welcoming guest wing.

The results speak for themselves, and you can see a hint of Nicky Haslam here and there from those years Moschino worked alongside the designer. Yet here the colors are lighter and more neutral, sometimes richer, but never overly pretty. The one exception is the coolly romantic dining room with blue-and-white painted walls based on old English willow-patterned china, which you have likely seen popping up on Pinterest (albeit, more often than not, without due credit or, worse, with incorrect details.). I have, personally, only seen a photo or two of this enchanting property pop up here and there and wanted to add the whole story and its images to my blog, which you will find labeled under English Country House Style. Although the setting when photographed is redolent of Spring allow your mind to wander and imagine these cozily appointed rooms aglow in the golden light of autumn. It’s coming soon, to a township near you!


In the entrance hall, for example, a seventeenth-century Flemish tapestry hangs behind a chest on which a pair of Belgian lamps, made from cast-iron balusters, guard a terracotta bust of Madame du Barry, Louis XV’s last mistress.


A nineteenth-century French chimneypiece anchors the densely hung pictures and the symmetrical seating in the cozy sitting room just off the entrance hall, in the front of the house.


Curiosities in one end of the double drawing room include two of Paolo’s collection of silver tortoises.


An assortment of Catholic statuary.


The drawing room is composed of two smaller rooms. Can you recognize the barley-sugar torchière, one of a pair, by Jean-Michel Frank from the living room of their London townhouse?


An eighteenth-century walnut table hides the back of the sofa in the drawing room.


The dining room’s blue-and-white scheme is based on the eighteenth-century painted French screen that hangs on the wall.


The collection of Tournai porcelain was amassed over several decades.


The garden table is made from a Tuscan olive press.


The walls of the attic bedroom were painted freehand by artist Dawn Reader, in a design that echoes the colours of the Le Manach fabric on the bedcover and curtains. Paolo was drawn to the nineteenth-century French bed because the ‘PM’ initials carved into the headboard are his own.




The breakfast room is a new extension to the farmhouse. The chandelier is a copy of an eighteenth-century Italian design, by Nicholas Haslam, which also supplied the linen covering the chairs.


In the barn, the cupboard in the main room is by Nicholas Haslam.


The beams in the main bedroom, as in the rest of the barn, were bleached to create a lighter effect.


From the March 2013 issue of House & Garden. Photography by Simon Brown.

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La Malcontenta

Posted August 19, 2015. Filed in Italian Villas, Palladian-Style

Villa La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio

The Apollonian meets the Dionysian as the classical lines of the villa La Malcontenta rise up among the willows of the river Brenta in the Veneto area of Italy. The façade, which is plastered in powdered marble called marmarino, is famed for its Ionic pronaos, or pillared portico.

For several years — since 2001, to be exact — I have safely guarded an issue of House & Garden that features what the author suggests may be “The most beautiful house in the world.” La Malcontenta, formally known as Villa Foscari, was built around 1560 by Andrea Palladio for brothers Nicolo and Alvise Foscari on the banks of the river Brenta in the Veneto region of Italy. Sadly, following the downfall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, the Foscari’s were forced to sell the villa and its legacy transferred to other owners who, too, fell under its spell. Fast forward to 1940, a young Antonio Foscari and his father (descendants of Francesco Foscari, the doge of Venice at the inception of the Renaissance) retained pride in their ancestors summer villa, often bicycling to it from their own villa nearby, concerned for its fate following blasts from air raids during Hitler’s occupation. There it stood before them, their ancestral villa, decay amid grandeur, awaiting its own renaissance.

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Friedric von Martensen, Palazzo Foscari in Malcontenta, c1820.

Years later I discovered Antonio Foscari’s remarkable book Tumult and Order, published in 2012, chronicling the story of Albert (Bertie) Clinton Landsberg (a German nobleman), Paul Rodocanachi (a refined man of culture), and Catherine d’Erlanger (baroness and society hostess) and their ensuing love affair with a dilapidated Palladian villa they discovered whilst vacationing along the Riveria Brenta in 1924. These three uncommon friends would dedicate years to the villa’s restoration, entertaining the beau monde and intellectual avant-garde of their era until the advent of WWII would bring it all to a close. Years later Antonio Foscari would go on to become an architect with a deep appreciation of Palladio’s oeuvre and a profound reverence for the understated elegance created by Bertie Landsberg at La Malcontenta. Then, one providential day a man appeared at his front door to deliver a parcel. The man was Claud Phillimore, the present owner of the villa. Inside the parcel was the visitors’ book which Bertie Landsberg had kept. He had always considered Antonio Foscari the rightful inheritor of Villa Foscari. This love affair with a house, like many a classic love story, concluded with a happy ending. Foscari and his architect wife, Barbara Del Vicario, purchased the house in 1973 from aristocratic English architect Claud Phillimore.

Paul Rodocanachi, Portrait of Bertie Landsberg, 1912

Portrait of Bertie Landsberg by Paul Rodocanachi, 1912.

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Paul Rodocanachi, 1930s.

Chaterine D'Erlanger photographed by Alexander Bassano, c1930's.

Catherine d’Erlanger photographed by Alexander Bassano, c1930’s.


“It’s a house built for human habitation, using elements of divine architecture,” wrote George Matei Cantacuzino.

My original intention was to essentially write an essay based on what I have learned and discovered about La Malcontenta from the article featured in House & Garden magazine and Antonio Foscari’s book Tumult and Order. But after reading them both I couldn’t imagine capturing the inspired and magical story of this remarkable house and the fascinating people who have inhabited it over the past ninety years nearly as poetically. The story belongs to them, after all.  My suggestion would be to read both and savor every word and nuance. However, the House & Garden feature is out of print, unless you happen to own a back issue. So, as a gift to you, I have reprinted it verbatim so that you may experience the story of “the most beautiful house in the world” as it was written by Marella Carracciolo for House & Garden. As for Tumult and Order it has become one of my favorite love stories. You can also learn more about the villa, and view many of the archival photos featured in Tumult and Order, at La Malcontenta.

This is its story …

"La Malcontenta" fresco attributed to Giovanni Battista Zelotti and Battista Franco at Villa Malcontenta

La Malcontenta means “the unhappy woman”. The name most likely has its origins in the term mal contenta, meaning “badly contained”– a reference to the river’s former tendency to flood its banks at the site of the villa. But the more interesting explanation behind the villa’s name is the legend that the wife of one of the original owners was banished to the house for living too loosely in Venice. If she was sad, Palladio was joyous.

la malcontenta_pubblicazione_sito

The villa was the first major commission from a family of the city. In the early 1550s, Palladio had gained celebrity in nearby Vicenza. But the Venetian’s were deeply suspicious of anything endorsed by papal Rome, Foscari says, and Palladio’s architecture, rooted in the same classical language that was resurfacing in the new buildings of Renaissance Rome and Florence, was seen by many as a threat to Venetian individuality and integrity. The Foscari’s offered Palladio a unique opportunity to show off his talent on a piece of land by the Brenta, the main travel route between Venice and Padua. “Boats were passing by constantly,” Foscari explains. “Because of the bend in the river at this spot, people could observe the building from all angles.”

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1926

The north façade of La Malcontenta, 1926.

The villa, a monolithic structure with the central portico crowned by a triangular pediment, is a perfect example of Palladio’s rigorous vision. The monumental exterior — testimony to Palladio’s preference for simple materials like brick and stucco, as opposed to stone — is deceptive.


OTTAVIO BERTOTTI SCAMOZZI, Le fabbriche e i disegni di Andrea Palladio, vol. III, Vicenza 1781.

OTTAVIO BERTOTTI SCAMOZZI, Le fabbriche e i disegni di Andrea Palladio, vol. III, Vicenza 1781.

Like a puzzle box, the piano nobile conceals a surprisingly articulate sequence of interior spaces centered around a cross shaped hall with a vaulted ceiling. “The beauty of this building,” says Foscari,  “reflects the rigorous theories on which it was planned and built.” 

Villa Foscari-La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-British HG May 1979-Aldo Ballo

In Palladio’s rational design for the villa, the Central Hall — with its high vaulted ceilings — serves as the axis of the cross-shaped house plan and is entered immediately upon crossing the threshold. Photo by Aldo Ballo, 1979.

Central Hall-Villa La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-Veneto

The sequence of rooms is broken by small doors so simple and essential in form that they look as though they were cut out of the walls with scissors. Photo by Matthias Schaller, 2008.

Central Hall-Villa La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-Veneto

Unadorned windows help control the harmony of light and shadow in the Central Hall. “The frescoes, based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and painted by Battista Franco and Giambattista Zelotti, were added later,” says Foscari. Given the architect’s preference for unadorned walls, Foscari adds, “it’s possible Palladio saw the frescoes as a breach of the purity of his vision.”

Upon taking ownership of the villa from its previous steward, Hierschel de Minerbi, Bertie Landsberg discovered the most elemental requirement was to “liberate” the spaces from all that filled them. As objects, furniture and art were removed Landsberg experienced greater purity and perfection, exalting the harmonious quality of Palladian architecture through subtraction.

Central Hall-Villa Foscari-Andrea Palladio-Photo Paolo Martin

“The layer of whitewash covering the walls could be likened to a veil, which concealed a mystery, and this added to the fascination of the building that was already imbued with enigmatic messages” wrote Antonio Foscari.

Palladio may not have liked the frescoes that cover the building’s interior. For example, his doorways are spare, simple, but the frescoes in the Central Hall creates a trompe l’oeil of a grand and imposing door frame. Photo by Paolo Martin, 2008.


A walk through the light, airy rooms of La Malcontenta with Del Vicario is an exquisite experience. Her gentle approach is matched by an architect’s understanding of the building’s needs. “A great amount of work was required,” she said. The riverbank was shored up; power lines were buried. And that was nothing compared with the restoration inside the house. “The frescoes cover some four thousand square yards,” Del Vicario says, “and Antonio oversaw a rigorous conservation of architectural elements, such as returning Palladio’s red terrazzo floor” — made of compressed brick powder and lime — to its original patina.”

central hall-la malconenta-bertie landsberg-1930's-photo by osvaldo boehm

The Central Hall as it appeared when Bertie Landsberg lived at La Malconenta sometime in the 1930’s expressed his spare and pure aesthetic.

Central Hall-Villa Foscari-Andrea Palladio-frescoes Battista Franco and Giambattista Zelotti

A seating alcove set into one side of the cross in the Central Hall as photographed by Paolo Martin.

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An alternate view of the same seating arrangement.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

Del Vicario reproduced the low banquettes in the central room to exacting specifications matching those originally designed by Bertie Landsberg for the villa. Even the textiles were woven by the same weaver. Photo by François Halard, 2001.

Room of Prometheus-Villa Foscari La Malcontenta-Bertie Landsberg-1930's

Bertie Landsberg set up his bedroom in the Room of Prometheus, photographed sometime in the 1930’s by Osvaldo Boehm.

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Fire is the theme in the Room of Prometheus, a spacious living room in La Malcontenta’s east wing, as photographed by Mark Smith in 1997.

Room of Prometheus-Battista frescoes-Villa La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio

The ceiling is covered by a fresco of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. Photo by Matthias Schaller.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The Room  of Prometheus as photographed by François Halard in 2001: the fireplace surround in the Prometheus Room is made of marble from Verona; the sofa and white chairs are upholstered in fabric from Tessoria Asolana, Italy; the straw mats throughout the house are squares assembled according to the size of each room. I love the languid atmosphere of this room — so hauntingly beautiful yet unpretentious and livable. Photo by Aldo Ballo

The Room of Aurora as photographed by Aldo Ballo in 1979.

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The Room of Aurora as photographed by Mark Smith in 1997.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

Owner and architect Barbera Del Vicario on a sofa covered in a custom fabric that copies a design in the fresco in the Aurora Room, as photographed by François Halard in 2001.

Fall of Giants Room-La Malcontenta-Bertie Landsberg 1930's

Fall of Giants fresco-Villa Foscari La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio

The Room of Giants as it appeared under Bertie Landsberg in the 1930’s. Photo by Osvaldo Boehm.

Villa Foscari-La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-British HG May 1979-Ballo

The Room of the Giants as photographed by Aldo Ballo in 1979 betrays the actual tones of the frescoes, giving them a tea-stained quality.

Room of Giants-Villa Foscari-Andrea Palladio

The Room of the Giants photographed by Paolo Martin in 1997 appears to conveys crisp contrast. In reality the tones and hues lie somewhere between white and rich cream. Photo by Aldo Ballo

The large, lofty rooms in the villa are balanced by more intimate spaces, such as this small room, or camerino, in a rear corner of the piano nobile. The Room of Fame photographed by Aldo Ballo, 1979.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François HalardThe Room of Fame as photographed by François Halard in 2001.  The chairs were made by a local craftsmen.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The camerino’s ceiling is decorated with the representation of Fame, announcing herself with two trumpets — one made of gold, the other of silver.

Passing through a frescoed bedroom or bathroom, or one of the many dining areas, is part of an artistic itinerary. “Each room”, says Foscari, “is related to the others like the notes in a symphony.” Though spacious and grand, La Malcontenta retains an informal air. Fireplaces heat the rooms; electricity — with a few necessary exceptions — is out of the question. As in the 16th century, the main source of light in the evening is candles. Photo by Aldo Ballo

Antonio Foscari and Barbara Del Varario created a master bedroom from the Room of Bacchus, as photographed by Aldo Ballo in 1979.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The bed is set on a traditional platform that holds blankets and linens. Photo by François Halard, 2001.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The headboard is covered in strips of 16th-century fabric. Photo by François Halard.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

In the Room of Time a washstand column with hinged top was designed by Del Vicario. Photo by François Halard.

room of time-villa foascari la malconenta-andrea palladio

The Room of Time photographed by Matthias Schaller.


THE GROUND FLOOR Photo by Aldo Ballo

The ground floor consists of functional rooms off the groin-vaulted main central hall, which could be passed through from either the north or south sides of the villa. Photo by Aldo Ballo, 1979.

ANTONIO BATTISTI, Rami cinque architettonici numericamente descritti, 1779

ANTONIO BATTISTI, Rami cinque architettonici numericamente descritti, 1779.


The years at La Malcontenta have inspired Del Vicario to create lines of furniture and handmade glassware that, like the house, are rooted in classicism. Her designs include chairs that reinterpret ancient Roman seating, and an octagonal “column” that opens into a cabinet. Her pieces have a purity of form and a craftsmanship that makes them, like Palladian architecture, successful in any context. “One never gets used to beauty — One keeps being surprised and inspired by it,” Del Vicario says. “I think that’s the lesson of this house.”

Villa Foscari-La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-British HG May 1979-Ballo

The dining area photographed by Aldo Ballo in 1979.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

Del Vacario updated the design of the dining room with chairs based on a Roman model. She also designed the candle holders on the table, and the columns on either side of the doorway come from her Ottagono line. The chandelier of sixty Murano glass bowls is made for candles. Photo by François Halard.

kitcehn-la malcontenta-lord snowden

A view of a walled garden from the kitchen, photographed by Lord Snowden in 1960.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The kitchen features an Ottogono cabinet by Del Vicario used for hanging smocks. Photo by François Halard.

ja+u magazine, November, 2011.

The ground floor kitchen photographed by Noboru Inoue.

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The ground floor bagno dei cavalieri — men’s bath — features an antique type of Verona stone with an 18th-century faucet. The bust is a plaster copy of a Roman work in the Vatican collection. The windows were made by a technique, developed in Venice in the 17th-century, in which a drop of molten glass is twirled at the end of a rod into a small disc-shaped pane. The panes are then welded together with lead. Photo by Aldo Ballo

The men’s bath photographed by Aldo Ballo .

La Malcontenta-Andrea Palladio-1560-Veneto-Antonio Foscari-HG- Oct 2001-François Halard

The handblown glasses and personal decanters are part of a set by Del Vicario.

11 Noboru Inoue

Photo by Noboru Inoue.

rear elevation-villa foscari-la malconetenta-andrea palladio-photo by Noboru Inoue

The rear elevation as photographed by Noboru Inoue.

A less tangible aspect made the restoration of the villa unique:  The present inhabitants’ respect for traces left by previous owners who also devoted part of their lives to the villa. They include Lord Phillimore, from whom Foscari and Del Vicario bought the house, and the third most recent owner, Albert Landsberg, the cosmopolitan saloniste who rescued the villa from decay in 1925.  Between the World Wars, a visit to La Malcontenta became an artistic pilgrimage. Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Le Cornusier came here; so did Coco Chanel. The Foscari’s have continued the suave, free-spirited hospitality. Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Frank Gehry, and Joseph Brodsky have been among their guests. Says Antonio Foscari: “There is a bond among those who have loved this house.”


3 Firma

Signature of Cole Porter in the visitors book, October 2, 1926.

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Prince Jean-Louis di Faucigny-Lucinge in La Malcontenta’s garden, 1926.

3 Firma

Signature of Serge Diaghilev in visitors book, July 7, 1927.


Roger Quilter, Bertie Landsberg, Catherine d’Erlanger and Ettore Stefani at La Malcontenta, 1928.

2 Firma

Signature of Cecil Beaton in the visitors book, August 1929.

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Christian Bérard at La Malcontenta, photographed by Boris Kochno in 1930.

1 Arrivo Phillimore Mal 1932

Bertie Landsberg with Claud and Marion Phillimore at La Malcontenta, 1932.

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Catherine d’Erlanger and Oliver Messel photographed in the Central Hall by Cecil Beaton.

2 d_Erlanger Messel

Catherine d’Erlanger and Oliver Messel photographed on the portico by Cecil Beaton.

2 Windsor

Edward and Wallis Windsor’s signatures in the visitors book, August 22, 1954.

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Signature of Jean Cocteau in visitors book, July 16, 1956.

2 Snowdon Autoritratto

Lord Snowdon self-portrait at La Malcontenta, 1960.

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Bertie Landsberg photographed by Lord Snowden, 1960.

2 Leo e Twombly 2-7-78

Leo Castelli and Cy Twonbly photographed by Robert Petersen, 1970’s.

Prince Charles-Ferigo Foscari-La Malconenta-1986

Prince Charles and Ferigo Foscari on the grounds, March 1986.

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Giovanni Agnelli in the Central Hall, May 1990

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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands photographed by Regina Doland, May 1990.


Thomas Krens, center, with Barbara Del Vicario, right,  1990.


Jannis Kounellis installs his sculpture in the Room of Promethus, 1992. Photo by Claudio Franzin.


Jannis Kounellis photographed by Claudio Franzin in the Central Hall, 1992.

Jannis Kounellis and Barbara Foscari-Malcontenta-1992-Claudio Franzin

Barbara Foscari and Jannis Kounellis on the portico, 1992. Photo by Claudio Franzin.

The Most Beautiful House in the World, written by Marella Caracciolo for the October, 2001, issue of House & Garden, with photography by François Halard; Tumult and Order, written by Antonio Foscari, was published in 2012 by Lars Müller publishers and the author; Palladio – The Complete Buildings by Manfred Wundram and Thomas Pape published by Taschen, 2008, with photography by Paolo Marton; Additional images photographed by Aldo Ballo for British House & Garden, May 1979, Mark Smith for the December, 1997 issue of Terre di Venezia Bell’Italia; Ambiente, DM 14; Matthias Schaller for La Malconenta; and Noboru Inoue for ja+u magazine, 2011.

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