American Chic: Vintage Bilhuber

Posted July 28, 2015. Filed in American Chic, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Uncategorized

Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics-Photo by François Halard

Long before I was aware that Jeffrey Bilhuber had worked with Tom Scheerer early in his career I discovered his talent and rising star as one of America’s greatest decorators in the May 1990 issue of House & Garden – his first major solo commission, for Judy and Michael Kraynick in the Lanark Upper Saucon Township of Pennsylvania. It immediately spoke to my own decorative tastes and preferences for edited, neutral and layered rooms that are at once understated and glamorous. In fact, I purchased two copies – one to keep and one to clip the pages from to add to one of my often referenced resource binders.

The 1920’s Italianate-style villa, Frova House, was in dilapidated state when the Kraynick’s discovered it. It was also not for sale. But they persisted and finally negotiated a contract offering first refusal with its reclusive owners, with one caveat: they would have to wait until the elderly couple could no longer live there. And so they waited, several years, living a few miles away, until news of the husband’s passing and institutionalization of his wife arrived. After five years spent clearing out decades of rubbish and bringing the house back to a liveable state they called in Jeffrey Bilhuber to make his magic.

Bilhuber stripped away layer upon layer of decades worth of incongruous junk until they were left with the structure’s inherent virtues. From there he distilled the essence of each room with intentional vision, void of superfluous ornamentation, producing thoughtfully edited rooms that are calm, almost ascetic in their lack of decoration. Walls remain bare where art or mirrors would typically hang. There is no preponderance of table lamps or decorative items for their sake. And where there is art it was hung in unexpected ways – low, stacked off to the side, and staggered. Soft contemporary upholstered furniture covered in neutral shades bridges the gap between antique and modern pieces with classic, clean lines. Chairs float in comfortable, practical arrangements with pull-up tables at the ready. Every material is tactile, from bark paper-lined walls to parchment-covered tables, carved wood stools, monk’s wool for curtains, and the velvets, linens and leather that cover sofas and chairs. One gets the sense that each item was selected with a curious mind and apprecieation of its sculptural qualities. Subtle gradations in color and texture keep your eyes, and hands, moving from one piece to another in rooms where form, not pattern, matters most. And subtle nuances play up this symphony of contrasts from matte to glossy, rough to smooth, light to dark, organic to made-made, traditional to modern, whimsical to appropriate, and high to low. Never forced, Bilhuber recaptured the glamour of the 1920’s with insouciant style, flair and wit  –  a forever classic.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Bilhuber purchased reed matting at Pottery Barn and had it painted in an outsize leopard-spot design for the entrance hall rugs and stair runner, their textural yet high style statement furthered by a whimsical mirror suited for Syrie Maugham hanging above a cast plaster faux stone console after one by Emilio Terry.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Purified elegance denotes the living room with walls covered in hammered bark paper reminiscent of Jean-Michel Frank’s parchment lined rooms (See Perfectly Frank). Alongside an inverted Guatemalan mortar as end table are Ming and early Korean vases and bowls gracing the cocktail table.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Everything in the living room was reduced to its essentials, where natural light through unlined curtains creates gradations of color. Bilhuber hung art in an unexpected fashion to create vitality and allow the room to breathe.

Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics-Photo by François Halard

To emphasize the height of the room Bilhuber hung a small painting of a woman low and off to one side of the sofa, not centered above as is customary. Unconventional design methods, in capable hands, can produce dynamic results. The bronze mirror cube table, designed by Bilhuber, contrasts the pitted stone cocktail table in its sleekness while continuing a dialogue of simplicity. “My pieces follow the old Parsons School of Design thinking — the simplest possible materials put together in the simplest possible way to yield the greatest possible impact” remarked Bilhuber, whose ethos have certainly evolved in the years since.

Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics-Photo by Oberto Gili

Two chairs of diverse origin and period – one a 1940’s Italian armchair, the other an Indonesian prayer seat – reinforce a confident curiosity and endless possibilities. The chair, I believe, came from the New York apartment of Albert Hadley, which he famously updated on a regular basis.

Photo by Dennis Krukowski

The 1940’s modern chair from Albert Hadley’s New York apartment seems to be not the only decorative element that inspired Bilhuber in the design of the Kraynick’s living room. Photo by Dennis Krukowski.

Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics-Photo by François Halard

A Noguchi paper lantern stretches upward toward the ceiling while low profile upholstered chairs gather round a card table – their formidable size seemingly the only design selection that dates this room. I would probably replace this arrangement with a banquette built into the corner.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

This photo illustrates a wonderful layering of texture and tonal quality, from the gilded Italian daybed upholstered by Billy Baldwin in a leopard print velvet to the contrasting surfaces of Bilhuber’s bronze glass cubes, a parchment waterfall end table, and a pale sisal rug against dark stained floors.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

Bilhuber updated the living room several years later, featured in House Beautiful in 1997. By removing the larger sisal rug and replacing it with smaller matting the white slip-covered furniture for summer living pops against the dark wood floors. Parchment end tables replace the scorched bamboo bookcases, and Bilhuber’s mirrored cubes replace the stone cocktail table. More than ever, the furniture seems to float in a lazy, Gatsby-esque summer’s reverie. Works by Sven Lukin on tar paper arch over the sofa, distributing dark contrast upward and around to emphasize the ceiling’s height.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

In a corner of the living room stands a drafting table from the studio of Gustav Eiffel unexpectedly paired with a Lucite chair.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Bilhuber staggered the owners collection of English fern nature prints from the mid-1800’s in simple plastic frames on the walls of the dining room.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Directoire chairs painted with casein surround a Jansen rosewood dining table formerly belonging to tastemaker Babe Paley.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

In the summer the dining chairs take on a more ethereal nature with gauzy white slipcovers.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

More of the client’s framed fern prints stagger the walls of the powder room, which is outfitted with a hammered copper basin designed by Bilhuber setting upon a lacquered straw tablet.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

The scorched bamboo bookcases, originally in the living room, were placed to create two distinct areas in the mid-century modern-inspired sunroom. The mottled wheat-and-black calico of their frames reinforce the golden hues of the split-reed wall covering and graphic punch of the black-and-white diamond floor.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Quietly glamorous, a bedroom features a range of honeyed tonal qualities – from a fur throw, light-filtering curtains, creamy walls, and varying stained woods.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Luxurious Simplicity-HG May 1990-Oberto Gili

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

Louis XVI chairs covered in translucent silk check slip covers imbue the master bathroom with an air of ethereal glamour.  A 19th-century English faux-bamboo chest as sink cabinet and dressing table were painted from polished wood to enameled white to further the bathroom’s luminous quality.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

Bilhuber’s deft hand at balancing varying texture and tonal quality is evidenced again in a guest room where ivory lacquered walls play off a matte cotton-and-raffia rug and an inverted Guatemalan mortar as table, and where pale woods and natural fibers are in balance with the dark floors and black painted furniture.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

A guest bathroom is outlined in bamboo to lend it the impression of being tented.

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

A marriage of modern and elemental design converge in the graphic dark brown-and-white third floor hideaway, which includes a chair by Alvar Aalto.

Jeffrey Bilhuber's Design Basics-Photo by François Halard

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

Bilhuber transformed the porte-cochere into a screened porch, cutting down a table to take better advantage of the verdant view designed by A.E. Bye, and surrounding it with slatted-pine canoe chairs from L.L. Bean. Above hangs a strapwork sphere of his own design.

Photo by William Waldron for House Beautiful.

 

Photo by Michael  Mundy for HG.

 

Jeffrey Bilhuber-Loggia-Pennsylvania-HG-Michael Mundy

Perhaps the chicest loggia in America, Bilhuber created an outdoor room for living, filling it with palazzo furniture and layering it with a perfect mix of high and low, dark and light, smooth and rough. To read more about this loggia see my post Loggia Living: My Top Three Picks

Jeffrey Bilhuber-House Beautiful-June 1997William Waldron-

The swimming pool, fashioned after a reflecting pool.

House & Garden, May 1990 with photography by Oberto Gili; House Beautiful, June 1997 with photography by William Waldron; Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics published by Rizzoli, 2003. First terrace photo by William Waldron for House Beautiful; last two terrace photos by Michael Mundy for House & Garden.

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American Chic

Billy Baldwin Decorates-Woodson Taulbee NYC apartment

What is American Chic? For me, it has always been about effortless style. The kind of style that doesn’t shout “Look at me!” A style that is crisp and classic, balanced, often times understated yet always sophisticated, subtle and artfully layered, unfettered by excessive decor and, above all else, timeless. A style that honors the past yet embraces the present and looks toward the future.

In George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic author Maureen Footer lays claim that “The history of interior design is punctuated by a few legends — Billy Baldwin, Sister Parish — and should include trailblazing decorator George Stacey.” Why? Because, in her words, Stacey possessed “an appealing nonchalance and irreverence, combined with erudition, a flair for color, and an innate grasp of balance, scale, and proportion, producing rooms that were surprising as well as sophisticated. Balancing modern aesthetics and modern living with a lifelong passion for French classicism ensured that Stacey designs were both of the moment and enduring.” This, in a nutshell, defines American chic.

Geroge Stacey-Frances Cheney-American Chic

Frances Cheney’s glamorous octagonal living room.

Diana Vreeland posing in her chic George Stacey designed room.

Diana Vreeland posing in her chic George Stacey designed room.

Princess Grace lounges in her conservatory-cum-family room at the Palais Princier in Monaco.

Princess Grace lounges in her conservatory-cum-family room at the Palais Princier in Monaco.

Although I cannot relate to Stacey as readily as I can to Baldwin and Parish, simply because, as she suggests, Stacey never enjoyed the limelight, we are laid witness to a new energy and flair in American interior design and decoration heretofore never experienced. Some may argue that Elsie de Wolfe was not only the first American decorator but the first to introduce American chic, however her style was, though lighter and fresher than its predecessors, firmly planted in the Classic, reinterpreted, often, with whimsy. If Stacey is to be given his due credit, then, we can attribute his contribution to the development of American chic as early as the 1930’s, with his first commissions for socialite Frances Cheney, style priestess Diana Vreeland, and real life Princess Grace of Monaco, when he presented rooms with a new dynamism and effortless style that is uniquely American by design.

Sister Parish-Early Work-C. Champe Taliaferro

A light and airy living room designed with imagination and flair early in the career of Sister Parish for the C. Champe Taliaferro’s.

William Odom New York apartment 1930's

Yet the history books on interior design seem to have almost forgotten another waning star, William Odom. The New York apartment he decorated for himself (above) is as chic as it is classic.

Van Day Truex New York apartment 1969

Perhaps no one had more influence on the legacy of contemporary American interior design than did Van Day Truex. Though he has quietly retreated into the annals of America’s greatest interior designers, from his days as President of the Parsons School of Design in the 1940’s to his later role as design director of Tiffany & Co, his restrained approach to crafting quietly elegant spaces continues to inspire designers. His New York apartment in 1969, above, had walls painted a soft gray as a foil for a collection of gold-framed sepia tone prints whose color is repeated naturally in the hides that cover the floor.

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Van Day Truex’s last apartment in New York City was elementally chic and timeless.

Before there was Billy Baldwin there was Ruby Ross Wood, which begs the question: Would there have been a Baldwin without Wood, or a Wood without Baldwin? Baldwin maintained “Mrs. Wood was the best decorator ever. Her motto was ‘Decorating is the art of arranging beautiful things comfortably.’ She taught me the importance of the personal, of the comfortable and the new.” Certainly Baldwin’s confidence in his abilities and level of style and taste also contributed to the success of Ms. Wood’s burgeoning interior design business. He affectionately recalled her tutelage and dedication to making him a design star, introducing him to all the right people. Perhaps one without the other would have produced the same results, but my guess is that Baldwin contributed profoundly to Ms. Ross’s enjoyment of success as the years progressed until her eventual retirement and his singular rise to stardom.

Ruby Ross Wood-Ellen and Wolcotte Blair-Palm Beach-1936

A high-water mark of American design, the Palm Beach living room Ruby Ross Wood and her associate Billy Baldwin decorated for Ellen and Wolcott Blair featured a floor of parchment-colored marble bordered by bleached oak. While the style is distinctly American in its comfortable yet crisp décor it was strongly influenced by Wood’s early appreciation of edgy European trendsetters, particularly Jean Michel Frank – as evidenced by the Louis XV desk covered in leather edged in plain white carpet tape. This brand of ingenuity is a hallmark of American chic.

H. Mercer Walker Palm Beach residence-Ruby Ross Wood-1940

The Palm Beach residence of the H. Mercer Walkers’ decorated by Ruby Ross Wood in the 1940’s exhibited an air of cool classicism against a crisp monochromatic background.

Billy Baldwin'sbenchmark midtown apartment in New York City, 1973.

Billy Baldwin’s benchmark midtown apartment in New York City, 1973.

The Baldwin designed living room of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Eastman, New York City. Photo by Horst.

The Baldwin designed New York City living room of Mr. and Mrs. Lee Eastman introduced a modern furniture layout, a mix of contemporary and classic furniture, and a dramatic backdrop for modern art. Photo by Horst.

Decades later, this room Baldwin designed for S. I. Newhouse still feels stylish and relevant.

Decades later, this room Baldwin designed for S. I. Newhouse still feels stylish and relevant.

Raised in California, I was witness to the burgeoning California Look that was taking hold in late 1970’s and which exploded into the 1980’s. I was drawn to these lighter, bolder rooms, especially those that mixed classic and contemporary design. My parents gifted me a subscription to Architectural Digest in 1978 (I was merely a child!), and I became hooked. AD became my bible, and I soon discovered House & Garden (at a time when shelter magazines weren’t readily available at grocery store newsstands). It was during this period that I discovered Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley, Arthur E. Smith, Kevin McNamara, Billy Gaylord, Michael Taylor, Angelo Donghia and a host of others, many of whom, sadly, have fallen off the map of great American interior designers (for those of you interested in the Lost Generation of interior designers be certain to read The Blue Remembered Hills blogpost).

Michael Taylor-Calornia 1956-AD-Russell MacMasters

The monochromatic living room Michael Taylor designed for Mabel and Everett Turner in California in 1956 is perhaps the most timeless of them all in its classic simplicity. Photo my Russell MacMasters.

A mod herringbone floor joins peacock-blue walls in a New York City living room for attorney Frederic R. Coudert III; the large painting is by Larry Poons.

A mod herringbone floor joins peacock-blue walls in a New York City living room designed by Albert Hadley for attorney Frederic R. Coudert III in the 1970’s.

Albert Hadley apt 1970's

Hadley applied the same jazz age energy to his own New York apartment in the 1970’s.

John Dickinson-San Francisco-Minimal Traditional-The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration -Jeremiah O. Bragstad

San Francisco interior designer John Dickinson introduced minimal-traditional style with great originality in the 1970’s. Photo by Jeremiah O. Bragstad.

Arthur E. Smith-AD-1970's-Peter Vitale

Classic contemporary style in a New York apartment designed by Arthur E. Smith in the 1970’s introduced a new direction in American style. Photo by Peter Vitale.

Mark Hampton apt for Susan and Carter Burden-1970's

The classic-contemporary living room Mark Hampton designed for Susan and Carter Burden in the 1970’s while working for McMillen Inc. reveals the influence of his prior employer, David Hicks.

A brown-and-white scheme for a Manhattan townhouse by Thomas Morrow sometime in teh 1970's. Photo by Richard Champion.

A brown-and-white scheme utilizing small-scale rep-pattern textiles for a Manhattan townhouse by Thomas Morrow sometime in the 1970’s. Photo by Richard Champion.

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

Angelo Donghia’s New York apartment in the latter 1970’s remains the epitome of classic-contemporary chic. Photo by Jaime Ardelice.

William Gaylord-Russian Hill-SF-AD-Russell MacMasters

William (Billy) Gaylord’s Russian Hill, San Francisco, home featured in Architectural Digest in 1977 elicited a new taste for tailored yet glamorous rooms with a tactile quality. Photography by Russell MacMasters.

Jimmy Potucek- AD June 1978-Jaime Ardiles-Arce

A calmly elegant update to a New York Georgian apartment by Jimmy Potucek, featured in AD in 1978. Photo by Jamie Ardiles-Arce.

Stephen Mallory for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, c. 1970's.

Stephen Mallory’s design for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, c. 1970’s, channels the modern classicism of David Hicks.

Richard Neas - Manhattan-NY Times Book of Interior Design & Decoration-Norman McGrath

Pearl walls, graphite floors, neutral upholstery and chamois accents reflect a trend toward subtle color in the Manhattan living room of designer Richard Lowell Neas in the latter 1970’s. Photo by Norman McGrath.

Kevin McNamara-Architectural Digest

Kevin McNamara enlivened the traditional decor in his own residence utilizing restraint and fresh color. From Architectural Digest.

A living room designed by Kevin McNamara for the 1981 Kips Bay Decorator Show House.

A living room designed by Kevin McNamara for the 1981 Kips Bay Decorator Show House reinterpreted classic elegance for contemporary living and modern art.

Michael Taylor-Bowes SF residence-

Michael Taylor’s design for Frances and John Bowes in San Francisco in 1985 would be his last before succumbing to AIDS. A black-and-white palette provides a crisp backdrop for gold damask covered Louis XV-style chairs and modern art.

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Albert Hadley’s Manhattan living room in the 1980s — with tea-paper-clad walls, a neutral scheme, sculptural chairs and decorative flair — has influenced generations of designers past, present, and future. Photo by William Waldron.

Fast forward to generations since, today we find a host of interior designers who follow in the footsteps of these pioneers of American Chic. The first to make a lasting impression on me was then design duo Stephen Sills and James Huniford. If there is such a thing as design alchemy then they proffer it. With their love for classicism they rendered youthful interiors for the intelligent set with a penchant for classicism.  You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll hear me say it again: “Atmosphere”. Atmosphere, in my opinion, is the single most determining factor of success and achievement of the sublime in design. And Sills and Huniford possessed it in spades. And they still do, now singularly. American Chic navigates the waters of classicism within a modernist context, producing alluring spaces that captures the spirit of time and place. While appearing effortless, a great many informed decisions and attention to detail produce these rooms with seeming insouciant flair. From the east coast to the west, interior designers define the meaning of American Chic in their respective and unique stylistic vocabularies.

Bill Blass-New York aparment -MAC II

Perhaps no residence of a fashion designer has had more impact on the psyche of the interior design world than that of Bill Blass. Effortlessly classic and chic, the masculine yet restrained and calm spaces he created in collaboration with MAC II shall withstand the test of time for centuries to come.

Geoffrey Beene-Long Island-HG Dec 1989

The epitome of classic chic, fashion designer Geoffrey Beene’s Long Island dining room made quite the impression on me when it was published in House & Garden in 1989.

Kalef Alaton-Dallas-AD-Peter Vitale

Turkish-born Kalef Alaton imbued a Dallas living room with understated glamour in the 1980’s. Photo by Peter Vitale.

Kalef Alaton-Dallas-AD Feb 1987-Peter Vitale

The bedroom Alaton designed in the Dallas house showcases the designer’s talent for mixing styles and periods with understated yet glamorous flair. Photo by Peter Vitale.

Tom Scheere and Jeffrey Bilhuber-Rooms With A View-Kips Bay Show House-Feliciano

A mix of classic contemporary and traditional English furnishings in a neutral setting for a Kips Bay Show House room decorated by Tom Scheerer and Jeffrey Bilhuber in the early 1990’s. Photo by Feliciano.

Sills & Huniford-Bedford House-

Proclaimed by Karl Lagerfeld as “The chicest house in America”, Stephen Sills and James Huniford set a new standard in the lexicon of American chic at their Bedford, New York, residence in the 1990’s. Photo by Thibault Jeanson.

Jed Johnson-American Classic-Jaime Ardiles Arce

While the living room designed by the late Jed Johnson consists of mostly French furniture from the 1920’s and 30’s the understated yet luxurious background he developed as a foil for important 20th-century modern art is distinctly American. Photo by Jaime Ardiles-Arce.

Vicente Wolf-American Chic-Michel Arnaud

Though Cuban-born, Vicente Wolf has embraced American chic throughout his thirty-plus years as an interior designer. Here he brought classic contemporary flair to a Manhattan apartment with Old World architectural detailing. Photo by Michel Arnaud.

Jeffrey Bilhuber NY apt-Design Basics

Featured in Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics, the designer’s early New York apartment was an homage to Billy Baldwin.

Randall Ridless-neutrals-American Chic-Simon Upton

A neutral palette offsets modern art in a Manhattan apartment designed by Randall Ridless. Photo by Simon Upton.

Eric Cohler-NY Social Diary-Jeffrey Hirsch

Crisp and classic contemporary furniture provides a foil for modern art in Eric Cohler’s New York apartment. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch.

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Classic elegance is updated in a New York apartment designed by Sills & Huniford in the 1990’s. Photo by Thibault Jeanson

Haynes Roberts-American Chic-Simon Upont

Minimal elegance uniting classic and contemporary design in a Manhattan apartment designed by Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts. Photo by Simon Upton.

Haynes-Roberts- Show House-House Beautiful- Eric Bowman

A decorator show house dining room designed by Haynes-Roberts is alluring in its classic-modern mix. Photo by Eric Bowman.

A classic mix in the previous home of interior designer Bruce Budd.

A classic, understated mix in the previous home of interior designer Bruce Budd brings to mind the homes of Bill Blass.

Thom Felicia's New York loft apartment is crisp and classic. Photo by William Waldron.

Thom Felicia’s New York loft apartment is crisp, classic. and youthful. Photo by William Waldron.

James Huniford apartment. William Waldron

James Huniford’s New York apartment features a sculptural chair from the estate of Bill Blass. Photo by William Waldron.

A fresh, youthful color palette and modern art updates traditional decor in a dining room designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Photo by Trel Brock.

A fresh, dynamic color palette and modern art updates traditional decor in a dining room designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Photo by Trel Brock.

James Andrew-NY apt-NY Social Diary-Jeffrey Hirsch

Man-about-town and interior designer James Andrew’s New York apartment pays homage to Elsie de Wolfe, Sister Parish and Billy Baldwin. Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch.

 Todd Alexander Romano-American Chic

Todd Alexander Romano’s New York apartment channels the 1970’s with blue lacquered walls and a Ward Bennett wicker sled chair. Photo by Thomas Loof.

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Crisp and classic, the Manhattan living room of Tory Burch, designed by Daniel Romauldez. Photo by François Halard.

Brian McCarthy-NY-American Chic-Elle Decor-William Waldron

An elegant neutral scheme shot through with red informs updated classicism with a dose of glamour in a Manhattan living room designed by Brian McCarthy. Photo by William Waldron.

Brian McCarthy

Luxurious, glamorous, classic and uniquely American. A Bel Air, California, living room by Brian McCarthy brings to mind the work of Kalef Alaton.

David Kleinberg-1920's Manhattan apt-Veranda-Simon Upton

A soothing palette of cream and pale blue reinforces the classic calm of a 1920’s Manhattan apartment designed by David Kleinberg. Photo by Simon Upton.

Crisp and classic design by Parish Hadley alumni David Kleinberg. Photo by Eric Piasecki.

Crisp and classic design by Parish Hadley alumni David Kleinberg. Photo by Eric Piasecki.

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The living room of a Monaco townhouse designed by American designer Timothy Wheelon reintroduces small-rep patterns favored by American designers in the latter 1970’s. Photo by Simon Watson.

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Linda Zelenko imparted the traditional interiors of her Connecticut country house with a modernist sensibility. Photo by Miguel Flores Vianna.

mark-d-sikes-interiors

Easy-going California chic defines Mark D. Sikes Hollywood Hills home. Photo by Amy Neunsinger.

Tom Scheerer Decorates-American Chic-Francesco Lagnese

An informal airiness informs a living room designed by Tom Scheerer. Photo by Francesco Lagnese.

Markham Roberts The Way I See It-Nelson Hancock

This crisp and classic living room designed for modern living by Markham Roberts brings to mind Kevin McNamara. Photo by Nelson Hancock.

Markham Roberts-American Chic-Massimo Vitali

An all-American summerhouse designed my Markham-Roberts is crisp and casual. Photo by Massimo Vitali.

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Today, Vincente Wolf continues to embrace understated elegance, mixing classic and contemporary design elements in high style. Photo by Pieter Estersohn.

Could it be we are entering a renaissance in American design? I ask this because the prior paragraphs were written a week ago, then shelved due to commitments. Enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning at home I was finally freed to read the August issue of Town & Country. And there, on page 102, is California-based interior designer David Netto sitting in an all-white living room next to a caption that reads “In designing a Park Avenue apartment for a Manhattan bred WASP and a west coast transplant, David Netto set out to find the new meaning of American Chic.” Is it possible that I have my finger of the pulse of the future of American interior design? Are we entering a new decorative zeitgeist? For a moment I felt as though I were channeling Faith Popcorn.

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I nearly didn’t write this post having read Netto’s erudite and spot-on evaluation of the meaning of American Chic, and his quest to answer the question: “Where are today’s equivalents?” Introspection led the designer to assert that he would design an apartment that contained “young energy” unburdened by the ghosts of a preppy or patrician past. His sentences flow like water and contain a wealth of insight and learned consult gleaned from a life well lived on the East and West coasts. Such eloquence can be daunting, if not intimidating. “What can I add to this?”, I asked myself. But soon that, too, did pass, and I returned here to finish this post. To be honest, I feel I’ve discovered a kindred spirit in Mr. Netto, not only in reverence of style and taste but in sense of humor. This guy is very witty!

David Netto-American Chic-Jean François CamposT&C Aug 2015-J

The New York apartment David Netto designed for a Manhattan-bred WASP and a west coast transplant. Photos by Jean-François Campos for the August issue of Town & Country, on sale now.

 

READING LIST

The Finest Rooms by America’s Great Decorators, 1964

The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration by Norma Skurka, 1976

Architectural Digest American Interiors, 1978 Architectural Digest, June 1978

House & Garden, December 1989

Rooms With A View: Two Decades of Outstanding American Interior Design from the KIPS BAY DECORATOR SHOW HOUSES by Chris Casson Madden, 1992.

Parish Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design by Sister Parish, Albert Hadley and Christopher Petkanas, 1995

Van Day Truex: The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style by Adam Lewis and Albert Hadley, 2001

Architectural Digest, January 2002

Dwellings: Living With Great Style by Stephen Sills and James Huniford, 2003

Jeffrey Bilhuber’s Design Basics by Jeffrey Bilhuber and Annette Tapert, 2003

Michael Taylor Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny, 2008

Defining Luxury: The Qualities of Life at Home by Jeffrey Bilhuber, 2008

Decorating the Way I See It by Markham Roberts and Nelson Hancock, 2014

Tom Scheerer Decorates by Mimi Read, 2015

Luminous Interiors: The Houses of Brian McCarthy, 2015

Town & Country, August 2015

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Axel Vervoordt: The Art of the Room, Part II

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Art is as natural to an Axel Vervoordt interior as the horizon is to a landscape. In my last post, Axel Vervoordt: The Art of the Room, Part I, photographs of vignettes taken within the designer’s Belgian castel focuses on his sensitive and exacting curatorial prowess at creating tableau that stirs the mind, soul and senses. The feature, based on an article written for The Financial Times “How to Spend It” section, inspired in me new ideas on how to present material in future posts. For my love of art I thought it might be interesting to select inspired works of art as the leitmotif for each interiors post, whether the art actually is hung in the rooms of the dwellings presented or is a representation of the spirit of their rooms. It just might be interesting and unique enough to keep me going at this thing called blogging, and I rather like how this idea links to my blog name, The Art of the Room.

The stunning photographs featured in today’s post were published in the British Elle Decoration annual winter issue “Country”. Most of the rooms and vignettes featured you have likely seen before; however, there are several offering a new perspective of each space, and to their relationship with art and to the residence as an organic whole. While myriad and diverse styles from the ancient world, the Old World, the classic European tradition, wabi-sabi and modern design converge within the walls of his moated 12th-century castle, Vervoordt possesses the skill of an alchemist at bringing enlightenment and harmony to these spaces with deftness and seeming ease. Highly atmospheric yet undecorated, his oeuvre is deeply rooted in emotion, in art, in life. Their is an overarching, even spiritual, universality that transcends fashion and fads. The following photos are a testament to our ongoing fascination with this wizard’s cunning synthesis of diverse cultures and stylistic periods into harmonious and engaging spaces that honor the spirit of things.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Built in the 16th-century and featuring an onion dome, the gatehouse lies on the east side of the moat and is the main entrance to the rest of the castle.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Built in the 16th-century and featuring an onion dome, the gatehouse lies on the east side of the moat and is the main entrance to the rest of the castle.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Screen ShAxel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paulot 2015-07-01 at 11.10.59 AM

In the entrance hall, a Louis-XV bench sits beneath a painting by Victor Vasarely and and 18th-century French chandelier. A set of chairs in the same style line the walls.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

A number of rooms have oriental style interiors that reflect Axel Vervoordt’s interests in Eastern philosophy and wabi-sabi, the Japanese design ethos centered on the beauty of imperfection.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

The Oriental Salon on the first floor is a comfortable place to relax. The painting behind the sofa is a 1958 by Kimiko Ohara, while the standing sculpture originates from 10th-century Thailand.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

The blue cupboard in the kitchen is a French design dating from the 18th-century.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

A painting by Belgian artist Jef Verheyen sits above a hollowed-out log.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

A selection of glassware sits beneath a painting by Flemish artist Frans Snyders in the cellar.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

A blue art work by Jef Verheyen contrasts with red ocher walls and white marble bust in the reception room.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

The tall, open shelving unit in the library is a cabinet of curiosities.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

An Italian bench is paired with a painting by Otto Piene titled Nachtstück on the landing of the staircase.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

A door in the hallway opens into the Red Bedroom.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Above the antique marble bathtub in the Venetian is a rare Roman frieze.

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

Axel Vervoordt-’s-Gravenwezel-Castle-Belgium-Elle Decoration "Country"issue-Winter 2015-Michael Paul

The Venetian Bedroom has a muted palette employing Fortuny textiles and a wooden trompe l’oeil floor.

British Elle Decoration winter, 2015, edition of “Country”; photography and room descriptions by Michael Paul.

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Axel Vervoordt: The Art of the Room, Part I

Axel Vervoordt-Antwerp Castle-Financial Times-Maurice Haas

The Vervoordt family: Axel, May, Boris and Dick.

Since winter I have had a copy of the British Elle Decoration annual publication “Country” setting handily nearby with the intention of sharing a feature on the residence of May and Axel Vervoordt outside Antwerp, Belgium. However, soon it was buried beneath a pile of other intriguing publications, many of which are still on “the back burner”. Fast forward to last week, I happened upon an article in the “How To Spend It” section of The Financial Times on Axel Vervoordt’s continued curatorial participation at Palazzo Fortuny for the Venice Biennale, which included a tour of his Antwerp residence, ’s-Gravenwezel. I saved the FT article and dug out the “Country” issue of Elle Decoration, and herewith begins Part I …

First, you may be wondering why I care to write a post on the home of a designer that has been oft photographed and featured in magazines and blogs to the point that both are synonymous with Belgian style. All one has to do is look to Restoration Hardware to observe how Vervoordt’s elemental aesthetic has trickled down to the masses. Yet for me, as with many, his style is both homely and sophisticated, even provocative, and I never tire of revisiting his rooms. As with the remarkable homes of other artists and designers, such as Cy Twombly and Stephen Sills, there is an experimental quality – home as design laboratory – that elicits our own curious nature when viewing his spaces.  He manages to traverse a wide range of styles and periods from ancient to modern with subtle grace, creating interiors that are at once comfortable and creatively stimulating. The root of his modus operandi is art and the spirit contained within.

Living with art is, for me, essential. It’s quite possible for the most conventional, “milk toast” room to become enlivened by an informed selection of art. With an artist’s eye, Vervoordt can visualize the stained patterns on the round top of an antique wine table as a representation of Eastern philosophy, hung like sculpture over a chest. Nearly every view, every framed vignette, of a  Vervoordt room is reminiscent of an Old Master’s painting, a setting within a ryokan (a Japanese country house), or a modern art installation. Every element is selected with heart and discretion to support the overall atmosphere envisioned. As Vervoordt commented to Emma Chricton-Miller for The Financial Times, “In our busy lives it is very important to be surrounded by art. It gives you extra vision; it gives you interior peace and serenity. Our collection is all about that, it is timeless, and it represents the search for universality.” To follow are photos capturing the spirit and elusive quality of The Art of the Room, chez Vervoordt.

 

Axel Vervoordt-Antwerp Castle-Financial Times-Maurice Haas

Axel Vervoordt relaxes in the library at his 1,000-year-old castle outside Antwerp.

 

In the library hangs Concetto Spaziale, 1959, by Lucio Fontana.

In the library hangs Concetto Spaziale, 1959, by Lucio Fontana.

 

The dining room has paintings dating from 1660 by Stefan Kessler.

The dining room has paintings dating from 1660 by Stefan Kessler.

 

The orangery is reflected in a Louis XIV mirror.

The orangery reflected in a Louis XIV mirror.

 

Chinese Ming porcelain salvaged from a wreck by Michael Hatcher adorns the fanciful Baroque dining room.

Chinese Ming porcelain salvaged from a wreck by Michael Hatcher adorns the fanciful Baroque dining room.

 

An 18th-century Italian bath, Roman frieze and 1680 French mirror in a bathroom.

An 18th-century Italian bath, Roman frieze and 1680 French mirror in a bathroom.

 

A 10th-century Koh Ker statue of Buddha from Thailand.

A 10th-century Koh Ker statue of Buddha from Thailand.

 

The Venetian room with the painting Pijl (1973) by Jef Verheyen.

The Venetian room with the painting Pijl (1973) by Jef Verheyen.

 

On the library wall hangs a watercolor by Anish Kapoor, and above a sculpture by Klaus Münch.

On the library wall hangs a watercolor by Anish Kapoor, and above a sculpture by Klaus Münch.

 

An English table and lacquer mirror in one of the castle towers.

An English table and lacquer mirror in one of the castle towers.

 

A mid-18th-century armchair and pièce de maîtrise, both in walnut.

A mid-18th-century armchair and pièce de maîtrise, both in walnut.

 

Photography by Maurice Haas for the “How to Spend It” Interiors section of The Financial Times.

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Luxury and Simplicity in Manhattan

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

I have always admired the spare and comfortable elegance of this Manhattan apartment decorated sometime in the early 1990’s by Stephen Sills and James Huniford before it was published in Maison & Jardin in 1995. I assume it must have also been published in an American magazine, such as Elle Decor, but I don’t possess it or recall if it were. As the design world was taking notice of their classic, sculptural, edited and serene aesthetic, this project represents Sills & Huniford’s swift trajectory into the annals of America’s greatest interior designers.

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time you will know that, for me, the achievement of creating rooms with atmosphere is the highest compliment one can receive. It isn’t in the selection of one or more show stopping pieces that contributes to a sense of awe, but the designer’s ability to envision a space like a canvas, “painting” in the varied nuance of form, color and detail.

Here, Sills & Huniford were provided with one directive: to create a blue Manhattan aerie. To that order they selected an ethereal, foggy blue for the walls of the living room, which is entered via a long and narrow barrel-vaulted hall painted to resemble the chiaroscuro of a Turner painting. Color, contrast, form and texture — not pattern — inform the decorative compositions of this apartment’s rooms. While the results may appear natural and effortless their success owes to the discerning eyes of an artist … or two, in this case.

There is a sense of delight and harmony achieved between the juxtaposition of unusual and unexpected combinations.  Who would have thought of pairing an Arts & Crafts reclining ratchet chair with a Louis XVI mantel? Here furnishings take on a sculptural form, floating in space. Further harmony is achieved in the living room through the layering of the coolly elegant color of the walls and banquettes, the creaminess of a Louis XVI mantel, cornice and simple rush matting, and the dark contrast of the humbler Arts & Crafts chair, wicker furniture and English library-dining table. While the generous proportions of the living room could easily entertain more formality I am drawn to its sculptural simplicity, as though the designers were channeling Eugenia Errazuri, muse to Jean-Michel Frank. The artful distribution of color, texture, material, form, weight, style and period is rather seductive and imparts balance and order to the scheme.

I have always loved rooms that are not easy to label, that surprise. One part American Revival, one part “An American in Paris”, there is a sense of versatility and experimentation in the casual arrangement of disparate styles and the curious collections of decorative objects. It’s as though we were entering the salon des artistes of an American expat living in Paris, surrounded by an Anglo-American heritage that had been dropped into a classical setting. You don’t encounter rooms like these much these days … those that possess the soul of an artist and a studied yet effortless ease. Nothing showy, just pure style. Timeless!

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Dwellings-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Dwellings-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Dwellings-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

Sills & Huniford-New York flat-Maison & Jardin-March 1995-Thibault Jeanson

 

Photography by Thibault Jeanson featured in the March, 1995, issue of Maison & Jardin and Dwellings: Living With Great Style by Stephen Sills & James Huniford, 2003.

 

 

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The Temple of the Four Seasons

The-Temple-Veere Grenney

It is believed that The Temple of the Four Seasons, also referred to as The Temple in Stoke-by-Nayland, was built by architect Robert Taylor sometime around 1750 after he returned to England from his studies in Rome. Resembling his Asgill house, The Temple represents the influence of Italy on the development of his architectural vernacular, conjuring Palladio’s summer retreats designed for wealthy patrons escaping the suffocating heat of Venice for the cooling breezes of the Venento. Fashioned in the golden glow of Italy’s favorite color, a rectangular canal extends two-hundred yards from the arched loggia of the ocher villa. Representative of a new vogue in fishing lodge design, The Temple was a place for pleasure and for show.

The Temple represented an Arcadian paradise, outfitted in the 18th-century by the Rowley family as a place for guests to stroll down to from their estate Tendring Hall, designed by John Soane, for a spot of fishing. A sense of order and calm prevails over the classical proportions of the villa set against symmetrically laid-out gardens and water sources. While gentleman would shade themselves under the chestnuts along the canal whilst fishing the ladies would chat, paint a pastel water-color, or retreat to the saloon to embroider needlepoint.

In subsequent years Tendring Hall was demolished and The Temple became abandoned and withered. It wasn’t until the later 1950’s that decorator David Hicks discovered and saved it from demolition, seeing in it its potential as laboratory for his interior and garden design ideas. Sometime after that Charles Beresford-Clark would discover it, once again derelict. Two leases later it passed onto interior designer Veere Grenney, who has maintained the property since.

DAVID HICKS, 1958

David Hicks Living With Design, 1979

A special thanks to Ashley Hicks for providing archival photographs, c1957.

David Hicks Rendering of The Temple-Suffolk-1957

The Temple-Before and After-David Hicks archives-Ashley Hicks

David Hicks - Pug Algy-The Temple-c.1957

Still owned by the Rowley family, David Hicks leased The Temple and contracted classical architect Raymond Erith to restore it for weekend use in the years prior to his marriage to Pamela Mountbatten. One of the lodge’s notable architectural additions by Erith is the oil-de-boeuf window which allowed light into the dark kitchen. Taking advice offered by John Fowler, Hicks’ contribution included hornbeam hedges flanking the sides of the lodge. The only visual reference I could uncover of David Hick’s time spent at The Temple is a drawing he created in 1957 that he had made into Christmas cards. His son, Ashley Hicks, kindly provided before and after photos of The Temple, and one of Mr. Hicks sitting in the upstairs window with his pug Algy.

 

CHARLES BERESFORD-CLARK

Living in Vogue by Judy Brittan and Patrick Kinmonth, published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. Photography by Derry Moore.

With special thanks to Toby Worthington, most photos originate from English Style by Suzanne Slessin & Stafford Cliff, with photographs by Ken Kirkwood, 1984.
Charles Beresford-Clark-The Temple-English by Slessin & Cliff-1984-Ken Kirkwood

Charles Beresford-Clark-Temple of the Four Seasons-Living in Vogue-Derry Moore

Charles Beresford-Clark-Temple of the Four Seasons-Living in Vogue-Derry Moore

Charles Beresford-Clark-The Temple-English by Slessin & Cliff-1984-Ken Kirkwood

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Charles Beresford-Clark-The Temple-English by Slessin & Cliff-1984-Ken Kirkwood

 

Charles Beresford-Clark-The Temple-English by Slessin & Cliff-1984-Ken Kirkwood

Charles Beresford-Clark-The Temple-English by Slessin & Cliff-1984-Ken Kirkwood

Two leases later antiques dealer Charles Beresford-Clark acquired The Temple, which had once again succumbed to wildness, transforming it into a chintzy country house in the manner of Colefax & Fowler. Essentially a one-room house, there is a kitchen and a small bedroom. It is the airy saloon with its graceful proportions that elicits cause to pause. Simply and sparsely furnished, Beresford-Clark allowed the saloon’s classical proportions and decorative plasterwork to speak. Approached by a wide staircase and low Georgian door, one experiences a sense of awe when passing into the large, classically proportioned drawing room with a fourteen-foot-high ceiling. The plasterwork design of four heads decorated with swags and flourishes on the ceiling represents the four seasons, for which the lodge was named. Simple, albeit extravagant by today’s standards, unbleached linen festoons and Suffolk rush matting underscores the grandeur of the room’s architectural appointments. It’s easy to imagine characters from a Merchant Ivory film entering, dressed in their summer linens, the women toting matching parasols.

 

VEERE GRENNEY, 1991

House & Garden, April 1991. Photography by James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

Temple of the Four Seasons-Veere Grenney-Suffolk-HG April 1991-James Mortimer

In 1983 New Zealand interior designer Veere Grenney took over the lease and gave its rooms his classical imprint. For decades he had dreamed of living here, having seen it in a magazine when he was fourteen during David Hicks’ occupation. The saloon’s architectural quality naturally spoke to Grenney’s classical sensibility, with its east-to-west orientation taking full advantage of the sun rising over the canal and setting over the landscape.

While the saloon demanded a more formal approach the small ground floor rooms required a simpler one. Only three rooms in all, the ground floor consists of a kitchen-dining area below and a tiny bedroom with bathroom wing to the side. Grenney appointed them with country furnishings and simple decor appropriate to their size and scale. With views of the canal and countryside beyond from the kitchen’s oil-de-boeuf window Grenney found a natural space to hang 18th-and-19th-century unframed naive oil paintings of animals. For the lodge’s bedroom he used simple ticking and country antiques. To accommodate guests Grenney renovated dog kennels in country style, allowing them freedom to relax and roam the pastures with their coffee or tea in the mornings dressed in their pajamas.

The sunny Chinese yellow walls of the saloon under Grenney’s charge is reminiscent of Nancy Lancaster’s “buttah yellah” drawing room at Avery Row in London. He retained Beresford-Clark’s festooned shades and four Roman busts of emperors and philosophers on brackets, adding his own full-length statues of huntsmen into the niches. The same rush matting covers the floors, onto which he floated French country chairs covered with a Brunschwig & Fils blue-and-white fabric with stylized Chinese jars around a table covered with a blue-and-white Ikat pattern, complimenting his collection of porcelains on the fireplace mantel.

 

VEERE GRENNEY, 1998

British House & Garden, January 1998. Photography by Jeremy Young.

David Hicks-The Temple-Suffolk-British HG Jan 1998-Jeremy Young

David Hicks-The Temple-Suffolk-British HG Jan 1998-Jeremy Young

David Hicks-The Temple-Suffolk-British HG Jan 1998-Jeremy Young

David Hicks-The Temple-Suffolk-British HG Jan 1998-Jeremy Young

David Hicks-The Temple-Suffolk-British HG Jan 1998-Jeremy Young

With Veere Grenney’s redecoration of The Temple he introduced strong color into the saloon with a nod to his one-time mentor and employer, David Hicks. I discovered these photos from the The Peak of Chic blogspot, which you can link to at the end of this post. The powerful pink of the saloon’s walls reminds me of Hicks’ most modern of rooms he designed at Britwell House, a drawing room intended for entertaining. Here we are witness to Grenney’s evolution from pure classical design to his present classical-modern mix. In the saloon – far more theatrical than its previous incarnation – simplicity was traded for doses of romantic glamour and a fusion of styles reminiscent of Cecil Beaton’s country house, Reddish House, and London flat. Whether you prefer the sunny disposition of its previous state or the daring of this transition, the wonderful quality of paint is that it can be changed. We are also witness to his love of combining pink with yellow, as did John Fowler, and the evolution of this favorite color combo  – from this version of the saloon at The Temple to his previous London flat along the Thames, to the current state of the saloon at The Temple oft photographed.

 

VEERE GREENY, 2012

Veranda, March-April, 2012. Photography by Simon Upton.

The Temple-Veere Grenney-Veranda-Simon Upton

Veere Story.indd

The Temple-Veere Grenney-Veranda

 

Veere Grenney-The Temple Folly-Sufolk-Veranda-Simon Upton

The Temple-Veere Grenney-Veranda-Simon Upton

Veere Grenney Associates-The Temple Folly-Sufolk

Veere_2

Veere Grenney-The Temple Folly-Sufolk-Veranda-Simon Upton

Veere Grenney-The Temple Folly-Sufolk-Veranda-Simon Upton

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Veere Story.indd – Version 2

Veere Story.indd – Version 3

Veere Grenney-The Temple Folly-Sufolk-Veranda-Simon Upton

Veere Story.indd

Veere Story.indd – Version 2

Veere Grenney-The Temple Folly-Sufolk-Veranda-Simon Upton

Ever since photographs of Grenney’s third known reincarnation of the rooms at The Temple were published they took the interior design world by storm. It appears he had hit his mark. A fine balance between elegance and country comfort, simplicity and glamour, and subtly and exuberance were achieved. Perhaps the largest contributing factor to its success lies in the dusky pink color of the saloon’s walls, formulated by his partner David Oliver who is the design director for the Paint and Paper Library in London. To this flattering shade of pink Grenney added shades of gray tinged with green, as well as white to pull out the plasterwork. While it can be said there is more flatness in the distribution of color and contrast and, with particular regard to the saloon, more solid upholstered furniture and less antique furniture, there is a spare elegance that allows both the exuberant architectural details of the saloon to shine and the compact sizes of the kitchen-dining and bedrooms to breathe. His new rooms bring us into the present while honoring the past with their mix of 18th-and-19th-century antiques, mid-century modern accents and custom tailored upholstery designed by Grenney using his line of fabrics. I couldn’t imagine living in a recreation of the past for the sake of honoring what has come before. No, I much prefer living amongst those things I love and cherish, which change with time. I wonder what Mr. Grenney has up his sleeves next?

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In addition to the sources listed in the above article you can read more on The Temple in The Blue Remembered Hills feature “Indeed”, Ben Pentreath’s “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover”, The Peak of Chic’s “Veere Grenney’s Folly”,  and Hamish Bowles’ feature for Vogue, An English Weekend: Part I.

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Josep Maria Sert

Palau March-Mallorca-Josep Maria Sert-Music Room-1944

It wasn’t until recently, over a vacation on Mallorca, that I came to fully appreciate the genius that was Josep Maria Sert, a decorative painter from Barcelona (1874-1945) renown for his extravagant Baroque murals commissioned for the decoration of public and private buildings. His talent was in such demand that he traveled the world, completing mural scenes that remain today in the Cathedral of Vic in Barcelona, the Hall of Chronicles in the House of the City in Barcelona, the palace of Errázuriz in Buenos Aires, the Salle de Bal at l’Hôtel de Wendel in Paris, the ballroom of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, the lobby of Rockefeller Center and, my favorite of his projects, the music room in the palace of Bartolomé March on Mallorca. And then, by chance, I discovered in the German edition of Architectural Digest the Maria Sert clad Paris salon of Jean-Claude Binoche, partner of the auction firm Binoche et Giquello. Executed in a limited palette of inky grisaille and sepia, Sert’s epic murals summoned the power and might of mythological gods onto mortals in their quest to wreck dominion over the world, as well as provide fantastical and purely decorative scenic backdrops for private spaces that delight the eye and stir the intellect.

Rockefeller Center- murals-Josep Maria Sert -1913

In 1932 Nelson Rockefeller commissioned artist Diego Rivera to create a mural, which the artist titled Man at the Crossroads, in the central lobby at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. Unaware that Rivera’s sketches included sections featuring Moscow mayday scenes and the figure of Lenin, upon viewing the mural Rockefeller objected but the artist refused to compromise. As any respectable titan of industry would do, Rockefeller had the entire mural papered over and subsequently contracted with Josep Maria Sert in 1937 to create the existing mural, American Progress – which depicts the development of America through the unity of brain and brawn. The three Graces symbolize man’s intellectual activity, while Titans and men working represent men of action. Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Center’s skyscrapers also play prominent roles.

Palau March-Josep Maria Sert-Palma de Mallorca-Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

Palau March-Mallorca-Josep Maria Sert-Music Room-1944

Palau March-Mallorca-Josep Maria Sert-Music Room-1944

Palau March-Mallorca-Josep Maria Sert-Music Room-1944

For the music room in Bartolomé March’s Mallorcan palace built by his father, Juan March Ordinas, the founder of Banca March, Sert created extraordinary plaster trompe l’oeil decoration imitating swagged curtains inset with murals depicting circus performers, and a ceiling of hot air balloons adrift overhead. The shimmering metallic of the surfaces and the elegant, restrained palette decorating the extroverted Baroque of the elaborate plaster trompe l’oeil swagged and flowing curtains is pure fantasy. Imagine an evening spent here, classical music playing and candlelight flickering over this magical scene. It is rare in today’s world to experience this depth of atmosphere and pure sensory delight.

Jean-Claude Binoche-Salon-Josep Maria Sert murals-German AD May 2015-Guillaume de Laubier

Jean-Claude Binoche-Salon-Josep Maria Sert murals-German AD May 2015-Guillaume de Laubier

Jean-Claude Binoche-Salon-Josep Maria Sert murals-German AD May 2015-Guillaume de Laubier

I discovered Jean-Claude Binoche and his Paris apartment on the Place des Vosges while flipping through a complimentary issue of German AD provided by Hotel Hospes Maricel while vacationing on Mallorca. Intrigued by this French antiquaire and partner in the auction house Binoche et Giquello, and his compendium of furniture and decorative arts that seems to cross all periods and styles, I was most drawn to the atmospheric murals covering the walls of his salon, which also functions as a guest room. I lived in the Netherlands long enough to understand some Dutch; translating German, however, proved too ambitious. Unfortunately, not much is reported regarding the murals other than for credit given to Sert. Perhaps they are additional murals created for Rockefeller Center that were never hung or, most probably, studies for them. They provide a bold and interesting backdrop for Binoche’s mix of mod and muscular Italian furniture, elegant Louis XV and XVI furniture, chinoiserie cabinets and pre-Columbian art. Even a japanned Art Nouveau bed found its way into a corner of the room. A modernist’s wunderkammer, to be certain, I rather delight at its bravado and sense of the unexpected. Certainly, were I owner of an auction house I could certainly indulge every whimsy as things come and things go.

 

Photos of Palau March, other than my own, are from the Fundación Bartolomé March; Photo of Rockefeller Center via Pinterest; Photos of Jean-Claude Binoche’s Paris apartment by Guillaume de Laubier, featured in the May 2015 issue of German AD.

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Timeless Chic at Clos Videlot

Jean-Pierre and Colette Moueix-Clos Videlot-T&C June-July 2015-

It seems that, in the world in which we live and orbit today, nearly every aesthetic image has been posted, pinned and uploaded into the ether. As a part-time blogger I often grow tired of rediscovering the same repeated information and imagery that can be found from the original source – accurately credited, I might add. The excitement, of course, lies in new discoveries and, also, in one’s ability to harvest the wealth of imagery available into something fresh, meaningful and lasting. As I have often shared, I see myself as an archivist so, really, I am no different! While I enjoy sharing what I believe to be the best in the current world of interior design, I particularly enjoy sharing rare finds and vintage publications of timeless interior design with those of you who may have never seen them before, or who long ago disposed of the books or magazines in which they were featured.

That said, I am sharing with you my excitement at the discovery of two rooms at a private wine estate in the Dordogne, featured in the June/July issue of Town & Country. Many times more than not I write posts about rooms and the stories that surround them out of personal fascination and delight, and to provide an accessible place to archive them on my blog. “Categories” and “tags” are wonderful archival tools!

Château Clos Videlot is home to the Mouix wine dynasty, better known perhaps for their Petrus wine property in Pomerol, Bordeaux. The family estate resides on the picturesque banks of the Dordogne, about two hours from Bordeaux, where Jean-Pierre Moueix established  his name among the wine elite in the later 1930’s. Described as a turreted stone house, the château is now occupied by Jean-Pierre’s grandson, Jean Moueix. Heir to the 28-acre Petrus property, Moueix the younger divides his time between Paris and Bordeaux, inhabiting Clos Videlot when overseeing his family’s terroir.

Jean Moueix’s grandparents, Colette and Jean-Pierre Moueix, were photographed in the main salon at Clos Viderot in 1971 for Town & Country (top photo). The image leaped off the page as though I recognized this room from a past life. If fact, to live in this room, amidst these paintings, in this life would be quite sublime. Black and white photographs have that wonderful, ephemeral quality that allows the viewer to dream meaning into them, and answer questions hitherto unanswered. For example, “What color are the walls and upholstery, and were they selected to compliment a curated selection of modernist paintings?”

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A seine á Paris, 1954

 

Figure by the Sea, 1952

Figure by the Sea, 1952

The large abstract landscape painting before which the Moueix’s pose is a Nicolas de Staël. Working with a varied palette that ran the gambit from muted to saturated it is difficult to know the hues laid down on this particular canvas.  T&C does not divulge the title of this work, nor does a Google search reveal its identity. What we do know is that stark contrasts set the tone for the salon, whether black and gray, forest green and white, or bordeaux red and parchment. What we do know, from the T&C article, is that the dining room, which was not photographed, is “a small paneled room painted a warm green”.

Marie-Laure de Noailles in her Paris Salon

Marie-Laure de Noailles in her Paris salon.

The salon at Clos Videlot has all the seductive charm of Marie-Laure de Noailles’ salon at her Paris residence, Hôtel Bischoffsheim, designed by Jean-Michel Frank in 1926 (see Perfectly Frank). Paintings hung salon-style from chains attached to picture rails mounted at the cornice creates the excitement of art constantly moving and changing out, and comfortable modern furniture simply, yet luxuriously, covered floats at center, contributing to the romantic aesthetic of salon as a gathering place for artists and intellectuals.

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Today the de Staël hangs in the library alongside a host of modern master paintings that include works by Picasso, Cezanne, Dufy, Rothko, Francis Bacon and a bronze by Rodin – perhaps the one the current châtelain, Jean Moueix, is leaning against, though I assume not given its raw nature.

While these two black and white photographs offer us a glimpse into the private world of the Moueix dynasty at Clos Viderot, unanswered questions remain … Unless you’re a dreamer, like myself, and you paint your own canvas onto theirs. Forever “In search of the sublime in design”!

 

Jean-Pierre and Colette Moueix were photographed by Ronny Jacques in the salon of Clos Videlot in 1971 for Town & Country. Jean Moueix was photographed in the library of Clos Videlot by Patric Shaw for Town & Country, June/July 2015. To read more about the Moueix wine dynasty visit Town & Country online.

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Directoire-Deco: Henri Garelli

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

I want to share with you my favorite project of French-Italian architect and interior designer Henri Garelli that synthesizes three key architectural and decorative styles favored by the designer: 18th-century elegance, Neoclassicism, and 1930’s-style glamour.

The World of Interiors published the Paris apartment of his client, a former confrére of President Mitterrand, in 2006 – fifteen years following its completion, dating the project back to 1991. It’s easy to date, given that era’s taste for cool and spare classicism with a hint of glamour. As I rediscovered these rooms Dior and Balmain’s couture salons came to mind, where shapely furniture with bespoke detailing, floating in pale rooms, were defined by form and the nuance of hue, not pattern. Garelli’s design resolution for this Paris apartment in the 7th-arrondissement overlooking the Seine is holistic, not purely decorative. Beginning with the architecture the decoration of its rooms developed in congress. To his advantage, there was little architectural interest as a starting point, affording Garelli complete freedom to conceive an ideal framework from which to launch his vision of an airy Directoire-style “villa” informed by the Mediterranean, a style favored by his client. The only directive offered was to incorporate his client’s impressive collection of paintings by Balthus, Dalí, de Stael, Delvaux Bonnard and Corot, and their collections of books and objets d’art.

Henri Garelli’s theatrical design for the entrance hall, above, includes Neoclassical columns and cornices framing a fan ceiling that is repeated as a rosette on the floor fashioned from two colors of stone. The room’s clean and crisp classicism brings to mind Palladio and Emilio Terry.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

Off one side of the entrance hall is the drawing room, which Garelli outfitted with more columns and pilasters to define its Neoclassical atmosphere. To showcase the client’s beloved large-scale painting by Balthus the designer created a panel inset. 18th-century French chairs the color of the walls float, salon style.

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For the dining room, on the opposite side of the entrance hall, Garelli introduced 1930’s glamour, centered around a large marble-and-bronze table by Marc du Plantier set beneath a 1950’s Venetian glass chandelier. More columns and classical Greek key cornices continue the Neoclassical theme, and custom glass-and-lattice-front cabinets display a collection of Fornesetti china. Garelli had the seats and backs of the dining chairs embroidered with an 18th-century design admired by the lady of the house. Hanging above matching 19th-century golden-mahogany sideboards are abstract paintings by de Stael.

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All the rooms are upstairs except for the library, where Garelli created a Directoire atmosphere informed by the apartments color scheme of celadon, verdigris and eau de Nil. An 18th-century white marble mantel is framed by Ionic capped pilasters and skirting boards fashioned of wooden latticework over a bold green silk, which are continued onto a display cabinet showing off a collection of porcelains. For comfort and glamour the designer provided modern seating with 1930’s lines and added whimsical objets d’art, such as the 19th-century metal-and-crystal palms, and pretty accents, such as the Louis XVI white-painted chairs and Aubusson carpet underfoot.

The private wing of the apartment is a complex arrangement of rooms designed to suit the particular predilections of the lady and man of the house. Centered around a double bedroom which is simple and elegant by design, in a soothing shade of celadon, and which features a fine Dunand chest and a pretty designer rug, his and her bathrooms and dressing rooms provide each with their own stylistic aesthetic.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

The lady’s dressing room off the master bedroom includes a Pierre Bonnard painting hung on celadon damask walls above an Armand-Albert Rateau daybed, and decorated with a 1930’s chandelier and a colorful designer rug. Eliciting the atmosphere of a winter garden, the lady of the house uses this room as a place to read, write, dress and rest.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

Inspired by the bathroom Armand-Albert Rateau created for Jeanne Lanvin in Paris, recreated within the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Garelli fashioned a glamorous Directoire-style bathroom for the lady of the house, featuring one of Rateau’s chandeliers.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

Directoire-style banding at the cornice of the celadon lattice-paneled dressing room unifies the lady’s suite of rooms.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

For the man of the house Garelli conceived a suite of clubby spaces with orientalist decorative elements. In the dressing room darkly stained wardrobes with glass fronts topped by lattice grillwork are accented by white columns and a Moroccan-style floor design.

Henri Garelli-Directiore Paris apt-World of Interiors-January 2006-Roland Beaufre

A more masculine take of Directoire informs the man of the house’s dressing area which seems to summon Proust.

Photography by Roland Beaufre for The World of Interiors, January 2006

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Mallorcan Magic

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The moment we touched down on Mallorca a few weeks past, with the spare and rugged landscape coming into view like an Impressionist painting, a very special Mallorcan property came to mind. It, for me, represents the soul of this ancient island steeped in the convergence of Muslim and Catholic history, bringing together the patina of the Old World and the exoticism of Moorish and Moroccan decorative influences. In fact, this Mallorcan fantasy is my idée fixe in terms of how a Mallorcan villa should look and feel. Neither grand nor especially decorative, it is a comfortable and well-appointed country house that feels welcoming and at home in its place. Ironically, the villa is new construction, not old with patina, nor is the owner or designer Spanish or European or British, for that matter. It tends to present itself as the home of an Anglophile who has fallen head over heels in love with Majorca – like so many other nationals who have discovered its Mediterranean charms.

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Villa Ses Murtares, the name it had been given for a single myrtle growing in a courtyard, was discovered by long-time American clients of American interior designer Michael S. Smith. They were looking for a new and different atmosphere, a break with the Italian aesthetic and lifestyle they had come to know. They found it in this then nondescript villa near the charming village of Deia, down the road from the monastery Chopin and George Sands retreated to in hope of improving the former’s health. Yes, if I were to buy a villa on Mallorca it would be in Deia. Of the towns and villages on Mallorca, Deia is perfectly sited. There is a small ancient village without a plaza, containing a few shops, a grocer and a restaurant or two, perched high on a hill with commanding 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and sea. The pace is slow and sleepy, the atmosphere bohemian – a perfect haven for nature seekers, sybarites and artists alike. It is the kind of place you want to retire to, even if only in spurts.

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Smith’s design program for bringing Ses Murtares to life was not renovative but decorative. He worked within the confines of the structure and layout of rooms, dressing them in his indelible layered aesthetic. Influenced by Majorca’s diverse past Smith incorporated the decorative traditions of Spain, England, France, Italy, and Northern Africa throughout the house. I don’t think there is anyone who does Hispano-Moroccan-revival better than Michael S. Smith. He synthesizes the patina and theater of Mongiardino with his unique talent for understanding the essence of time and place, infusing comfort and ease nonpareil.

To set the tone Smith had the entrance walls treated with a Venetian-plaster trompe l’oeil that resembles large honed-stone blocks, providing a grand statement in a rustic setting. Furnished with dark woods in the spirit of a Catalan country house there is a Regency leather sofa and a Spanish table arranged for style and convenience. Above the entrance doors is a dark and moody painting of Cain and Abel attributed to Filippo Vitale, reminding us we’re on pious land.

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Another view of the entrance hall reveals a wonderful layering of Old World-style decoration, where a tapestry fragment is overlaid with a Neo-classical silver gilt looking glass above a mid-17th-century Neopolitan cabinet with hand-painted drawers.

Michael S. Smith-Majorca-The World of Interiors-Simon Upton

The villa was first published in The World of Interiors and later Architectural Digest. I have pulled every photo I have, including a few Instagram photos Michael S. Smith posted while he was spending time with his client-friends at the villa. The main living area extends the length of the main house, which Smith divided into three areas – seating areas at either end with a dining area at center. The dining table (above), surrounded by upholstered 20th-century walnut dining chairs in terra-cotta-colored fabric, and the worn leather chairs along the wall, instill the space with an impression of antiquity.

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This view of the dining area, in the opposite direction, reveals how a long and large room can be made intimate and inviting by layering styles, periods, textures, patina and scale within distinct groupings. A formidable English Gothic bookcase (one of two), worn tufted leather chairs, a mother-of-pearl inlaid Indian table, a refectory table from Héléne Aumont, a japanned Portuguese chest, and a Russian architectural model mix effortlessly, producing an imagined past in the European tradition of collecting. Smith researched local decorative traditions and based the trellis design of the walls on ones he discovered. Simple rush matting covers most floors, overlaid with Persian carpets in some areas – further contributing to the high-low mix that is engaging and seemingly effortless.

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Photo by Michael S. Smith via Instragram; November 2013

 

Photo by Michael S. Smith via Instagram; November 2013

Photo by Michael S. Smith via Instagram; November 2013

 

Michael S. Smith-Majorca-The World of Interiors-Simon Upton

To break up the monotony of an earthen palette informed by existing wooden beams and terra cotta flooring, Smith introduced colors of land and sea, with deep sofas upholstered in green and two armchairs covered in a blue-and-white flame stitch, or tela de lenguas, handwoven on the island, and used elsewhere in the residence. The comfortable arrangement is interesting in its mix of rustic charm, European elegance, and its Anglo-American sense of comfort and ease.

Michael S. Smith-Instagram-Nov 2013-Majorcan Villa

Photo by Michael S. Smith via Instagram; November 2013

 

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Much of the furniture and decorative arts that furnish the house came from the sale of items from the collection of the March family—a Mallorcan banking dynasty—as well as auction finds from designer David Easton’s upstate New York country house, Balderbrae – including the Spanish mirrors and candle sconces that hang above the mantels at either end of the great room. Had we never been told these rooms were newly crafted it would be easy to believe they had evolved over decades, even centuries. The greatest compliment is that they are believable, appropriate, and subtle in their reinterpretation of the past.

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When it comes to country houses, where there is often a great deal of earthen wood and tile, there is no better counterpoint than the cooling affect of blue-and-white – especially within the context of a Mediterranean-style country house. Blue-and-white serves as a relief mechanism from the somber rustic hues of earth. Brilliant Alhambra-style tiles line the walls of the kitchen, exploding the subtle introduction of the same inky blue used for covering armchairs in the living room beyond – where a portrait attributed to Gilbert Jackson, framed by blue-and-white porcelains, looms large above an antique sofa.

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In another view of the kitchen painted cabinets balance wooden beams, shutters and an Indian table surrounded by antique oak dining chairs.

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The design for the master bedroom began with a subtle plaid stenciled pattern for the walls that Smith discovered at La Granja, on Majorca – home to the Seguí family since the 13th-century – providing a warm refuge accented with blue-and-white. An exuberant antique Mallorcan canopy bed and Gothic over-mantel mirror enliven the room’s otherwise calm ambiance.

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A local muralist painted the feathery and delicate trees for the master bath walls, inspired by the island’s foliage.

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The guest suites are contained within a detached guest house, stacked three high. Smith used the same blue-and-white flame stitch that covers the living room’s armchairs for the walls and curtains of this guest suite, adding a Mallorcan bed and bench for an added note of regional character.

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The scheme for a second guest suite was informed by a pale Persian carpet, accented with stenciled walls inspired by local decorative painting.

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For the ground floor guest suite Smith covered the walls in a striated Bujosa textile to complement the exposed timber beams, doors and windows.

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In both The World of Interiors and Architectural Digest the client remains anonymous, which always brings out the sleuth in me. I immediately recognized the classically-inspired patio furniture from Janus et Cie from another Smith project for Francine and Neil Afromsky, owners of Westerly Vineyard in Santa Ynez, California (see California Tuscan). Could this be their Mallorcan villa? The article in The World of Interiors did pronounce, after all, that they “ran out of Italy” for Majorca. Perhaps, after 18 years of Italian-style homes, it was the Afromsky’s who were looking for something new and different …?

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A view of the bougainvillea-covered main house and guest house set into the slopes of an olive grove.

 

Architectural Digest; November 2013. Photos by Tim Beddow.

Photography by Simon Upton for The World of Interiors

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Casa de Pilatos

Posted May 27, 2015. Filed in Moorish Architecture, Palaces, Renaissance Revival

Casa Pilatos-Seville

In case you were wondering, no, I haven’t quit blogging! I recently returned from a restorative two-week vacation on Mallorca followed by a few days in Sevilla and several more with a dear friend in Paris, ending at another friend’s villa in the small village of Almoster near Reus (birth place of Antonio Gaudi), about one-and-a-half hours south of Barcelona. When I travel to new and culturally diverse places I am usually always thinking about art, architecture and design … oh, yes – and food. Always food! Doesn’t the planning of any event, after all, usually center around food?!

The most memorable place of our travels was, for me, the magnificent Casa Pilatos, the 15th-century palace of the founders of the Enriquez de Ribera dynasty in Seville, Spain. It represents five-hundred years of history and art, combining Mudejar style beginning from its inception in 1482 to Renaissance and Romantic revival stylistic influences introduced when the palace was enlarged and redecorated between 1526 and 1539. Second only to the Real Alcázar (the king’s palace) in size, grandeur and decorative detail, Casa Pilatos – The Palace of the Chief Governors of Andalusia –  was the first noble residence in Spain to establish the marriage of Mudejar and Renaissance-revival styles, the latter of which was introduced by Don Fadrique Enriquez de Ribera after a pilgrimage through Italy. He would be one of the first Spanish nobles to break with the staid traditions of the Middle Ages in favor of the enlightened intellectual fervor of the Renaissance, introducing the model of cultured aristocrat with an eye for business, trade and art.

The main entrance of the palace square, above, reveals a Renaissance facade with a doorway sculpted in marble by Genoese artists in 1529, its supporting wall crowned by original Gothic cresting from the family palace of Bornos.

Casa Pilatos Eastern Facade-Cristopher Worthland

The adjacent eastern facade was devised by Juan de Oviedo at the start of the 17th-century combining Andalusian and Italian Renaissance design elements.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Typical of Andalusian palaces was a quadrangular area behind the entrance-way called the mounting block, designed as a place for guests to depart their carriages upon arrival, with arched galleries to protect them from rain or sun. In the case of Casa Pilatos the mounting block is directly off the main patio, the center of activity at the palace.

THE SUMMER PALACE

Casa Pilates Main Patio

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

The expansive palace was originally designed in Mudejar style, around a central patio, and enlarged over subsequent years. Mudejar style refers to the utilization of materials and techniques from Muslim art on Peninsula territory already conquered by the Christians between the 13th and 16th centuries, often also incorporating Gothic elements. When Renaissance-revival elements were later added much of the Gothic ones were overlaid or completely eliminated. The main patio represents a synthesis of Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance art on two levels – the summer palace on the ground floor and the winter palace on the second floor, each framed by arcaded galleries. While the marble columns of the arches were carved in Genoa, Italy, the asymmetry of the smaller arches where the corners of the patio meet are Mudejar by design, intended to emphasize the doors of the rooms that lie beyond.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

A view of the mounting block through an arch framed by Mudejar stuccowork and tiled skirting boards in a gallery of the main patio.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

One of my favorite perspectives of the main patio is from within its galleries, where colorful Mudejar patterned tiles and embellished stuccowork contrast Italian marble columns and Renaissance busts set within niches, with black-and-white patterned marble floor tiles underfoot, added sometime after Don Fadrique Enriquez de Ribera returned from Italy.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

A melange of styles and periods produced unexpected harmony, as this photograph attests. The classical and graphic black-and-white marble floor tiles has a grounding affect relative to the layers of pattern, detail and color supplied by exotic Mudejar design elements. The marble sculpture, brought back from Italy in the 1500’s, depicts Marcus Aurelius’ wife Faustina Minor, deified with the personal attributes of goddess Ceres, or Fortuna.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

The Praetor’s Room is the largest and most sumptuous room on the ground floor, remarkable for its colorfully patterned tiled skirting boards. The room’s name was intended to evoke Pilate’s Palace in Jerusalem, opening onto the east side of the main patio and linked to a complex of residential rooms including the Golden Room and Zaquizami’s Corridor. Don Fadrique Enriquez de Ribera ensured that every Mudejar design element original to this room would be conserved at the time of enlarging and redecorating the palace. The coffered ceiling  pays homage to the de Ribera’s ancestors with carved coats of arms of all the families. Void of interior decor, this room elicits visions of the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, of Scheherazade weaving fantastical stories to king Shahryār, amidst a sumptuous display of colorfully exotic textiles and carpets, in hopes that her execution might be postponed. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Yves Saint Laurent fell in love with Casa Pilatos before embarking on a lifelong love affair with orientalism (see La Zahia: Dar es Saada and Zahia: Villa Oasis).

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

Zaquizami's Corridor-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

 

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

The Golden Room-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

A series of classical-inspired spaces washed in golden ocher and decorated with the de Ribera’s collection of classical sculpture and reliefs from Italy is my favorite among the grand spaces of the palace. Built around 1530 the Golden Room (above photo) is entered via Zaquizami’s Corridor, an arcaded gallery off the Small Garden linked to an interior corridor opening onto the Golden Room. The combination of indoor-outdoor spaces opening onto a garden, the classical proportions and symmetrical plan, the white marble against the brilliant ocher of the walls, the marriage of Classical and exotic design elements, and a sense of spare elegance contributes to a level of refinement and awe seldom experienced.

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Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

The Salón de Descanso de los Jueces (The Judges’ Resting Room) – so named for the 71 members of the Sanhedrin of Israel that judged Jesus Christ before the Passion – hides its function as palace antechapel. The most intricate stuccowork in the palace frames the segmental arch to the adjacent oratory, combining an elegant combination of Mudejar and Isabelline Gothic motifs – the latter referring a transition style between the Gothic and Renaissance that developed in Castile during the reign of Isabella the Catholic. Original hand made brick paving was later replaced with the room’s existing marble flooring.

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Except for decorative elements, the Flagellation Chapel is the only room in the palace constructed with Gothic elements that has remained unchanged, indicating that this space was consigned for religious purposes. The chapel’s name owes to the central rose jasper column that symbolizes the place where Jesus was tied up and tortured.

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Intended as a ceremonial space, Pilate’s Cabinet, off the main patio, is a square-shaped room inspired by Muslim “qubbas” brought to the peninsula by the Arabs. Lavishly decorated, cuenca tiles cover the walls and an elaborate coffered Mudejar-stle ceiling is decorated with golden Muqarna pineapples incorporating ten pointed stars. The small bronze fountain at center is set within a blue tiled trough evoking Muslim style architecture.

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The monumental staircase is the stuff of dreams, a dramatic transitional space that delivered guest from the lower Summer Palace to the upper Winter Palace and its identical layout of rooms. The staircase also marked the transition from public to private spaces above.

THE WINTER PALACE

Winter Palace-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

Winter Palace-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

Winter Palace-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

Breaking with Muslim tradition, the noble residences of Seville have always incorporated two floors for summer and winter living. The Winter Palace extends directly over the Summer Palace, duplicating the use of rooms on the lower level as an alternative to the cold and damp below. As the centuries progressed this functional duplicity became obsolete and the upper palace and other spaces further away from the main patio tended to be reserved for private and family use.

The upper gallery frescoes date from 1539, representing different personages from Antiquity – Virgil, Homer and Horace – framed by Renaissance architectonic settings.

Fresco Room-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

The Fresco Room is the largest room in the upper palace, directly above the Praetor’s Room, originally the hub of private activity. Fadrique Enriquez commissioned the “Triumph of the Four Seasons” murals prior to his death in 1539, inspired by Transformations by the Roman poet Ovid illustrating mythological scenes of the Goddesses Pomona, Janus, Ceres and Flora relative to the cycles of nature.

Dining Room-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

The 19th-century dining room comprises most of the north corridor of the upper palace, its original use unknown. While the room conserves its original Mudejar ceiling and stuccowork from the 15th century the room is relatively spare and void of color.

Pacheco Room-Casa Pilatos-Sevile-Spain

Pacheco Room-Ceiling Mural-Francisco Pacheco-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

Of the numerous artworks housed in Casa Pilatos, one of the most striking is the ceiling painted by Francisco Pacheco, master and father-in-law of Diego Velázquez, in the room originally known as the Camarín Grande and now called the “Pacheco Room”.  It is a long, narrow room built for the 3rd Duke of Alcalá along with other adjacent rooms and designed by the architect Juan de Oviedo in the first decade of the 17th century. The flat ceiling consists of a wooden structure inlaid with painted canvases.

Pacheco’s ceiling is the second example of its kind, which was unprecedented in Seville. It was preceded, two years earlier, by that of the house of the poet Juan de Arguijo, and was followed shortly afterwards by that of the main salon in the Archbishop’s Palace. We thus have at least (as far as we know) three important examples of a type of decorative ceiling that was hitherto unknown in the city and would not be repeated. — Description from Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli.

THE GARDENS

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Toward the end of his life Fadrique Enriquez purchased the last parcels of land which, after his death, comprise a collection of Mannerist structures in a Sevellian garden setting designed for exhibiting classical sculpture. His aristocratic nephew and heir, Per Afán de Ribera, became an avid collector of classical sculptures following his assignation as Viceroy of Naples and introduction to the humanism of the Cinquencento. In 1568 he contracted Neapolitan engineer and architect Toretello to refurbish Casa Pilatos in order that his collection could be displayed in an organized and systematic fashion. Tortello’s design program included three Renaissance constructions around the Large Garden.

Large Garden Loggias-Casa Pilatos-Seville-Spain

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

 

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Intended as an exhibition space for Per Afán de Ribera’s sculptures, two loggias at opposite ends of the Large Garden were formed by two superimposed galleries with three arches on marble columns following the villa model. The result is what was at the time called an archeological garden, a revolutionary 16th-century exhibitory method that integrated sculptures into architectonic structures. This method of display would become applauded in artistic and aristocratic circles of the era and influence the display of Sevillian collections in the future.

The arbor-Large Garden-Casa Pilatos-Seville

The arbor-Large Garden-Casa Pilatos-Seville

On the long side of the garden Tortello placed a single story arbor utilizing the same three arches and classical Renaissance design elements as that of the adjacent two loggias.

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

Photo by Cristopher Worthland

The Sleeping Venus Grotto at the western edge of the Large Garden is pure Mannerist in style with an interior that houses a marble sculpture of the Sleeping Venus from the 16th century.

Photos, other than those taken by myself, were photographed by Carlos Giordano and Nicolás Palmisano.

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A Venetian Vision

Music Room-Isabella Stewart Gardner-Beacon St-Boston-Martin  Mower-

The last remaining vestige of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Venetian vision for the music room at her Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, palazzo-style mansion is this oil painting by Martin Mower painted in the late 1890’s. Destroyed at the turn-of-the-20th-century, Mower’s romantic paean to Gardner’s Venetian decorative tradition paints a dreamlike world where 18t-century carved gilt chairs casually float against a rich background of silks and brocades. Despite the room’s fine Renaissance carvings and interior architecture Ms. Gardner conceived of rooms that are at once opulent and accessible. Furniture is informally arranged for conversation and comfort, centered on the room’s baronial hooded chimneypiece, at left, and further enhanced by a dose of exotic eclecticism weaving through her collections, textiles and objet d’art.  A lyrical and timeless beauty pervades Ms. Gardner’s music room, which we can perhaps attribute to Martin Mower’s insightful and sensitive interpretation of the chatelain’s vision of Venice.

You can visit the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum at 152 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts.

 

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