Friday, May 17, 2013
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Michael Smith lecture about his new book, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design. Prior to the event, I knew of the premise of the book, which chronicles the evolution of a house from conception to reality. But until I heard Michael speak, I had not realized how truly special this home really was.
Built to evoke a Palladian villa, this Malibu, California house was a labor of love, one seen through to fruition by the homeowners, the designer, the architect (Oscar Shamamian), the contractor, and various artisans. The tales that they share are the heart of this book, and they give much insight into what makes a spectacular home. But what I find to be most remarkable about this story- and what intrigued the most about Smith's lecture- is both the care and the detail that was lavished on this house. From imported stone to mosaics to a smattering of furniture once owned by Bill Blass, nothing but the best would do for this house, although there was nothing ostentatious in the result. It all worked well together splendidly.
As most of you know, the house has since been sold to new owners and the contents of the home were auctioned off by Christie's last month. Thank goodness that we have this fascinating book that documents this one-of-a-kind house.
© Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design by Michael S Smith, Rizzoli publishers, 2013.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Over the last ten or fifteen years, there has been a lot of clucking over the popularity of hotel-inspired residential design. I scratch my head every time I see a home that could be mistaken for a W hotel. What's fine for a hotel is rarely good for the home, where comfort and, more important, the homeowner's personality should be in abundance. Except, of course, if one's home was inspired by the hotels featured in the terrific book, Parisian Hideaways: Exquisite Rooms in Enchanting Hotels.
I have mentioned this book before, but upon reading it again over the weekend, I felt it was worth a revisit. The beauty of these hotels is not just that they are incredibly chic, but they look like residential interiors. These are the kind of hotels that I pine for when I am stuck at one of those slick, too-cool-for-school hotels where everything seems so impersonal. When I'm staying at a hotel, I want cubby-hole sized bars, canopied beds, jewel-box libraries, and boiserie panels. And when I'm at home, well, I want the very same.
Photo at top: The Salon at Le Daniel, which boasts custom-painted wallpaper by de Gournay.
All photos from Parisian Hideaways: Exquisite Rooms in Enchanting Hotels by Casey O'Brien Blondes.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With last weekend's release of The Great Gatsby, not to mention the film-inspired merchandise currently being sold at Tiffany & Co. and Brooks Brothers, the 1920s is coming back into vogue. The timing couldn't be better for Wright auction house, which will be selling this extraordinary Art Deco-style chair- the work of American furniture designer Walter von Nessen- at an upcoming auction in June. The armchair, thought to have been one of a pair, is both important and rare, with a pre-auction estimate of US$200,000-$300,000.
First exhibited in 1928 at the International Exposition of Art in Industry, Macy's answer to the 1925 blockbuster L'Exposition Internationale des Artes Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, the chair features a curved aluminum back and base, with cast bronze armrests and cut brass ornamentation. Most striking, at least to me, are both the cut and applied ziggurats, a classic motif of the Art Deco style. What adds to the chair's allure is its peculiar, and almost tragic, history. Housed at a movie theater in upstate New York, the chair was sold along with other metals to a scrap metal hauler in the late 1970s. Thankfully, the hauler recognized that this chair likely had value, so he contacted a couple who had recently sold their important Art Deco collection. The couple bought the chair, and it has remained in their care for the last forty years. To think that this chair almost ended up in the scrap metal pile!
The chair, a notable example of the American Art Deco style, has a documented history of its early years. Featured in a November,1928 article in The Metal Arts magazine, the chair also appears in a period photograph that was included in At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression.
Wright's Important Furniture auction will take place in Chicago on June 6. For more information, please contact Wright.
A photo showing the chair in situ at the Macy's exhibition. This photograph appears in At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression.
All photos used with express permission from Wright.
scarf collection. And what an attractive collection it is!
I received a scarf very similar in color to the one featured above, and I was very pleased with the quality. The scarf is made of silk twill and looks and feels much as my Hermès scarves do. The nice thing about this particular scarf is that its square pattern and subtle colors are a nice departure from my more exuberantly printed Hermès scarves.
That's not to say, however, that all of Neisha's scarves are so minimal. For those with a penchant for pattern, there are florals, sunbursts, and the like, all of which have a slight vintage feel to them. (Vintage in a good way.) While some of the scarves are made of silk or silk twill, there are also versions made of cashmere or wool. Take a look below for a small sampling, or visit Neisha's website. Although the site is based in the U.K., international shipping is available.
Sunburst in Coral
Zebra in Brown
Starfish in Black
Monday, May 13, 2013
Unless you've been a recluse over the past week, you have likely seen photos of last week's Met Gala. I'm not going to get into too much detail about it except to say that my picks for the three best-dressed guests were Lauren Santo Domingo, Vanessa Traina, and Plum Sykes, all of whom work in the fashion world. Plum Sykes's decision to wear scarlet satin Manolo Blahniks with her pale pink column dress especially captured my attention because the color combination was a bit unexpected. And yet, it was really quite smashing, with Sykes's red shoes making her prim gown sing. It also reminded me of how much I love this color pairing. (I did not want to fool with obtaining permission from Getty Images to use their photo of Sykes, so you'll have to click here to see her stepping out to the Gala.)
Rarely do you see pink and red used together within the same room. In fashion layouts, however, you do. When standing alone, pink can appear slightly (or sometimes sticky) sweet. But when dashes of red are thrown in for flavor, the effect can be sophisticated and effervescent. Could this be why Babe Paley wore pink and red for her Round Hill, Jamaica portrait?
One interior designer who did mix the two colors together to great effect was David Hicks. Hicks, however, took a brash approach to the pairing, using pinks that had vigor and swagger. Cerises, scarlets, and magentas mingled to create rooms of bravado, fit for even the most manly of men. If all of this sounds too swashbuckling, you could take your cue from Hicks (or even Mark Hampton, whose 1970s-era Manhattan apartment included a red and pink bedroom) but tone it down for more feminine sensibilities. Paint a room's walls in lacquered aubergine and upholster its furnishings in pink silk and red damask. I think that such a room would like really pretty...or, to use a phrase that gets on my nerves, such a room would look "very gala."
The early Manhattan apartment of Mark and Duane Hampton. Their bedroom was decorated in shades of magenta and pink with some red thrown in for good measure.
Serge Obolensky photographed by Slim Aarons at the St. Regis Roof, New York. I can't really tell if the room was mostly pink or if there was some red somewhere (perhaps the ceiling?)
Photo of Paley and Obolensky from A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of the Good Life by Slim Aarons; Hicks and Hampton photos from David Hicks: Designer; Maharaja of Jaipur photo from The World in Vogue 1893-1963.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Today's post is an introduction to the exquisite fabrics of Peter D'Ascoli. Peter is an American who lives in India with his family and dog, a Cavalier, no less. (That's Peter, above.) Fascinated by the history and culture of his adopted homeland, Peter was inspired to apply his American entrepreneurial spirit to the art of traditional Indian textiles, thus creating an eponymous fabric collection that celebrates Indian heritage. Although the collection is currently being sold to Indian designers and architects, Peter is developing a new collection of hand-printed linens, woven cottons, and embroidered fabrics that will be sold very soon at select U.S. showrooms.
Of his current collection, the "Parsi Gara" group of fabrics is especially steeped in Indian history. The Parsis are Indians of Persian descent, having fled religious persecution during the eighth to tenth century A.D. (By the way, both Zubin Mehta and the late Freddy Mercury claim Parsi lineage.) Eventually settling in India, the Parsis later flourished and prospered during the British Raj, with some Parsis emigrating to China for trade purposes. This mixture of Persian, Indian, European, and Chinese influences is evident in the "Parsi Gara" fabrics, which includes Marsh Multi, Parsi Gara, Canton Multi, and Mandarin (see below.) The other part of the current collection includes beautiful silks like Gilded Age chintz, Tiger and Ming.
The entire collection is really quite beautiful, and the stories that these fabrics tell only add to their allure. I for one am eagerly awaiting Peter's American debut, and as soon as it happens, I'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, you might want to visit Peter's site to learn more about these Indian-made textiles. I think you'll be enchanted.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
"Kenneth Jay Lane Entertains". Such a simple title for this March 1977 House Beautiful article. And yet, were any other words really needed to persuade the reader to peruse the article? After all, Kenneth Jay Lane's fans are legion. (I for one will never part with my KJL Maltese Cross cuffs, dragon bracelet, and panther ring.) And an article that also chronicled his dinner parties? Even better!
Lane (that's him above, holding what appears to be one of those coveted Tiffany & Co. heart-motif silver repoussé cups) has long had a yen for the exotic, most notably his collection of Orientalist art. And his home has always reflected this passion, stuffed to the gills with treasures and mementos garnered on far-flung excursions. His dining room, seen below, is no exception. It was tented to resemble a Moroccan tent. And would it surprise you to know that under that tented ceiling, Lane liked to serve his guests Moroccan food (especially couscous), which was prepared by his Moroccan chef?
The article's photos show what Lane's dining room looked like at such feasts. For smaller affairs, a round table was set with dinnerware from India, carafes from Japan, and a tagine that I assume came from Morocco. Lane also used mismatched dining chairs. If the guest list grew at the last minute, he simply pressed one of the room's skirted tables into service at a corner banquette. Lane mentioned that he took his dinner parties in stride, saying "I never worry and always hope." Great advice, although I do think that having a Moroccan chef certainly helps...a lot.
All photos from House Beautiful, March 1977
Monday, May 06, 2013
I can't tell you how many times photos of the homes and gardens of designer Barbara Wirth have caught my eye. There was the Veranda article about Wirth's holiday table as well as her Paris home that she shares with her husband, both of which I wrote about here. Then there was yet another Veranda article, this one about the Wirths' bigger claim to fame, the gardens of their Normandy home, Château de Brécy. And then, as I was recently rereading Architectural Digest Traditional Interiors, I found photos of a previous home owned by the Wirths. Somehow, I missed the Wirth connection when I first read the AD book.
Wirth is not only a talented interior designer, but she also once managed the David Hicks shop in Paris. For her villa that is seen here, Wirth collaborated with her cousin, designer Christian Badin, on the home's decor. Like Wirth, Badin also worked for David Hicks. I think you can see traces of the Hicks look in these photos, and perhaps that is one reason why they piqued my interest. The modern lamps, uplights, sleek side tables, and the living room's skirted table all seem very much from the Hicks play book, and yet, the cousins added their Gallic flair to the house with their exuberant uses of indigo and blue toile de Tanlay in the dining room and feminine, floral chintz in the bedroom. Even better is the fact that not much of this 1970s-era home looks dated, with the exception of the bedroom's wall to wall carpet. Not bad for a house that was decorated decades ago.
All photos from Architectural Digest Traditional Interiors, Pascal Hinous photographer.