Friday, December 19, 2014

Raoul Guiraud and Le Style Anglais

I was first introduced to the work of Parisian decorator Raoul Guiraud thanks to the cover of Le Style Anglais, 1750-1850. I admit that I purchased the book solely because of its cover, which featured a Guiraud-decorated dining room adorned with blue and white striped walls, a tented ceiling fashioned from grey fabric, and eye-catching Greek Key trim. Although I suspect that there might be some who find this room to be garish, I find it oddly appealing.  Could that bold Greek Key trim and tented ceiling be responsible for my mild infatuation with this room?

It was fitting that Guiraud's work was featured in Le Style Anglais, because like a number of mid-twentieth-century French decorators, Guiraud found inspiration in the English style, especially Regency furniture and decorations.  As the book's editor, Francis Spar, noted, "When it comes to decoration, the marriage of English comfort with French taste is quite possibly the most important event of the mid-twentieth century."  But much of the credit for this Franco-English mash-up has to go to Madeleine Castaing, who more or less made le goût anglais de rigueur in France.  According to Emily Eerdmans, author of The World of Madeleine Castaing, "Madeleine was widely credited with bringing the English Regency style to Parisian salons."  And, when discussing the influence that Castaing had over her contemporaries, Eerdmans included the work of Raoul Guiraud, who the author describes as "one of the most prominent followers of the le goût anglais craze Madeleine initiated."

When you look at photos of Guiraud's work below, you will notice that in addition to Regency Style flourishes, elements of the Empire and Directoire styles also seasoned the designer's work.  Guiraud's enthusiasm for all three styles explains his predilection for Regency furniture, tented rooms, and, most especially, the Greek Key motif.  Simply put, the man was crazy for a Greek Key border.  And finally, it seems that Castaing's influence extended to Guiraud's choice in fabrics.  In two of the rooms below, you'll see what appears to be two different Castaing fabrics: Branches de Pin, a black and white arborous print; and  Rayure Fleurie

Two different views of the tented dining room, both of which appeared in Le Style Anglais.

Also appearing in Le Style Anglais was this Guiraud-designed room. Note the gilt fillet trim at the top of the walls and the floral wallpaper border at the bottom.

In  this Paris apartment, which appeared in Comment Decorer Sa Maison,  Guiraud tented the entry hall in yellow satin.  I believe that the bench fabric is Castaing's Rayure Fleurie.  Of course, you can't help but notice yet another Greek Key border.

In the same Paris apartment, the library's paneled walls were enlivened with a black and white print fabric, according to the book's text.  I believe the fabric to be Branches de Pin.

The apartment's dining room had blue walls, according to the book.  The floral wallpaper-border baseboard looks awfully similar to the color photo that appeared in Le Style Anglais.  I wonder if it's the same room.

I find this Regency-style bathroom, which was decorated by Guiraud, to be rather extraordinary. Look at the tiled bathtub alcove, which was framed by slender columns, and its Greek Key border and overscaled urn motif.  And what about that skirted bathtub?!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Pondering the Next Hot Color

By now, you have likely heard that the 2015 Pantone Color of the Year is Marsala.  I typically don't give much thought to the Color of the Year, if only because I'm focused on other things.  But this year, I did slow down long enough to look at and ponder next year's hot color, and I have come to the conclusion that Marsala isn't really piquing my interest at the moment.  Although I do appreciate a range of wine tones, Marsala seems a little tepid, almost like a watered down shade of wine.  It lacks the full-bodied robustness and edge that I like to see in colors.  And, it doesn't have enough "oomph".  Shall I go on?

I'm trying to keep an open mind here, so I perused my old design books in order to find bygone examples of Marsala-accented decor.  I learned a few things.  First, Marsala is a difficult color to identify, with its slightly dusty quality making it appear quite similar to other shades of wine, red, and even brown.  Old photography makes identification even more difficult.  Also, Marsala does not seem to have been a terribly popular shade in years past.  I looked through books from the 1930s onward, and it seems that the color did make occasional appearances in interiors of the 1940s and later during the 1980s, when the Neo-Edwardian look, which embraced deep shades of red and wine, was considered quite the thing. 

You can find what I found below.  Truth be told, many of the examples are not terribly attractive, which is a shame because I prefer to feature attractive interior images on my blog.  The one image that I do find appealing is the McMillen-decorated living room.  Technically, the color in that photograph is dusty aubergine, so I don't know if it qualifies as a Marsala-driven interior or not.

And it's back to beauty later in the week.

The two images above depict 1940s interiors which may or may not depict Marsala. I simply can't tell.

A McMillen-decorated living room with walls and curtains covered in a "dusty aubergine" fabric. I believe the fabric is not deep enough to be Marsala, but it's a good looking room so I included it anyway.

Marsala might be in this Renzo Mongiardino-designed room. Then again, maybe not.

Two 1980s-era French homes, which were decorated with fabrics in shades similar to Marsala.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

I'm attempting to write this blog post while in a semi-delirious state.  You see, a few neighbors and I have been carefully planning our building's annual holiday party, which takes place Friday.  As in years past, we selected the menu, hired the caterer, bought the alcohol and mixers, chose the music, and decorated our party room.  It's the decorating that usually requires the most effort, which explains why we spent five hours last night trimming the tree, hanging wreaths, pulling tables and chairs out of storage, and creating a festive scene that (hopefully) our neighbors will appreciate.  Wish us luck.

Speaking of holiday decorating, I want to share some particularly jolly photos, which capture Wilbury Park, a Neo-Palladian house in southern England, outfitted in its holiday finery.  The beauty of Wilbury Park's Christmas decor lies in its simplicity, with decorations more or less limited to greenery and a few tastefully trimmed trees.  Of course, a house as lovely as this requires little more than some boughs of holly, so decking the halls with a modicum of restraint is understandable and advisable.

And until next week, when I hope to have my sanity restored, I wish you a pleasant weekend.

All photos from House & Garden, December 2003, Melanie Acevedo photographer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Macy's Thanksgiving Day Feast

Some of you might be traveling to your Thanksgiving destinations today, while others are at home, likely baking a Pumpkin Pie or setting the Thanksgiving table. Speaking of holiday tables, I couldn't let Thanksgiving pass us by without featuring another of Jonathan Preece's inspired holiday settings. (Click here if you wish to see previous installments.)

For this Thanksgiving table, Jonathan's clients gave him carte blanche, only asking that their table setting be "unique, creative, and visually stimulating."  Jonathan, whose creativity seems to know no bounds, settled on a scaled-down version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for the table's theme.  After all, watching the parade is one of this country's most cherished Thanksgiving customs.

Look closely at the photos below, and you'll see that the table runner is actually an enlarged, laminated map of the parade route, which runs from the Upper West Side of Central Park West to Midtown and its eventual destination of Macy's at Herald Square.  Blocks of Oasis, which were covered with moss, bark, and autumn colored flowers and foliage, mimic the trees one might find along the Central Park-portion of the parade route.  (Along the "street-grid gaps" of the parade route runner, small concrete planters were used to provide touches of greenery.)   You'll also see small painted sculptures that represent the buildings and high-rises which dot the parade route.  But the crowning touch to these little buildings are their attached "balloons", which are actually hand-made of painted papier-mâché by artist Liz Fleri.  Among the balloons making their way down the table, you'll find Kermit the Frog, Garfield, Humpty Dumpty, and Mr. Potato Head.

At each place setting, Jonathan placed napkins that had been folded in such a way as to resemble the top tiers of the Chrysler Building.  Each place card was printed with a historical fact regarding the parade.  And guests were given small mementos, which included Macy's key chains adorned with images of the parade's most classic balloons.  

Wherever you may be, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! And to you, Jonathan, thank you, as always, for the beautiful holiday inspiration.

All photos courtesy of Jonathan Preece.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Frederic March and Henry Sleeper

High on my list of places that I wish to visit is Beauport, the Gloucester, Massachusetts house of Henry Davis Sleeper. Built by Sleeper in the early twentieth century, Beauport was decorated in myriad historical styles and furnished with an array of objects, both of which attest to Sleeper's flair for decorating (he was one of this country's earliest professional decorators) and his passion for collecting.  Even if you're not overly familiar with Beauport, you have likely seen photos of two of its more famous rooms: the China Trade Room and the Octagon Room.

This post, however, isn't really about Beauport, but rather Sleeper's work as an interior designer.  Sleeper's clients included Isabella Stewart Gardner and Henry Francis du Pont, who enlisted Sleeper's guidance in decorating both his Long Island house, Chestertown, and his more famous residence, Winterthur.  But what I find to be curious was the fact that this New England decorator also worked for Hollywood actors, including Joan Crawford and Frederic March (pictured above.)

I recently discovered photos of March's Sleeper-designed Beverly Hills house in a 1936 issue of House Beautiful.  According to my research, Sleeper decorated the house in 1934, the same year in which he (Sleeper) died.  (I don't know if he died before or after completion of the March house.)  The House Beautiful article shows three photos of the home's exterior, which was described as French Provincial with whitewashed brick walls and blue doors, but just a scant three photos of the home's interior, namely, the dining room and a playroom.

The dining room, which you can see below, was furbished with a hunting-and-fishing-motif Zuber paper and "woodwork and damask curtains a soft azure blue-green."  Don't you wish that we could see that dining room in color?  The playroom is charming, though a bit unusual, in that it "reproduces a kitchen in an old Normandy house- fine copper and brass on the hearth, brown toile curtains, yellow quilting on the chairs and sofa."  Though not pictured in the article, the living room was described as having been decorated "after an 18th Century salon, with laurel green paneled walls, lots of books, a piano in one corner, secretary in another, 18th Century furniture in deep yellow brocade and a dark brown chintz on the couch."

According to the Beauport website, Sleeper described his early design focus as "Norman and English Country Houses- 17th and 18th century American Interiors."  Later, however, that focus shifted slightly to "English and French Interiors- 17th and 18th century American Paneling."  Sleeper was obviously well-versed in a range of historical styles, and I think that range is quite evident in the March house. 

An interesting footnote to this story is that March's house, which was designed by architect Wallace Neff in 1934, had several subsequent prominent owners, including Shirley and Flobelle Burden (the parents of Carter Burden, who grew up in this house,) Wallis Annenberg, and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston.  Pitt supposedly removed some of the home's original paneling, which really doesn't surprise me at all.

The two photos above show the March dining room.

The old Norman kitchen-inspired playroom.