Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Many of you likely remember my blog posts that featured Jonathan Preece's beautiful holiday decorations. Jonathan, who is Creative Director and Special Projects Designer at Bunny Williams Inc. and Bunny Williams Home, has become a go-to person for creative and well-researched holiday decor. Over the years, Jonathan has done Thanksgiving tables, Passover tables, Saturnalia-themed vignettes, and Christmas decor. And now, we have Sukkot to add to the list.
In 2006, long-time clients of Bunny Williams decided to expand their Park Avenue apartment by buying the penthouse above them. Bunny was responsible for the decoration in this newly combined apartment, which you'll likely remember as it made the cover of Elle Decor in 2010. During the renovation process, the clients requested that part of the apartment's rooftop terrace be set aside for the annual assembly of a Sukkah, in which they could celebrate the Jewish holiday, Sukkot. (Click here to read the Wikipedia entry on Sukkot.)
Bunny recommended to her clients that they engage Jonathan to create and decorate the Sukkah, and they readily took her up on her suggestion. First, Jonathan created a tent in which the clients could host their Sukkot dinners. The tent is quite small, measuring little more than 8' X 10'. The exterior, which you can see above, was made of 19th century raw silk linen bed hangings that are embellished with strie ribbon detail. (The hangings were part of an antique canopied bed that Bunny Williams purchased from an English estate sale.) A Sunbrella waterproof "rain coat" was made for use in inclement weather, which can be fitted over the silk linen hangings. The inside of the Sukkah changes from year to year. A few years ago, Jonathan purchased twenty Queen-sized printed Indian bedspreads from Urban Outfitters and hung them on the tent's interior walls in a pinch-pleat fashion. Most recently, Preece chose to adorn the interior walls with something more durable: canvas murals painted by artist Liz Fleri. The murals were meant to make guests feel as though they were seated in a wooden structure while looking out to the desert beyond. The mural's imagery was inspired by 19th century Orientalist art, while the paintings' style was evocative of the work of Chagall.
Jonathan informed me that the Sukkah's ceiling must always be made of natural material, hence his use of bamboo for the ceiling. Also, tradition calls for three stars to always be visible from within the Sukkah. During the first Sukkot celebration, Jonathan hung mercury glass stars within the tent, while in later years, the murals, which featured three painted stars, satisfied this religious requirement. And finally, the Sukkah beams are always covered in a decorative technique known as Schach, which is comprised of natural materials like fruit, leaves, and flowers that are representative of the Harvest.
There are many other religious symbols that can be seen in these photos. There is always a tied bouquet of Palm, Myrtle, and Willow, known as a Lulav, that is placed by the host's seat. Also, you'll see lemons, which refer to the Citron fruit known as Etrog. Together, the Lulav and Etrog are symbolic of the Four Species, which are the four plants that are part of the Sukkot ceremony.
Now, I'm sure that some of you are questioning the safety of this rooftop tent. Well, Jonathan paid as much attention to that as he did the tent's decor. The tent is tied-down and secured tightly, while the candles that you see in the photos are battery-operated. It really does seem that Jonathan thought of everything. And whether you celebrate Sukkot or not, I think you'll find a great deal of beauty in these photos, which span six years of the celebration of Sukkot.
All photos copyrighted Jonathan Preece and Elizabeth Swartz
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Those of you who have read my blog over the years know that I am a fan of the work of Zajac & Callahan. Edward Zajac, along with his late partner, Richard Callahan, set the decorating world on fire during the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s thanks to their bold interiors, which were often furnished with confident color and even more confident-looking prints and patterns. And perhaps even more notable was the design duo's custom designed furniture and objects, which could be described as unusual, dashing, and downright good-looking. It's no surprise that many design aficionados clamored for these pieces when they were auctioned off by Bonhams last year.
A few weeks ago, I was in Philadelphia giving a lecture to a women's club, and while there, two very stylish Philadelphians, Dottebob and Reva, mentioned the work of Zajac & Callahan to me. It seems that they too were fans of the designers. And then, just a few days later, I had the opportunity to actually meet Mr. Zajac, who was kind enough to attend my book party at Donghia. (You can see the two of us, above.) Needless to say, that was a real thrill for me.
My week of Edward Zajac reminded me of a few photos about which I had been meaning to blog. It seems that back in the mid-1960s, Zajac & Callahan decorated a chichi women's clothing store named "Splendiferous". Opening in 1963 on Manhattan's Third Avenue and expanding in 1967 to a second location at 16 East 56th St., Splendiferous was evidently the last word in women's fashion. Owned by Jerry Goldfarb and Terry Ryan, the store sold fashions by Oscar de la Renta, Kenneth Douglas, and Rudi Gernreich, just to name a few designers. In fact, Splendiferous was at the vanguard of daring fashion, having sold 77 of Gernreich's infamous topless women's bathing suits- more than any other store in this country. And the various departments within the store had catchy names. Handbags were sold in the "Moneybags" department, gourmet food in "Posh Knosh", and lingerie in "Underneath It All", while sale items were relegated to the "Nobody Loves Me" section of the store. It seems that Splendiferous was popular with the well-heeled crowd, with customers like Jacqueline Kennedy (whose purchases included brown crepe culottes trimmed in ostrich feathers and a Rudi Gernreich Shaker knit dress), Princess Margaret, and Evangeline Bruce frequenting the store. Did they shop there because of the clothes? Or was it because the salespeople were men with then-fashionable long hair?
Clever marketing aside, it was the E. 56th St. branch's decoration by Zajac & Callahan that seems most memorable- along with those Rudi Gernreich bathing suits, of course. The store's furbishment cost $150,000, which paid for such features as a water fountain that held 9,000 colored marbles, a glass elevator, and Zajac & Callahan's signature patterned fabrics and wallpaper. I wish that I could show you photo after photo of the store's interior, because I have a feeling it was really something else. However, Splendiferous photos are hard to come by. I managed to find a scant three photos of the store, which had been featured in the September 1967 issue of House & Garden. I am assuming that these photos show the 56th St. location rather than Third Avenue.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Goldfarb and Ryan shuttered the business in 1973 and moved to Florida. In 1999, they opened another boutique, this one located in Delray Beach, Florida. Its name? I Love Dazzle. I can't determine if that shop is still in business or not.
I know that the Splendiferous photos seen here don't really capture the store's interior in all of its glory, but they certainly have piqued my curiosity. I'm going to continue to search for more images. But, in the meantime, have a look at what was once Manhattan's most cutting-edge fashion emporium.
Image at top: Photo courtesy of Editor at Large. Remaining photos from House & Garden, September 1967.
I hope that you've been nice this year. Santa just might bring you a Christopher Spitzmiller lamp for Christmas...and purchased at a discount, too. Christopher has announced a seconds sale that begins today and runs through this Friday. You can see the curated collection of seconds lamps at his studio or on his newly redesigned website. (If you visit the website, be sure to watch the video of the lamp-making process. You'll begin to understand just why these lamps are so special. It's really a mesmerizing process.)
And if you've been naughty this year, well, go ahead and treat yourself anyway!
Monday, December 02, 2013
Typically, it's while traveling when we most appreciate the comforts of our homes. I have been on the road for the past month or so, and although I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels (and I have much to share over the next few weeks,) I always say, with apologies to Dorothy, "There's no place like home."
Perhaps this is why I was so compelled by this gem of an article, written and illustrated by the esteemed illustrator and author Philippe Jullian for the March/April 1975 issue of Architectural Digest. Titled "Dans Mon Moulin", the brief article is more like a handwritten and illustrated note, one which expressed the fondness that Jullian felt for his French country house. Considering that Jullian was known for his lively illustrations, it was entirely fitting that the house's interiors were captured in watercolors rather than photographs. Jullian's interior illustrations convey a charm and a magic that no photograph could ever duplicate. (Illustrations do have a way of imparting personality to inanimate objects, which is probably why I insisted that my book feature my sister's illustrations alongside interior photographs.)
But it's Jullian's text, reproduced in his own script, that also makes this article so endearing. It is breezy and concise, and it reads a little like a list of attributes that made the author's house special to him. And yet, it is the text's simplicity that is so refreshing today, when many houses are made to seem grander and far more serious than they really are.
Read it for yourself below. The piece just might inspire you to pen a note extolling the virtues of your home. Or, at the very least, it might inspire you to improve your penmanship!
When I found this romantic house next to a small river, it was almost in ruins.
Four years have succeeded in making it comfortable, but it hardly looks new. That suits me, for I have a good deal of provincial Louis XVI furniture inherited from my family.
And I spend a lot of time in the antiques shops and flea-markets of London and Paris. I live in what seems to my interior designer friends a rather Dickensian "Old Curiousity Shop." The walls are covered in old damask or in East Indian printed materials from the eighteenth century.
I also have a large tapestry made from a design by Rubens. A light touch is added by fuchsia and geraniums in blue and white china pots.
There are books everywhere and pictures too: prints along the staircase and in the gallery, Chinese paintings and bamboo furniture in the bathroom.
There is always a big fire in the living room to keep out the dampness. These are some of the ingredients which give my house a kind of charm, since I have made no particular effort to use a consistent color scheme or any careful interior arrangement.
The house is twenty-five miles east of Paris, and it is where I write all my books. It is always filled with flowers from my garden.
The Garden Room- An Empire bust, porcelain vases and a mirror to reflect the park outside.
The Library- once part of the old barn this room is filled with my books and many old prints. There are Japanese cabinets, a Victorian church carpet and a Dutch brass chandelier.
My Bedroom- the Louis XVI fireplace, with a terra-cotta bust on the mantel and the brass bedwarmer leaning against it, is my favourite part of the room.
Image at top: "The Drawing Room- Baroque marble statues on a wooden Louis XVI mantel; the golden damask hangings are from a Rothschild house."
I want to mention a few of my upcoming book signing events in hopes that some of you will be able to attend.
Thursday, December 5: I will be joining the Washington Post's Jura Koncius for her popular weekly Home Front online chat at 11 a.m. I will be answering questions about both my book and interior design. Please submit your questions and be part of the discussion via the Home Front page.
Thursday, December 5: The Home for the Holidays show house will be hosting a Sip and Sign event from 5:30 to 7:30. I will be signing copies of my book alongside a number of other Atlanta authors. This is a ticketed event. For more information, click here.
Tuesday, December 10: I will be signing copies of my book at the Swan Coach House Gift Shop from 12:00-2:00pm. If you live out of town and would like to obtain signed, personalized copies of my book, you can call the Swan Coach House Gift Shop directly to place your orders. (Shipping charges will apply.) Please call (404) 261-0224 Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm.
Charlotte, North Carolina:
Saturday, December 7: Join me at Mrs. Howard from 12:00-3:00pm where I will be signing more copies of my book. Please RSVP to email@example.com or call 704-376-8900.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
What a thrill to wake up this morning and find an article about my apartment and me in today's Home section of the New York Times.
Penelope Green wrote a really nice article that captured my love of the great designers.
To read it, click here.
And a Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Penelope Green wrote a really nice article that captured my love of the great designers.
To read it, click here.
And a Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Thursday, November 14, 2013
I'm going to take a brief break from blogging while I'm on my book tour, but before I do so, I want to mention that I wrote an article that appears in the new December issue of flower magazine.
Have you seen flower yet? If not, go buy yourself a copy because you're in for a real treat. The December issue features great articles on Alessandra Branca, Carleton Varney (who has a new book coming out next month, Decorating in the Grand Manor: A Design Memoir), and the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, which celebrated the life and legacy of Albert Hadley earlier this year. (That's the article that I wrote. The Albert Hadley connection made writing this article a real dream for me!) And, as the magazine's name suggests, there are many photographs of beautiful gardens and flowers that grace flower's pages.
So, until I return Thanksgiving week, happy reading and see you soon.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
When I was in a used bookstore the other day, I found this Sotheby's New York auction catalogue, dated October 26, 1990. I admit that the auction catalogues that intrigue me most are those which feature interiors on the cover, and this particular interior especially intrigued me. The room was very elegantly appointed, and yet, quite cozy looking too. The catalogue cover had me wondering just who the collector was who had lived in such refined surroundings and amassed such refined pieces.
Unfortunately, the catalogue did little to answer my question. The auction title itself, "Property of a European Foundation", implies that the collector, or perhaps his foundation, wished to maintain a certain amount of anonymity. The catalogue's introduction, written by Derek Ostergard, did little to lift the veil of secrecy, with Ostergard referring to the man in question simply as "a contemporary collector" who was noted for "his degree of connoisseurship".
One clue is that the auction and its catalogue were given the designation, 6078 "Weltkunst". A Google search shows that there is a Weltkunst foundation, not to mention a German decorative arts magazine titled Weltkunst. Perhaps there is a connection? Also, the back cover of the catalogue featured an illustration of the drawing room, which appears to have been decorated for Christmas. The illustration is reminiscent of those by Serebriakoff, although the artist's signature, partially visible in the bottom right corner, shows that it was not done by Serebriakoff. And one more thing: the interiors have a number of Colefax & Fowler flourishes, including a trefoil-shaped ottoman and Bowood chintz in the drawing room and a Rocksavage-like print carpet in the guest bedroom. (I can't tell if it's actually Rocksavage or a similar print.)
If you know who the collector was, I would appreciate it if you would let me know. Even if I never get the bottom of this, this much I do know: the collector was a man of great style and taste.
The Drawing Room
The Master Bedroom to the left and Guest Bedroom to the right
Colonel George Fergusson Henry Bey at the Sultan's Court by Guillaume Francois Gabriel Lepaulle, 1846, was one of the lots that was auctioned off.
Another view of the Drawing Room
A Vieux Paris Porcelain Centerpiece, Samson White Biscuit Mantel Clock, and two French porcelain boat-form inkwells, also featured in the auction.
A Five-Piece Chinese Blue and White Garniture set, Kangxi; this lot must have been displayed in the collector's library, don't you think?
An important Louis Philippe Four-Fold Silk Royal Tapestry Screen, Gobelins, c. 1830
An Italian Neoclassical Ormolu-Mounted Mahogancy Bookcase, early 19th century
Next week, I'm heading to New York, where Donghia and Hearst Design Group will be hosting my New York book launch. The event will take place on Thursday, November 21st from 6-8pm at the Donghia Showroom (D&D Building). I would really love to see all of you New Yorkers with whom I correspond.
Kindly RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you next week!
Monday, November 11, 2013
Last week, Caspari hosted a book signing for me at their lovely Charlottesville flagship store. I really enjoyed meeting everybody, including a very nice mother and daughter who drove in from Richmond to see me.
Walking through the Caspari store is like being a kid in a candy shop. Everywhere you look, there are charming vignettes filled with all kinds of stylish goods, from tabletop and home accessories to fashion, books, and gourmet food. In addition to featuring the full range of Caspari's paper goods, the store also sells such lines as Kim Seybert, Juliska, Alberto Pinto, and more. Believe me, after you see how well Caspari's paper napkins and plates go with Juliska flatware and Alberto Pinto china, you will likely be inspired to incorporate paper into your table settings.
The shop has just recently been decked out for the holidays, so there is plenty of inspiration for holiday entertaining and decorating. My favorite collection in the entire store? Hands down, Caspari's Wild Christmas collection, which features leopards and zebras wearing wreaths around their necks. How appropriate that the store's display of Wild Christmas was being watched over by some very stylish leopard dummy boards.
All photos taken by Jennifer Boles for The Peak of Chic