Tuesday, September 01, 2015
A recent windfall of late Seventies issues of Architectural Digest and Southern Accents provided me with another windfall: a clutch of Old World Weavers advertisements. As you know, Old World Weavers, the luxury textile firm, was founded by Iris Apfel and her late husband, Carl, in 1950. Although now owned by Stark, Old World Weavers remains a to-the-trade source for traditional, dignified fabrics, such as crewelwork, embroidered silk, and damask. So, in addition to being a fashion maven, Iris Apfel is also an authority on textiles and the decorative arts, an expertise that seems to be humorously suggested in the photo above.
The advertisements, which I have included below, are quintessential Iris Apfel. A maximalist streak runs throughout them, with layer upon layer of sumptuous fabrics and trims (by Old World Weavers, of course,) porcelains, singerie, and antique furniture. I assume that the ads were photographed in the Apfels' Manhattan apartment, because if you compare the ads to more recent photos of their apartment, you'll see they have much in common. Luxury, abundance, and a flair for the dramatic characterize their home as well as their advertisements. In fact, that description could also be applied to Apfel's lauded fashion sense, too.
But really, what excites me the most is how an advertisement manages to capture most everything that I- and likely many of you- admire about traditional decoration. Chinese porcelain, braided tassels, blue opaline glass...how often do we see these now-underrated furnishings presented in such exalted light? The answer is, unfortunately, not often enough.
Photos #1, #3, and #5 from Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel, Eric Boman author and photographer; #7 and #9 from Architectural Digest, June 2011, Roger Davies photographer
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
I don't mind black and white photography, but there are times when I find it maddening. Take, for the example, the photos of this gem of a flower room, which was painted in trompe l'oeil. How can one truly appreciate trompe l'oeil paintwork without seeing its colors?
Despite these limitations, the photos, which appeared in Classical America IV, still manage to capture the room's immense charm. According to the accompanying text, the room, which was located off of a residential garden and used for flower arranging, was painted by decorative artist Hight Moore. (No mention is made of where in America this room was located nor when Moore painted it.) Together, the artist and the homeowner conceived a space where the Rococo style- or, at least, a trompe l'oeil version of it- runs rampant. Other than an existing door frame, chair rail, and single half-round molding at the ceiling, the architectural embellishments have been painted on by Moore.
Of course, what the photos don't capture are the colors that Moore used, so I'll simply quote from the article:
Against the white of the walls, the trompe l'oeil architectural details, i.e., the dado, cornice, ceiling panels, etc., are in a pale mauve, with the actual door frames and back splash of the sink in faux marbre of mottled lilac. The rocaille-and-vine motifs are in a strong green, as are the rocaille frames of the two reliefs, the one over the door and the other over the sink. The details of the reliefs are white, like the stove, against a soft terra cotta background which echoes the brick floor.
So there you have it- a flower room whose sense of fun and fantasy is evident, even when presented in black and white.
The details can be found above, but for more information or to register, please visit the Southeast Chapter of the ICAA website.
Monday, August 17, 2015
Thank you to the Scully & Scully catalogue for reminding me that the world hasn't completely gone to hell in hand basket. Its numerous pages filled with photos of folding bridge tables, hardboard place mats, wooden breakfast bed trays (similar to the one above), and other traditional niceties always bring me comfort, for they make me realize that some people in this world continue to appreciate such things.
Speaking of breakfast bed trays, there was a time when the morning meal often required its own set of dining accoutrements, including china and linen made especially for use on a breakfast tray or a small breakfast table. If you read any of the 1930s and 1940s-era design magazines, you'll find numerous articles written for the bride, advising her of the household inventory she would need to run her home efficiently and entertain properly. Along with luncheon china and luncheon linen, dinner china and dinner linen, and tea sets and tea linen, breakfast china, referred to as "luxuries" in a 1936 House & Garden article, was often recommended for one's "breakfast repertory". Needless to say, brides were encouraged to own a lot of china and linen. (Don't even get me started on the recommendations for bed and bath linen. The lists for these were endless!)
Although not a bride, I, too, have breakfast china (Porthault's Trèfles pattern), a large breakfast tray, and a set of breakfast tray linen, which consists of one mat and two napkins. I wish that I could say I use these daily, but instead, it's more like a Sunday occurrence. If only my life were leisurely- and if I had staff- then perhaps my weekday breakfast repertory would be far more luxurious than it currently is.
Truman Capote's Porthault breakfast set, sold at Bonhams in 2006.
Scully & Scully
Sotheby's in 2012.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
On Instagram, I have noticed that there are certain photos that seem to garner many "likes". Rooms with a traditional, European sensibility are popular, as are rooms painted in moody shades of brown, green, or blue. Photos of blue and white ceramics are always pleasers, especially when the blue and white is grouped en masse. Detail photos of interesting collections displayed on table tops are sure to get hundreds of likes, as will nighttime photos that capture rooms bathed in pools of warm light. Of course, these are but a few of the types of photos that keep people coming back to Instagram seeking design inspiration.
As I was perusing a 1981 issue of Architectural Digest, I found an article that featured all of these types of photos. The article's subject, a renovated 15th-century house located in 's-Hertogenbosch, Holland, belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Clemens van der Ven, both of whom were collectors. The home was filled with elegant antiques, including blue and white porcelain, centuries-old writing implements, and a Dutch Louis XIV cabinet filled with 17th- and 18th-century silver. The living room, painted a sophisticated shade of green, boasted a sublime 18th-century chimneypiece, while the dining room had walls covered in tooled and gilded leather panels. And, as was typical of Architectural Digest at that time, all of the home's rooms, with the exception of the Garden Room, were photographed with table lamps aglow. (I think that I might be one of the few people who likes interior photos taken with room lights turned on.)
Traditional, elegant homes such as this one are the exception rather than the rule these days. But thanks to Instagram, I'm finding that rarefied taste in décor not only still exists, it seems to be generating some excitement, too.
All photos from Architectural Digest, April 1981, Kees Hageman photographer.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Next month, I will celebrate nine years of blogging, and I can hardly believe it. Back then, blogging was considered cutting-edge, but today, it's more like the éminence grise of the social media world. So much has changed since 2006, and yet, in a way, much has stayed the same. Nine years later and I'm still focusing my attention on those interiors and furnishings that have stood the test of time.
Some of you who have been with me for the long haul might remember "The Classics" series that I wrote a number of years ago. Each of the series' blog posts featured furnishings that I considered to be classic. Think Porthault linen, Brunschwig's "Les Touches" fabric, and Billy Baldwin's slipper chair. (Little did I know back then that I would eventually develop this concept into a book, In with the Old.) But it dawned on me last week that I had never written about a piece of furniture that is most definitely a classic: the telescoping table.
Look at the homes of Hubert de Givenchy, Howard Slatkin, and Alex Papachristidis, to name but a few, and you'll find at least one telescoping table, which is a small occasional table whose height can be adjusted thanks to a telescoping shaft. You often see these tables constructed in brass, although they are made in others metals. And although most owners seem drawn to round telescoping tables, you will find square versions in many a well-appointed home, too. I have been told that those made by Maison Toulouse in the mid-twentieth-century are highly desirable, but also coveted is Matthews & Parker's nifty new version, which I recently saw in the Atlanta Brunschwig & Fils- Lee Jofa showroom. Seriously, what's not to love about a table that is handy, adjustable, and, most important, classically chic? And now, after having written this post, I covet a telescoping table even more than I did last week. I'm moving this table to the top of my wish list.
Photo #1: The Finest Houses Of Paris; #2: Private Houses of France: Living with History; #3 and #4: Fifth Avenue Style: A Designer's New York Apartment; #5: Luminous Interiors: The Houses of Brian McCarthy; #6: The Age of Elegance: Interiors by Alex Papachristidis; #7: Robert Couturier: Designing Paradises.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
"I wanted the entire house to be glowing and warm, but above all, cozy. Color does this; so do pictures, stacks of books, music, photographs and flowers." So said Mrs. Anne Peto, an American whose London townhouse, seen here, was photographed for Architectural Digest in 1981. Indeed, her townhouse was cozy and warm in an English-country-house kind of way, a result of that always-pleasing mix of floral chintzes, dhurrie rugs, lacquered antiques, and painted furniture. Those saturated hues- red, yellow, and pink- added to the warmth, a colorful antidote to those grey London days. And those "glowing" walls, their luminosity achieved by glazing, injected notes of cosmopolitan dash, an urbane counterpoint to the surrounding coziness.
But the photo that really captured my attention is that of Mrs. Peto's fabulous red library, seen below, with its faux tortoise bookshelves, bamboo blinds, layer upon layer of pattern, and black and white dog photographs. (Note to self: hire a photographer to shoot black and white glamour shots of Alfie.) Of red rooms, the homeowner said, "Every house should have one!" I concur, especially if that red room looks like Mrs. Peto's library.
All photos from Architectural Digest, July 1981, Derry Moore photographer