Monday, March 31, 2008

Palatable Florals

For months now, many magazines have touted the return of the floral print. Now, for some people, florals never went anywhere; they remained alive and well on sofas, bedspreads, and walls in many a cheery home. You floral fiends may now find yourself a little more in vogue than you were last year, and that's great! Stick with what you love. It's like me and my Chinoiserie- some years I'm the belle of the ball, while at other times I'm yesterday's news.

Personally, I'm very picky about floral prints. They can't be too sweet nor they can be too "floral-y". The prints almost need to be toned down by some other addition to the print. I do think, though, that there is a floral print for everyone. If you're like me, maybe some of these florals might be just the thing to get you on the floral bandwagon. But, if you have a strong dislike of these prints, then you too should just stick with what you love.

Despite being a floral-challenged person, I adore these Braquenie prints. See, they're not "pure" floral prints. Image at top: "Bordure Cheverny"; Image at bottom: "Rivière Enchantée & Pércale"

Now this is a unique floral print- "Paradise Lost" by Scalamandre.

Does this count as a floral? I do like "Elsie de Wolfe" by Scalamandre

Not too sweet nor saccharine. "Margot" by Clarence House

Now we're talking; this print is gorgeous! "Menars" by Brunschwig & Fils

Image at top: "Garden in Hell" living room of Diana Vreeland. She was the one person who could make florals look downright decadent.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Soane Mystique

History has produced but a small coterie of architects and designers whose work continues to inspire us today. One person who figures prominently in this pantheon is Sir John Soane, the visionary British architect. Well versed in the Neoclassical style, Soane designed both private manor houses as well as public buildings (most notably the Bank of England). However, it is Soane's home at 12-14 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London (now known as Sir John Soane's Museum), that has inspired legions of fans through the years. Built in the late 18th c. and added on to during the early 19th c., the home is a sterling example of Soane's refined aesthetic and his no nonsense practicality.

There are a few rooms in particular that seem to enthrall visitors. The Breakfast Room is a marvel in design. In order to maximize the light in an otherwise dark space, Soane topped the room with a domed ceiling and oculus. He then added small convex mirrors throughout the room- in the archways, around the fireplace surround- to help reflect the light. It is highly effective and pleasing to the eye too.

The Library, characterized by segmented arches and Gothic accents, is noted for its rich Pompeiian red walls and bronze green trim. Trust me, the combination of these two rich colors is extremely handsome- you really have to see it in person to appreciate the complexity of the colors.

And I can't forget to mention Soane's collection of antiquities and architectural ruins, displayed en masse throughout the home: in the Dome Area; the Colonnade; the Sepulchral Chamber. It's staggering to think that one man is responsible for such an important collection!

So, how do modern day designers channel the spirit of Soane? Well, let me show you. And I'll add that I think Sir John Soane would be quite proud of their efforts.

An arch in the red and green Library of Sir John Soane

An homage to the Soane style, on a small scale, in a library designed by Josef Johns.

The home of Stephen Calloway. Note the rich red walls, the green trim, and trompe l'oeil painted arches.

Soane's Breakfast Room. Note the convex mirrors inset into the arches and the ceiling.

A detail shot of the ceiling of the Breakfast Room.

David Mlinaric designed this Soane-esque dining room/library in the home of Lord Rendlesham. Look at the marvelous ceiling.

A tribute to Soane's impressive collection in the flat of Peter Hone. Some of the antiquities and fragments are real, while others are faux (the columns on the walls are actually engravings that have been glued to the wall)

Another view of the Hone flat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hooray for Houlès

How gorgeous are these Houlès trimmings? Part of the Spring 2008 "Les Marquises" collection, the passementerie is reminiscent of 18th century embellishment. Although the line comes in twelve different colorways, I'm completely taken with this gorgeous, pearly shade of gray. Just look at the gimp, the fringe, the tassels... why you could create a mini-Versailles right in your own home.

Now, if your taste is a bit more simple and earthy, then don't you fret. Houlès has also introduced the "Natura" collection which was inspired by Mother Nature, truly the world's preeminent designer. Think earth tones, linens, and waxed cotton.

Finally, modernism and passementerie are not incompatible. If you don't believe me, look at the "Lounge" line. With simple, elegant designs in muted colors and metallics, you modernists can have your cake and eat it too!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Talk of the Town

Atlanta is buzzing right now with the news that one of our own, designer and Peak of Chic reader Mallory Mathison, has been named one of this year's "Domino 10". This is the first time an Atlanta designer has been named one to watch by Domino. Congratulations Mallory!

Did you see this fabulous pink and white Lisa Fine rug in the new issue of InStyle magazine (in none other than a Mary McDonald designed room)? I got the chance to see Fine's rugs at Nathan Turner, and let me tell you they are gorgeous!!! Very fresh and vibrant. Contact Nathan Turner for more information.

Want a sneak peek at what designers Matthew White and Frank Webb have up their sleeves for their room at this year's Kips Bay Show House? Why then visit the World White Webb for this morsel as well as tips on Spring flowers, displaying objects, and architectural models.

Avery Noll is having a big Spring Clearance sale. Check out their site for further information, including details on this cabinet above.

Regency Redux

"What is Hollywood Regency?" I can't tell you how many times I've been asked this question. And to be quite truthful, I'm able to give a vague description of this style, but an informed, detailed answer? No.

That is why I am very excited about the October 2008 release of
Regency Redux written by design historian and writer Emily Eerdmans. The book not only describes the aesthetic of the Regency period in England (defined by a "penchant for clean lines and restrained ornament, directly inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture, combined with the swagger of the French Empire style"*), but it also explores the various modern interpretations of this style. Of course, I think it would be safe to say that Hollywood Regency is one of the most well-known variations of the Regency look. But the Regency period inspired many other designers outside of Hollywood, including Dorothy Draper, Syrie Maugham, Oliver Messel, Sybil Colefax, and others.

The Regency style continues to influence today's designers, namely Miles Redd, Geoffrey Bradfield, Jacques Grange, and most famously Kelly Wearstler (who has written the book's forward). Their work is featured in "Regency Redux" as well. With lavish photographs and informative text, this book will finally answer the question that has stumped many of us!

(* quotation taken from the book's website-
Regency Redux)

This room is stunning! Painted by none other than Rex Whistler, the Painted Room was located in Port Lympne, the home of Sir Philip Sassoon.

Top right: a view of Eltham Palace, built by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in 1936. Bottom left: A still from the 1936 film Wife vs. Secretary- a great example of Hollywood Regency. Bottom right: A photograph by the late Hoyningen-Huene.

A dressing room with a daybed by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Classical modern lamps by Jean-Michel Frank.

Image at top: Cover of "Regency Redux" with an image of The Greenbrier, decorated by Dorothy Draper

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fantasy Room

The current issue of Vogue Living has a great article on a fantasy room created for actress Rachel Weisz. Inspired by the lives of 19th century Parisian courtesans, Weisz wanted a boudoir with a salon feel. The fantasy room, created in the empty apartment of the late Fernando Sanchez, was assembled with the help of Vera Wang and designer Jessie Carrier. And what fun that must have been! The room is dominated by a gorgeous bed dripping in fabric by Michael Smith and crowned by ostrich feathers!

So, I started to think about my kind of fantasy room. Now in reality, I'm a student of the "Albert Hadley/Billy Baldwin/ Van Day Truex with some Dorothy Draper mixed in" school of design. But we are talking fantasy here, so why not go for broke. I don't see myself creating a period piece- Regency England, Belle Epoque Paris, or Renaissance Italy are all very inspiring periods, but they're not striking my fancy at this moment. And I don't want a costume drama. Although Scarlett O'Hara is a heroine to us Southern gals, I'm just not seeing hoop skirts in my fantasy room (although allowances might be made for Scarlett's green velvet curtains; they just might come in handy!).

No, my room would be planted firmly in the 20th century; actually, the 1930s to be exact. I see satin, mirror, interesting plasterwork, a bit of Chinoiserie, and moody lighting. It would have to be shot in black and white for that extra touch of drama. Oh, and I see an ermine cape thrown on the ground for that touch of devil may care attitude.

If we're talking 1930s, we have to include a Syrie Maugham room. Perhaps a satin sofa like this might be nice, although the fringe is a bit hard to stomach.

I suppose this might be my fantasy bathroom, located next to my fantasy room. (Bathroom at Gayfere House, London)

What about these unusual ropes, wooden tassels, and porcelain hands on a wall in the fantasy room? (Images from House & Garden, Conde Nast Store)

You see, nothing like a little dramatic lighting to change the tone of a room. (Room designed by Thedlow; House & Garden, August 1936)

Oh look, there I am striking a pose in my fantasy room! (Photo of late actress Gail Patrick)

(Images at top from Vogue Living, Spring/Summer '08; Annie Leibovitz photographer)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Harrison Howard and his Fanciful World

If you've heard it from me once, you've heard it a million times.... I get weak in the knees for Chinoiserie ("good" Chinoiserie, mind you.). So it was with great excitement that I learned about artist and decorative painter Harrison Howard. Howard spent the early part of his career painting murals in private homes, working for such illustrious design firms as McMillen, Inc., Irvine and Fleming, and Pamela Banker. Fortunately for us, Howard now paints beautiful watercolors and wall panels that are reminiscent of a bygone era.

Inspired by the Chinoiserie illustrations of 18th c. French artist Jean Pillement, Howard paints colorful and charming scenes of Chinese men keeping butterflies, painting sea creatures, gazing at the stars through a telescope, and fishing (words don't do them justice;
you must see them for yourself.) There is also a series of flower and shell people which reflect Howard's love of flowers, children's book illustrations, and fashion illustration. Believe me, while this series is whimsical, it is anything but sugary.

While Howard's watercolors are available for sale through
his website, you might also be interested in one of his limited edition giclee prints. I just recently purchased one of these prints (in case you're wondering, it's "The Butterfly Keeper" featured at top), and if I didn't know better I would have thought it was the actual watercolor painting itself. It's colorful and amusing, and it brings a smile to my face everytime I see it. The print was also shipped from San Diego (Howard's home) to Atlanta with great care- no damage reported! So, here are a few samples below, but there are many more on his site. I'd love to hear what your favorites are.

From the "Chinoiseries" series:

"The Crab Painter"

"The Departure"

From the "Shell and Flower People" series:

"A Friendly Meeting"

"The Looking Glass"

"The Greeting"

Howard's "Shell" Series:

"The Green Angaria"

"Yellow Pecten with Red Seaweed"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Haute Couture for the Walls

I've long admired British designer Alidad's interiors. They're luxurious, opulent, and rather grand. You almost feel like you've stepped back in time- a Russian tsarina or a French nobleman might feel quite at home in these rooms. What strikes me most, though, is his treatment of a room's walls. Not one to be content with a little paint or some simple paper, Alidad adorns walls with stamped leather, bespoke wallpaper, and verre églomisé panels. The effect is one that is enchanting and hypnotizing.

There has been much discussion lately about whether luxury is dead. In fashion, the argument is debatable. But with artistry such as Alidad's haute couture wall coverings, I don't think the same could be said for interior design.

A dining room wtih verre églomisé panels (at top is another view of the dining room)

A detail shot of a verre églomisé panel by Alidad (based on an antique design)

"Opium" bespoke wallpaper

A library with "Opium" covered walls

A dining room with "Tree of Life" stamped leather panels

A close up of "Tree of Life"

"Pomegranate" leather wall panels