Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Everything is Coming Up Roses

I adore flowers, not to mention porcelain. And I'm particularly keen on porcelain flowers, especially those so delicately crafted by Pamela Tidwell of Vieuxtemps Porcelain. (I awake to her sublime grape hyacinth every morning.) But the little porcelain flowers that I'm featuring today lack pots. In fact, most of them lack stems, too. They beg to be cradled in one's hand, don't they?  And they seem to cry out for company, too, if the Christie's website is any indication.  Over the years, most of the 18th and 19th century flowers that they have auctioned off seem to be parts of great collections.  It's easy to understand how one ceramic floral bloom might lead to another, and another, and another.

While some of the most prominent examples of these stemless porcelain flowers were made by Sèvres (favorites of both Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour), others were made by Meissen, Chantilly, and other European porcelain makers. Even if porcelain isn't your thing, you have to admit that a profusion of these delicate flowers make for some really striking photos. They make for really striking bouquets, too.

Photo at top: An assortment of 18th and 19th century Continental porcelain flowers, which was auctioned off at Christie's last year.  The estimate was EUR 3,000 to 5,000, but the realized price was EUR 20,000.

Collection of fifty-one 18th and 19th century Continental porcelain flowers, sold at a 2012 Christie's auction.  Price realized, $8,750.

Photo via Wikimedia, source Patrick.charpiat

A collection of thirty-two 18th and 19th century Continental porcelain flowers, some with tole stems.  Sold at 2001 Christie's London auction.

Nineteen 20th century porcelain flowers, part of the Gutfreund collection that was sold at Christie's last June.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Through the years, the classic Paule Marrot fabric, Les Tulipes, has made appearances in quite a few well-appointed residences. Take, for example, the home seen above. Located in Bermuda, the house was decorated in the mid-1940s by Ruby Ross Wood, who chose the orange colorway of Les Tulipes for the living room's sofas and slipper chairs.

Wood's protege, Billy Baldwin, was also a fan of Les Tulipes, having used it on at least two occasions.


And then there was Stephen Mallory of Mallory-Tillis, who, like Wood and Baldwin before him, favored Les Tulipes, although this time the fabric was used to vibrant effect in a bedroom. (That vivid orange-red background must have been like a jolt of caffeine when viewed upon waking.)

In the 1970s, Toronto designer Robert Dirstein selected the fabric for his cozy, jewel-box library. Les Tulipes looks less floral-y when surrounded by dark painted walls, chrome, and smoked glass, don't you think?

Paule Marrot's tulips also figured prominently in the living room of this Otto Zenke-designed home in County Clare, Ireland, although here they were joined by irises and daffodils.  This Marrot print is known as Guermantes, which is still available today through Brunschwig & Fils.

In fact, Guermantes' most recent appearance was in a home decorated by Miles Redd and David Kaihoi, which appears in the current issue of Architectural Digest.  This house was located in the Bahamas rather than Bermuda, but the effect was much like it was in the Ruby Ross Wood-decorated house.  Cheery, upbeat, and fresh as a, well, daisy.  (Bjorn Wallander, photographer.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Up, Up and Away

So, what do we think of balloon shades?

I ask myself this question whenever I ride in a taxi down Park Avenue, because as you might have noticed, there are quite a few apartments that have windows festooned with balloon shades.  In fact, there was a time when balloon shades made appearances quite often in both homes and in shelter magazines. But today, they are rarities, perhaps owing to the fact that they require expensive fabric yardage and labor.  Then again, their scarcity might be explained by the gradual paring down in decor that has occurred over the past few decades.  Whatever the reason, I do think that there are some balloon shades that still have appeal today.  (Take a look at those by John Stefanidis, seen both above and below.  He did an excellent job designing balloon shades.)

So, what do you think? Blast from the past? Or classic window treatment?

The three photos above show rooms decorated by John Stefanidis.

In the home of Manuel Canovas

Room by Mark Hampton

David Mlinaric decorated the three rooms above.

A room by Keith Irvine. Appropriate that the chapter title reads, "Park Avenue Perfection".

Photos: #1-3, Rooms by John Stefanidis; #4 from The French Touch by daphne de Saint Sauveur; #5 from Mark Hampton by Duane Hampton; #6-8 from Mlinaric on Decorating by Mirabel Cecil and David Mlinaric; #9 from Keith Irivne: A Life in Decoration by Keith and Chippy Irvine.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Modern Venetian Style

I watched the movie Top Hat on Turner Classics the other night for what has to be the twentieth time.  Of all of the Fred and Ginger movies, this one has to be my favorite for two reasons.  First, there is that silly little Irving Berlin song, The Piccolino, with its catchy lyrics like "Dance with your bambino, To the strains of the catchy Piccolino, Drink your glass of vino, and when you've had your plate of Scallopino..."  (I swear, that song will get stuck in your head for days.)  And the other reason that I adore this movie is its fantasy Venetian setting with fanciful gondolas floating in glamorous canals, topped by bright white gingerbread bridges.  Yes, there is something about Venice that seems to inspire over the top, theatrical decor.

Take, for example, this Manhattan dining, which was in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Parry Kennard.  According to the 1934 House & Garden issue in which it was featured, the dining room, which had white walls and ceiling and a black and white linoleum floor, was decorated in the "modern Venetian" style. (No mention was made of the room's designer.)  So, what made it Venetian?  Well, a mirror-topped table, mirrored panels above each window, and a Venetian mirror all lent a shimmery note to the room.  Venetian glass sculptural pieces dotted the space, perhaps intended as a note of authenticity.  And the room's doors were supposedly Venetian, too.  They were painted brown with gold monograms and were fitted with old, wavy mirror.

But my favorite decoration in the room has to be its dado, which was painted with architectural motifs.  This touch of pastiche looks like it came straight out of the Venice featured in Top Hat.  I don't know if it's modern or if it's Venetian, but it looks like just the room in which to drink your vino and eat your Scallopino.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dining with the Decorators

It seems a good time for another tablesetting post, especially considering that  these photos might be the closest I get to an elaborately set table for the next month or so.  Who knew that summer would turn out to be so busy and that I wouldn't have time for any proper entertaining?

The photos seen here, which ran in the September 1977 issue of Architectural Digest, feature the stylishly-appointed dining tables of top designers including Angelo Donghia, Albert Hadley, Thomas Britt, and a few others.  Overlook the not-so-great photographic quality and study these tables, because I think you'll find that most of them look pretty swell even today. 

(I do hate to say it, but the exception might be the table set by J.P. Mathieu.  Those dining ottomans are best left in the late 1970s.)  

Photos at top: In the living room of Donghia's New York townhouse, a table was set with a Haitian cotton cloth and striped napkins, antique crystal soup bowls, Wedgwood plates, and Chinese pear boxes, which held condiments.  The table's undercloth was antique, while the raw silk slipper chairs were by Donghia/Martin Associates.  Donghia was a master editor, and I think this table sums up his style perfectly.

Los Angeles designer Val Arnold set a luncheon table on the patio. His table was set with a terracotta-colored felt cloth, 19th century crystal plates, antique salt shakers, and Gorham flatware.

Albert Hadley also set a luncheon table, this one located in his Manhattan apartment. The ceramic plates were custom made, while the French pitcher in the form of a female was 18th century. Note the classic Van Day Truex-designed Baccarat decanter.

Don't you just love Thomas Britt's tortoiseshell table? If any of you have a boring brown wood dining table (reproduction, not antique), consider having it decoratively painted in the spirit of Britt's table. Those crystal plates, by the way, were designed by Rose Cumming.

Photographed at the San Francisco home of designer Billy Gaylord, a table was set with guest trays wrapped in antique Chinese texts. My favorite accent is that mass of green onions, placed on a white platter.  That head of cabbage in the foreground is pretty chic, too.

The table that unfortunately didn't age as well as the others. In the home of Pepe Mathieu, an acrylic and glass table was adorned with Japanese gold lacquer chargers, Chinese Lowestoft plates, and French Richelieu flatware.

All photos from Architectural Digest, September 1977.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Peter Coats at Albany

I wasn't familiar with Peter Coats until I recently saw a 1960s-era photo of his charming English country cottage. A little digging around on the internet turned up that he was once Gardening Editor of House & Garden (the British edition), an author of numerous gardening books plus two autobiographies, a garden designer, and a one-time paramour of Chips Channon. All of those roles combined make for one interesting character in the annals of design and gardening.

When I recently featured Coats's Essex country house drawing room on my blog, Luke Honey, antiquarian and blogger (see more about Luke in the post below), mentioned that Coats's set at Albany in London was once featured in an old House & Garden book by Robert Harling. I took a stab and purchased a copy of House & Garden Book of Interiors (by, yes, Harling and published in 1962), and sure enough, there were photos of Coats's city flat.

For those of you who are intrigued by Albany and its dwellers, you might be interested to know that Coats inhabited A1, which had once been the flat of Mr. William Stone. (The late Stone at one time owned almost half of Albany, if you can imagine.) Coats's set spanned three floors, with the hall, drawing room, study, and bath on the ground floor, the master bedroom and bathroom above that, and a dining room, kitchen, guest bedroom, and bathroom in the basement. All that said, though, the set was not terribly large. Only the drawing room was spacious.

From what I've read on the internet, Coats died in 1990 at age 80. Though it seems his achievements are little known here in the States (that's an assumption on my part), his legacy lives on in the books he penned, including Flowers in History, The Gardens of Buckingham Palace, and his two autobiographies, Of Generals and Gardens and Of Kings and Cabbages.  They might well be worth looking into. 

In the ground floor hall, both the walls and carpet were green, while the blue curtains were trimmed in yellow and black saddler's braid. The gilt wood chandelier was once located in William Pitt's study at Chatham House.

The largest room in the home, the drawing room was once part of Lord Melbourne's library. (It was Lord Melbourne who built Melbourne House, which, when it was later converted to flats, became known as Albany.)

The study, also on the ground floor, was more contemporary-looking in appearance. The walls, by the way, were raspberry red.

The basement floor dining room had an arched ceiling, a vestige of the room's former use as a cellarage. Coats had the walls and ceiling painted in faux marbre.

Coats hired artist Martin Newell to paint a trompe l'oeil classical doorway on the wall outside of the dining room window.

Luke Honey

I first knew Luke Honey as the London-based blogger behind The Greasy Spoon, an always-interesting food blog that often includes posts on 1960s and 1970s-era cuisine and cookbooks. (As you can imagine, those posts are my very favorite.) However, Luke also recounts recipes and dishes that both he and his wife have prepared in their recently renovated London kitchen, something that might appeal to those of you who prefer to read about current cookery.

What I only learned somewhat recently is that Luke is also a noted antiquarian, whose background includes stints at such auction houses as Phillips, Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, and Bonhams. Although Luke's specialty is antique chess sets, backgammon boards, and antique games, he recently ventured into other areas of decorative arts and fine art, all of which can be viewed on Luke's new website, Luke Honey.

On the website, you'll find all kinds of interesting things like the aforementioned chess sets, including a mid-19th c. Indian example carved from ivory.  There is also 18th century blue and white china, out-of-print books, vintage bibelots from Asprey, a screenprint by Martin Battersby, and many other treasures. And fortunately for those of us who live in the U.S., Luke ships internationally.

When you get a moment, do check out Luke's website. And be sure, too, to check out the website's blog, which includes recent posts about Phrenologist's busts, David Bowie's yen for chess, and the garden of David Hicks.

As frustrated as I sometimes get with the internet, the beauty of it is that you get to meet all kinds of interesting people, like Luke, who have unique and varied interests.

An Indian ivory chess set, c. 1840, Delhi

Martin Battersby, "Archaic Smile" screenprint

"The Hunt", mounted wooden lithographic figures, c. 1910.

An Asprey & Co. sea urchin match striker