Monday, September 30, 2013

Arbiters of Style: Anthony Hail and Charles Posey

Thanks to my friends Dennis and Mattie, I recently learned of an exciting upcoming auction at Christie's New York. Titled "Arbiters of Style", the October 8th auction features the collection of the late designer Anthony Hail and his partner, Charles Posey.

Hail, about whom I have written before, was an impeccable designer. His interiors, which were both elegant and immaculate, were often appointed with antiques of storied pedigrees. One of my favorite Hail-decorated houses was that of the designer himself. Located in San Francisco, the house was a rather restrained backdrop for the grand furnishings that he collected, many of which are featured in this auction.

I plan to order a catalogue of the sale as I think it will be an important addition to my design library. Even if you don't anticipate bidding on any of the lots, I think you'll still appreciate the catalogue's many photos of Hail and Posey's exquisite home.

Anthony Hail, seated to the left, with his partner, Charles Posey.

A Swedish gilt-metal and cranberry glass chandelier, late 18th c./ early 19th c.

A Louis XIV ormolu-mounted engraved brass and tortoiseshell traveling box

A North European white painted and parcel-gilt table, early 18th century.

Two Vuitton suitcases with Hail's last name and initials painted on them.  Now that's stylish.

All photos courtesy of Christie's.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A True Connoisseur

"A Choice Chateau for a Renowned Connoisseur". That was the title of a 1975 House Beautiful article on the French vacation home of the late Peter Wilson, former Chairman of the Board of Sotheby's.  The article's title really stated the obvious, because upon first glance at the accompanying photos (which you can see here,) one immediately understands that this home was indeed that of a connoisseur.  The photos capture the range and depth of Wilson's collections, which included 17th and 18th century paintings, blue and white porcelains and Imari urns, antique furniture, and many other choice pieces. 

The article made me think about the term "connoisseur".  There was a time when a number of men and women strove to be connoisseurs in such areas as food, wine, antiques, books, and art, just to name a few subjects.  There was once a much lauded magazine whose title was simply Connoisseur. (Yes, it was geared to connoisseurs.)  In my hometown department store, the late, lamented Rich's, there was the Connoisseur Gallery, which was known for its exquisite furnishings.  In fact, many Atlantans still mourn the loss of the Connoisseur Gallery. 

But, in the 21st century, are connoisseurs a dying breed?  How many people take the time to learn- really learn- about antiques or art?  Unfortunately, I think the answer is not many.  And at a time when many homeowners want their houses to be decorated instantly and with furnishings assembled entirely by somebody else, are there still people who might possess the patience and fortitude to assemble collections over years, if not decades?  And finally, would a shop like the Connoisseur Gallery be viable in today's age?  (I think we sadly the know the answer to that one!) 

Well, anyway, it's something to ponder.

Peter Wilson's chateau was built in 1790 by a leader of the French Revolution. During the 1920s, the chateau's then-owners entertained such artistic guests as Diaghilev, Cocteau, and Picasso, who created the entrance hall's mosaic floor. Also note the stone slab console table by Emilio Terry.

The drawing room featured an amalgam of 17th and 18th century paintings, 19th-century Anglo-Indian chairs, a Directoire backgammon table, and a bookcase painted in the faux bois style.

The dining room walls were painted in faux marbre. The Sheraton table boasted intricately matched wood grain.

In the study, the checked upholstery invigorated the surrounding furnishings. I also think that vignette is very handsome.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Antiques Charm

In addition to writing my book, I also styled many of its photos.  Not such an easy job, let me tell you.  When envisioning what a shot might look like on paper, I had to run through a mental check-list of considerations.  Was there enough color or contrast to give a shot depth?  Was there the right amount of visual interest so that a photo didn't die on the vine, so to speak?  And did anything look out of scale or, worse, wonky?  For the stylists out there who deal with such things on a daily basis, I express my admiration.

In one of the book's photos, my acrylic cocktail table appears with a cachepot of flowers, a red lacquered tray, and a tidy stack of magazines.  It was that stack of magazines that posed a bit of a problem.  I did not want to place a magazine on top that looked too busy or that had too much verbiage floating around on its cover.  On the other hand, the top magazine needed to have some kind of pizazz.  Otherwise, it would just look boring.

The solution?  My October 1933 issue of The Magazine Antiques.  Now tell me, how fabulous is that blue and white Staffordshire plate cover?  Not only did this magazine add an interesting note of pattern to my acrylic table, but it also spoke to my passion for vintage magazines.  In fact, go to the magazine's website and you'll find an archive which shows all of the magazine's covers throughout the decades.  Prepare to fall in love with many of the charming covers, especially those from the 1930s and 40s.  When you do, then head to eBay to find that particular issue. 

And, because I really shouldn't value a book or magazine on its cover alone, I will add that the vintage issues of The Magazine Antiques are really very interesting.  There are some terrific and informative articles, not to mention great old advertisements too.

*To pre-order my book, In with the Old: Classic Decor from A to Z, please visit one of the following websites:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble; IndieBound.

April 1932 issue, available here

July 1931 issue here

June 1934 available here

March 1932 issue here

March 1933, here

May 1933 issue

November 1931 here

September 1932, here

Friday, September 20, 2013

Decoration Redux

A few of you have asked me to show more photos from Decoration: Tradition et Renouveau. I'm certainly happy to oblige because thus far, I haven't grown weary of looking through this book. I just hope that you don't grow weary of my frequent blogging about it.

Today's pictures are great examples of that early 1970s style of decor that is most closely identified with David Hicks. It was slick, daring, and cutting-edge...well, at least for that time. Actually, much of the furnishings in these rooms still look pretty good today.


Image at top: Paris apartment decorated by French designer Jean Dive

The entry hall in Paris home designed by Dive. The doors remind me of the painted elevator doors on Bergdorf's 7th Floor.

Another dramatic looking entrance hall in Paris, this one decorated by Anita Bachmann.

A London home decorated by David Mlinaric.

A Milan apartment designed by Aldo Jacober.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rubelli and "The Walls of Venice"

Rubelli, the venerable Italian textile company, has long been known for its sumptuous fabrics that are synonymous with Italian luxury. (Remember how Chuck Chewning, Creative Director of Donghia, recently used those gorgeous Rubelli fabrics in the refurbishment of the Gritti Palace?) But what you might not know is that Rubelli has recently introduced a new wallpaper collection called "The Walls of Venice".

What is notable about this new collection is that the wallpapers are reproductions of some of Rubelli's most storied fabrics, including their "San Marcos" damask and "Vendramino" silk. By using the latest technology, Rubelli has been able to duplicate the look of these fabrics onto sturdy, washable wallcoverings, which give the illusion of being made of fabric. So, a wallcovering might appear to have the sheen of its silk fabric counterpart or the texture and depth of the cut-velvet textile which inspired it. In a way, it's kind of like trompe l'oeil wallpaper. And by reproducing these mostly traditional fabrics onto wallcoverings, Rubelli has managed to make damask, for example, look thoroughly modern, something which is no easy feat.

I think it's exciting, not to mention reassuring, to see a veteran textile firm producing innovative fabrics and wallcoverings for the twenty-first century consumer. I believe that in a design industry that has unfortunately been turned upside over the past decade, such innovation will allow Rubelli to remain a viable company for years to come.

Take a look below at just some of the papers in the new collection. Scattered among the wallcovering photos are a few photos of fabrics that I scanned from the visually enticing book, Rubelli: A Story of Silk in Venice. (These fabric photos, which lack captions, are not part of the new wallpaper collection.) I think you'll get a sense of both Rubelli's old and new ways.

P.S.- The names of the wallcoverings are the same as those of the corresponding fabrics except that the word "wall" has been added to them.

Zecchinetta Wall from The Walls of Venice collection

Vendramin Wall from The Walls of Venice collection

Principessa Kocacin Wall from The Walls of Venice collection

Chiaroscuro Wall from The Walls of Venice collection

Superwong Wall from The Walls of Venice collection

Monday, September 16, 2013

Southern Charm in London

I'm anxiously awaiting my copy House Beautiful's October issue, which is the annual "Guide to Global Style" edition.  Guest edited by Chesie Breen (the first of the magazine's series of "pop up" guest editors,) the magazine profiles stylish homes from England and Ireland to Morocco and India, just to name a few of the featured foreign locales.

One article of special interest to me is that which profiles this Rob Southern- designed townhouse in London's South Kensington neighborhood.  Built in 1860, the house is architecturally formal in style, and yet, the interiors convey a "21st century American sensibility", one which reflects the home's 21st century American owners. The home has great flair and style, and yet, it appears to be downright comfortable, too. 

Take a look below at just a few of the article's photos, but be sure to pick up a copy of the magazine to read the article in its entirety.  Oh, and by the way, I couldn't resist including a photo of the home's dining room.  The walls are covered in raspberry-colored flame stitch velvet. 

The dining room wall's are upholstered in Lee Jofa's Holland flame stitch velvet.

The living room features ample seating, including sofas covered in Ginger fabric by Donghia.

Also in the living room is this fabulous vintage Asian scroll table.

The conservatory is used for informal dining. The tablecloth is Sanderson's China Blue.

A vignette includes a Jane Austen reader.

Designer Rob Southern standing on the living room terrace.

All photos used with express permission of House Beautiful.  James Merrell, photographer.