Thursday, August 28, 2014
For years, I had seen photos of boutis, those Provençal quilts that are often made of solid-colored cotton or silk, but I never thought much about them. Certainly they always looked charming, but I assumed that boutis were a little too countrified for my home. But then, a few years ago, I saw a photo of M. Givenchy's guest bedroom at Clos Fiorentina, his house in the South of France, in which the bed was dressed in a pretty deep-blue boutis. Any country-ness was tempered by the smart-looking fabric used throughout the room. And then there was KK Auchincloss's Paris bedroom, featured a few years ago in World of Interiors, where a crisp white boutis was draped over her bed. Givenchy? KK Auchincloss? Maybe it was time for me to reconsider the boutis.
Although in theory, boutis might be better suited to country houses where rustic charm is the order of the day, there really isn't any reason why you can't use one in a city home. I think that it's all about context. If you provide a polished backdrop for these quilts, they seem to take on a bit of polish themselves. And silk boutis, especially those in urbane colors, would look downright smashing in a jewel-box city bedroom.
Of course, I might be a little prejudiced at the moment because I'm in a quilted state of mind (so much so that I recently bought pretty matelassé bedding from Peacock Alley.) Then again, it might be high time to reconsider the humble yet immensely charming boutis.
Photo at top: A pair of boutis, which are made of 19th-c. pigeon-breast silk, in the home of designer and antique dealer Michel Biehn (Photo from Elle Decor: The Grand Book of French Style)
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Have you seen House Beautiful's new look? If you have read the September issue, then you know that House Beautiful has been redesigned, and it looks terrific. HB has long been known for its coverage of color in interiors, and the new design emphasizes this focus. Color now plays a starring role, with the first section of the magazine being devoted to it. Each issue will open with the color that HB loves for that particular month, and for September, that color is Indigo, a shade that "knows no borders and has many different moods."
Blue, with its enticing range of shades, is a particular favorite of mine, so much so that I enveloped my living room in powder blue, teal, and peacock blue. And although I don't currently have any touches of indigo in my home, I do appreciate the shade's attitude. Indigo implies depth, soul, and fortitude, at least to me anyway. I attempted to compile a list of my favorite old and historic rooms where indigo was the defining color, and truth be told, I couldn't think of too many. I expanded the list to include other moody and atmospheric hues of blue, and here is what I came up with:
Frankly, this is not one of my favorite blue rooms. However, it's interesting to note that in an effort to create a blue backdrop in this room, designer John FitzGibbons stained the wall's rough wooden boards a deep shade of blue.
Friday, August 22, 2014
The heat is on, both physically and euphemistically. It's mid-August, the temperature in Atlanta is close to 100 degrees, and I have not yet completed one of my goals for the summer: organizing my massive collection of magazine clippings. The old system really wasn't working, so I am in the throes of figuring out a new system before my end-of-the-summer deadline. The good news is that while I'm in this organizational frenzy, I am finding old clippings that I had either forgotten about or assumed were lost, like the 2006 Architectural Digest article, seen here, that featured the Glasgow residence of prints dealer Anthony Ferrie and his partner.
According to the article, Ferrie submitted his home to the magazine as part of an AD challenge, which must have been a "show us your home"-type contest. I can just imagine that the AD editors were ecstatic to have received an entry that was so sophisticated and pulled-together. The decorative threads that run throughout the house include Neoclassicism as well as the work of Billy Baldwin, David Hicks, and Stéphane Boudin of Jansen. In fact, look at the photo of the living room below and tell me that it doesn't remind you of a David Hicks interior. The cherry on top, though, has to be the master bedroom, which is both pleasantly crisp thanks to the use of a Colefax and Fowler plaid fabric and soothing, too, because of the soft blue color palette.
Stay tuned for more articles culled from my clipping files. In the meantime, enjoy the tour of this polished gem of a residence.
All photos from Architectural Digest, June 2006, Durston Saylor photographer.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
A few months ago, I finally got around to reading Cecil Beaton's autobiographical Memoirs of the 40s. At the risk of offending any Beaton devotees, I confess that the book got on my nerves. Specifically, it was Beaton's chronicle of his obsessive love affair with Greta Garbo that I found to be most tiresome, if for no other reason than Beaton kept up the Garbo mania for more or less the entire book.
In Beaton's diaries, Garbo is portrayed as an enigmatic figure, a quality for which she was and still is well known. And, if Beaton's reminiscences of Garbo are to be believed, she could also be quite manipulative too. Not knowing very much about Garbo other than her famous movie line, "I want to be alone", and her penchant for privacy, I can't say if Beaton's portrait of Garbo is faithful to the woman or not. More research on my part is needed.
However, long before I read Beaton's book, I was familiar with Garbo's reputation for having very good taste. I had heard that her Manhattan apartment was beautifully decorated, which was confirmed over the weekend when I found photos of her apartment in the April 1992 issue of Architectural Digest. The glitz and glamour of Hollywood seemed left far behind, and in its place was an elegance and refinement that was thoroughly Continental. Garbo surrounded herself with French and Swedish furniture, Chinese porcelain, and, most notably, a fabulous collection of paintings, which included works by Renoir, Bonnard, Delaunay, and Jawlensky.
For all of the home's elegance, though, warmth and comfort did not appear to be lacking. It seems that Garbo had innate talent when it came to decorating, furnishing her home with her blue-chip pieces in a way that was neither showy nor pretentious. The result was an apartment that looked both very personal and incredibly inviting.
All photos from Architectural Digest, April 1992, photos of apartment by Fritz von der Schulenburg; photo at top part of the MGM Collection.
Kara Ross's debut collection for the home, which is aptly named Rock Lobster. Embellished with pearl resin and crystals, Ross's bejeweled crustacean hark back to a time when noted hostesses often decorated their dining tables with porcelains, objects, and jeweled bibelots. The fact that these rock lobsters have flexible legs and antennas means that they can be used in myriad table settings. Already, they have appeared in a trompe l'oeil table setting in Ross's store window as well as on her own dining table in the Hamptons. (See photos below.)
The lobsters are available exclusively through Ross's Madison Avenue boutique, and additions to the collection are planned for the future. In a world dominated by monastic tableware, don't you think it's time to treat our dining tables to some well-deserved whimsy and pizzazz?
Monday, August 11, 2014
Look at any book on elegant French interiors, and you'll likely find a number of rooms where the color green dominates. Not any old green, mind you, but sumptuous shades like bottle green, forest green, and emerald. These rich greens typically aren't introduced into a room through anything as mundane as wall paint. Instead, they appear in the guise of luxurious fabrics, such as velvet, silk, and damask. And I can't forget to mention lamp shades. In handsome French homes, many a lamp is adorned with a shade made of splendid green silk. It's enough to make you pea green with envy, no?
I most associate Hubert de Givenchy with these sophisticated shades of green. Peruse the various rooms of his Paris hôtel particulier, and you'll see that M. de Givenchy seems drawn to green velvets as well as green silk lamp shades. And Henri Samuel and Alberto Pinto, those late-yet-still-lauded French interior designers, often used green in their design work, namely emerald velvet.
So what is the attraction to these dignified shades of green? Well, taken at face value, they can be quite attractive. But I also suspect that deep-bodied greens, especially in the form of velvets and silks, are often chosen because they recall lavish nineteenth-century decor, which remains an exemplar of elegance still today. I have included an image of an early 1860s watercolor, Living Room in Second Empire Style, which depicts a well-appointed room that is awash in green fabrics. It really doesn't look much different from some of the recently taken photos featured below, a testament to the classic good looks of those luxurious greens.
Image #1 and #2 from The Givenchy Style; #3 and #4 from The Finest Houses of Paris; #5 and #6 from The Best of House & Garden; #7 from Table Settings by Alberto Pinto; #8-#13 from The Grand Book of French Style; #14 and #17 from Private Paris; #15 and #16 from Parisian Interiors; #18 from An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration by Mario Praz.