Monday, February 20, 2017
"Everywhere we find that modern life is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The golden egg was the stark beauty of individuality, and the goose was the social conditions that allowed for it." So wrote Cecil Beaton in his book, The Glass of Fashion, describing the modern (as in 1954) problem of the "failure of the personal". Sixty-three years later, this observation seems just as canny, especially at a time when most people strive hard to behave like their peers, dress like their peers, and decorate their homes like their peers- the failure of the personal writ large. Could this be why, in an age of increasingly homogenized taste, so many of us find the homes of Cecil Beaton to be so refreshing?
Throughout his adult life, Beaton conjured up interiors that assumed any number of personalities, the most constant one being that of the Edwardian dandy. His early efforts at decorating seemed, at times, trying too hard to impress with its originality, while his later homes feel more aesthetically self-assured and settled. But no matter its style or success, a Beaton interior was more often than not singular and, subsequently, memorable. His English country pile, Reddish House in Broad Chalke, was no exception, as you can see in these photos, shot by the homeowner himself sometime in the 1950s. Although I have read much about Reddish (and I'm sure you have, too), I'm not familiar with some of these images, which I found in an old issue of Connaissance des Arts, although I believe they were originally published in Country Life.
Claret-colored velvet, floral-strewn chintz, and Edwardian light fixtures are just some of Reddish's more notable decorative flourishes. None of it terribly popular with homeowners today, and that's just what makes these interiors noteworthy. May individualism eventually win the day.
Monday, February 13, 2017
The Georges Geffroy book, about which I wrote last week, has prompted me to revisit my paltry collection of fifties-era issues of the French arts and design magazine, Connaissance des Arts. Dipping back into these magazines, I became reacquainted with a series of advertisements that have long intrigued me: those of J. Cellier, a Paris-based antiques restorer. What initially caught my eye were the ads' black-and-white photographs of gilt sunbursts. (You know how I love a decorative sunburst.) Reading the ads' text, I came to understand that this restorer specialized in Louis XIV-era sunbursts (the motif that was, of course, the symbol of the Sun King), though gilding and lacquer seemed to have rounded out the firm's expertise. Looking at these ads in 2017, when the audience for antiques sadly seems to be shrinking, I find it remarkable that a restorer, one who, perhaps, could have even been a dealer in these wares, once had the luxury- not to mention the depth of knowledge- to specialize in such niche forms of the decorative arts. But then, looking at the magazine's other ads, I see that such specific concentrations were not unusual, but, to some degree, standard practice. In fact, one Paris antiquaire advertised its expertise in wooden cherubs! My, how times have changed.
I've Googled "J. Cellier" but have been unable to unearth much information about this firm. Did the business trace its roots back to Jerome Cellier, an eighteenth-century clock-maker? How long was J. Cellier in existence? And, was it the go-to sunburst restorer for French connoisseurs? Unless you can share any information, I may never know. Nevertheless, now seems like a good time to indulge in some photos of the always-radiant and always-pleasing sunburst.
Monday, February 06, 2017
I've spent the last few days engrossed in a book that has become a new favorite: Georges Geffroy: 1905-1971, Légende du Grande Décor Français. Geffroy, the high-style French decorator known for his elegant touch, was, during the mid-twentieth century, the ne plus ultra of French decorators, boasting an impressive roster of clients that included café society stalwarts, such as Daisy Fellowes and Gloria Guinness, and couturiers, like Christian Dior and Marcel Rochas. (You'll find photos of their Geffroy-designed homes below.) Study a Geffroy-designed interior, and you'll see what true luxury is: fabrics by Prelle and Le Manach (including the latter's famous Velours Léopard, which Geffroy seemed to have employed quite frequently), eighteenth-century furniture by Georges Jacob, and Savonnerie rugs. No one-trick pony, Geffroy employed color in sophisticated and unexpected ways. Some interiors are awash in clear, vivid hues, while others are grounded by chic, muted shades of brown, camel, and drab.
Today, Geffroy's work is not as well-known as that of other star decorators, likely because he catered to a rarefied and thus small group of people. But to those of us who take our design inspiration from the past, Geffroy ranks up there with the better-known design greats. In fact, I often refer to Geffroy's work when making design decisions in my own home.
Now, back to the book...if you are a fan of those great mid-century French design books such as the Connaissance des Arts series, Decoration, as well as The Finest Rooms in France, then you will likely cherish this book. Yes, as the title suggests, the book's text is in French, which means that those of us not entirely fluent in the language might find reading the text a challenge. However, in the vein of "a picture is worth a thousand words", if you study only the book's photos, you'll still gain so much. How can you not be inspired by such gorgeous and immensely stylish interiors as these? One last note- if you already own the Connaissance des Arts series, you will likely recognize some of the photos found in Georges Geffroy. However, I don't find this a detraction. In fact, I'm happy to finally have Geffroy's work compiled into one book.