Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Modern Bedrooms


You know how enamored I am with 1920s and 30s-era design, so I was especially excited to receive a 1939 copy of Modern Interiors: Today and Tomorrow from a friend.  Written by Emily Genauer, once Editor of the Fine and Decorative Arts Sections, The New York World-Telegram,  the book is a "critical analysis of trends" that were seen at both the 1937 Paris International Exposition of Arts and Techniques and later the 1939 New York World's Fair.  The critical analysis part might sound a little dry, but it's not thanks to both Genauer's upbeat writing style and the book's copious photos of exhibition rooms done up in modern decor.  Just like many decorator showhouse rooms of today, exhibition (or model) rooms were often fantasy concoctions of exaggerated scale, exuberant colors and pattern, and luxurious finishes.  Of course, not all exhibition rooms were quite so dazzling, with many of them being about as exciting as watching paint dry.  But it was the innovative and sometimes over-the-top rooms that often set trends in motion, most notably when the 1925 Paris Exposition introduced modern decoration to the general public.

While reading this book, it was the sheer volume and decorative range of exhibition bedrooms that piqued my interest.  There were bedrooms for women (Genauer noted that French decoration and art "has always been Woman", with 1930s-era Frenchwomen preferring "modern furniture that is a little more flamboyant and a little less functional" in their bedrooms,) as well as for the men (the author wrote that Dickens "dubbed that masculine sanctum sanctorum reserved for the busy leisure of tobacco and books and meditating on life, 'The Growlery'").  Children and toddlers were not overlooked, with some pretty spiffy model nurseries having been designed to inspire both parents and their little ones.  Even the infirm got a model room that was addressed to their needs.

If only the photos were in color, we might be able to experience seeing these rooms as the myriad exhibition visitors did back in the late 1930s.

For the women:

One of the bedrooms on display at the 1937 Paris Exposition of Arts and Techniques. Note the unusual wall shelves to the left, which held pots of feminine, cheery flowers.


No surprise here that this luxuriously-appointed bedroom appeared at the Paris Exposition. Much of the furniture, including the bed, was made of laced metal accented by glass leaves. The floral motif was continued on the rug as well as the upholstery and bed curtain.


Although I think that a man might have been comfortable sleeping in this bedroom, the decor seems meant for a woman. As striking as the decor is in this Paris Exposition room, it's the room's massive scale that is more impressive.


Yet another Paris room, this one accented in quilted satin. Genauer included this room as an example of the "dressmaker touch".


For the men:

The author deemed this masculine bedroom "one of the most effective rooms in all the Exposition."  The room was meant to be a chamber for sleeping as well as a study.


Again, at the Paris Exposition.  In this bedroom for a man, white leather was chosen to cover the beds' head and foot boards and the fronts of cabinets.  Genauer wrote that "leather somehow is a traditionally virile material."


For a couple:

This bedroom, which was exhibited at the World's Fair exhibition at Bloomingdale's, was decorated by Count Alexis de Sahknoffsky.  In typical American fashion, there were electronic bells and whistles added to the single headboard: radio and reading lights.  I have to say that I find this room rather lackluster.


The book makes no mention of where this room was exhibited.  Nevertheless, this bedroom is a mix of curvy and angular lines, thus making it appropriate for both a man and a woman.


For the children:

A child's nursery where the painted wall decorations added a dash of whimsy.


Of this French modern nursery, Genauer wrote, "No frills or furbelows bedizen this modern nursery- instead, it is decorated with simple, sturdy furniture and gay, imaginative accessories."


In Paris, a ship-themed boy's room had a bed suspended from the ceiling with rope.  The book's text notes that the bed was also sanitary as it allowed air-flow beneath the bed.  Hygiene and easy housekeeping were often selling-points of modern decoration.

For the sick and infirm:

According to Genauer, "Modern design can bring beauty even to a hospital room as this one." This room, which, as you probably guessed, was part of the Paris Exposition, would be entirely impractical in today's hospitals with their spartan (and often germy) rooms. Still, this type of room, and especially the chic metal bed, could actually make a hospital stay halfway tolerable.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not-So-Basic Bedding


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.




The "Bunny" Bedroom, named for Bunny Mellon, at Givenchy's South of France residence, Clos Fiorentina (Photo from The Givenchy Style)


A white boutis graces the bed of KK Auchincloss (World of Interiors, November 2012, Fritz von der Schulenberg photographer)


 In the South of France home of decorator Jean-Loup Daraux (Photo from Veranda, Jacques Dirand photographer)


 A quilted bed in the São Paulo apartment of Fabrizio Rollo (Elle Decor, Eric Piasecki photographer)


In the Paris residence of designer Jacques Grange (Photo from Elle Decor: The Grand Book of French Style)

Boutis are also frequently used as table cloths. (Photo from The French Touch by Daphne de Saint Sauveur)


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

Moody Blues


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:

In the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm, this shade of blue is able to stand up to the exuberance of the pavilion's decor. It also frames the Chinoiserie murals, allowing them to come into sharp focus.



Some shades of blue are stately-looking, thus making them appropriate for architecturally formal interiors. This photo shows how the Entrance Hall at Monticello appeared in the late 1960s. Today, the walls of the Entrance Hall are painted a historically accurate Whitewash, while the dado is painted in a shade of yellow-orange. Nonetheless, I find this shade of Wedgwood Blue to be attractive.




Madeleine Castaing is a designer whom I associate with blue, especially those shades that are quirky.  In the photo directly above, you can see the salle de jeu at Castaing's residence on Rue Jacob.  Above that is a photo of a Castaing-decorated apartment in which the library is awash in blue.  The underside of the arch is papered to simulate lapis lazuli.



The Paris apartment of Jansen designer Pierre Delbée has to be one of my favorite residences. The entrance hall's Louis XV-style paneling was painted in different shades of blue. The color effect gives added dimension to the small space.



According to Jeffrey Simpson's Rose Cumming: Design Inspiration, Rose Cumming's library had "jade-green walls that were washed with Prussian blue".  Here, the achieved shade of blue is murky and even rather mysterious-looking.



I believe that in the pantheon of blue rooms, couturière Jeanne Lanvin's bedroom must be one of the most memorable. Her signature shade of "Lanvin Blue" is similar to cornflower blue. It's feminine, and yet, it's not too sweet.




This Michael Greer-designed room was lavished with primary-colored decor.  Take away the red rug, and this room would look suitable for the 21st-century.




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 Glasgow Residence of Anthony Ferrie


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.



A view of the living room, dressed for dinner.  Does this image not remind you of a David Hicks interior?


Alexander Pope stands guard in one corner of the living room.



The hallway with its assemblage of marble and plaster pieces.  I'm getting a whiff of Sir John Soane here.


A view from the living room to the garden.



The master bedroom with its bounty of plaid Colefax and Fowler fabric.


The garden.

All photos from Architectural Digest, June 2006, Durston Saylor photographer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I Want to be Alone


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.



The apartment's entry hall boasted brown flocked wallpaper, whose Victorian demeanor was tempered by that modern-looking geometric patterned rug.  It was Garbo herself who designed the rug, which was one of many that she designed in conjunction with V'Soske.


Renoir's Léontine et Coco (1909) was hung above the living room's fireplace, on which Chinese porcelain was displayed.



The two photos above show just some of Garbo's collection of paintings, which included works by Bonnard and Jawlensky.


Yet another Renoir, this one titled, Enfant Assis en Robe Bleu (1889)


A painting by Jean Atlan, Composition,  and a painted chest in the master bedroom.


Garbo's closet.  The rug was designed by Garbo.


Paneling from a Swedish armoire, which Garbo disassembled and used in various guises in her bedroom.

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 Rock Lobsters



In an effort to bring pizzazz back to the dining table, I want to bring to your attention jeweler 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?