Monday, April 17, 2017

How They Decorated

The cover of P.Gaye Tapp's new book
features a delightful 1937 watercolor by Cecil Beaton
depicting Harrison and Mona Williams in their
Palm Beach, Florida, living room
decorated by Syrie Maugham.
P. Gaye Tapp, author of the blog Little Augury, has just released a wonderful new book HOW THEY DECORATED, INSPIRATION FROM GREAT WOMEN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.  It is not a book about Lady Decorators, but about the women whose personal style influenced interior design, sometimes working with a design legend, but other times working on their own.
Evangeline Bruce's Georgetown townhouse is one of three
residences discussed.  Here, the Drawing Room features a
pair of Gothick chairs that had belonged to decorating
legend Nancy Lancaster.
Photo: Horst P. Horst, Architectural Digest.
The book is organized into four sections.  "Legacy Styles" features a chapter each on Lady Diana Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Louise de Vilmovin, and Sybil Connoly.  "In the Grand Manner" presents the interior of the homes of Helene Rochas, Gabrielle van Zuylen, Mona Harrison von Bismark, and Pauline de Rothschild.  "Fashionably Chic" shows the residences of the fashion plates Babe Paley, Elsa Schiaperelli, Fleur Cowles, and Pauline Trigere.  And the final section, "Unconventional Eye" discusses Bunny Mellon, Dominique de Menil, Georgia O'Keffe, and Lesley Blanch.

The Dining Room in the Paris home of Helene Rochas
is arranged for intimate comfort with elegant fauteuils
that formerly belonged to the style-setter Carlos de Beistegui.
The trompe-l'oeil panel over the mantel was painted by
Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Photo: Pascal Hinous, Architectural Digest.
Charlotte Moss, a successful interior designer in her own right, provides an insightful Introduction.  The text is generously supplemented with an invaluable cache of drawings and reference photographs, plus delightful watercolor illustrations by Jimmie Henslee created especially for the book.
The Grand Salon of Elsa Schiaparelli's
eighteen-room apartment on rue de Berri,
Paris, exhibits a folding screen
commissioned from Christian Berard.
Photo:Hans Wild, The Life Picture Collectiion/Getty Images
The Devoted Classicist has read the book cover-to-cover and throroughly enjoyed it.  All interested in the history of decorative arts are sure to appreciate HOW THEY DECORATED published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., the source of all images used here.
The Anteroom between the Living Room and Dining Room
of Bunny Mellon's New York City townhouse provided
a transition space between the two decorating schemes.
Photo: Michael Dunne, The Oak Spring Garden Foundation.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Devoted Classicist Speaks

A Garden Room created by John Tackett Design
during a renovation in University Park, Dallas
It is hoped that all in the Baltimore area can join me on the evening of April 12, 2017, at Evergreen Museum & Library, 6:30 pm.  John J. Tackett will speak on the topic of the legendary firm Parish-Hadley and how it served as a training ground for me and dozens of other interior designers and architects.  I will also discuss current trends in residential architecture and design and take audience questions on the subject -- with cocktails and a light supper -- all in the beautiful Bakst Theatre in historic Evergreen Mansion, 4545 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21210.  The event is part of The House Beautiful Lecture Series of Johns Hopkins University.  Advance registration is required.  For more information and tickets, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Best Wishes for Happy Holidays 2016

Christmas card by John J. Tackett
for The Devoted Classicist blog.

The Devoted Classist has been happily occupied by a large John Tackett Design architectural project and has not found the time to post here as often as he would like.  But there are still many topics in the cobwebs that will be realized here in the future.  In the meantime, you can also follow @thedevotedclassicist on Instagram.  Many thanks, Devoted Readers, for your loyal following, and best wishes for the holidays.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Travellers: Billy Baldwin's Finials for the Lawrences

The apartment of Harding and Mary Wells Lawrence
decorated by Billy Baldwin.
1970s interior design is more influential in today's work that many of you readers of The Devoted Classicist might realize.  The concept of a mix of antiques with sleek custom furniture, contemporary art, geometric carpets, and architectural artifacts is universally championed today as the Latest Big Thing in interior design.  The formula, however, is a classic that was perfected over forty years ago by legendary decorator Billy Baldwin.

Mary Wells and Harding Lawrence were terrific clients of Baldwin.  Mary Wells was an advertising genius who was introduced some of the most memorable ad campaigns of the twentieth century and her husband was the CEO of Braniff Airlines which experienced phenomenal expansion with a chic make-over in the late 1970s.  Between the two of them, both workaholics who combined business with pleasure in entertaining their contacts, they associated with the elite movers and shakers of the day.  Billy Baldwin decorated beautiful homes for them.  Their Dallas mansion was a landmark and their Riviera villa was among the most stylish ever.  (See The Devoted Classicist's series of posts on the villa, La Fiorentina).

A room in their large New York City apartment is shown in the lead image, and like the other residences, it has provided design inspiration to this day.  A bold striped dhurrie provides a base for arrangements of comfortable upholstered seating and a scattering of Warren Platner side tables.  Contemporary paintings and a Moroccan mirror over a mirrored interpretation of a Louis Seize chimneypiece blend with masterfully with Baldwin's expertise.  But perhaps the most memorable element in this room -- to my eye anyway -- was a pair of intricately detailed architectural finials on simple, white hexagonal stands.
It was a delightful surprise to see these finials, with their stands, show up again.  They again flank a fireplace and provide the primary architectural detailing in a room decorated by Charleston designer Amelia Handegan.  This undeniably fresh and up-to-date room appears on the dust jacket of the new book AMELIA HANDEGAN ROOMS.   The book will be released October 16, 2016, but can be ordered now at a discount by clicking on the title.

Remember that an appreciation of the iconic rooms of the past can be a valuable lesson in architecture and interior design today.  Search this blog to see other examples in The Travellers series.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Arabella Worsham's Gilded Age Dressing Room

A detail of the vanity cabinet door
by George Alfred Schastey
for Arabella Worsham's Dressing Room.
Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Devoted Classicist is a long-time fan of museum period rooms.  For a time, these installations had fallen out of favor due to their cost and space required for a successful display.  But it is heartening to a Traditionalist to see a major institution step forward with a new installation with artifacts that have languished in storage for years:  The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A model of the Worsham residence
4 West 54th Street, New York City.
Photo by John J. Tackett for
The Devoted Classicist blog.
Commissioned by Arabella Worsham (later Huntington) as part of a comprehensive interior renovation of an existing brownstone townhouse, the room is a rare surviving Gilded Age commission from now-little known cabinetmaker/decorator George A. Shastey in 1881.  The room comes from Worsham's house at 4 West 54th Street, a property that also included the two flanking lots; the site is now the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.

Alexandre Cabanel's 1882 portrait of
Arabella Worsham, collection of
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Photo by John J. Tackett for
The Devoted Classicist.
Arabella "Belle" Worsham's background is a bit sketchy and possibly 'sanitized' to say the least.  Born Arabella Duvall Yarrington in Union Springs, Alabama, around 1850, she grew up in Richmond, Virginia, a tough but bustling town during the Civil War years.  Her widowed mother owned a boarding house and Arabella was said to have married John Archer Worsham when she was 18 or 19 and soon widowed before having a son.  But married or not, J.A.Worsham was already married and very much alive, owning a gambling card parlor in Richmond frequented by Collis B. Huntington leading up to his 1869 purchase of the eastern leg of his railroad empire which stretched coast to coast.  Although not a drinker or smoker, Huntington loved to gamble and he had an eye for young women although he was married with a wife living on Park Avenue at 38th Street, New York.  Soon Arabella, her son, several siblings and her mother were installed in Manhattan where they bought several properties financed by Huntington but always in Arabella's name, leading up to the purchase of this house.

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room.
Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Arabella had the house gutted to the exterior shell and set about having luxurious interiors installed in the latest taste, with expense not being an issue.  The house was one of the first private residences to have a passenger elevator, just one of many innovations for the time.

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room.
Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Dressing Room is a high-style example of Aestheticism, a combination of European Renaissance, Islamic, Japanese and Modern styles mixed to create a luxurious private environment for the lady of the house. Satinwood and amaranth (or dark purpleheart) are used to create intricate marquetry in geometric patterns and motifs such as sewing implements and hairdressing tools as well as jewelry plus carved detailing with cherub heads, swags and garlands.

The Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room.
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A wide, marble-topped lavatory is placed beneath a massive mirror and a secondary gaslight fixture.  The upper walls are covered in teal wallpaper stenciled in gold and silver quatrefoils that shimmer in the subtle lighting.

Built-in fittings in the Worsham-Rockefeller
Dressing Room as installed at
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo by John J. Tackett for
The Devoted Classicist.
No detail was left without consideration.  Even the ceiling had elaborately planned decoration.  The silver toiletry set includes combs, hand mirrors, scissors, a needle case and a darning egg.  All the elements add up to create a single Gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art.

The ceiling of the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room
as installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
Huntington's wife Elizabeth died in 1889 after a long bout with cancer, allowing Huntington to marry Belle and adopt her son Archer; the ceremony was performed in the home with Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, officiating.  They moved into Huntington's Park Avenue house (and then building a house in 1893 at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street on the site now occupied by Tiffany & Company) and the house was sold fully furnished to John D. and Laura Spelman Rockefeller.  The furnishings and decorations were kept intact until his death in 1937 when parts were distributed to museums before being demolished in 1938.  A Moorish-style Smoking Room was given to the Brooklyn Museum and this Dressing Room and adjacent (Master) Bedroom were given to the Museum of the City of New York.  After it became clear that the latter could no longer display the rooms, the bedroom was given to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and this dressing room was given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Anabella Worsham's toilette set
as displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
After Collis Huntington's death, Belle inherited one-third of his estate, $150 million (about $3.1 billion today) making her one of the wealthiest women in the country.  Never really part of New York Society, she bought a 14 bedroom house in Paris that underwent a complete renovation and became even more interesting in collecting art.  Thirteen years later, she married her late husband's nephew, Henry E. Huntington, who had built a lavish estate in San Marino, California, some say to woo her.  But she did not care for the area and never spent more than a month there for the rest of her life.  That estate is now the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens.  Arabella Worsham Huntington is buried in the San Marino garden in a classical mausoleum designed by architect John Russell Pope.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Susan Gutfreund Lists Apartment for $120 Million

Susan Gutfreund at the doors to her
Winter Garden room at 834 Fifth Avenue.
Photo: Veranda
Considered by many to be Manhattan's most luxurious co-op apartment, Susan Gutfreund's duplex at 834 Fifth Avenue has hit the market with a listing price of $120 million.
The Entrance Hall of the Gutfreund apartment
at 834 Fifth Avenue.
Photo: NYSD.
The widow of John Gutfreund, dubbed "The King of Wall Street" and former CEO of Saloman Brothers investment bank until a trading scandal forced his resignation in 1991, is apparently looking to down-size after her husband's death last month.
Floor plans of the Gutfreund apartment
from the Brown Harris Stevens listing, April, 2016.
Image: BHS
The apartment was decorated with the guidance of the legendary designer Henri Samuel whose influence can be seen especially in the Winter Garden, a reception room at the southwest corner of the entrance level.
The room known as the Winter Garden
in the Gutfreund apartment.
Photo: NYSD
The building is one of Manhattan's most prestigious addresses.  Designed by architect Rosario Candela in 1929, it was completed in 1931.
Views of the Winter Garden, Library, Living Room,
and Gallery Entrance Hall in the Gutfreund
apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue.
Image: The Real Deal
There are twenty four apartments on 16 floors with luxurious, well thought out, floor plans.  It is thought that the building's board requires that sales are all cash; no mortgages are allowed.
The Dining Room of the Gutfreund apartment
at 834 Fifth Avenue, NYC.
Photo: NYSD
More photos from the 2008 New York Social Diary post may be seen here.  The listing by Brown Harris Stevens may be viewed here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Notable Homes: Bernard Boutet de Monvel at 11 passage de la Visitation

"Autoportrait Place Vendome" 1932.
Lot 25, Sale PF1639.
Image via Sotheby's.
Those who admire small but chic homes are familiar with La Folie Monvel, the Palm Beach pavilion that was the result of the collaboration of artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel and architect Maurice Fatio.  (If not, see here, and about his Moulin de Launoy here.).  The Florida pavilion was sold in 1949, just months before Boutet de Monvel's death in a plane crash, as the artist wanted to return to his home in Paris after WWII.

The Paris residence of Bernard Boutet de Monvel.
Image via Sotheby's.
The early 19th century hotel particulier in the heart of the Faubourg Saint Germain was bought by Bernard Boutet de Monvel in 1924.  He called on his friend Louis Süe, the artist-architect-decorator co-founder of Compagnie des arts francais, with whom he had participated with on the residence of Jean Patou, to collaborate on the transformation of the interior to reflect Boutet de Monvel's aesthetic, a combination of the neo-classical tradition and the modernity of Art Deco.

The staircase in the Boutet de Monvel residence
at 11 passage de la Visitation, Paris.
Image via Sotheby's.
After  Bernard Boutet de Monvel's death, his wife and daughter continued to live in the house.  Almost no changes were made until just recently; the painter's grandchildren sold the art and furnishings of the mansion at an auction at Sotheby's, Paris, April 5 & 6, 2016.  The catalog with sales results may be seen here.

The Entrance Hall of the Boutet de Monvel residence.
Image via Sotheby's.
In the Entrance Hall, a phonograph cabinet, Lot 71 in the sale, painted by Bernard Boutet de Monvel is an example of his taste in modern classicism.  Above, a Charles X period barometer, Lot 68, is decorated with verre églomisé dates from circa 1830.

A writing table by Jean-Michel Frank.
Image via Sotheby's.
An ebonized writing table with an inset leather top, Lot 75, is branded and numbered by Jean-Michel Frank as "made in France JMFrank, Chanaux and co" 19086,

The Dining Room of the
Boutet de Monvel residence, Paris.
Photo AD France via Sotheby's.
The octagonal dining table, Lot 78, was made for the octagonal dining room to a design by Bernard Boutet de Monvel about 1927.  Two others were made from this same design, one for Mrs. A Steward Walker of Southampton, and one for Mr. William K. Vanderbilt, II.

Bernard de Monvel's drawing of the dining room
"Salle a manger de hotel particulier de l'artiste"
for Harper's Bazaar, 1927.
Image via Sotheby's
The Murano glass chandelier, circa 1920, was grouped with a Venetian wall light as Lot 82.

Dining chairs designed by Boutet de Monvel.
Image via Sotheby's.
The set of 12 dining chairs was designed circa 1920 to 1925 by Boutet de Monvel for his previous residence on Rue Monsieur.  Listed as Lot 77, they are made of ebonized wood with tapestry seat covers in various fruit motifs.  One of the chairs can be seen in an important portrait of the artist's wife, Delfina Boutet de Monvel (from the Edwards family of Chili).

The Grand Salon in the Boutet de Monvel
residence, Paris.
Image via Sotheby's.
With its black lacquer papier maché suite of Napoleon III furniture, the Grand Salon has more of a feel for Parisian middle class comfort than some of the more high style spaces in the house.

A black silk sofa, circa 1920 to 1925.
Image via Sotheby's.
A standout among the furnishings of the Grand Salon is a grand canapé, Lot 93, in black silk believed to have been made by La Compagnie des Arts Francais in the first half of the 1920s for the former residence on rue Monsieur.  A similar sofa was made by Louis Süe for Jean Patou.

A view of the Library that appeared in
Plaisir de France, May 1951.
Image via Sotheby's.
In the lacquered Library, fretwork doors covered the bookshelves.  A pair of allegorical panels almost four feet square painted by Boutet de Monvel provided the primary decoration.  One panel represented his wife, Delfina, with fruits from South America, a guitar, a globe and books which reflect her Chilian origin.

One of a pair of painted allegorical panels, Lot 109.
Image via Sotheby's.
The other panel, shown above the fireplace in the view of the Library, represented the painter, showing his palette, ruler, T-square, and compass. 

The 19th century mantel clock in the Library, Lot 107.
Image via Sotheby's.
This mantel clock also appears in the view of the Library.  Made of gilt-bronze and black marble, the Restauration period clock, after a model by the bronzier Jean-André Reiche, was the inspiration for a painting of his daughter Sylvie and her dog Champagne.

The Boudoir in 1927.
Image via Sotheby's.
The Boudoir of Madame Boutet de Monvel is another room with architecture that illustrated a modern interpretation of classicism with long lengths of mirror representing the shaft of pilasters lining the space.

Chairs and table in the Boudoir,
Lots 120 and 121.
Image via Sotheby's.
The vintage view of the Boudoir shows part of the set of four black lacquered fauteuils from the Directoire period, late 19th century, and a birds eye maple and ebonized wood guéridon from the Charles X period, circa 1830.

A view of the sitting room of daughter Sylvie
from Plasir de France, May 1951.
Image via Sotheby's.

The center table, Lot 145.
Image via Sotheby's.
One of the most charming of the antiques is the ebonized and mahogany guéridon with stylized alligators emerging from cattails, Italian, circa 1830; the marble top may be a replacement.

The chandelier, Lot 146,
the oil lamps, Lot 147,
and the folding screen, Lot 148.
Image via Sotheby's.
The chandelier in Sylvie's salon of crystal and gilt-bronze with swans as the six arms to hold candles is a classic French Empire model of the early 19th century.  The porcelain oil lamps with gilt-bronze mounts date from about 1870.  The papier peint folding screen of four panels dates from about 1850 and depicts muses of a classical temple in an exotic tropical setting.

The rear of the house in 1927.
Image via Sotheby's.
Bernard Boutet de Monvel enjoyed great success as a portraitist of both the café-society and American millionaires in the 1920s and 30s.  Combining the model with a view of their residence or a relatable landscape in a somewhat photo-realistic style, the portraits are both flattering and distinctive.  Sitters included Mrs. Harrison Williams, Mr. W.K. Vanderbilt, and Mrs. Vincent Astor.

The studio of Bernard Boutet de Monvel
on the top floor of his Paris home.
Image via Sotheby's.
Read more about Bernard Boutet de Monvel and his residence at 11 passage de la Visitation on the Little Augury blog.  Here, there are some additional vintage views of the interior which show some variations in the furniture arrangements.

The cover of the new book by Stéphane-Jacques Addade
expected to be published in September, 2016.
Image: The Devoted Classicist Library
The first English language monograph of the art of Bernard Boutet de Monvel by Stéphane-Jacques Addade is scheduled for release by Flammarion in September, 2016.  Read more about it and place your order at a discount from the published price here.