Thursday, October 29, 2009

Enduring Style - Miguel Flores-Vianna

I recently received an incredibly engaging email from photographer Miguel Flores-Vianna. He had read the Enduring Style posts from last summer and they had triggered some introspection on rooms that had inspired him, "Here are a few of the people and places that, I believe, have deeply influenced my own personal vision, as well as trends in design around the world. Rather than make it universal and all encompassing, I have confined choices to people I know, have known and/or places where I have spent a great deal of time. So my list does not have any scholarly pretensions but rather comes from the heart." His picks are as follows:

"The first one is an impression, a vague memory of a table all set up with white linens, shiny silver, colorful flowers. The table is in front of a shack on a beach in Patmos, Greece. I am about 20 years old and have no idea to whom the shack belongs; I walked past that memorable feast and went to lay at the end of beach. That table or the memory of it rather always stayed with me.

Fast forward another 25 years and I learn that that place belonged to the Englishman Teddy Millingon-Drake. A decorator, painter and friend to half the world in the decorative arts.

To me the world of interior design would not have been the same without the amazing eye of an American painter who, in the 50's, moved to Italy. Cy Twombly has created some of the most outstanding rooms in the second half of the 20th century. His various residences have a modernity and a timelessness that is moving and captivating. His incredible deft at mixing classicism with modern art still is a bottomless well of inspiration for myself and countless decorators.

I grew up in Argentina in the 70's. Everybody we knew, family and friends, either lived in modern glass houses or inherited old homes built at the turn of the 20th century with clear European inspirations. It was only later when I moved to New York and began working as an editor that I became aware of the difference between people of modernist or classicist taste.

And then one day I went to Houston and I saw the DeMenil House. I realized why, during my childhood and adolescence, I was never aware of old or new taste. See, the de Menils hired Philip Johnson to build them a glass box and later a New York couturier, Charles James, to furnished it. Few of us understand today that a modern house need not be decorated with contemporary furniture. James created atmospheres where the new met the old. Where the clinical met the sensual. Where color met blank spaces.

It was a bit what I had experienced as a child, whether we lived in old houses or new houses we always felt the presence of the past through hand me downs or purposefully bought antiques. James invented a language which, unfortunately, has not been necessarily understood by a generation of architects that came after the house was built and decorated.

Stephen Sills and James Huniford created a masterpiece in the early 1990's. It is an hour north of New York City. It is dreamy and subtle and so, so grand. It became a bit the ABC of their style, a little Monticello. The low armless sofas, the over sized plaster vases, the Louis XVI chairs, the Rauchensbergs and Fontanas, leaves instead of flowers, stone floors and lacquered walls, pale blues, grays, chartreuse greens.

I can't help but be mesmerized at the beauty of it all. It is one of the major triumphs of American design in the last 30 years.

The ivy growing in the wall...
Rose Tarlow, need I say more?

Lars Sjoberg may one day become a national hero in Sweden. He has done more to reclaim and re-discover the 18th Century in his own country than the rest of the Swedish design community put together.

A watershed article in the World of Interiors in the mid 1980's on his property Regnholm became the starting point of a love affair with those white, subtle rooms that we have come to known as "gustavian" (after King Gustav lll). Today Sjoberg owns about ten houses and they have all become his laboratories to study and re-fresh an era (1700's) which has become his passion.

(Andre) Le Notre designed gardens, and gardens are made of rooms. I am including him in this list. The master gardener, the creator of Versailles and Vaux le Vicompte. The grand tamer of nature, logical, measured, musical.

Although I can not help but marvel at his masterpieces, it is a smaller one, and less known that moves me - the gardens of Courances, a chateau to the south east of Paris, still in private hands, but more intimate, private and measured.

A symphony none the less. Whether under summer rain or in brilliant snow the garden is a masterpiece, timeless and unmeasurable. At times grand and imposing, at times shy and quiet. Always poetic.

Luis Barragan is the grandest name in Mexican architecture as far as the 20th century goes. And what a decorator. His monastic eye gave him set standards to bear. And yet he created a language where the strict becomes sensual; the holy, decadent; and the colorless, a riot of hues.

His house in a nondescript Mexico City suburb is a mini temple to his passion for clean lines, luxurious nature, religious art and a passion for horses. At times claustrophobic like a monk's cell and yet as liberating as a grand cathedral. Totally modern and timeless."

It is an incredibly insightful compilation and I am grateful that Miguel took the time to share it with me.

Images, from top, two works of Teddy Millington-Drake via ArtNet; Cy Twombly's home via Aesthete's Lament; four images of the DeMenil home via House of Beauty and Culture; two images from Dwellings by Stephen Sills and James Huniford; Lars Sjorberg's work via Belgian Pearls; Couranses via The Hip Paris Blog, and Luis Barragan's work via google images, and I am so sorry, but I cannot remember which source.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Out and About - Pear Tree

There's a new shipment in at Pear Tree in Crestwood. There's more than chairs; sometimes I get distracted.

Pear Tree Design & Antiques
313 E. 55th St.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Arts and Crafts

"Mom, are you an artist?"

"No. That's not art. Art is harder than that."

My eldest is right. Art is harder than this. This is craft, and my apologies to Gunther Forg.

The hallway needed....something. Even though it's yellow, it seemed achingly bland. I had picked these frames up at a garage sale a while back. I bought eight canvases for nearly nothing and carted up various paints from the basement. Paint samples for rooms that didn't work out, craft paint and kids' paint. It's an equal opportunity supply closet. Some were used in their original form; a few got to mix it up.

I used the image, top, for color inspiration, measured and drew lines across the middle of the canvases and painted. All eight canvases were completed in an evening.

The canvases did not quite fill the frame openings so I had the framer put in a white fillet. The framer, Frame Works, deserves the "Patience of Job Award." I took in eight frames and eight canvases, but the direction and order of the canvases mattered and the direction and order of the frames mattered (they are chipped and worn which I liked, but they needed to be arranged specifically.) So I had labeled each frame and each corresponding canvas with a number and an arrow pointing which way was up. And, "Well," I said, shifting my weight but not averting my gaze, "I need them in a week." Unflappable, Betsy never blinked.

I've ordered this Dash & Albert runner for the stairs from Stuff and that will be the last of the spitting and polishing before the holidays. I'm still aching for dining room curtains, but fear they remain in perpetual simmer on the back burner. There is a great wool at Off the Floor Now at a terrific price, but I'm worried it is too pale. When I mentioned it to one of our guests he said,"You'd better wait; I get the feeling you're picky."

I have no idea where he got that impression.

Image, top, Elle Decor, December, 2006. Photography by William Waldron. Design by Shelton, Mindel & Associates. The image also appears in Style & Substance, The Best of Elle Decor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Tables

So, friends in from out of town, dinner planned, what next? Facials, manicures, injections? Extra trips to the personal trainor?

Heavens no. A little do-it-yourself face lift for the Dream House.

Inspired by Nick Olsen's post I went on the hunt for local tables that could be used for consoles in the dining room. I like the tables he recommended from Target, but did not want to pay for shipping. And I didn't want to wait. I'm bad about waiting.

Latin American Imports here in town usually has a good selection of iron table bases and they had a style that I thought would work. The rusted finish was not what I had in mind, but change is nothing but a spray can away. I had queried darling Nicky if he thought I should gold leaf the entire table. "Just the circles." Wonderful. Just the circles is easy.

Per his suggestion I purchased paint grade wood for the tops and painted them with Rustoleum oil based paint. I used Sunset Red in gloss and mixed in a little glossy black to make it darker. Mr. Blandings popped in mid-project. "Is the black oil based, too?" His gentle way of checking to see if I had botched the whole thing. "Mmm-hmmm." "Huh. Wonder if you sanded it between coats if it would look even more like lacquer?" Knee-deep in passive aggression I replied, "Excellent idea."

Nick suggested moving the blanc de chine, which was spot on, but the wall still seemed a little bare. These paintings were together on a different wall of the dining room, but I'd never been comfortable with them there. The scale wasn't right. They seem happy here. They like each other, but they get along better with a little distance.

It's not Paul McCobb. It's more Jolly McNow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Out and About - In the Neighborhood

You know I only like to be outside about fourteen days of the year and chances are good the majority of those days will fall during Fall.

On our regular walk route, Rosie and I pass this trellis nearly every day. I covet it shamelessly. Please tell me you can still get finials like that so I don't have to lose any more sleep.

Also, these trees (below.) I'd love to have a row of trees like this along my back yard fence.

I'd like to, but I don't know what they are. Or how mature they are. Or if they will get much bigger. Or if they will split in two with the first major ice storm like my pear trees did. Darn them.

But if you know, I'd love it if you'd let me know. You know, for the next time I go outside in the Spring.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Forward

Fall seems to set in with a flurry at the Dream House. A week or so ago Mr. Blandings's sisters and their husbands were in to celebrate their mother's 80th birthday. The week preceding was consumed by cleaning and fluffing and laughing and eating. All came off without a hitch and it was such a treat to have the women and men who have known Mr. B since birth here for such a happy occasion. I was reminded that I was merely a vessel; apparently, the boys all look just like him.

Most of us have had what we believe to be H1N1 and managed to dodge lice, which, while not uncommon among school-aged children still makes me itch just to type it.

This week my pulse is jumping as we have friends coming in from out of town and I can't wait for them to see the city for the first time. Our weather was dreary last week and I fretted to Mr. B, "I hope it's sunny and warmer. And that the trees turn a little more. But that the leaves don't fall before they get here." "I'm not sure that's in your control." I stared back in wonder at the irrelevance and sanity of this remark.

The visit has triggered a whirlwind of activity. The front hall needed a bit of spiff. Something, heaven knows, but I wasn't sure quite what. The image above provided inspiration and the framer promises that the pieces will be back in time. Stay tuned.

In addition, I had sworn off junk. No more place holders, only really good pieces. Sadly, the Paul McCobb tables/consoles/chests that would be ideal flanking the bay in the dining room never seem to be a priority over football fees and field trips and food. Nick Olson provided inspiration here and if the consoles are not forever pieces, they may move on to one of the boys' first apartment someday.

Mr. Blandings has the cookbooks out and keeps interrupting my painting and gilding with queries of dishes and desserts.

And Halloween is on the horizon. "What are the boys going to be?" a common question. For the last two years I have had a new code, "What ever your costume is, it exists in this house. Use your imagination." Grumbling eventually gives way and they all come up with something of which they are usually quite proud.

My mania has peaked, I think, but I am never happier than when I have that creative muse whispering in my ear.

Image, above, Elle Decor, it graced the cover of the December 2006 issue, design by Shelton, Mindel & Associates. Photography by William Waldron. The image appears in the fantastic new book, Style and Substance, The Best of Elle Decor by Margaret Russell, which I received for review from the publisher.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Roots of Addiction

You know those stories about celebrities who give their children controlled substances? And how you read these accounts and wonder, "What were they thinking?"

Well, my mother was a little guilty of this. When I was small and we lived in Atlanta my mother made a very good friend while we were on the playground. I, in turn, became very good friends with the friend's daughter as these things sometime happen.

While my parents' house was an ever evolving array of tasteful yet jazzy (probably department store) finds, Krissy Livengood's parents' house was not.

Krissy Livengood's parents had a pair of Wassily chairs. When I walked through their living room I was mesmerized by the slats made of leather. With every visit I'm quite sure her mother anticipated wiping my grimy fingerprints from the cool chrome. I could not resist running my hand along that silvery steel.

They were wonderful. I was in awe of those chairs. In my memory the room where they resided was always quiet, but perhaps my ears were ringing. While everyone else found it so intriguing that Krissy's father had one blue eye and one brown eye, I thought that merely a quirk of nature. The thing that made the Livengoods interesting - fascinating even - were those chairs.

We moved from Atlanta when I was eight, but the chair addiction was firmly established. Imagine my delight with Judith Miller's new book, Chairs. Over one hundred chairs, beautifully shot by Nick Pope, on big pages, presented in chronological order. Truly a chair lover's dream.

And a terrific red cover. Almost as good as having a Wassily of my own.

P.S. Mrs. Livengood, in true Southern fashion, has passed her chairs to her daughter. Who now goes by Kristin.

Chairs by Judith Miller was provided to me for review by the publisher, Conran Octopus. All photographs by Nick Pope. The Wassily chair is fourth from the top.