Thursday, June 11, 2015

Parish-Hadley Tree of Life

PARISH-HADLEY TREE OF LIFE
is a new book to be published October, 2015.
 
There is a new book in the works, PARISH-HADLEY TREE OF LIFE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY OF THE LEGENDARY DESIGN FIRM, being developed by Brian J. McCarthy and Bunny Williams that will focus not only on the firm, but will also feature thirty-one of the former employees who have gone on to successful careers on their own.  Because of the unique learning environment created by Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, the "graduates" of Parish-Hadley are known in the design profession as "alumnae" with their experience compared to an advance degree in design.  Each of the 31 alumni interviewed have a chapter in the book giving a personal reflection of the firm with illustrations of their work past and present.

The Parish-Hadley story is an very unique one; no other interior design firm - ever- has produced so many designers who left to establish their own studio.  Brian had the idea for the book about eight years ago.  He developed an outline and discussed it with Mr. Hadley (who passed in 2012 following Mrs. Parish's death in 1994) who was very excited about the project.  But Brian's own book, LUMINOUS INTERIORS: THE HOUSES OF BRIAN McCARTHY, came first.  When Brian told Bunny about his idea when they were both at the Nashville Garden & Antiques Show, she was very enthusiastic and promised her full support.  The next week, Bunny was in a meeting at Abrams and happened to mention the idea; the publishers jumped on it, giving the book an immediate green light for Stewart, Tabori and Chang, using the same book agent Jill Cohen, art director Doug Turshen and creative team that both Bunny and Brian had used before on their own books. In addition to the very readable text, the book also promises to be visually interesting.  Advances in digital imagery will avoid the muddy results of historic black & white photos that have plagued design books in the past.  Plus there are many new color never-before-published images.

The image used for the book jacket (and that may change) is one of my favorites of the Parish-Hadley projects, the Living Room of Nancy Pyne in Peapack, New Jersey.  Both partners had a hand in the design and the result is quintessential Parish-Hadley -- comfortable yet refined and with an architectural sensibility in the furnishings without being too rigid.

The title of the book expresses Albert Hadley's appreciation of the traditional motif, the Tree of Life.  The mythology of the sacred tree dates back to a number of ancient civilizations including the cultures of pre-Islamic Persia and ancient Egypt as well as other Asian, European, and Native American beliefs.  The motif gained wide-spread exposure as a popular design on 17th century printed cotton bedcoverings from India, the palampores which often featured a Tree of Life as a central figure.  The Tree of Life motif was also developed in Persia and China in the 18th century with adaptations for the European market where various goods were marketed.  Crewel embroidery was also used to represent the motif in England, often a natural color wool yarn on a colored background;  a wallpaper representation of this was an Albert Hadley favorite.

And not insignificantly, there will be a short chapter on John J. Tackett that Devoted Readers will not want to miss.  Plans are for an October 13, 2015, release with Hearst Publications -- Elle Décor, Veranda, and House Beautiful -- hosting a gala launch on that date.  So there will be plenty more about the book in the magazines in the coming months.  But for those who cannot wait to see the book on store shelves, pre-ordering at a discount price is available here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Another Storey

John Tackett Design.
A Proposed Addition and Improvements
to a New House Under Construction.
Image: The Devoted Classicist blog
A colleague has interior design clients building a very large house custom designed by a local architect.  In addition to a substantial main block, there are extensions in both directions with almost endless passages to room after room on the Ground Floor.  So it was a surprise to be contacted about a possible expansion while the house was just starting construction.

There was interest in having parents occupy the planned Master Suite on the Ground Floor, requiring the homeowners to relocate to the Second Floor and push the guest rooms to a new Third Floor.  The interior designer wisely advised against expansion of the Ground Floor, already a maze many time larger than the main block.  The program for John Tackett Design was to suggest an upward expansion of the main block without increasing the overall roof height, and propose some detailing to give more architectural interest.  The foundation was complete and framing underway but the structural engineer gave approval for the proposed added storey.  My quick sketch over a reduced-size print of the original construction drawing is shown.

A very deep porch is replaced with an entrance terrace (already in place) with a rusticated limestone first floor giving a visual base for applied limestone pilasters and a limestone pediment.  Instead of the over-sized brown brick with white mortar originally planned, I suggested a traditional-sized brick in a buff ochre color with matching mortar to compliment the proposed buff Minnesota limestone.  The windows were already on order, but I did suggest changing the Upstairs Center Hall window over the front door, and the window of the two-story Secondary Stair Hall seen on the front of the house.  Also, my design changes the front door to a narrow pair and alters the sidelights, transom and limestone surround.

The interior designer who had apparently expressed concerns throughout the original design process was thrilled with my proposal.  And the homeowners were ecstatic.  But the parents, who were not part of the discussion, balked at the thought of moving in with their adult offspring.  "Never!" was their reported comment.  So this has been one last view before going into the Unbuilt category in the files.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

More Valerian Rybar for Claudette and Murray Candib

The Candib's Living Room in Miami Beach
decorated by Valerian Rybar.
Image: Architectural Digest.
Another office neighbor's purging of reference files has yielded more images of the Miami Beach house that Valerian Rybar decorated for Claudette and Murray Candib.  Looking like a neo-classical villa on the Riviera, the project with partner Jean-Francois Daigre was featured in the April 1987 issue of Architectural Digest.  The stylish chairs in the handsome lattice-paneled Dining Room were featured on a previous post of The Devoted Classicist.

The Candib Dining Room.
Image: Architectural Digest.
Clearly, Rybar was not big on choosing furnishings from a catalog;  he mixed carefully selected antiques with his own custom-designed cabinetry and upholstery.  In the Living Room, a central bourne was fabricated with a scagliola top that accommodated table lamps to supplement the light from a pair of crystal and bronze doré chandeliers.

The Loggia in the Candib home.
Image:  Architectural Digest.
The Loggia benefits from classic Florida architecture, walls in blocks of coquina stone and a paneled, white-washed wood ceiling (which appears to be cedar or cypress).  The modular seating in Ottoman form has stylized paisley upholstery fabric in gray and burgundy, an effect later to be diluted with less-expensive versions but this was not as familiar at the time.  The same goes for the pleated shades.  And it was not long before knock-off Coromandel screens diminished the value of the antique lacquer panels.  But at the time, this room with pots of huge orchids was chic.

"I told Valerian I wanted something very different," Claudette Candib was quoted to say about the Powder Room.  Although animal prints are commonplace today, wall panels of jaguar velvet framed with ebonized wood certainly had to be unexpected in Florida.  An ebony Empire coiffeuse paired with a sculptural chair of the same period with a black horsehair-covered seat added glamor to the space as well.

The Candib's Library designed by Rybar.
Image: Architectural Digest.
In some terms, the Library was one of the more conventional rooms in the house. Handsomely paneled, an animal-print carpet furthers the black and gold scheme for comfortable upholstered seating, a Louis writing desk, and a lacquered low table probably designed by Rybar. 

The Candib Master Bedroom by Valerian Rybar.
Image: Architectural Digest.
There was no lack of drama for the decoration of the Master Bedroom, however. Rybar designed a canopy in a variation of a lit à la polonaise with supports as stylized palm trunks.  An Ottoman style bench at the end of the bed undoubtedly concealed a pop-up television.

Self-described as "the world's most expensive decorator,"  Rybar's published projects were not universally praised although the firm never suffered from a lack of potential clients with the means to have a gasp-inducing interior.  The most interesting lesson today, however, might be the design professional's ability to carry through with a theme and leave no aspect of decoration without consideration.  The idea of Total Design for interiors has lost appreciation in these past years, but there seems to be interest growing again, no?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mario Buatta, Curtain Master

Curtains in the Dillon Room of Blair House
decorated by Mario Buatta. 1988.
Photo from Southern Accents.
Granted, there are many other examples that would better prove Mario Buatta's skill in curtain design, but this one illustrates several valuable lessons.  While it is admirable that the form of the curtains acknowledges the form of the window (or doorway), it is not critical that the form be absolutely followed.  Windows with a rounded head do not necessarily require rounded head curtains.  (As with any rule, there are exceptions and I will contradict myself in a future post, but let's stay with this for the moment).


The Dillon Room at Blair House
as decorated by Mario Buatta, 1988.
Photo from Southern Accents.
Identifying the gilded, pierced element of the valance (or pelmet) as the curtain cornice, note how that feature gives grace to the large opening.  The curtain cornice allows the striped silk taffeta fabric of the valance and panels to just simply hang; the volume of the fabric along with lining and interlining as well as the correct dimensions keep the ensemble from looking limp.  Although the center of the curtain cornice rises to a height above the cornice (or crown molding) of the room, note that the attachment of this treatment is made to the wall.  Curtains should never be attached to the face of the cornice of the room.  (And that is one rule for which I can think of no exceptions).

Another view of the Dillon Room, Blair House.
Photo from Architectural Digest.
While many might know that Blair House is the official guest house of the President for visiting foreign dignitaries and their entourages, some may not realize that it is actually four houses; two face Pennsylvania Avenue and two face Jackson Square adding up to over 100 rooms.  The 1984 to 1988 renovation dealt with architects John Mesick and John Waite restructuring the interconnection of the interior spaces and other functional issues with an $8.6 million grant from Congress.  But an additional $5 million was raised by private donations for the décor by the Blair House Restoration Fund headed by Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt (Chief of Protocol from 1982 to 1989 and wife of Theodore Roosevelt's grandson) and Clement Conger (who was the force behind the White House decoration of public rooms from Pat Nixon until Nancy Reagan).  Half of those funds was used for decoration and half was reserved for an on-going acquisition and maintenance fund.  The responsibilities for the interior design were divided between Mario Buatta and Mark Hampton, each among the top "name' decorators of the time.

The Queen's Bedroom at Blair House
as decorated by Mario Buatta in 1988.
Bunny Williams redecorated the room in 2011.
Photo via The Washington Post.
In 2011, Bunny Williams, one of the top talents today, was brought in to redecorate three bedrooms, two by Mario Buatta and one by Mark Hampton, which had discontinued fabrics that made it not feasible to reproduce the original scheme. The curtains, however, were still in a condition suitable for re-use and sent to be auctioned in September, 2011 by the Potomac Company in Alexandria with proceeds to benefit the restoration fund.  The  headboards and associated hangings along with the curtains, all in a discontinued Lee Jofa chintz, were given a pre-auction estimate of $400 to $800; the results are not known.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

John Saladino, Curtain Master

John Saladino's Kips Bay Showhouse room.
Image from HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, October 1988.
Designer of furnishings and interiors, John Saladino is known for his Signature Look that mixes continental antiques with seating, tables and lighting of his own design, usually within a handsome architectural setting.  But Saladino is not necessarily known for his curtains.  Here is an example, however, where Saladino realized that the room absolutely needed some softness at the tall south and west-facing windows of this room and addressed the issue in a simple, classic way.

A corner of Saladino's Kips Bay Showhouse room.
Image from HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, October 1988.
This room was in a Park Avenue townhouse that was used as a decorator showhouse several times to benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club providing after-school and enrichment programs for New York City children; I think this particular event dates from 1988. Patrons at the gala opening are allowed to walk into the rooms, but the typical visitor only sees the room from one angle, at the doorway (unless it is a walk-through room) so the space is often furnished to be seen from just one vantage point.  But the room has to work during both day and evening opening hours. The existing paneling in this case could not be altered, making any special construction at the windows impossible.  Part of the solution here was a bottom-up linen shade that could be adjusted to diffuse the light as well as the view of traffic just below.  This allowed the curtain panels of unlined fabric to be fixed, pulled up to one side in the manner of the classical Mediterranean villas that still inspire Saladino.  The panels were silk, if I am remembering correctly, with inverted pleats giving a more tailored look, hanging from braided cords of the same color.

Saladino's Kips Bay Showhouse Room.
Photo from SHOWCASE OF INTERIOR DESIGN:
EASTERN EDITION, 1991, via
The Art of the Room
Can you imagine the room without the curtains?  It would not be nearly as successful without this relatively simple element.  Read more about this room in a post of The Art of the Room.  This is the third post in the not-necessarily-consecutive series on curtains with the others being able to be seen by clicking on "curtains" under LABELS in the right-hand margin of the regular web version of The Devoted Classicist.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Robert Couturier, Curtain Master

Designer Robert Couturier's Living Room
from House & Garden, September 1990.
In Robert Couturier's Living Room in his own NYC apartment, the curtains play a large part of the success of the room.  Filled with a mix of stylish continental antiques from the 18th, 19th, and 20th-centuries, an Aubusson rug grounds the arrangement.  Three tiers of white, hinged bi-fold, louvered shutters provide light control and privacy in the bay window that would otherwise dominate the room if the eye had not been stopped by the billowing effect of the curtains.  Panels of taffeta hang by tabs of the same fabric from a steel rod accented with brass finials, support posts, and large tie-back rosettes.

Imagine the same room without the curtains to realize the importance of that feature.  Although it is not the type of room usually seen in magazines today, it still has validity after 25 years.  More posts in the Curtain Master series will follow with a series of un-consecutive series of posts by The Devoted Classicist.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Kevin McNamara, Curtain Master

A view of the East Hampton Living Room
of designer Kevin McNamara.
The Devoted Classicist is still hearing far too many people -- including professional interior designers -- say that they do not do curtains.  Actually, they say they don't do "drapes" which is like nails on a chalkboard to me, but that is another subject.  This is the first of a non-consecutive series of posts to show how curtains can really add to the appeal of a room.

Although I have a great appreciation for elaborate curtains -- if the rest of the room is up to it -- I do understand those whose memory is tainted with visions of poorly proportioned, tortured, and sometimes smothering window treatments that are so objectionable that nothing at the windows would be better.  But relatively simple curtains, even in formal atmospheres can be a welcome and much needed dressing.

Another view of the curtains
in Kevin McNamara's East Hampton
Living Room.
Both photos from Architectural Digest.
These photos show the Living Room of the late Kevin McNamara's weekend house in East Hampton.  I visited twice, once while it was under construction and another time after it was complete and handsomely furnished when I still worked at Parish-Hadley.  So this decor dates back about 30 years. (These two shots come from an article in Architectural Digest, torn out for the Curtain File of a colleague.  But I have the entire issue packed away and will show more in a future post).

I hope you can imagine how different this room would look without curtains.  As I recall, the long walls of the room each had three pairs of tall French doors opening out to a terrace on both the entrance and garden side of the capital 'I' (with serif) shaped house.  (I might have preferred shorter doors with a transom to give the desired overall height, but that, too, is a subject for another post).  Color/value also plays a role.  How different the room would be if the curtains matched the green glazed walls.  Here, the French doors remain an important feature of the room, but they are visually softened somewhat by the creamy curtains.  The site is wooded and private, so there may have never been a need to draw the curtains, eliminating the need for supplemental treatments or more complicated hardware.  And I hope you can see the simple gilt fillet at the top of the wall, giving definition to the perimeter of the room, an interesting detail given the curtain poles mounted almost to the cornice.

Kevin, who passed away in 2005, had started his career at McMillen and then at Parish-Hadley before founding his own firm so he was well-versed in how to create proper curtains.  Later in his career, he and his life partner founded Christopher Norman Inc., a to-the-trade source which was at the forefront of having French and Italian-style silk woven in the Far East at more affordable prices, making silk curtains, etc., more popular to a wider market.  More about Kevin McNamara will appear in future posts of The Devoted Classicist.