Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In With The Old

Bookplates are just one of the topics
covered in the book.
Image from The Peak of Chic blog
"Classic design never goes out of style.."  Those are the first words in the Introduction to IN WITH THE OLD: CLASSIC DECOR FROM A TO Z by Jennifer Boles.  And that is certainly the motto of The Devoted Classicist.
Image from The Peak of Chic blog.
Starting with acrylic furniture and going though woven zebra rugs, Jennifer takes the most chic and classic home furnishings from the 1940s through the 1970s and shows how they are effectively being reused today with such admirable results.
Jennifer Boles
Image via the Albany Herald newspaper.
A not-to-be-missed event for all those in the Memphis area will have Jennifer Boles making a presentation on the enduring qualities of classic décor followed by a sale and signing of her terrific book on Saturday, October 11, 2014, at Brooks Museum of Art, 2:00 pm.  As an educational program of Decorative Arts Trust, the talk is open to the public and free with regular museum admission.

Jennifer is one of the relatively few fellow Bloggers that I have had the opportunity to both meet and attend a presentation; she was a guest of D.A.T. several years ago as the moderator for a panel discussion and I can vouch that she is indeed The Peak of Chic.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Harold R. Simmons, Jr.

 
The life of Harold Simmons, one of the great influences in my career, was celebrated today in East Hampton, New York.  He passed away peacefully in his home on August 12, 2014, after the challenges of hip cancer.

Peter van Hattum (left) and Harold Simmons (right)
at The Hampton Designer Show House,
11 May, 2004
Photo via Patrick McMullen.
Harold was formerly the Senior Vice-President at Parish-Hadley Associates in New York City where he worked for 21 years.  Among his many responsibilities, Harold headed the Design Studio which numbered as many as seven architects during my time there in the 1980s.  Each of us was responsible for one or more of the architectural projects underway, often of tremendous scope for clients such as Rockefeller and Getty, but always under the direction of Harold Simmons.
Hertenhof (Deer Court), Harold and Peter's home
that Harold designed and had built in East Hampton.
2009 photo via Black Tie Magazine.
Harold's knowledge in the fields of interior design and architecture was vast and of the highest level of taste, that combination being a relative rarity in the profession.  And there was never hesitation to share that knowledge.  The list of items to be considered was a long one, from the plan of the furniture to the balance of the lighting to the physical allowances for window treatments, and on and on.  But Harold Simmons knew all the answers and taught that same level of competency to his staff.

Peter van Hattum, Joan Worth, and Harold Simmons
at a charity event reception held at Hertenhof, 2009.
Photo via Black Tie Magazine.
Harold R. Simmons, Jr., was known as "Young Harold" in his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi, because his father had the same name, Harold R. Simmons.  After graduating from Ole Miss, Harold worked for one year at the celebrated Memphis design firm owned by Kenneth Kimbrough and his partner Robert Bedford who insisted that he should get a degree from Parsons School of Design in New York if he wanted to be a design professional.  (Bobby Bedford, now in his mid-90s, is a cherished friend of mine because of the connection with Harold).

The Mausoleum of Emperor Diocletian, Spalato,
as drawn as a conjectural restoration by
Robert Adam, 1764.
After graduating from Parsons in 1965 and specializing in Interior Architecture, Harold first worked for the architectural firm of Alfred Easton Poor.  In 1966, he joined the decorating firm then known as Mrs. Henry Parish, 2nd, as the personal assistant to Albert Hadley.  Harold once told me that, on his first day on the job, he went with Mr. Hadley to an enormous apartment that was to be extensively renovated; Mr. Hadley began marking big "X"-es on the walls to be demolished, noting new locations for electric outlets on the walls, etc., all instructions soon to be lost when the construction process began.  Harold brought a level of order and professionalism to the office, contributing much to making it one of the most respected full-service design firms in the 1980s. 

View of the tomb of Caius Cestius by Piranesi.
After leaving Parish-Hadley in 1987, Harold joined his long-time partner Peter van Hattum (whom he had met his first week in New York in 1962) to found the firm Van Hattum and Simmons.  Their work included embassies in South America and numerous fine residences in New York, Washington, DC, and London, among other locations.  Also, their work was highly regarded in numerous Kips Bay Decorator Show Houses and Southampton Decorator Show Houses.  Harold and Peter were married in 2012.

The combination of charm, wit, and talent is far too rare, so it is especially sad to lose someone like Harold.  Memorial gifts may be made in honor of Harold Simmons to East End Hospice, P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach, New York 11978.  My deepest sympathy goes to Peter, another remarkable individual, and their family.

HAROLD R. SIMMONS, JR.
1939 to 2014
REQUIESCAT IN PACE

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jonathan Myles-Lea Residential Portraits

A bird's eye view of Dream Acres
painted by Jonathan Myles-Lea
for Country Life magazine.
Image via Arabella Lennox-Boyd
The Devoted Classicist first learned of the exceptional talents of contemporary artist Jonathan Myles-Lea when his remarkable composite views of Daylesford came to light during the research for the blog essay that was the Carole and Anthony Bamford part of the series about that quintessential country house. 

A detail of the painting of Daylesford,
the Bamford estate, showing the main house
by S.P. Cockerell, the Orangery by Sanderson Miller,
the Gardener's Cottage and the large Kitchen Garden.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea

Myles-Lea has been described as the successor to painter John Constable and the extraordinary muralist Rex Whistler.  While this is certainly understandable, Jonathan Myles-Lea's delightful paintings remind me of my favorite house portraits by the seventeenth-century master Johannes Kip and the twentieth-century genius Felix Kelly.

Jonathan Myles-Lea.
Photo by Juan F. Bastos.

Jonathan has a Bachelors Degree in The History of Art & Architecture from the University of London, which was undoubtedly a factor in his portraits of historic homes and gardens.  Friendships with artist Francis Bacon, art expert (and jazz singer) George Melly, and portraitist Lucien Freud led to advice that influenced his work as well.

Pen and Ink.
The Rectory at Litton Cheney: in-progress.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea
This series of images for The Rectory at Litton Cheney is a 'straight-on' rather than aerial view, but shows the steps Myles-Lea goes through to produce the layers that give the finished results.

Sepia.
The Rectory at Litton Cheney: in-progress.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
The Rectory in Dorset was the home of noted English engraver Reynolds Stone from 1953 until 1979.

The completed oil paintng, 30" x 60".
The Rectory at Litton Cheney.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
In 1991, he painted a friend's house in North Wales, Plas Teg, that has led to over 60 commissions in ten countries.  In the United States, paintings have been commissioned by Evelyn Lauder, Norman Lear, and Oprah Winfrey.  In Great Britain, clients in addition to Lord and Lady Bamford include David Armstrong-Jones, Lord Linley; The Cliveden Estate, and Lady Victoria Leatham at Burghley House.  A friendship with one of Britain's greatest garden designers, Sir Roy Strong, led to a 1994 commission of his garden, The Laskett; Strong was credited with introductions to potential clients that led to more commissions.

The Laskett.
The garden of Sir Roy Strong and his late wife
Julia Trevelyn Oman in Herefordshire is the largest
formal garden in England planted after 1945.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea.
In 2007, Prince Charles commissioned the pen and ink drawing of his country house, Highgrove, that appears on the cover of a limited-edition, leather-bound book written by the Prince of Wales and Bunny Guiness.  In addition to the aerial view, there are various garden features forming a border.  Myles-Lea also designed a crest for this map that included items to represent the Prince's hobbies: polo-sticks, apples, an artist's palette, gardening tools, and a basket of eggs.  Jonathan Myles-Lea's map also appears on other merchandise available in the Highgrove shop in addition to the book HIGHGROVE: A GARDEN CELEBRATED.

Highgrove.
Image rights are the property of Jonathan Myles-Lea
Country Life magazine commissioned an aerial view in 2009 of the fantasy 10 acre country estate, Dream Acres, that was designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd and Jonathan Self for a series of articles for the weekly publication.  "For the painting of Dream Acres, I used the sweep of the main drive to lead the eye to the house, and then on to the stream at the end of the lawn.  I wanted to make the composition as dynamic as possible so that the viewer's eye travels through the picture -- as if they were taking a stroll through the garden."  It was the first time in the long history of the magazine that an illustration had been used for a cover.

The April 29, 2009, cover of Country Life
featuring Jonathan Myles-Lea's view of
the fantasy country estate, Dream Acres.
The artist's personal archives, consisting of several thousand compositional drawings, sketches, letters, and photos are in the process of being acquired by The Bodleian Library at The University of Oxford.  A book is in the works, expected to be published in January, 2015.

The back and front cover of the new book on
Jonathan Myles-Lea.
Jonathan Myles-Lea, with studios both in England and in the United States, may be commissioned to paint a portrait of your own beloved home and garden.  For details and particulars, contact the artist directly through his website.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Aged in Wood

The prop lobby poster for the play in
"All About Eve"
From the collection of Jane Withers.
Sold $10,000 November 9, 2013.
Julien's Auctions
Fans of the 1950 film "All About Eve" will recognize "Aged in Wood" as the title of the play starring Margo Channing (Bette Davis) at the beginning of the story.  But it could also be used to describe the new furniture carved by Jonathan Sainsbury.  There are many makers of reproduction furniture, but Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd is a stand-out because they hand carve directly from period examples with little if any 'interpretation' and give the new pieces an authentic finish to match the original or to suit the decor, whether water-gilded, waxed, or an aged paint finish.

A pair of reproduction William Kent
console tables, carved pine and aged gesso
by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Image via Semperey.
The original Kent console table
made in the 1720s, formerly at Chiswick House,
now in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Image via V & A.
A watercolor view of the Chiswick Gallery
by William H Hunt, 1828.
Image via The Bard Graduate Center.
The Sainsbury family started a business as timber merchants in the early 18th century and branched out as cabinet-makers in 1918 with a shop in Bournemouth.  In 2004, Jonathan Sainsbury established his own business to make furniture to meet a demand where the original was either too costly or impossible to find.

The Nostell Priory Mirror
as made by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
(A reduction of height may be seen when compared
to the original by Thomas Chippendale).
Image via Decorex.
Thomas Chippendale's mirror
in the State Bedroom of Nostell Priory.
National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel
via Treasure Hunt blog
Many of the reproductions are mirrors in the ELG range (English Looking Glasses).  But there are all sorts of chairs, benches, beds, brackets, lamps, center tables and console tables.  In addition to Kent and Chippendale, there are a number of pieces reproduced from originals by Robert Adam, Matthias Lock and Thomas Hope, among others from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Brighling Park table as reproduced by
Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Image via Decorex.
The George II table from Brightling Park
possibly made by William Hallett.
Image via Bonhams.
Several pieces were commissioned by Carolyne Roehm for Chisholm House, her home in Charleston, South Carolina.  In addition, Sainsbury is carving a fireplace surround and overmantle inspired by the fantastic Chinese Room at Claydon; you will want to see the photos and read more about that on her blog here.

Restoration work is also undertaken by
Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd.
Read more about William Kent, the Ultimate Tastemaker, in an earlier post of The Devoted Classicist here.  See more examples of the work by Jonathan Sainsbury Ltd on their website.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gracie Mansion

Gracie Mansion, official home of the mayor
of New York City.
Photo via Architectural Digest.
There has been a storm of Sharknado intensity in the social media this week about the donation of $65,000 worth of furniture from the mall/mail-order store West Elm for Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of the City of New York.  Attention-getting headlines such as this one from Curbed New York, "De Blassios Swap 300-Year-Old Antiques for West Elm at Gracie," incited indignation that the comparatively uncouth new First Family of NYC would not appreciate the relatively lavish refurnishing untaken during the Bloomberg years, all paid for by private sources including a significant amount donated by Bloomberg personally.  But it must be noted that the West Elm furnishings were for the private quarters of the residence and were given to the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, the non-profit group that supports the historic and decorative aspects of the property.


The Entrance Hall in 1946.
Image via Corbis.
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy was founded in 1981 at the start of a $5.5 million renovation that was carried out 1981 to 1984 during the administration of Ed Koch.  Two interior designers at their peak of popularity, Albert Hadley of Parish-Hadley Associates and Mark Hampton of Mark Hampton LLC, were invited to donate their services to decorate the mansion.  Albert was to create a viable décor for the public rooms in the historic part of the house, essentially the Entrance Hall, Parlor, Sitting Room and Dining Room in addition to the State Guest Room suite.  Mark was to decorate the Visitor's Entrance Hall, the Banquet Hall, and the Ballroom, all in the 1966 addition designed by architect Mott B. Schmidt and named in honor of former Mayor Robert Wagner, Susan, who had worked towards the creation of the wing but died before it was completed.
A 1983 sketch of a hall by Albert Hadley.
Image via One Kings Lane.
I worked at Parish-Hadley in the 1980s and assisted Mr. Hadley in the aspects of the Gracie Mansion project that required architectural input from designing the improvements to the State Guest Suite to locating electrical outlets and reviewing construction plans as they impacted the interior design.  The sketch titled "The Hall" above may or may not have been intended for Gracie Mansion but it is indicative of the drawings Mr. Hadley used to convey his ideas for committee approval and stir up support from his deep-pocketed friends.  And it is from the same time period as his involvement at Gracie Mansion.

The Entrance Hall circa 1985.
Photo via City of New York.
Although Mr. Hadley was not opposed to painting the floor in two tones of gray as a checkerboard, the results as carried out under the direction of the Conservancy (and executed by a compensated family member of the committee) were too theatrical, including the marbleizing of the stair risers (painted out in a later refurbishing) and the non-relating compass star. 

Albert Hadley's conceptual sketch of the Parlor
at Gracie Mansion.
Image via One Kings Lane.
Albert Hadley's concept for the furnishing of Gracie Mansion was not unlike that carried out for the second floor rooms at the White House for the Kennedys that he had worked on twenty years before with Sister Parish, later becoming her business partner in the legendary firm Parish-Hadley Associates.  The idea was to take some historic pieces of Mid-Atlantic, if not New York, origin of the late 18th and early 19th century and supplement them with quality new furniture and comfortable upholstery to allow these rooms to be realistically used on both daily and official entertaining occasions, not a museum setting despite the historic nature of the mansion.  It was not unlike how the Kennedys used the Yellow Oval Room, Family Dining Room and the adjacent hallways in the White House, decorated to be attractive enough for distinguished guests but comfortable enough for family use.

The Dining Room at Gracie Mansion, circa 1985.
Photo via City of New York.
Despite being known later as the Albert Hadley Refurnishing of the historic part of the mansion, very little of the work he proposed was actually realized.  Although Mark Hampton seemed to have fared better in the Wagner Wing, the Conservancy committee approved but prevented most of Albert Hadley's contributions from being realized.  The Dining Room was the one space where Mr. Hadley's ideas were clearly evident.  All the furnishings were donated by Hadley supporters including the scenic wallpaper.  Among Albert's own donations, in addition to his time, were the simple gauze curtains hung from stamped gilt metal valances; the committee fought him on those, insisting much more formal window treatments would be better suited for the room.  The final straw was the fitted carpet;  the multi-colored striped carpet had been selected for the adjacent sitting room and a durable dark green moire-patterned plush-cut carpet was specified for the Dining Room.  When the carpet company brought the goods (donated because of Mr. Hadley) to be installed, some ladies of the committee made a last-minute Executive Decision to switch the goods as the rooms were of similar size and the striped carpet could be stretched a bit to make up the difference.  Since there was not any patterned fabric in the room, they thought the more colorful carpet was better.  By the end of the day, Albert Hadley officially resigned from the effort and the committee was left to "play house" as it wished.

The visitor's entrance to Gracie Mansion
showing the 1966 Susan Wagner Wing.
Photo by John Foreman for
the Big Old Houses blog.
Despite press reports to the contrary, Mayor Ed Koch did not live in Gracie Mansion on a regular basis, preferring his rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village.  A rule that allows that the only overnight guests may be the immediate members of the First Family and the official guests of the City of New York prevented Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg from cohabitating there with their girlfriends.  Mayor Bloomberg did contribute some of his own funds, however, to the $7 million restoration in 2002 with the interior design carried out by his decorator of choice, Jamie Drake.  Those interiors may be seen as photographed by Architectural Digest here.

Gracie Mansion as it appeared circa 1900
(prior to the 1923 restoration)
Image from Bettman Archives via Corbis.
More can be read about the history of Gracie Mansion on John Foreman's Big Old Houses blog here and on the official website of the City of New York here.  In summary, the mayors bring their own furniture for their private rooms and it looks like the Gracie Mansion Conservancy arranged for this donation by West Elm to supplement the De Blassios' belongings although the furniture officially belongs to the Conservancy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Artificial Flowers

Branches of white pear blossoms
made of painted metal by Carmen Almon
for Deeda Blair's New York City apartment.
Photo by Julia Netta for T Magazine.
As a preschooler, one of my favorite songs was Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers" which was a hit in 1960 despite coming from the unsuccessful Broadway show "Tenderloin" which is set in the red-light district of Manhattan in the 1890s.  I did not know anything about that, although I did get that the lyrics were about a poor orphan who froze to death making artificial flowers.  But it was a time when lyrics could be understood and they painted an impression that I could comprehend, even as a young child.  And I loved the up-beat, jazzy, big band accompaniment.  You will understand if you watch Bobby Darin's YouTube video performance here.
A pineapple plant made by Carmen Almon
set in an antique brass container
in a detail from a photo by Carolyne Roehm.
CarolyneRoehm.com
Despite growing up with gardens and houses filled with containers of cut flowers, ever since that song I have had an interest in artificial flowers as a permanent element in decoration.  Of course, the chances of this going completely wrong are positively stinking-ly overripe with possibilities, and I have always encouraged my clients not to depend on floral arrangements, either real or artificial, to carry a room.  So you will understand my recent joy in seeing a pair of pineapple plants made by Carmen Almon that were decorating the Bird Room in Chisholm House, the lovely-though-work-in-progress Charleston home of Carolyne Roehm.

A detail of Carmen Almon's
pineapple plant.
Photo by Carolyne Roehm
CarolyneRoehm.com
Pineapple plants are very expensive to buy yet very easy to grow.  But they grow fast so it would almost take a plantation to keep a supply of potted plants in this stage of growth.  And, of course, Carmen Almon's works are not replicas of nature but her own artistic impression.  She mostly uses 17th and 18th century botanical books as her guide rather than actual plants or photographs.
A basket of prunus branches by Carmen Almon
in the Fifth Avenue apartment of Howard Slatkin.
Photo by Jeff Hirsh for NYSD.
I really began to take note of Carmen Almon's work with the publication of  Howard Slatkin's Fifth Avenue apartment; he must have a couple of dozen of her works.  She was the first employee he hired when he opened his Manhattan business in the early 1990s, according to a T Magazine article in 2013.

Carmen Almon's clematis trained on a form
is joined by additional works in pots
in Howard Slatkin's apartment.
Photo by Jeff Hirsh for NYSD.
Carmen Almon was a botanical watercolorist 25 years ago when style icon Deeda Blair asked her to restore some 1960s tole pieces that she collected.  When Mrs. Blair moved to New York City in 2005, she commissioned the white pear blossom branches seen in the first image in this post of The Devoted Classicist.  "It's the same Bradford pear I had in Washington," she was quoted in an article by Jean Bond Rafferty for a NY TIMES article published 08/25/2013.  "I became obsessed photographing flower clusters and branches and sending them back and forth to Almon.  The branches were dark wood, covered in lichen and moss."

Carmen Almon in her Bordeaux apartment
photographed by Fabrice Fouillet for
T magazine, August 21, 2013.
Almon, 63, born in Guatemala to a Spanish mother and an American diplomat father, attended several art schools in Europe.  Her second husband, a sculptor, taught her how to solder in the late 1990s.  Using brass and copper tubes, she cuts copper sheeting with several kinds of nail scissors and employs an assortment of vises and pliers to create the petals and leaves.  Working on each art piece over a period of three months or so, she applies layers of color with washes of enamel and oil paint thinned with turpentine.  A bug is often added to complete the composition.

A Saturn peach with a Callithea butterfly by Carmen Almon.
carmen-almon.com
A 2012 charity auction to benefit the New York Botanic Garden offered a floral sprig donated by Almon which was valued at $850.  A show at New York City's Chinese Porcelain Company in October, 2013, had prices ranging from $3,500 for a nectarine blossom sprig to $40,000 for very large pieces.

An almond tree by Carmen Almon.
carmen-almon.com
More may be read about Carmen Almon in an article in the January, 2006, issue of HOUSE & GARDEN.  In addition to Howard Slatkin's FIFTH AVENUE STYLE: A DESIGNER'S NEW YORK APARTMENT, more examples of her work may be seen used as part of the décor in room settings in CHARLOTTE MOSS: A FLAIR FOR LIVING and in CHARLOTTE MOSS DECORATES: THE ART OF CREATING ELEGANT AND INSPIRED ROOMS.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Eyford Park, Reprised

The manor house of Eyford Park, Gloucestershire.
Photo via Number One London.
There apparently has been a glitch in the publishing of the previous post for readers of The Devoted Classicist who subscribe to receive these essays via Follow By Email; "Eyford Park, England's Favorite House" was not sent out, or at least, it was not received by all.  The service is out of the blogger's control, but if the post has been missed, this should solve the problem by clicking on the link here.