Sunday, December 26, 2010
I have been fortunate to have had several phases of architectural design work to improve this stone Georgian Revival style house from the 1930s on a lovely site on a private road out the Main Line from Philadelphia. (And I have been even more fortunate to have helped with additional residences for this couple as well, all beautifully decorated by Bunny). This is the clients' primary home and my association was made even more a pleasure because both the husband and the wife were so involved and interested in the project, a situation that is not always the case. Working on this wonderful house with Bunny, Robert, and fabulous clients was a treat for the devoted classicist.
The photo by Tom Leigton appears in the book Modern Murals, Grand Illusions in Interior Decoration by Caroline Cass, published by Whitney Library of Design.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
One of the inspirations for this free-standing single family home is the Pavillion Saint-Vigor by Gabriel in the village of Viroflay (near Versailles), France, built circa 1770. But this house will be fully equipped for today's technology and LEED certified, environmentally responsible, and a healthy, livable home. It will be suitable for even the most devoted classicist.
The drawing currently used for the banner was the cover for last year's holiday card, and the drawing above is this year's card. Best wishes for all my readers, and I send hopes for peace and a very merry Christmas to all.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I am writing about Maison Jansen because there are still many design professionals and enthusiasts that are unfamiliar with the noted inteior design firm. In James A. Abbott's JANSEN, he states that Maison Jansen was the most famous and influential interior decorating company of the 20th century. I resisted accepting that claim at first, but I fully embraced it after reading the book. The Jansen client list was a very diverse international group; most of them powerful and all were rich. With headquarters in Paris, there were eventually offices or boutiques in Buenos Aires, London, Cairo, Alexandria, Havana, New York, Prague, Sao Paulo, Rome, Milan, and Geneva.
When the house was sold in 1984 to Leslie Wexner of The Limited and Victoria's Secret, some of the antiques and art were divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Wrightsmans' Manhattan apartment. So-called lesser pieces were sold at a celebrated auction by Sotheby's New York, an eye-opening event I experienced first hand with "decorative" and "second hand" furnishings selling for record prices. Wexner demolished the famed house on six acress at 513 North County Road with 600 ft of ocean frontage, causing such an uproar from locals, that he abandoned plans to build a new house (designed by my former employer BeyerBlinderBelle) and decided against having a vacation house in Palm Beach after all. Jayne Wrightsman, b. 1920, who introduced Boudin to Jackie Kennedy, still lives in a palatial, full-floor, art and antiques-filled apartment at 820 Fifth Avenue, one of New York City's most desirable addresses.
And the Wrightsmans are just one of the many clients and projects profiled in the book! There is also a sequel of sorts, Jansen Furniture, to be reviewed in a future post. Both are highly recommended for anyone interested in interior design.
Both Jansen books by James Archer Abbott are available at discount pricing with the option of free shipping through The Devoted Classicist Library in affiliation with Amazon here.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Codman scholars Pauline Metcalf and the late Henry Hope Reed have maintained that Codman was inspired by a house on rue Sainte-Catherine in Bordeaux (with lot widths similar to the 38 ft here), but clearly he was influenced by a number of models and provided his own interpretations as well. In Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses edited by Ms Metcalf, Codman was said to also have been influenced by Depau Row, circa 1830 houses that once stood at 160 Bleeker Street (replaced by the Mills House Hotel now converted into apartments). Like the carriage doors of Depau Row, the Dalgren house has a pair of impressive doors (with a smaller concealed pedestrian door) that swing in to allow an automobile to enter a shelter outside the side Vestibule entrance before proceeding through a courtyard to a Garage at the back of the 100 ft deep site. Inside the Garage, the original turntable still remains as does the original elevator that allows cars to be stored in the Cellar.
There have been a succession of famous (and relatively infamous) owners over the years, including Pierre Cartier of the jewelry family, whose heirs sold the house to the Convent of Saint Francis de Sales. There were two other owners before the current owner completely updated the building systems, sensitively improved the bathrooms and kitchen, and added a charming penthouse Garden Room opening onto the new south facing rooftop terrace with a pergola and outdoor fireplace. This work, in addition to refreshed decoration but not furnishing, was designed by David Anthony Easton and his associated architect Eric J Smith to high standards executed by the white-glove company Xhema Construction. The readers might be surprised to learn that the current owner, reportedly, has never occupied the house and that it has unofficially been available for purchase for several years according to real estate sources.
Ogden Codman moved to France permanently after World War I with his scheme for the whole block to be lined by similar houses of his design never realized. Conventional apartment buildings filled the other lots except for the three Codman townhouses that were built and still survive: this one, his own, and the house for Susan de Peyster at No. 12.
The book MARK HAMPTON, AN AMERICAN DECORATOR is available for purchase at a discount of 37% from the published price and the option of free shipping through The Devoted Classicist Library here.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The award of a summer internship administered by Dee Ann Walker with the National Trust for Historic Preservation satisfied the required service practicum; I was a team member of the Historic American Building Survey and documented the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, DC. I also participated in a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission, administered by Glorial Neal Testerman, to survey pre-1930 building in Jefferson County, Tennessee.
Ignoring chronological order, I later had the great honor to be chosen to attend the Attingham Summer School in England, a prestiguous program usually reserved for museum curators. Focusing on the Country House, its architecture, contents, and landscape setting, my study of decorative arts began in earnest. It was a life-changing opportunity for a truly hands-on examination of a wide range of disciplines and styles. The program was headed by renown eduacator and author Geoffrey Beard and a team of tutors and lecturers, each a noted specialist, including Gervace Jackson-Stops, Roger White, and Annabel Westmann. Also in education, were two semesters of teaching in the Interior Design department chaired by Ann Borsch and directed by Tim Gunn at Parsons School of Design, The New School in New York City; I also taught a class in the summer program in Paris.
My first job out of university was with BuildingConservationTechnology/TheEhrenkrantzGroup, a nationally recognized architectural firm specializing in historic preservation. Leadership of the offices in Nashville and the historic community of Rugby, Tennessee, was provided by Joseph Herndon. When James Marston Fitch, known as the Father of Amercian Preservation, retired from Columbia University to enter private practice, I was tapped to be his assistant at BeyerBlinderBelle Architects and Planners in New York City. But Reaganomics brought government participation in preservation to a halt, bringing about a change in my profession.
Knowledge of traditional architecture and interest in decorative arts landed me a position at the legendary interior design firm Parish-Hadley. Under the guidance of Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, and the touteledge of Bunny Williams and Harold Simmons, my design education reached a new height of connoisseurship. It was a truly invaluable experience, and prepared me to open my own mult-faceted studio in 1987.
Drawing on my education and experience in history and preservation, I am often called on for sensitive improvements to existing houses and apartments, designing additions and renovations. But I also design new houses. I often collaborate with interior designers on major projects as well as only particular elements such as individual pieces of furniture or custom light fixtures. Contemporary design is taken on in special circumstances, but I remain a devoted classicist.