Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Millford Plantation Barbeque Benefit

Readers of The Devoted Classicist are invited to participate in a fund-raising benefit with a barbeque picnic at historic Millford Plantation in Pinewood, South Carolina, about 90 miles northwest of Charleston, on Saturday, April 9, 2011.  Tickets are $60 per person.  For more information and/or reservations, visit http://www.classicalamericanhomes.org/ and click "Events" before March 31.

Historic home enthusiast and collector Richard H. Jenrette recently donated Millford Plantation to Classical American Homes Preservation Trust, a non-profit corporation he founded in 1993.  Jenrette had restored the mansion and gardens to showcase the collection of Duncan Phyfe furniture that he reassembled and returned to the house. The mansion was built in 1839-41 by John Laurence Manning, the 22 year old son of a South Carolina Governor and later Governor himself, and his wife Susan Frances Hampton, daughter of General Wade Hampton, 1st.  The grand house with colossal Corinthian columns was designed by architect Nathaniel Potter, who also designed a similiar mansion Millwood for Susan's brother Colonel Wade Hampton 2nd near Columbia, S.C.  Located on 400 acres, Millford will be open to the public on the first Saturday of every month.

Classical American Homes Preservation Trust was founded to preserve, protect and open to the public examples of American residential classical architecture, fine arts and antiques from the first half of the 19th century.  Some of Mr Jenrette's other homes have been visited by The Devoted Classicist and will be featured in future posts.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Cover of book:  Harper Collins Publishers, New York City.
Cathy Whitlock, an interior designer and author of the Cinema Style blog, has written a new book titled Designs On Film in conjunction with the Art Directors Guild.  The cover shows Dorothy and Toto on the Yellow Brick Road from The (Young) Devoted Classicist's favorite film The Wizard of Oz with art direction by the MGM team led by Cedric Gibbons and costumes by Adrian.  With the production design of some of the most memorable settings in film history, showing the ancient Rome in Cleopatra to the fantastic future Pandora in Avatar, Ms. Whitlock reveals the process of creating movie magic.  For a preview of the book, see the website http://www.adg.org/?art=designs_on_film of the Art Directors Guild.
Author Cathy Whitlock
All Mid-South readers of The Devoted Classicist are invited to meet Cathy Whitlock for a presentation, book sale and signing sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust this Saturday, April 2, 2011, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  The event is free with regular museum admission.  See http://www.decorativeartstrust.com/ for more information on Decorative Arts Trust and its programs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The New Southern Accents

As mentioned in The Devoted Classicist February 21, 2011, post, there will be special editons of Southern Accents magazine although there are no longer regular monthly issues.  The current issue on newsstands is "The Best of Southern Gardens".
The garden of a John Tackett Design project in Highland Park, Dallas was featured on the cover and in an article in one of the last monthly issues of the magazine.  But I had nothing to do with the garden and essentially anything associated with my work was omitted in the photographs.  Only the service entrance to the Guesthouse/Poolhouse can barely be seen on the cover.  But recently word came that the new edition of the magazine would again feature the project in an article titled "A Classical Italian Garden in Dallas".

View of rear garden to southeast.  Design by Paul Fields.
So I was hopeful at this second chance at publication, but it was not to be.  Although, again, no evidence of my work is shown, the garden is presented here to be a reference in more posts in the future.  There had been a previous scheme for the landscaping that had been realized by another garden designer, so my work on the project had long been finished by the time the owners brought in Paul Fields of Lambert Landscape Company whose efforts are shown here.

The plan of the rear garden designed by Paul Fields.
The Devoted Classicist is a big proponent of Garden Rooms, delineated areas of planting that can be considered on their own in terms of design.  But 3-dimensionality has to be considered, with heights as important as the footprint.  And the relationship of the house to the landscape must be considered;  what one sees from the interior and what happens as one enters or exists the house should be very important aspects of the garden design.  In this situation, the garden was treeless with the rear of the house facing south with an alley beyond and a side street immediately bordering the eastern boundary.  The long, humid summers in Dallas are brutal, so that was surely the incentive for providing shade for the walkways.  But the central allee of crepe myrtles with a tall central parterre-like bed of boxwood and pots of soon-to-be-trees of vitex divides the expanse of lawn into two parts, unnecessarily, in addition to slicing the rear facade of the house in half.

The homeowner with her granddaughters on the west lawn.
Containers set into beds are a traditional way to easily add seasonal color.  A view of the corner of the limestone clad house at the Family Room is almost seen on the right in the photo above.

The fountain designed by Rick Robertson.

A raised curb around the pool helps prevent accidental spills and fall-ins.  It prevents sitting on the edge, however.  Submerged platforms allow a place for a cool soak, however, aided by shade from a screen of magnolias
The Potager, or Kitchen Garden, by Paul Fields.
The corner of the garden that is the fartherest from the kitchen is designated as a potager.  No vegetables are evident in this shot, but there are some sprigs of thyme growing up between the flagstones.  It is attractive, none-the-less, and I am sure a welcome contrast to the expanse of paving of the pool terrace.

Several other private gardens are also presented, along with some well-known examples such as Hidecote Manor, Wave Hill, Dumbarton Oaks, and Great Dixter, to provide garden design inspiration.  In addition, there are segments that highlight various elements such as containers, statuary & garden ornaments, walkways & paths, pools & fountains, and outdoor rooms.  My friend Peter Cummin, the extremely talented landscape architect based in Stonington, Connecticut, is responsible for the deisgn pictured below in Tulsa.

A Tulsa garden by Peter Cummin.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pampered Pets

Each year in Dallas, there is a fund-raiser called Paws Cause that benefits Texas' Village Fair Clinic which is associated with the Humane Society of the United States, the SPCA.   This is the first facility in the state to provide affordable spay/neuter procedures to combat the heartbreaking problem of unwanted litters.  Last year, the clinic served 24,000 pets.  In 2004, the chairperson for the event was nationally known Dallas decorator Cathy Kincaid who organized a group that included Bunny Williams, John Rosselli, and The Devoted Classicist to create a pet bed to be specially made and donated to be auctioned with the proceeds going to this charity.  My design is shown above and all are shown below, with the exception of the one by Ms Williams and Mr Rosselli which was not ready by the photography deadline for the October, 2004, issue of D Home magazine, the source for all these images.

The design was based on a line of occasional furniture that I developed starting in 1987 with the finish being a covering of leather or fabric held by nailhead trim.  I had a supply of cherry red split leather that I decided to use when I happened to see plush terry cloth towels on sale that exactly matched the color of the heavy suede.  The towels were woven in a fretwork design that were particulary attractive as well as a comfortable and practical removable cover for the loose pad.  Titled the "Red Bed", it was suitable for either a small dog or a cat.  Fabrication was done by my frequent collaborator Hector Alexander, who donated his labor for the worthy cause.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Equestrian Estate, Connecticut, Part 1

The Devoted Classicist was raised in a family of horsemen, so he was thrilled at the prospect of making improvements to an equestrian estate in the beautiful rolling hills of the northwest corner of Connecticut, near the village of West Cornwall, Litchfield County.  The first phase of the project had already been completed by the immensely talented interior designer John Saladino who created a New England version of a Palladian stable block, adding-to and altering a complex of barns and sheds.  However, the owners decided to go in another decorative direction before continuing with the rest of the project of improvements for their weekend country house.  They switched to Bunny Williams, noted for her casual but chic expertise in this very type of project, and Bunny brought me in for the architecture to compliment her comprehensive new schemes for the interior design.  Collaborating with Bunny, I designed the the renovation and improvements to the main house and two guest houses, as well as a new swimming pool and adjacent shelter.  The garden design was provided by Nancy McCabe, who lives in the area near Bunny's own country house.  More of this project will be shown in future posts.
My contributions to the stable block complex involved creating staff quarters within the southern shed which also contained the garage and storage for landscape related equipment.  There was very little change to the existing exterior scheme, just a little tweaking with the addition of millwork detailing such as the pilasters framing the arched opening as shown added in the two photos above.  The granite trough, cobblestone  paving, and the distant dovecote were existing prior to my participation.
All these photos by Peter Aaron/Esto were originally published in the New York Times Magazine with later collage additions to the first two views by John Tackett Design.  The third view is a reverse of reality, however, for those trying to get their bearings.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Curtains for Albert Hadley?

Yes and no.  Yes, Albert Hadley refers to window treatments as curtains (and never drapes).  As a former employee of the interior design firm Parish-Hadley, The Devoted Classicist follows the tradition.

But no, despite a recent New York Times article titled "It's Curtains", it is not over for Albert Hadley, b. 1921, who closed his design office on November 1st of last year.  Fortunately, the upcoming auctions represent a retirement sale rather than an estate sale.  At Sotheby's Manhattan on March 30 and 31, and at Stair Galleries, Hudson, NY, on April 1, 2011, there will be an auction of property from his office and warehouse.  While many treasures have already found good homes, even second tier furnishings with an Albert Hadley provenance will be worthy of attention.  There is anticipation building to see the on-line catalogs as well as the exhibitions themselves.

The sketches shown here are not by Mr Hadley but my own.  However, they clearly show his influence in both theory and rendering style.  As Albert Hadley is referred to as the Dean of American Decorating, these drawings would fall into the category of "school of . .".  For the top sketch, I have used as inspiration an A.H. design for a bathroom window treatment for Mrs. Jock Whitney at Greentree, the Manhasset estate that will be featured in a future post.  For my project, the bathroom with a wainscot of slabs of marble was given stencilled decoration on the upper walls, and the window was treated with a half curtain, a roller shade (not shown), and a swagged valance with trailing jabots, adorned with a fringe of tiny silvered bells and wooden silverleafed tassels, and silvered rings held with glass head picture pins.  The bottom sketch was for dining room windows at One Sutton Place, an apartment which will also be featured in a future post.  Here the sketch shows the proposal for using different fabrics -- one for the valance, another for the panels, and a third for the lining which is visible as a border on the face.  Currently there is a trend for more simple window treatments, but there are still circumstances where the curtains can provide just the right finishing touch.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Maverick's Country House

William Randolph Hearst, shown at age 31 in an 1894 portrait by Orrin Peck, built a still-mighty publishing empire and lived lavishly on a grand scale.  He was an art collector who personally selected and placed every object in his vast collection at the magnificent castle La Costa Enchanted (The Enchanted Hill), San Simeon, California, on the Pacific coast half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Working for 28 years with Julia Morgan, the first female architect to achieve national prominence, Hearst created a hybrid of informal California traditions infused with English country house sensibilities.  With actress Marion Davies as hostess, media mogul Hearst famously entertained the Hollywood in-set, such Charlie Chaplin and Gary Grant, mixed with the likes of Calvin Coolidge and Bernard Shaw for weekend house parties.
Guests usually arrived by train to the village that consisted mainly of warehouses for Hearst's treasures, the buildings often mistaken for the remnants of a historic colonial mission.  The five mile drive up to The Enchanted Hill complex winds upward giving occassional glimpses of the picturesque massing, disappearing again and again before dramatically arrive at Casa Grande, a castle-like main house with twin towers modeled after the Cathedral at Ronda, Spain.
Hearst had camped and picnicked on the 1,600 foot high hill as a child and continued that tradition until he decided it was time to give up the village of tents for a more permanent building.  There is some question as to whether it was Hearst or Morgan who came up with the idea of utilizing the Spanish colonial style, but clearly both embraced it completely.
The main entrance of Casa Grande combines contemporary limestone and cast stone with historic sculptural fragments.  The statue of "Galatea" by Leopoldo Ansiglioni in the fishpond is just one of many placed around the complex.
An early 1920s sketch by Julia Morgan for the rear of Casa Grande is similar to what was eventually built.
Just as architecturally significant and as fabulously furnished, there are three guest houses, pictured above:  Casa del Mar (House of the Sea), Casa del Monte (House of the Mountain), and Casa del Sol (House of the Sun).  There are two swimming pools.  The outdoor Neptune Pool is the most fantastic one could ever imagine.
Until you saw the indoor pool, located in the separate athletic building, that gives the effect of being in a classical aquarium because of the shimmering mosaic glass tiles.  This view below shows the diving balcony and the more shallow wading alcove beyond.
All the photos shown here are by Curtis Bruce and appear in the wonderfully informative book Hearst Castle, San Simeon with text by Thomas R. Aidala, published by Hudson Hills Press, 1981.  Additional photos, including some shots of the interior, taken by a fellow blogger and reproduced by permission of Hearst Castle, were published in a recent series of posts in the ArchitectDesign blog, at http://architectdesign.blogspot.com/.

As a fan of the Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, an unfair but fictionalized portrayal of Hearst that is none-the-less an incredible film, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the estate some years ago with architect and film buff Emiliano F. Castro.  It is a state park and there are guided tours of the main house and the mini-mansion guest houses.
Victoria Kastner, the historian at Hearst Castle for 30 years, will present "A Maverick's Country House:  William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon" at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Saturday, March 12, 2011, at 2 pm.  There is no charge for the talk with museum admission.  The Devoted Classicist is the President of Decorative Arts Trust which is co-sponsor of the event with The Royal Oak Foundation, so it is hoped that blog readers in the area will be able to attend.