Friday, December 30, 2011

The Office

The office of The Very Reverend James Parks Morton.
An office, especially an executive's, should say something about the individual.  All these examples come from that Golden Age when The New York Times Magazine was eagerly awaited, the first section to be viewed after picking up the Sunday edition at the newstand late Saturday evening.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, this separate section of the newspaper, the only part with color photography, was at the forefront of styles and trends, truly a finger on the pulse of what America was thinking -- or about to think.  Editor Carrie Donovan, 1928-2001, had a knack for recognizing what would become popular.  Formerly fashion editor for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, she was an early supporter of Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, and Paloma Picasso.  In her later years, she became a widely-recognized celebrity as a spokesperson for Old Navy, appearing in 42 television ads.
Carrie Donovan.
Photo from Google Images.
The Cathedral House on the grounds of the (Episcopal) Cathedral of St. John the Divine was orginally built as the bishop's residence in 1911.  Designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram, the funds for construction were donated by J.P. Morgan.  In the 1950s, architect Frederic Rhinelander King, cousin of author and taste-maker Edith Wharton and partner in the New York office of noted Palm Beach architect Marion Sims Wyeth, converted the first floor into offices with the bishop's apartment on the second floor.  The office of the dean (the head of the Episcopal churches in New York City), the Very Reverend James Parks Morton, is pictured here in the first image.  Originally the library of the house, this office is blessed with remarkable architectural features: leaded glass windows with stone surrounds of gothic tracery, oak beams with carved stone corbels, tall bookcases, and a medieval style fireplace (not shown).  The office served as center of many diverse projects, from the completion of the cathedral and the attendant training programs (in stone cutting/carving, woodcraft, iron-working, etc.) to solar design to visual and performing arts programs.  Dean Morton's personal touches included his collection of rocks found in East Hampton, Long Island, and Colorado, and peacock feathers, shed from the four birds that roamed the grounds of the cathedral.  Further decoration was provided by cathedral drawings, charts and personal photographs.  And the contribution of the semi-antique Heriz rug is not to be under-rated.  This image shows the turn-of-the-century English Arts & Crafts desk set for an informal lunch with food from a local delicatessen.
The office of Mary Wells Lawrence.
Advertising legend Mary Wells Lawrence, board chairman of Wells, Rich, Greene knew how to close a business deal.  In addition to creative talent, she gave the client personalized service, whether it was entertaining at her summer home La Fiorentina, featured in previous posts of The Devoted Classicist here, here, and here, or her own office.  Her interior designer, Arthur E. Smith, protege of Billy Baldwin and later his business partner until Baldwin's 1971 retirement, furnished the office as a fresh-but-sophisticated Living Room.  Comfortable upholstery slipcovered in bright fabric of white fern fronds on yellow, matching Roman shades, a yellow and white geometric rug, rattan armchairs (a favorite of Baldwin), a Smith-designed work table for the desk, and a William & Mary lacquered chest give the space the intimacy and down-played luxury of an Upper East Side apartment.  Mrs. Lawrence began her workday at home at 6:30 am, according to the article, was in the office by 9:00 am and stayed until 9:00 pm, seldom leaving for lunch;  instead, she preferred to invite clients in.  The 1974 design has held remarkably well.
The office of Diane Von Furstenberg.
In interesting contrast, fashion and cosmetics executive Diane Von Furstenberg told the Switzer Group, designers for her corporate offices, that she wanted the interiors to look like a cross between an ocean liner and the set of an Esther Williams film.  The most striking feature is the plush bright pink carpeting covering the floor and the curving steps to the terrace.  The Art Nouveau desk was a gift from her father, and the pair of gray velvet Art Deco chairs were a gift from her close friend and associate Olivier Gelbsmann, the interior designer.
The office of Halston.


Fashion designer Halston had a 100 by 26 space on the 22nd floor of Olympic Tower fronting Fifth Avenue to service as an office, workable studio, and showroom.  Designed in collaboration with architects Gruzen & Partners, the space had large mirrored doors that would divide it into as many as four separate rooms or open as one, creating an elegant setting for fashion shows as well as luncheons, dinner dances, and charity benefits.  Furnishings, stored in a warehouse when not used, included banquettes, tables, more than three hundred chairs and two dance floors.  Halston chose the red carpet to anchor the space.  "Living high up in New York, everything is gray," he said, "I needed something that would stabilize the space so the room wouldn't float."
The office of Beverly Sills.
Although it also had red carpet, the office of director of operations for the New York Opera Beverly Sills had no windows.  "I work best surrounded by things I need and love," said Miss Sills.  Memorablia and furnishings from her family homes decorated the space.

All the photos, except as noted, come from LIVING WELL, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF HOME DESIGN AND DECORATION, edited by Carrie Donovan, published by Times Books, 1981.  As the virtues of the book have often been lauded by design blogs such as The Peak of Chic, copies are seldom found for sale.  However, scarce vintage copies may be found here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More On Yuznyi

An exterior view of a detached single-family house proposed for the new town of Yuznyi, Russia.
Collage by John Tackett Design, re-using the format established by Start Development.
There is a long tradition of homes in the Russian countryside where families could go in the summer to escape the city.  Traditional Dacha villages consist of houses on a small plot surrounded by a high wall for privacy and protection of a vegetable garden.  Typically, these villages are located next to forests where the families go for picnics and hikes.  New single-family houses are gradually replacing the older Dachas as development is rapidly expanding around Moscow and St. Petersburg.  This essay is the second part of the story of the new town Yuznyi presented by The Devoted Classicist here.

Yuznyi is the concept of START Development, a St. Petersburg-based private development company that commissioned Urban Design Associates to prepare a Master Plan for the new town of 14 square miles (3,700 hectares).  Apartments and rowhouses/townhouses were shown in the previous posting, but the town will also have detached single-family houses, an urban concept that is not common in Russia.  These houses are intended to be affordable within the context of the Russian housing market.  Because mortgages are not as common in Russia as they are in western European countries, many of these new homeowners will make their purchase with personal savings and loans from family members.  Therefore the size and design of these houses must meet the price restrictions.
Floor plans for a detached single-family house proposed for the new town of Yuznyi, Russia.
Drawing by John Tackett Design, revising the format established by Start Development.

The collage of the exterior of the house at the beginning of this post and the floor plans above represent a "tweaking" of the Master Plan's typical single-family detached residence by John Tackett Design.  Keeping the same footprint and massing, the exterior was restyled to suit the classical theme of the architecture of the town and some changes were made to the interior to make the small house feel more spacious.  The original concept of the American Style combination living/dining/kitchen was retained but reorganized.  The two bedrooms were made slightly larger but the local practice of having wardrobes instead of closets was kept.  Instead of a full bathroom on the ground floor and full bathroom upstairs, this suggested scheme proposes a Powder Room (half-bath) down and a 3-part bathroom up.
A map of the area from the Master Plan by Urban Design Associates.
The two parts of the new town of Yuznyi are shown in purple.
The area is rich with Imperial estates, palaces and their surrounding parks now open to the public.  Pushkin, formerly known as the Tsar's Village, is the location of Catherine the Great's summer palace, Tsarskoe Selo along with the Cameron Gallery and the Alexander Palace.
The palace Tsarskoe Selo.
The famous Amber Room at Tsarskoe Selo as reconstructed 1979 - 2003.
The history of the room, its dismantling by the Nazis, and subsequent loss is a whole story in itself.
A bridge in the park of Tsarskoe Selo.
The town of Gatchina is home to Gatchina Palace, given by Empress Catherine II to Heir Sovereign Paul in 1783, who made many of the interior improvements according to the tastes of the time.  Badly damaged during World War II, restoration is still underway.  Gatchina Highway, the historical route connecting Gatchina to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, passes through Yuznyi.  It will be a broad tree-lined boulevard, the main street in a residential neighborhood.
Gatchina Palace.
An interior view of Gatchina Palace.
The remarkable Birch Cabin in the park of Gatchina.
The town of Pavlovsk is also in the area, famous for its imperial palace and park.  In 1777, Empress Catherine II granted her son Grand Prince Pavel Petrovich the court hunting grounds along the banks of the Slavyanka river.  Over  several decades, the grand palace and pavillions were developed along with an enormous park.
Pavlovsk Palace.
An exterior detail of Pavlovsk Palace.
The Egyptian Vestibule of Pavlovsk Palace.
Photo from PAVLOVSK PALACE & PARK by Anatoli Michailovich Kuchnmov.
A pavillion in Pavlovsk park.
Unless otherwise noted, all the images of Imperial palaces and parks come from the very informative website Saint-Petersburg which is a wonderful resource of all the architectural treasures in the area by Sergey Fedorov and highly recommended.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Town in Russia

An artist's view of the proposed new town of Yuznyi, Russia.

The economic prosperity in Russia has brought great pressure on Moscow and St. Petersburg as the urban population is rapidly growing with workers coming from rural areas for business opportunities.  New towns are being planned near the urban centers, and one utilizing the successful European formats established before the era of Stalin, is Yuznyi.  All the buildings will be evocative of the traditional styles.
A map showing the two parts of the new town of Yuznyi in purple.
Avoiding the architectural mistakes of the Communists who built isolated residential towers disconnected from the streets and separated from the urban core, the new town of Yuznyi will be a satellited of St. Petersburg, located on a regional railroad line and adjacent to the M-20 highway.  Convenient access to central St. Petersburg and Gatchina employement centers as well as the Pulkoro International Airport is a notable feature as the construction within the cities cannot keep up with the demand.
Yuznyi will be composed of districts with each being distinctive and having unique features.  From single-family houses in tree-lined neighborhoods to four-to-seven story apartment buildings in mixed-use town centers, there will be a range in housing choices, all within walking distance of shops, schools and parks.  There will be a university campus, office and light industrial areas, and a hospital with the districts linked by a network of public transit, walking trails and waterways.
A detailed plan of the first phase of construction for Yuznyi, expected to be complete in 2013.
Having services located within walking distance and/or public transportation will reduce the automobile dependency that has grown to nightmare proportions in the cities.  Two of the largest neighborhoods will be located at existing commuter rail stations that service St. Petersburg.  The apartment buildings in these transit centers will have ground floor shops and services with the buildings constructed around courtyards and facing pocket parks.
A conceptual view of a mixed use neighborhood near a transit center.
The density of housing types decreases further away from the transportation center.  Neighborhoods of rowhouses/townhouses are planned for the second phase of construction and the designs are still being developed.  With the goal of attractive tree-lined streets with front yards and a variety of facades, the market surveys have shown, however, considerable opposition to alleys and parking in the rear of the lots;  Russians prefer a big backyard with parking in the front.  The struggle to design attractive yet affordable housing continues, however.
A conceptual view of the neighborhood of attached houses in Yuznyi.
The next posting of The Devoted Classicist will present the interesting history of the area and an example of a new American-influenced single-family detached house.  All the images are the work of the Pittsburgh firm Urban Design Associates which has developed the Concept Plan for the new town of Yuznyi.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Underneath the Mistletoe



Merry Christmas
Seasons Greetings
Happy Holidays
Decorating with mistletoe at Christmas is a custom that has survived from pre-Christian traditions that believed the branches had magical powers.  Kissing under the mistletoe was associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later, primitive marriage rites.  In 18th century England, a woman standing under mistletoe at Christmas could not refuse to be kissed;  sometimes this signified lasting friendship, but sometimes it meant a promise of marriage.  In the United States today, a kiss under the mistletoe is just a symbol of goodwill (or a sign of too much egg nog).

Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens is the native North American variety) can grow on its own, but it is usually seen in the South as a parasitic plant growing on the trunk and branches of a tree, its roots taking nutrients from the tree.  While the European variety rarely grows on oak trees, it is not unusual here;  apple trees are universally accommodating hosts.  Bulk mistletoe sells for about US $15 per pound, but it is usually sold by the sprig for a few dollars.

The Altos Del Mar historic district.
This past year, John Tackett Design was commissioned for a preliminary study to design a new oceanfront house to be built in Miami Beach, Florida.  7825 Atlantic Way is one of the few remaining lots zoned for a single family residence with direct ocean access, along with numbers 7709, 7715, and 7833.  Atlantic Way is a private street in the small historic district Altos Del Mar, the highest point (a relative term of course) on the island of Miami Beach.  The gated community of only twelve properties has homes ranging from Art Deco to Ultra-Contemporary with Spanish, Bermuda, and Florida Vernacular included as well.  The low density neighborhood is protected from further oceanfront high-rise development with North Shore Park immediately to the north and the new Altos Del Mar Sculpture Park to the south.  Cultural attractions, fashionable restaurants, and luxury shops are only minutes away.
The private individual who commissioned this preliminary design asked for a house in the classical tradition, yet respectful of the tropical location.  The round entrance hall, illustrated in the first image, adapted and reused with the kind permission of my client, features Regency style palm trees and a compass patterned floor.  The 8,000 sq. ft. house with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms would be built in the manner evocative of early twentieth century architects such as David Adler and Delano & Aldrich, yet having every modern technological convenience.  In association with an assembled group of experienced professionals, John Tackett Design provides a team for a full range of services for architecture, engineering, interiors and landscape design for classic residences, new construction or renovation, nationwide.
A view of the beach from the Altos Del Mar prospectus.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Library of Reclaimed Pine

The new pine panelled Library by John Tackett Design.
Photo by Peter Estersohn for Southern Accents magazine.
This new Library is another room in the Volk Estates, University Park, Dallas, Texas, residence that has been featured in previous posts of The Devoted Classicist.  The Entrance Stairhall can be seen here, the Living Room here, a downstairs Sitting Room here, the Luncheon Room here, and the Garden Room here;  all these rooms are in the renovated house.  One of the additions contained the Master Bedroom seen here, which is over this panelled Library.  As previously mentioned, this project was executed by John Tackett Design in conjunction with Dallas architect Wilson Fuqua and interior designer Josie McCarthy.
A corner of the new pine panelled Library by John Tackett Design.
Photo by Peter Estersohn for Southern Accents magazine.
As the grain and knots were of importance, builder Kevin Smith was able to source the wood from an old warehouse in Louisiana that was being demolished.  It was remilled to conform to the desired panels and custom moulding profiles of my specifications, and then washed with grey stain to relieve the redness of Southern Pine and waxed by Barry Martin, whose company was responsible for most of the painting on the project.
Snapshots of the new Library before the foil tea paper was applied to the ceiling.
Image:  John Tackett Design.
Although some of the furnishings were purchased especially for these rooms, almost all of the furniture from the owner's previous home, which was also decorated by Josie McCarthy, was reused, albeit in a different way, and usually reupholstered or slightly altered.
The Luncheon Room was previously a Breakfast Room.  The new Breakfast Room and the Dining Room will be featured in up-coming posts.

The great set of prints in the Luncheon Room were previously displayed on the staircase of the Strait Lane home.  Some years ago, that house was featured in a holiday issue of Southern Accents magazine, so it is included in this post as seasonal inspiration.
The owners' previous home on Strait Lane, in Dallas, Texas, as decorated by Josie McCarthy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Furnishings: Mercer House

A framed ormolu fitting from the State Carriage of the Emperor Napoleon used at his Coronation, December 2, 1804.
In this second part of The Devoted Classicist essay on Mercer House, the Savannah, Georgia, home of the late Jim Williams, a closer look at the individual furnishings will be taken.  But if the reader has missed the first segment, part of the Notable Homes series, take a look here.  Unless otherwise noted, all these photos and accompanying descriptions come from the auction catalog prepared for the sale held October 20, 2000, at Sotheby's, New York City, Sale 7527.
It is unknown if the interiors were changed much from the time of Mr. Williams' occupancy.  Typically, items not in the sale are removed from the general views shown in the auction catalog, but it is assumed that at least an attempt was made to show the house as intact as possible since interior design was important to Mr. Williams.
The Entrance Hall of Mercer House, looking out the front doors to Monterey Square.
The house at 429 Bull Street faced Monterey Square, the last remaining trust lot (an entire city block) that still remained in private ownership.
A George III mahogany linen press with flame-veneered oval panels.  Some replacements are noted.
The Entrance Hall, with a view to the rear.
A pair of George III style carved giltwood torcheres, circa 1900.
A Regency inlaid mahogany and parcel-gilt side table, first quarter of the 19th century.
A Brussels tapestry, 18th century, woven with silk, wool, and metallic threads, depicting Diana and her nymphs bathing by a fountain.  The bottom border is missing.
One of the stars of the auction was this set of nine pastels on paper depicting members of the Southwell and Percival families, ascribed to artist Henrietta Dering Johnston, c. 1674-1729, with seven in their original black frames.  The artist's name is widely recognized in the South Carolina lowcountry although only forty portraits are known.  Mr. Williams acquired this set at the 1980 sale of the contents of Belvedere House in Ireland, the ancestral home of Henrietta's first husband Robert Dering. She immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1708 with her second husband The Reverend Gideon Johnston.   Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering Johnston is the earliest documented woman artist in colonial America and the first American pastelist.
The Drawing Room.
A George I chinoiserie japanned cabinet, circa 1720, on a later George I style stand.
Three Chinese sang-de-boeuf glazed porcelain vases, 19th century.
A view into the Music Room and the Library beyond.
A pair of Regence fauteuils, circa 1730, upholstered in contemporary needlework.
Another view of the Music Room.
A Brussels tapestry, early 18th century, depicting a couple, perhaps Venus and Adonis, embracing with Cupid upholding a shield emblazoned with a heart.  The bottom border is missing.
A William IV mahogany sideboard, Irish, circa 1835.
A pair of Regency giltwood torcheres with later circular painted tops.

The Blue Drawing Room.
A Louis XV ormolu-mounted Boulle marquetry bracket clock with conforming bracket, signed Laurent Dey, a master of the Paris Clockmaker's Guild.
A white statuary marble bust of Edward VII, English, dated 1906, by Walter Merrett.
A green marble column, late 19th century.

A view of the Dining Room.
A pair of paintings by Thomas Hudson, portraits of Mr. and Mrs. James Hilhouse of Cornwallis House, Clifton.
A Regency gilt-metal mounted Dining Room pedestal, circa 1815, in the manner of Thomas Hope.
A Regency mahogany dining table, first quarter 19th century, in two parts.
A set of eight George II style red-japanned and parcel-gilt dining chairs, modern.

A view of the Second Floor Hall.
A portrait of the Reverend Rhodes by Thomas Hudson.
A George III mahogany sofa, circa 1770.
A pair of carved polychrome and giltwood lamps in the Chinese taste.
A pair of painted wood and tole pedestals.
A Louis XVI style painted and parcel-gilt mirror, continental, late 19th century.

A view of the second floor room known as the Ballroom.
A pair of rococo style giltwood and composition pier mirrors, American, mid-19th century, 9 ft high.
A painted and gilt center table with a marble top, modern.

The Master Bedroom.
A continental turned beechwood stool, late 17th century, with a crewelwork cover.
A carved walnut and parcel-gilt column lamp, part 17th century.

Information on auctions at Sotheby's, past and future, can be viewed on their website here.

This house is now known as the Mercer Williams House Museum.  More information about opening times, admission, etc., may be viewed on their website here.

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