Thursday, January 26, 2012

Historic Paint Color at Monticello

The Dining Room of Monticello, with the Tea Room adjacent.
Photo:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

In recognition of the upcoming Thomas Jayne Event sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust, presented in a previous post of The Devoted Classicist, there is a return to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello to discuss the Dining Room;  the adjacent Tea Room is discussed in Mr. Jayne's book THE FINEST ROOMS IN AMERICA.
The Dining Room at Monticello, showing the previous blue paint scheme.
Note the open doors of the dumbwaiters flanking the fireplace.
Photo:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

The interior paint colors that many think of as "Colonial" or "Williamsburg" are often a result of 1930s interpretations rather than actual historic colors.  Today, there is more interest in accurate restoration rather than "tasteful" re-creations, and science combined with more academic knowledge of history often allows a more authentic presentation in house museums.
The Dining Room of Monticello as it appeared in 2010 with a table setting by Charlotte Moss.
(The table was set up in the room during Jefferson's time only as needed).
Photo:  Elle Decor magazine.

Utilizing analysis and studies by Welsh Color & Conservation, Inc., it was determined that the walls of Monticello's Dining Room and Tea Room were orginally white unpainted plaster.  But Thomas Jefferson loved the most stylish and fashionable trends in decoration as much as he loved to entertain.  So it is no surprise that Jefferson had the Dining Room painted in 1815 a new color, chrome-yellow.  In a 2010 article by Mitchell Owens in Elle Decor magazine, the curator of Monticello Susan R. Stein describes the bright yellow as "the color of an egg yolk from a chicken that dined on marigold petals."  And Ms. Stein added that the chome yellow pigments cost $5 per pound as compared to 15 cents per pound for basic white.
An 1825 watercolor of Monticello by Jane Pitford Braddick Peticolas.
The Dining Room and Tea Room are to the left of the central portico.
Image:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

In 2010, a donation from Polo Ralph Lauren, which included exclusive rights to market Monticello Yellow paint, allowed the Dining Room to be repainted the bright golden color. 
The First Floor Plan of the main block of Monticello.
Image:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

The Dining Room is almost a cube, 18'-6" x 18'-0" with a ceiling height of 17'-9".  There is a skylight, one of the thirteen in the house.  The window has two sets of sash for insulation with double pocket doors on rollers separating it from the Tea Room (which was cold).  A dumbwaiter on either side of the fireplace brought wine up from the cellar and a revolving serving door (recreated in 1949) with shelves attached to the service passage side enabled dishes to served and cleared with minimal intrusion by Jefferson's servants which were slaves.
A view from the Dining Room into the Tea Room.
Photo:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

The Tea Room is 15'-1" x 11'-2" with a 17'-11" ceiling height.  The plan is based on an octagon (though not complete), Jefferson's favorite architectural shape.  The room was inspired by a building in Albano, Italy, depicted in the 1650 book by Roland Freart de Chambray PARALLELE DE L'ARCHITECTURE ANTIQUE AVEC LA MODERNE, an anthology of ten ancient and modern writers on the classical orders.  (An English translation by John Evelyn, the second edition published in 1706, is available in facsimile form here).
The Tea Room at Monticello.
Image:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation

The Tea Room is decorated with busts of Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, Marquis de LaFayette, and George Washington, friends and American heroes.  The room was used for dining as well as reading and writing.  The semi-circular niche held a heating stove at one time. The walls are now painted to replicate the original unpainted white plaster.
The Dome Room at Monticello.
Photo:  Chris Kern,

The Dome Room is now painted "Mars Yellow" and the wood floor is painted green.  Except for a brief period when it served as an apartment for oldest grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph and his wife, the space was generally unfurnished and unused, other than for storage, during Jefferson's time.  For more about this room, see the webpage of Chris Kern here.
The west elevation of Monticello.
Sometimes called the "Nickel Front" because of its depiction on the U.S. coin.
Photo:  Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

More changes are in the works to return other rooms to their appearance during Jefferson's time.  Monticello, located on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of this country's most-visited historic houses.  The experience of touring the estate first-hand is a memorable one and information about visiting can be seen at the official website.

UPDATE:  The new carpet that was custom made for the Dining Room may be seen in the post of THE DEVOTED CLASSICIST blog here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Decorative Painting, Part 3

An interior design project by Bunny Williams in Richmond, Virginia, features decorative painting by Bob Christian.
Photo from Architectural Digest, January, 2012.

One of The Devoted Classicist's favorite motifs in decorative painting on walls is draped fabric.  A very effective but relatively subtle example of this is seen in a Richmond, Virginia, house decorated by Bunny Williams and featured in the January issue of Architectural Digest magazine.  The painting was executed by Bob Christian Decorative Art.  After studying painting in art school and training under John Rosselli, Bunny's husband and owner of several To-The-Trade businesses in addition to the retail shops Treillage, Ltd. they founded together before their marriage, Mr. Christian relocated to Savannah, Georgia, where his wife owns Julia Christian Gallery, a retail outlet for paintings by both of them.
Homeowners Helga and Floyd Gottwald, Jr., pose in the entrance hall of their Richmond home decorated by Bunny Williams.
Photo from Architectural Digest, January, 2012.

Although the scheme does not completely cover the walls, or even the whole room, the photo with the homeowners gives a good representation of how the decorative painting helps tie together the large-scaled architectural detailing by Jay Hugo of 3north. 
The wife's sitting room in a North California project by Suzanne Rheinstein with decorative painting by Bob Christian.
Photo from Architectural Digest, December, 2011.

Another of my other favorite motifs for decorative painting on walls is trellis work.  Coincidently, here is another example of painting by Bob Christian, this time in a house in Northern California decorated by Suzanne Rheinstein with architecture by Ken Linsteadt in the December issue of Architectural Digest.  The decorative painting helps lift the low large-scaled cove with a representation of bamboo used to give the treillage a lighter appearance.  The potted flowers are a reference to her home furnishings shop Hollyhock.

Decorative Painting, Part One can be viewed here and Decorative Painting, Part Two can be viewed here.  More of the work of interior designer Bunny Williams can be seen in her book BUNNY WILLIAMS' POINT OF VIEW:  THREE DECADES OF DECORATING ELEGANT AND COMFORTABLE HOUSES, available at a discount here.  Suzanne Rheinstein's own homes and some projects are shown in her book AT HOME:  A STYLE FOR TODAY WITH THINGS FROM THE PAST, available at a discount here.  A favored rate subscription to Architectural Digest magazine is offered here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Landmark Manhattan Townhouses For Sale

For those less troubled by these current financial times, there is a good selection of architecturally significant townhouses for sale on Manhattan's Upper East Side.  Among the current offerings are single family residences by some of the most famous architects of the twentieth century:  McKim, Mead & White, C.P.H. Gilbert, Delano & Aldrich, and Paul Rudolph.
The exterior of 973 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
(The door knocker in the first image is a detail of the pair of front doors).
Photo:  New York Times.

The limestone Renaissance Revival house at 973 Fifth Avenue was completed in 1907 to the design by the prestigous architectural firm McKim, Mead & White.  Although there are some conflicting reports in current information, the house is believed to have been commissioned by Henry H. Cook, a railroad tycoon and banker who owned the whole block from Fifth Avenue to Madison Avenue, East 78th Street to East 79th Street.  After several years of poor health, Cook died of pneumonia in 1905 at his Lennox, Massachusetts, estate "Wheatleigh" (by architects Peabody & Stearns with landscape by Frederick Law Olmstead), and the house was occupied on completion by one of his four daughters, Georgie (with stables at 103 East 77th Street, on the site where a Christian Scientist Church now stands).
The Floor Plans of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Image:  Brown Harris Stevens.

The next owner was Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne, a major partner in Standard Oil and a director of Chase National Bank along with numerous other interests.  Colonel Payne gave the adjacent lot at 972 Fifth Avenue to his nephew Payne Whitney and his wife Helen Hay along with $600,000 towards construction of a house, also designed by McKim, Mead & White.  Helen Whitney occupied that house until her death in 1944.  Their children were Joan, Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson, and Jock, John Hay Whitney, whose homes will be discussed in future posts of The Devoted Classicist.
The Entrance Hall of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.

The architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White was one of the most respected and prolific firms of the day.  Real estate agents almost always attribute the design to Stanford White, but he did bring in many of the residential commissions and is actually very likely to be the responsible partner here.  In any case, the interiors show some of the refined Renaissance and Louis XVI detailing for which he is well known.
The Drawing Room of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.

After studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Charles Follen McKim worked at the office of Henry Hobson Richardson before going into partnership in 1873 with William Rutherford Mead who had studied the Renaissance in Florida.  Stanford White, who also worked for Richardson, joined McKim and Mead in 1879 after a year and a half in Europe.  One of the firm's most famous buildings in its day was the second Madison Square Garden, 1890-1925, where White was murdered in 1906, shot in the rooftop restaurant by millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw over the affair with Thaw's wife, the actress/model Evelyn Nesbit, with the story incorporated into a number of books and films including THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING and RAGTIME.  Other Renaissance Revival Manhattan houses by McKim, Mead & White include the Joseph Pulitzer Mansion at 11 East 73rd Street, and the Villard Houses, a palazzo-like townhouse complex of six residences at 451, 453, 455 & 457 Madison Avenue and 24 & 26 East 51st Street, now offices and part of the Palace Hotel.
The Dining Room of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.
The Staircase of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.

The seller is the estate of Victor Shafferman who died in 2009; he bought the house in the 1970s for $600,000 according to reports.  Mr Shafferman was a businessman, partner in the ownership of commerical real estate and apartment buildings, believed to be born in Palestine (although Switzerland was sometimes given) and raised in Canada.  This writer had met Mr Shafferman in a social context as we had several mutual acquaintances;  the most memorable aspect of the meeting was that he almost immediately mentioned that he owned the last privately owned single family townhouse on Fifth Avenue, apparently a common practice.  Neither I nor any of my friends were ever invited there, however, and no one ever knew of any entertaining there during this period in the 1980s and 90s.  In fact, there was never any sign of life at the house, no open curtains or even a light on, although the exterior was at least moderately maintained.  (Although details are murky, the late Mr Shafferman is believed to be the force behind The Foundation For Classical Architecture, Inc., which owns "Blairsden", a 38 room mansion designed by Carrere & Hastings on 50 prime acres in Peapack-Gladstone, New Jersey, currently listed for sale here.)
The Library of 973 Fifth Avenue.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.

973 Fifth Avenue is offered for sale for $49 million by Brown Harris Stevens and the details of the listing may be viewed here.
22 East 71st Street.
Photo:  Sotheby's International Realty.

The forty-five feet wide limestone Renaissance Revival townhouse at 22 East 71st Street was completed in 1923 for Julius Forstmann, owner of the F Woolen Company in Passaic, New Jersey, designed by architect CPH Gilbert.  In recent years, the house had been rented by Lawrence Salander for the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries for $154,000 per month until charges of fraud closed the business.  The last use was for the 2009 Kips Bay Designer Showhouse with the theme being a tribute to long-time supporter of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, the legendary decorator Albert Hadley.
The principal Drawing Room of 22 East 71st Street.
Photo:  Sotheby's International Realty.
The principal Drawing Room as decorated by Bunny Williams for the Kips Bay Showhouse, 2009.
Photo:  House Beautiful magazine.
The Floor Plans of 22 East 71st Street.
Image:  Sotheby's International Realty.

Charles Pierrepont H. Gilbert studied at Columbia University and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, practicing architecture in the Colorado and Arizona mining regions before returning to his hometown of New York City around 1885.  After service in the Spanish-American War of 1898, he continued designing opulent townhouses and mansions with great success.  Two of Gilbert's best known remaining residential commissions in Manhattan are the Joseph Raphael De Lamar House at 233 Madison Avenue, now the consulate for the government of Poland, and the Felix M. Warburg House at 1109 Fifth Avenue, now the Jewish Museum with a matching 1993 addition by Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo & Associates.
The entrance of 22 East 71st Street.
Photo:  Sotheby's International Realty.

22 East 71st Street is currently owned by developer Aby Rosen and offered for sale for $50 million, reduced from $75 million.  The listing through Sotheby's International Realty may be viewed here.
120 East 78th Street Entrance.
Photo: Brown Harris Stevens.

An unusual townhouse by the architectural firm of Delano & Aldrich that had been long admired by The Devoted Classicist is located at 120 East 78th Street.  In fact, the entrance is so unique that this writer has wondered if the house is an extensive renovation instead of a new construction by the famed architects, having to deal with the floor heights of an earlier townhouse.  The real estate listing states the construction date of 1930, with the first owner being Harry Rogers Winthrop, a descendant of  Governor Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Floor Plans of 120 East 78th Street.  Note the unusual opportunity for the rear rooms to have windows to the west as well as to the south.
Image:  Brown Harris Stevens.
The Entrance Hall of 120 East 78th Street features a fireplace and a view of the staircase.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.
The Library of 120 East 78th Street features Louis XV style panelling.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.
The Dining Room at 120 East 78th Street.  The double hung windows extending to the floor are characteristic of features often seen in the work of architects Delano & Aldrich.
Photo:  Brown Harris Stevens.

Both William Adams Delano and Chester Aldrich studied at Columbia University and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts;  they met while working at Carrere & Hastings.  With Aldrich's family connections (he was a relative of Jr's wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller), the office was renown for its remarkable country houses, both grand and more modest, but always in impeccable good taste.  (See the home of legendary decorator Ruby Ross Woods in the August 25, 2011, post of The Devoted Classicist here).  Other Manhattan houses by Delano & Aldrich include the Francis Palmer-George F. Baker Jr. House, a stately 3-phase mansion at 75 East 93rd Street with the main house and ballroom wing now owned by the Russian Othodox Church Outside of Russia and the garage/guest house now part of the residence of noted preservationist and classic house collector Dick Jenrette (whose Millford Plantation was featured here).  And another great house is the Willard Straight Williams at 1130 Fifth Avenue, once occupied by the legendary hostess Mrs. Harrison Williams, the National Audubon Society, and the International Center of Photography before becoming a private residence again, now home to commodities tycoon Bruce Kovner.

120 East 78th Street is currently offered at $26 million.  More information can be seen at the Brown Harris Stevens website here.
101 East 63rd Street.
Photo:  Trulia.

Although not in the classical tradition, the townhouse at 101 East 63rd Street is none-the-less one of the favorites of The Devoted Classicist.  Originally, it was a 19th century building that was completely renovated by architect Paul Rudolph as a very sleek, contemporary townhouse.  Completed in 1966 for Alexander Hirsch and Lewis Turner, it features a garage, rooftop terrace, and a double-height living room.  The house is most often associated with its next owner, the fashion designer known as Halston.  In Rudolph's original design, there were no railings for the stairs, loft and cat-walk which must have really added to the drama of the celebrity gatherings during the Halston era.  Renovation by the next owner, Gunter Sachs who bought it in 1990 (and briefly owned it in partnership with Gianni Agnelli before buying out his share) added glass balustrades, however, except for the stairs.
101 East 63rd Street Floor Plans.
Image:  Corcoran.
A view of Halston's Living Room looking towards the greenhouse.
Photo:  New York Times.
Halston, preparing to entertain at home.
Google Images.

Halston's Bedroom.
Photo:  New York Times.
Halston's top floor Sitting Room.  Architect Paul Rudolph was called back to make a few changes, including the addition of the stair balustrade of leather-covered rope shown here.
Photo:  New York Times.

Paul Rudolph earned a bachelor degree in architecture from Auburn University in 1940, and a Master's from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1947, interupted by three years in the Navy.  For six years, he was dean of the Yale Art and Architecture School, located in the building he designed, his most famous work.  His architecture was in the Brutalist Style and influenced many commercial and office buildings around the world.  Rudolph died in 1997 at age 78 of peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure, a fire-proofing material commonly used in his work with exposed interior structure.  His own 1973 home, a penthouse at 23 Beekman Place, is visible from the FDR Drive along the East River;  it is the private residence of Steve Campus.  Rudolph's 1989 townhouse, which he shared with partner Ernst Wagner, is located at 246 East 58th Street, now home to the Paul Rudolph Foundation and occassionally open to the public.

The estate of one of the original owners Lewis "Sonny" Turner made a gift of approximately 750 documents relating to the construction of the house to the Library of Congress.  The documents include 19 groups of architectural drawings and renderings, 3 pen & ink drawings, and 109 photographs.  At present, these documents are not digitized for on-line viewing, but may be seen by appointment.  For more information, see the Hirsch/Turner/Halston Townhouse Documentation at
Halston and Peke in the Living Room.
The last owner Gunter Sachs, photographer, art collector and former husband of Brigitte Bardot, took his own life in May, 2011, at age 78, at his home in Gstaad, Switzerland, according to published reports.  The property is offered by his estate for $38.5 million through Cocoran.  Current photos of the interior and more information can be seen at the real estate website here.

Decisions, decisions.  Considering the architecture and the location, but disregarding all the financial factors, which Manhattan townhouse would you choose?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brian J McCarthy: Picture of Perfection

Brian J. McCarthy
The handsome, art-filled apartment of interior designer Brian J McCarthy and his partner Daniel Sager is featured in the January-February issue of VERANDA magazine.  Brian and I were co-workers at Parish-Hadley and the previous time I saw the apartment it was full of P-H Alumni.  Brian and Danny had graciously hosted the gathering in November, 2005, to celebrate the 85th birthday of Albert Hadley.
The Living Room of designer Brian J. McCarthy
in the January-February, 2012 issue of VERANDA magazine.

The Devoted Classicist highly recommends the article which gives a much better presentation than is possible here.  But this writer could not resist offering congratulations on a job well done.
The Dining Room of Brian J. McCarthy.

The Master Bedroom in the apartment of Brian J. McCarthy.

The Guest Room in the apartment of Brian J. McCarthy.

The first photo of Brian is from Elle Decor and all the other photos of his apartment, along with others, are from the VERANDA article produced by Carolyn Englefield, written by Kate Bolick, and photographed by Max Kim-Bee.  Favored rate magazine subscriptions are available here.  More information about Brian J. McCarthy, Inc. may be seen at the website
A detail of the Dining Room of Brian J. McCarthy
showing a Georges Jacob chair against a Venetian plaster wall.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, 2012

One of the most anticipated February events in the Mid-South is the annual Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, starting this year with the Preview Party on Thursday evening, February 9, and continuing on through Sunday, February 12, 2012.  Advance notice is being given because the tickets to the special events of the show often sell-out.
Barry Dixon

The Collectors Party on Friday evening features a tour of the vendors' booths by Carolyn Englefield, Editor at Large for VERANDA magazine, and interior designer Barry Dixon of Warrenton, Virginia.  Barry is the author of BARRY DIXON INTERIORS and BARRY DIXON INSPIRATIONS.  (All books and magazine subscriptions are available at a considerable discount with the option of free shipping by clicking on the title).
Miles Redd

Nancy Goslee Power

The Devoted Classicist is acquainted with both of the February 10 lecturers and predicts that each of their presentations will be well-received.  Miles Redd is an Atlanta-born and raised interior designer now based in New York City.  Formerly employed in the to-the-trade decorative furnishings shop of John Rosselli and then as an asssistant to Bunny Williams, Miles Redd is known for bold color combinations and reinterpretations of classic traditional design.  Nancy Goslee Power is a Santa Monica landscape architect known for her contemporary gardens utilizing spatial experiences and visually striking palattes.  Nancy is author of the book POWER OF GARDENS.
Eddie Ross

A Lecture and Demonstration will by given by Eddie Ross, former food editor for Martha Stewart Living and an Associate Decorating Editor at House Beautiful.  His topic will involve giving new life to antique china by using it in fresh and inventive settings.  With partner Jaithan Kochar, he operates a design studio and creative marketing consultancy based in northwest Connecticut.  The Devoted Classicist is a fan of Eddie's always interesting and inspiring eponymous blog.
Suzanne Rheinstein
David Kleinberg

Another feature of the show is Ask-An-Expert, two separate on-the-floor complimentary talks with book signings on that Saturday.  Suzanne Rheinstein, an interior designer and owner of the Los Angeles home furnishings shop Hollyhock, will present her book featuring her own residences and as well as some projects AT HOME: A STYLE FOR TODAY WITH THINGS FROM THE PAST at 11:30 on February 11.  David Kleinberg, my former co-worker at Parish-Hadley who now has his own successful interior design firm DKDA, will present his book featuring his firm's projects TRADITIONAL NOW: INTERIORS BY DAVID KLEINBERG at 1:30 on February 11.  David's own apartment was featured in a previous post here.

There are always a good selection of antiques dealers, including Memphis-based Thomas M. Fortner Antiques and Simmons-Leonce;  be sure to stop by their booths and introduce yourself to Tom Fortner and A.W. Simmons if you go.  Half of the exhibitors are horticultural or garden-related vendors, and those are often interesting as well.

But the most exciting aspect of the show is the competitive exhibition by Nashville garden designers, landscape architects, hard-scapers, and nurserymen.  Planned months in advance but installed in only a day or two, this a judged display and the results are usually imaginative and inspiring, especially given the time of year.

The beneficiaries of the show's proceeds are Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art (featured in a previous post here) and The Exchange Club Charities.  For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website