Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mark Hampton and the Single Fabric Scheme

A double-height Drawing Room
decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
Having worked with a number of 'name' interior designers, I am often asked if there are formulas for decorating.  Yes and no.  There are some themes that are often used in developing an interior décor and one is what I have termed the Single Fabric Scheme.  Popular for years and still used today by both professionals and amateurs alike, the concept is based on choosing one particular fabric for a room and then using it on just about everything.  Success largely depends, as you might imagine, on the fabric.  Also, all of the furnishings and the architecture of the room must be able to be compatible with the unyielding effect of the material.  An example of the Single Fabric Scheme may be seen in this project decorated by Mark Hampton.

The Drawing Room of a townhouse
decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
Featured in the April, 1983, issue of Architectural Digest, this Beekman Place, New York City, townhouse belongs to Dr. and Mrs. Lorenzo Mendoza of Caracas, bought by his parents in the 1940s.  Blessed with a big, double-height Drawing Room, the article said the house served as a family meeting place for the six children who were in school in the U.S.  Following the Sister Parish practice of providing three seating groups - themes of furniture arrangement will follow in future posts - a sofa faces the fireplace while two others flank the chimney breast.

The seating group opposite the fireplace
in the Drawing Room.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
The same silk damask from Brunschwig & Fils covers two of the sofas, two upholstered club chairs, a set of four slipper chairs, a pair of folding screens, a tufted pouf, the walls above the chair rail, and the swagged curtains of an enormous window.  Welcome relief is provided by a suite of nineteenth-century, gilded, Louis XVI style chairs and canapé covered in Aubusson tapestry.  Silk of a creamy pink color is used for a pair of round, draped tables and fringed accent cushions.  A rug made from multi-colored, patterned Stark carpeting also offers some variation in the scheme.

The Library of the Beekman Place townhouse
decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
The Library overlooking the Drawing Room has walls painted with a glazed lacquer effect in dark green to match the linen velvet upholstery.  This would be considered a variation of the Single Fabric Scheme.  A patterned Stark carpet in dark green and cream also coordinates with the cream painted millwork and cabinetry.  Hampton's associate Lino Correia was credited in assisting in the additions and changes to architectural details.

The Master Bedroom decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
The Master Bedroom is another variation of the scheme.  Although the same floral chintz is used for all the upholstery and bedspread, another fabric - a subtle strie - was used for the curtains.

The Dining Room decorated by Mark Hampton.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
It appears that the same bedroom curtain fabric was used for curtains in the Dining Room.  And it also appears that the same carpet from the Library was used again here.  Although the text makes no mention of the wall decoration, The Devoted Classicist guesses that it is the work of noted decorative painter Robert Jackson.  The elements of the fretwork pattern work out too perfectly not to have been custom painted for the room.

The Entrance Hall painted by Robert Jackson.
Photo by Peter Vitale for Architectural Digest.
The text does reveal that Robert Jackson painted the walls of the Entrance Hall with the Chinese-inspired design.  Robert was one of this country's best decorative painters in the second half of the century, and his work is always a delight to see.  (For a look at a room painted by Robert Jackson for two of my own projects, click here and here).

Is the Single Fabric Scheme a good approach to interior decoration?  As seen here, it cannot be carried through a whole house or apartment without at least some variation, room after room, but it can be an effective solution for one space in a residence.  The advantages of this approach are many; it is relatively easy, and if the designer's fee is based on a mark-up, bolts of an expensive fabric rack up a big commission fast.  But whether it is the best approach is a matter of preference.


23 comments:

  1. John, What a magnificent project- I always enjoy reading your posts, since they express your own experience and point of view. I adore everything that MH did here, and am sure you'd agree, it's as valid today as it was then, being based on classical style, timeless and forever. Parkin Saunders and I used to see Mark leaving a "good" building as we were arriving...after being delivered to the door by Moishe, the driver, in his Mercedes 500 sedan!

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    1. Dean, Parish-Hadley had a car and driver, too, a real benefit if there are a lot of stops to make. But P-H's was a Buick (or alternately a Chevrolet Caprice) station wagon.

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    2. Yes, so waspy! The best was when I worked under George Clarkson,he had a dark green Rolls Silver Shadow with tan hides, and a driver who was a ringer for Wilt Chamberlain!

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  2. That double height drawing room, with its walls and furniture covered in
    a fairly boring damask, doesn't strike me as typical of Mark Hampton's
    best work; and in way, it was a missed opportunity. This reaction is based
    of course on photographic evidence--it might have been wildly successful
    in reality, as the arrangement of furnishings appears quite congenial.

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    1. Toby, when putting all of one's eggs in one basket, a lot rides on the choice of the basket. Had it been done today, perhaps a document damask would have been revived and reproduced in a special colorway.

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  3. I had the same reaction as Toby: the arrangement of the first room looks fine but what looks OK--if a little too monochromatic--below eye level becomes overbearing & relentless seen on those gigantic walls. In small rooms, a single pattern everywhere can be charming but it doesn't seem to work at all here. In fact, this is the first MH room I can ever remember seeing that I didn't care for--at all. But since, to be balanced, education has to show not only what works but also and what doesn't, it's still valuable to see rooms like this. Thanks for showing it.

    In an unrelated thought, and since blogrolls will be going away momentarily, this seems like the appropriate time for me to say thank you for including a link to my blog on your blog. Not many people read my blog and even fewer comment, but it's OK, because almost half my readers have come via you, meaning the ones I get are really smart. I'll take quality over quantity any day.

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    1. S.G., The Devoted Classicist tries to be a guide of sorts, and let the reader come to his/her own solution. This project was published 30 years ago, so I am sure some things would have been done differently today. And yes, where would we be if we didn't learn from the mistakes of others.

      I am so happy to learn that I have been able to send some readers to your not-to-be-missed blog, Simply Grand. When I started my own blog, I hoped that someday I would receive a comment from one of the Blog Commenter Hall of Fame-ers. And I remember the honor of knowing that you had seen my blog. Some of your Magnaverde comments have been better than the actual blog post!

      Even if there is not a replacement for the BLOG ROLL feature, I will still find a way to let my readers know about the quality blogs out there. Many thanks for your continued readership.

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  4. And we must not forget the tradition of the european aristocratic use of silk damask for the walls and the seating...

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  5. I am not a fan of the Single Fabric Scheme, and even executed in the best hands, (of MH), it grates. Where there is no pattern, (as in the library), it is more tolerable, but even then, there is a sense of the laziness of the style. Bedrooms with the same wallpaper, curtains and upholstery are extraordinary in their busyness, and I think perhaps they were created to make you put the lights out quickly!

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    1. Columnist, there are some bedrooms done in just one toile de jouy fabric printed by engraved copper rollers that I think are quite chic, but I understand your point. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. To give MH the benefit of the doubt in the big room, part of the problem has to do with the photographer's use of lighting--which plainly has distorted color and tone, flattening out the forms so that the Single Fabric approach becomes relentless and
    suffocating.

    Then, there is that enormous window with its oddly proportioned swags and skimpy
    tails. What would Fowler have done in that situation?

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    1. Toby, thank you for mentioning the lighting; I had meant to bring it up in the post but forgot. The cove lighting to wash the ceiling is turned off in the first image. And the bouillotte lamps and picture light is turned off on the third. Fortunately, there were no downlights. I have sometimes thought about writing a post on the overly dramatic lighting added for photo shoots, especially as seen in 1980s Architectural Digest articles, but the practice seemed to phase out as editor Paige Rense did.

      All of my John Tackett Design projects this summer call for new paint schemes. I need to have T-shirts made with "WWFD?" (What Would Fowler Do?" printed across the chest.

      Many thanks for your comments.

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  7. There are many pro and cons - but truly what could be more decisively opulent? Your articles always have an interesting approach, didactic and entertaining.

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    1. Thanks, G., I'm glad to have you as a reader.

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  8. enjoy your posts it is very interesting to read thank you I really liked your article

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    1. T.B., I am thankful for your appreciation.

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  9. Your blog is awesome.
    I like it so much and I will read more post in order to aply your knowlegments in my blog.
    Many Thanks

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  10. Thank you, A.C., for becoming a follower of this blog. I see from your list that this is one of the few (or maybe even the only one) in English. I appreciate your becoming a Devoted Reader.

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  11. Well, yours truly adopted that theme in a sun room in North Carolina with a bolt of divine fabric I got for a song. We even covered a small parsons table next to the sofa. It is still one of my favorite rooms of all time! But then again I'm just an amateur.

    And I do agree with you toile de Jouy done like that in a bedroom is very chic. I spent the night once in the town of Jouy but not enough time to go looking at toile. It is quite close and west of the airport CDG where we had to turn in our car and catch our flight. I know because I had to drive East for an hour or more as the sun rose. Worst drive of my life. I don't know how we made it!

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    1. J., thank you for adding your comments.
      (After your recent post, I am craving grilled lobster tails).

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  12. Mad about the chintz in the master bedroom; and although I am fascinated by Hampton's Unified theory of the Universe approach in the Drawing Room, I can't help feeling as if I've been stuffed into my mother's underwear drawer.

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    1. Rosie, I am reluctant to comment further on your mother's drawers, but it always a pleasure to hear from you.

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    2. Lady West has nailed it---hands down, the best take on that room!

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