Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Displaying Collections

Sir John Soane's house in London is now a museum.
Of course a whole book or series of talks could be developed to show wonderful ways to display a collection in one's home.  Here are just a few examples from exceptional homes to be featured to a greater extend in future posts of The Devoted Classicist.

Sir John Soane's Museum.
In case you thought the first image was a fantasy, it was not.  A fragment-filled atrium rises the full height of the house, from the basement to the skylight in the roof.

Sir John Soane's Museum.
Soane's picture gallery uses an ingenious method of hinged panels to hang a multitude of paintings in the gallery space.

A section through Sir John Soane's Museum.
Soane's house is particularly remarkable for both the diversity of spaces within the standard townhouse city lot and the exceptional use of natural light.

The Henry Clay Frick House, New York City.
The Henry Clay Frick House at 1 East 70th Street in New York City is particularly interesting in this discussion because it was designed and built as a residence with the intent that it would become a museum.  Frick died in 1919 but his wife continued to live in the house until her death in 1931 and it opened to the public in 1935 with some alterations and additions to accommodate that use.

The Frick Gallery.
The Frick Gallery was part of the original mansion with the pictures hanging in a traditional manner.  The collection is available for viewing on-line and is a wonderful way to spend some time.

The Peacock Room
The Peacock Room, now in the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC, is one of the great period rooms in the whole city.

The Peacock Room in 1908 in Detroit.
The Peacock Room was originally in the London home of Frederick Leyland before being bought by museum founder Charles Lang Freer for his Detroit mansion in 1904.

The entrance hall of the Governor's Palace, Williamsburg.
The original Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, VA, burned to the ground in 1781 and was reconstructed in 1931 to 34.  Much of the furnishings are based on written accounts and inventories as well as customs of the time.

The Russian Porcelain Room, Hillwood.
Marjorie Merriweather Post had the good fortune to be both rich and married to the Ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1930s when pre-Bolshevik treasures could be easily bought and exported.  A room in her Washington, DC, mansion, Hillwood was refitted to showcase Imperial Russian porcelain.

An entrance hall in NYC decorated by Alberto Pinto.
The late Alberto Pinto displayed a cache of export furniture discovered from a shipwreck.  All the pieces were small but an impact was made by the number of items as wall decoration.

Bunny Mellon's cottage at Oak Spring Farm
Billionaire Bunny Mellon, who died last year at age 103, lived in a relatively modest cottage on her Upperville, VA estate, surrounded by things she loved.

Mario Buatta's Living Room
Decorator Mario Buatta helped to revive a trend for genre paintings of dogs, here displayed with a flourish of ribbon.

Brooke Astor's library in her Park Avenue apartment.
Albert Hadley designed a brass-trimmed red lacquer library to re-display the collection of Vincent Astor's rare book collection in his widow's apartment.

The bathroom/dressing room of Carter Burden, Jr
Decorator Mark Hampton created a lavish gentleman's retreat for rare book collector Carter Burden, Jr. in his Fifth Avenue apartment.  See more at a previous post, "Mark Hampton for Susan and Carter Burden."

Bill Blass' closet/dressing room.
One would expect the late fashion designer Bill Blass' closet to be as handsome and tailored as his own wardrobe.

Mariah Carey's Shoe Closet
And one would expect singer/song-writer Mariah Carey's shoe closet to have a fairy tale quality to it.

The wine cellar of the Malouf residence, Nevada.
Home wine cellars are usually best decorated with the wine bottles themselves and hard, cool surfaces.

The basement of Barbra Streisand's Malibu home.
Barbra Streisand's renovated home in Malibu has a basement arranged as a shopping mall of stores to display her various collections.  This is set up as a doll shop.

Malplaquet House
Malplaquet House
One of London's most fantastic and eccentric private homes belongs to connoisseurs of the decorative arts Todd Longstaffe-Gowan and Tim Knox.
Malplaquet House
We have been fortunate to have had Todd come to Memphis to speak on two occasions to the members of Decorative Arts Trust, a support group for Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  (I serve on the Board of Directors as President Emeritus).

A bathroom at Malplaquet House, London.
See more of Malplaquet House on a previous post of The Devoted Classicist here.

The renovated Luncheon Room, University Park, Texas.
A project by John Tackett Design.
A wonderful project of my own a number of years back involved a complete renovation and additions to a Tudor Revival house in the Volk Estates section of University Park (Dallas).  Here a collection of prints of decoration from Attic vases mix with a collection of basalt Wedgwood (both covering two more walls).

Pine paneled Library addition, University Park, Texas.
A project by John Tackett Design.
The Library of the same house accommodates an impressive number of silver golf trophies earned by the owners.  By placing them among the books in this comfortable sitting room, the trophies may be enjoyed on a daily basis.  Read more about this library of reclaimed pine here.

This post is a record of the images presented by John J. Tackett on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 as part of a talk given to the ladies of the Little Glass Club, Memphis, to give just a few examples of how a personal collection might be displayed for maximum enjoyment.


  1. John, as always your writing is the best reading to be found...Keep it up..

    1. Thanks, JS. I was just thinking about you as the lanes near the farm are lined with blooming wild plum trees, creating a brilliant background for the white trunks of the still-bare sycamore trees. The connection being, memories of Sycamore and your other wonderful shops in Overton Square (now enjoying a revival).

  2. I am much taken with the Attic vases pictures in so many ways - their symmetry, similarity, and the complimentary colour to the wallpaper. Groupings when executed so precisely are a sheer delight.

    1. C., it was fun to plan the hanging, intentionally used very differently from the clients' previous home.

  3. Wish I could have been there, John. Terrific examples of displaying collections. Thanks for sharing.

    1. C.L., I, too, wish you could have been there! Hopefully at some point. Thank you for commenting.

  4. Well...I feel rather a minimalist after looking at a few of these iconic 'Collections' in their settings. Some have often commented on my teensy abode as stuffed to the rafters as 'Ali Baba's Cave' - with what I consider my treasures. When one does cross over from 'collector' to ' hoarder' then ' affliction' is rampant and of course, true collector's know there is NO cure for this disease. I do adore that Violet shade of paint in the Malplaquet bathroom...too heavenly! May I include Ann Getty in this range of Icons? For her layered look isn't contrived but studied, almost difficult process few achieve and it looks as joyous as the beauty she's surrounded herself with, that which was wrought by hands and minds long gone but treasured amongst the cognoscenti.

    1. T.S., yes, by all means, feel free to offer suggestions. Ann Getty did not come to mind although she was a client during my time at Parish-Hadley. It was in the mid-80s and the renovation of a great full-floor apartment at 820 Fifth Ave to establish a part-time presence in NYC. Unfortunately it was never photographed much less published, but it was fabulous, if I do say. The apartment was not really filled with collections, but she did have an incredible set of Chinese figures that were placed in the Master Bedroom, if I am remembering correctly.

    2. Sounds like your path has crossed and created many thresholds of Beauty! I did think of her as I recalled your time with SPAH was the Glorious 80s. I recall Austine Hearst lived there as well. I am sure I've seen an image of her seated in YSL by a wonderful coffee table laden with gilt and chinoiserie objects...but then you've witnessed it in person and for you too say FABULOUS...then I know it was BEYOND CHIC!


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