Friday, April 22, 2011

Hidden Assets

Young Boy's Waistcoat, c. 1720, linen with silk-embroidered appliques.
One of the non-profit organizations favored by The Devoted Classicist is Decorative Arts Trust, a support group of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.  A wonderful article titled Hidden Assets written by Anne Cunningham O'Neill was featured in the March, 2011, issue of Memphis Magazine and can be viewed by going to this link:

Chinese dish, c. 1662-1722, porcelain.
Decorative Arts Trust has a long history of education and promoting interest in silver, porcelain, ceramics, textiles, glass, furniture and all the other disciplines normally associated with the decorative arts as well as architecture, garden design, and interior design.  More information can also been seen at the website

Food safe, American, c. 1825-1835, walnut primary wood.
In recent years, there has been an increased effort to acquire objects made in the region.  The food safe pictured above was made in the northeast corner of Tennessee or just over the line into Virginia.  It is a walnut (with cherry and light wood inlay, poplar secondary) serving piece, circa 1825 to 1835, featuring painted punched tin panels in the doors that protected the stored baked goods from flying insects in addition to being decorative.

John J. Tackett is proud to soon start his third term as President of Decorative Arts Trust.  All photos shown here are courtesy of Decorative Arts Trust.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Albert Hadley BEFORE and AFTER for Brooke Astor

Albert Hadley's sketch of the proposed new Library from Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer.
The brass-trimmed, red lacquer library that Albert Hadley created for Brooke Astor is one of the iconic examples of twentieth century residential design.  Although photos of the library were not published in this country until the 1990s, it has been the inspiration for countless reinterpretations and is etched in the mind of many devotees of both architecture and interior design. But relatively few know how the room appeared before the transformation.

The BEFORE view of the room from The Finest Rooms By America's Great Decorators.
Albert Hadley tells the story of how the new room came to be in Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer, so I will not repeat it in detail.  But the summary is that Mrs. Astor wanted to improve the room and Mr. Hadley proposed making it into a true library that showcased her late husband's collection of books.

The AFTER views are all from Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer.
The existing 1920s interpretation of Louis XV boiserie was glazed a light honey color with portions comprised of shelving;  it was completely removed, and the room gutted.  The antique rouge royale chimneypiece was reused along with the furniture and the antique rug.

The sofa and upholstered chairs had recently been done by Sister Parish in the classic chintz by Brunschwig & Fils "Portuguesa" in the colorway with brown stripes with stylized red flowers.  So even the fabric remained on these primary pieces that coordinated so beautifully with the rug.
Although the architectural details are simple, the execution of the brass trim is faultless and it provides such a brilliant contrast with the gilt stamped leather book bindings.  The rich red lacquer finish, the result of ten coats of paint, ties it all together.  Mrs. Astor was quoted as saying this was her favorite room and Albert Hadley, the same.
The Childe Hassam painting over the fireplace Flags Flying on Fifth Avenue became involved in controversy when son Anthony D. Marshall sold it for $10 million and took a $2 million commission.  He was convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to one to three years in state prison in 2009, but has been released on bail pending appeal.

The Devoted Classicist attended Brooke Astor's 90th birthday celebration and predicted she would live to see her 100th.  She died in 2007 at the age of 105.

The apartment, which once was connected to her mother's residence, consisted of five bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, five fireplaces and six terraces on the 15th and 16th floors of 778 Park Avenue, was originally priced at $46 million.  It finally sold in February, 2011, for $19 million to Daniel Forcart, 47, a Swiss investment manager in currency trading.

The wonderful 2005 book ALBERT HADLEY: THE STORY OF AMERICA'S PREEMINENT INTERIOR DESIGNER by Adam Lewis can be purchased at a discount of 37% off the published price through The Devoted Classicist Library by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ferguson & Shamamian

The Living Room of a renovated house in Palm Beach, FL decorated by Bunny Williams features a custom console by John Tackett Design to the left of the pair of doors.  Photo from Bunny Williams' Point of View. 
 There is a wonderful new book just out titled New Traditional Architecture:  Ferguson & Shamamian Architects featuring exceptional houses and apartments by my friends Mark Ferguson and Oscar Shamamian.  We worked together at Parish-Hadley Associates in New York City before opening our own offices. 

A new house in Chagrin Falls, OH is featured on the cover.
 My firm, John Tackett Design, is sometimes asked to consult and make contributions to a project that already has a primary architect and interior designer.  Such was the case for the renovation of a wonderful old Mediterranean style house in Palm Beach;  the Living Room is pictured above.  I designed several custom made pieces of furniture for this project decorated by Bunny Williams with the architectural improvements by Ferguson & Shamamian.  Another view of this room and others from the same project are featured in the new book.

A new house in Westport, CT by Ferguson & Shamamian.
The new book is really the best of its kind, often showing first floor plans and detail drawings in addition to color photos.  The Devoted Classicist recommends this book to all who appreciate high style tradtional residences.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Travellers: Chimneypiece

The Kips Bay Showhouse room's chimneypiece was featured in HOUSE BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACES.
I am often asked if my projects involve a complete purge of the owners' belongings and a total refurnishing;  usually they do not unless the project is a second (or third) home.  More often, there are pieces to be accomodated in the new project, but perhaps used in a different way.  This is the first of a series of posts  The Devoted Classicist calls The Travellers showing a piece of furniture, architectural fragment or art that has travelled from one location to another.
John Tackett Design helped Mariette Himes Gomez with her Dining Room in the 1991 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, an extremely popular New York City event that benefits the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club.  For four weeks each Spring, a large house that is on the market for sale has each room decorated by a different designer and open to the paying public.  That year, the house was 121 East 73rd Street, a handsome 1908 Federal Revival style townhouse of about 12,000 square feet.  The same house had been used in 1989 and the Dining Room was decorated to wide acclaim by Ruben de Saavedra (1933-1990).  Mr. de Saavedra was at the peak of his career, beloved by the media and deep-pocketed clients alike, and he had designed his showhouse room in an opulent European style with the walls upholstered with padded striped silk to compliment the lavish furnishings he had chosen.  For the 1991 showhouse, the building's owner stipulated that neither the silk wallcoverings nor the Adamesque chimneypiece could be removed, but they could be covered as long as the room was returned to the previous appearance.

The Kips Bay room was named one of "America's 10 Best Showhouse Rooms" in 1991 by House Beautiful Magazine.
As the de Saavedra room was so memorable, Mariette Himes Gomez wanted to create an entirely different, less formal decor with the space becoming a combination Dining-Sitting Room.  A heavy, loosely woven, natural Haitian cotton covered the silk walls and I designed a moderne mahogany form to cover the exisiting chimneypiece.

The London apartment was featured in the British magazine House & Garden.
After the showhouse, the furnishings that were not borrowed went to storage.  Later, when Mariette decided an apartment in London would be convenient, some the items were reused, including the chimneypiece.

The Anglo-Indian and Anglo-Chinese armchairs were also reused in the London apartment.
A new house or renovated apartment should have the capability of accomodating furnishings from the previous residence, if the owners desire.   In future posts, there will be examples of using an owner's belongings in a different way in the new house or apartment.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Decoration - Ancient and Modern

Readers of The Devoted Classicist are invited to welcome a new blog, Decoration - Ancient & Modern by my friend and sometime collaborator Thomas Jayne.  Thomas is extremely talented as both an author and a decorator, so this new endeavor promises to be as stylish as it is inspirational.  Take a look at and subscribe to receive notices when new posts are available.

In the April, 2011, issue of House Beautiful magazine, some of Thomas' favorite design elements are presented in the "Instant Room" feature shown above.  I have known Thomas for about 24 years and can vouch for his expertise in interior design;  in addition to being a graduate of the Attingham Summer School and an educational tenure at Parish-Hadley (both experiences that we share),  Thomas holds a Master's degree in American Architecture and Decorative Arts from the Wintherthur Museum program.  Regular readers of The Devoted Classicist will remember the January 20, 2011, post that featured his new book The Finest Rooms in America.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Magical Montsorrel, A Magnificent Palm Beach Estate

The oceanside view of Montsorrel, Palm Beach, Florida.
With snow falling in New England, it is partly sunny and 85 degrees today in Palm Beach, Florida.  So it is as good time as any to present a project from a number of years ago that is a well known mansion locally, but not otherwise widely familiar.  With a listing price of $75 million, it was once the most expensive home in the nation.  (That price was surpassed when Donald Trump heaved the house next door on the market for $125 million;  see my December 13, 2010, post for more on the legendary house Blythedunes which formerly occupied the neighboring site.  But that is another story).
An arial view of Montsorrel.
Montsorrel was completed in 1969 after five years of planning and construction with design by French architect Jacques Regnault and Stephane Boudin of the legendary interior design firm Maison Jansen.  Boudin died in 1967 without seeing the project complete.  Regnault and Jansen were frequent collaborators with the most visible U.S. project being the building for society jeweler Harry Winston on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.  The oceanfront estate with 608 feet of private beach sits on about seven acres, though some reports say 15 with perhaps the discrepancy being that the property is on both sides of North County Road.  There are also variations on the square footage, from 35,000 to 44,000 for the main house, and 12,000 to 16,000 for a later guest house/entertainment pavilion.  Plus there are additional service buildings and a caretaker's gatehouse.  In any case, The Devoted Classicist can definitely say that the mansion is immense and truly luxurious.
The entrance motor court of Montsorrel.
The original owner, Anita Ten Eyck O'Keeffe Young, was the widow of Robert R. Young.  They had started the project together, but Mr. Young shot himself in 1965 in the house that was previously on the property.  Local legend blames the suicide on a impluse after a mistaken belief that he had lost his fortune.  Mrs.Young named the estate Montsorrel in his memory;  the main house sets on a slight rise and the name translates as "Mountain of Sorrow".  Robert R. Young was a Texas-born businessman who had a successful Wall Street career before becoming a railroad baron, heading both the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway and the New York Central Railroad.  He introduced high-speed diesel powered passenger trains as well as the first large-scale railroad computer system.  Their only child was Eleanor "Cookie" Young, the first of the Great Depression era "Glamour Debutantes", presented in 1936 at their Newport, Rhode Island estate.  In 1938, Cookie was a 21 year old divorcee after an eight month marriage to socialite Robert Odgen "Bunty" Bacon.  She was killed in a 1941 plane crash.
The gallery of the main floor is repeated in the same width upstairs.
Anita O'Keeffe Young, sister of painter Georgia O'Keeffe, was a noted hostess and philanthropist.  She was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were frequent guests.  The Jansen decoration, which was still intact during my participation in the project with the exception of the furniture and art, included upholstered walls in the premier guest room in a fabric with a Prince of Wales feather motif;  a small room adjoined for his valet.  The second guest room, decorated for Wallis, also had an adjoining room for her personal maid.  There is a large wing with other servants' quarters but with no direct connection to the three principal bedrooms on the second floor.
The hand-forged stair balustrade, in a favorite combination of steel and bronze, has a mahogany handrail.
I was brought onto the project by interior designer Bunny Williams to make some sensitive architectural adaptations for a couple with a young child in addition to grown children by a previous marriage.  More on these John Tackett Design improvements will be featured in a future post.

The Living Room walls are panelled in green and white marble.
Although there are relatively few principal rooms in the main house, all are particularly large.  The ceiling heights on the ground floor are fifteen feet and the flooring in all the principal rooms are antique parquet de Versailles, reportedly from the very palace.  The walls of the living room are clad in green and white marble slabs installed in a pattern of panelling.  With a flick of a switch, the chandelier can be lowered for maintenance.  Twin loggias facing the ocean each have a glass wall that can be raised from the basement to provide protection from the ocean spray.  These photos are all from Sotheby's DOMAIN magazine, 2001, and show alterations in both Jansen's and Bunny Williams' decorative schemes.
The swimming pool courtyard of the main house at Montsorrel.
The swimming pool is located in a travertine-paved walled courtyard with sliding glass panels to block strong ocean breezes.  Salt water can be pumped from the ocean, and heated to the desired temperature if necessary.  Also, there is a canopy that extends over the west side of the huge pool so laps can be done in the shade.
Mrs. Young died in 1985 and the contents of Montsorrel, along with her palatial Newport summer estate Fairholme, were sold in two celebrated auctions at Sotheby's.  (She had donated her earlier Newport home Ochre Lodge to Salve Regina University in 1966).  When Montsorrel was first listed for sale for $18 million, it was the most expensive house to that date in the eastern United States.  But the high taxes and expense to maintain the estate made the house less than appealing.  In the spring of 1987, it finally sold for $13.5 million.
Montsorrel remains a private home today and tall hedges prevent much of a street view of the main house, but a glimpse of the circa 1990 guest house/entertainment pavilion across the road might be seen down the driveway.  Some might find the satellite views of 545 and 548 North County Road interesting, however.  Fairholme is located at 237 Ruggles Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, and was listed on the market last year for $18 million.  Harry Winston, Inc., is located at 718 Fifth Avenue, New York City;  the 1959 alteration of an earlier building has provided an identity that has been duplicated in their stores world-wide.