Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Travellers: Chandelier and Portrait from Rose Cumming

Rose Cumming in her antiques shop, 1964,
by Jeanloup Sieff for Harper's Bazaar.
As Devoted Readers remember, The Travellers series of posts shows how a particular piece of furniture or work of art is presented in two (or more) very different settings.  This time, The Devoted Classicist presents two particularly stylish items from legendary 20th century design icon Rose Cumming and how they are used in interior design today.

The Directoire period chandelier as it appears today
in Toby Worthington's dining room.
The first photo of the post appeared in the July, 1964, issue of Harper's Bazaar in conjunction with a theme of New York City's hosting the World's Fair.  Rose Cumming "stands amid the splendors of her antique shop", then at 499 Park Avenue.  She is wearing one of her trademark Chinese Mandarin robes, her hair dyed lavender, said to intend to upstage her rival Elsie de Wolfe who had dyed her hair blue.  In the background can be seen the Directoire period chandelier that is also shown in the second image.  Distinctive aquamarine crystals adorn the crown and there are also small cobalt blue glass beads along the ringed tiers.  The chandelier had never been wired and remains candle-powered today.

A photograph of Rose Cumming
Circa 1930, by Edward Steichen.
Conde Nast Archives.
The portrait seen behind Rose Cumming in the photo above is of Elizabeth Holkes Western by the English painter Thomas Hudson, 1701-1779.  It was bought from the New York commercial art gallery, Scott & Fowles, in 1926. 

Rose Cumming's portrait of Mrs. Western.
The New York Historical Society.
In the photo above, a better view of Mrs. Western's portrait is revealed.  Labelled only as a Drawing Room, it is thought to be Rose Cumming's own residence.

Mrs. Western at home in Toby Worthington's Living Room.
Hudson had helped set a standard for fashionable portraiture in London.  This portrait follows his characteristic elegant pose of the subject, swathed in luxurious fabrics, giving the impression of quality and wealth.  After 235 or so years, the portrait still provides a stylish contribution to the decor of a room today.

Rose Cumming's 'Banana Leaf' fabric.
The pink and charcoal colorway is the original.
The design was developed with sister Dorothy dipping leaves in pigment.
Photo by Rose Cumming Fabric and Wallcoverings
for Architectural Digest.
Rose Cumming's antiques shop was much admired by the design community and trendsetters of the day.  But the name is more known today for the fabric of her own design which was sold from her shop.  Her floral chintzes were particularly notable for their distinctive colorways, giving a fresh, contemporary twist to traditional design.  But she also designed modern fabrics that are being revived by Dessin Fournir, which now owns the rights for production and distribution.

The cover of the new book ROSE CUMMING
by Jeffrey Simpson with Foreward by Sarah Cumming Cecil.
Published by Rizzoli,
Release date September 4, 2012.
Interest in Rose Cumming is building as the release date grows near for a new book, Rose Cumming.  Written by Jeffrey Simpson with a Foreward by grandniece Sarah Cumming Cecil, it is the first book devoted entirely to the legendary design figure.  The book is available at a discount here.

Photo of Rose Cumming by Wilbur Pippin.
 Private Collection.
A chapter is devoted to Rose Cumming in The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design by Adam Lewis with a Foreward by the great lady decorator of today, Bunny Williams.  It is available at discount here.

Previous posts in The Travellers series feature a chimneypiece, a folding screen, a sunburst clock, and a nude portrait.  Those reading a subscribed version of this post are reminded to view the full site for features such as SEARCH THIS BLOG and COMMENTS.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Versace's Casa Casuarina

Casa Casuarina, Versace's House,
1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida.
Photo:  John Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
A house that The Devoted Classicist has coveted for 20 years is on the market for sale.  Sadly, it is out of my price range at $125,000,000.  (Yes, 125 million US dollars).  Originally known as Casa Casaurina, most people today call the Miami Beach mansion 'Versace's House'.
The Courtyard, view to the west, during the ownership of Versace.
Photo:  Massimo Listri/Corbis.
The history of the house is very interesting, if a bit sketchy.  Starting with the name, Casa Casuarina, the source of inspiration is unverified.  Some guess that it was named after a casuarina tree on the site, one of many planted by pioneer John Collins;  that is doubtful, however, because the house was built full-site with a Cuban style courtyard but no garden.  More likely, the name came from the 1926 collection of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham, THE CASUARINA TREE.
The Courtyard, view to the entrance from Ocean Boulevard.
Photo:  PH Design.
The house was built in 1930 for Standard Oil heir Alden Freeman.  Apparently he was fascinated by Christopher Columbus and was known to dress in costume as the explorer from time to time.  The house is said to be inspired by the 1510 palace of Columbus' son, Alcazar de Colon Santo-Domingo, now the Dominican Republic.  Although part of the palace no longer exists, there are no obivous similarities.  A brick said to be from the palace and brought back by Freemen is set into the facade, however.  The design of the house is more like the typical characteristics of the Mediterranean Style popular at the time.

The oceanfront house was designed by Arthur Laidler-Jones of Henry La Pointe & Arthur Laidler-Jones Architects, according to most sources although it may have been a joint effort between the two.  It was unusal because it was built with twenty three suites, usually occupied by friends rather than rented as apartments, and the twenty fourth being the owner's quarters, occupying the third floor.  There was thought to be some influence on the design by Freeman's newly adopted son, Charles Boulton, a 33 year old married landscape architect;  his six year old daughter Jane Margaret turned the first spade of dirt in the June, 1930, ground breaking ceremony.

After Freeman's death in 1937, Boulton sold the building to Jacques "Jac" Amsterdam who converted it into 30 rental apartments known as "The Amsterdam Palace".  Like most of Ocean Drive, it had eventually become a bit down-trodden, but it was beloved by the artistic community and apartments were usually passed among friends rather than going onto the open market.  Gianni Versace bought it in 1992 for $2.9 million, and bought the adjacent 1950s Revere Hotel for $3.7 million in 1993.  Controversial at the time, demolition was allowed for the hotel after a 6 month deliberation.  The corner lot was used for a garden with a spectacular swimming pool and a new two-story wing plus a garage.  Reportedly spending $32 million on the renovation and new construction, Versace received an award from the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District for his contributions, with Hawrylewicz & Robertson, no longer in business as a partnership, the architects of record.
The Versace Family in the Atlantic Ocean across from Casa Casuarina.
Left to right, Allegra Beck (Gianni's niece), Paul Beck (Gianni's now former brother-in-law),
Daniel Beck (Gianni's nephew), Donatella (Gianni's sister), Gianni Versace,
and Antonio D'Amico (Gianni's boyfiend).
On July 16, 1997, Gianni Versace, 50, was murdered on the steps of the house.  Versace's niece Allegra Beck (now known as Versace) inherited an estate worth an estimated $700 million on her 18th birthday in 2004;  among the resources of her inheritance were the Lake Como villa and the Manhattan townhouse as well as Casa Casuarina, all which have since been sold.  (Antonio D'Amico's right to live in any of the houses, as stipulated in Gianni Versace's will, was overturned since the real estate was corporate-owned and his pension of 26,000 Euros per month for life was substantially reduced according to various news sources).
Donatella Versace's children, Allegra and Daniel.
Allegra's brother Daniel inherited the art;  most of the art and antique collection has been sold as well.
Peter Loftin with an unidentified companion.
Photo:  Photomundi.
Peter Loftin, a telecommunications billionaire, bought Casa Casuarina in September, 2000, for approximately $19 million.  He declined to purchase the furnishings, however, which were included in a 2001 auction that realized $10.8 million, not including the buyer's premium.  Instead he hired a Miami design firm to decorate the house in what this writer would best describe as the Florida Conquistador Style, a decor that will be spared the Devoted Readers.  Instead, the interiors as they appeared during the time of Gianni Versace are presented here.  While it is acknowledged that Versace's style is way over the top for many, this writer appreciates the general aesthetic of the neoclassical approach to Gianni Versace's personal style.
The Dining Room, Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Corbis.

The staircase of Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Corbis.
The skylight and occulus at Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Corbis.
Noted Italian designer Renzo Mongiardino had been a guiding force in the Milan and Lake Como homes of Versace but there is no evidence of his contributions to this house except for the influence of his mulit-layered neoclassical decorating style.  The rich, theatrical schemes are still evident except that almost all the fabrics are of Versace's own design.  In many cases, the fabrics were especially designed for Casa Casuarina, and later adapted for use in the Versace Home Furnishings Collection.
The statue of Marcus Aurelius.
Photo:  Corbis.
The terracotta figure of Marcus Aurelius on horseback after the Antique, placed on a mahogany omolu-mounted pedestal, realized $52,500 in the auction.  The origianl model, which stands in the Piazza Campidoglio in Rome, is regarded as one of the most important statues to survive unburied from antiquity.
Gianni Versace's Bedroom, Casa Casuarina.
Gianni Versace's Bedroom, Casa Cauarina.
These two views of Gianni Versace's Bedroom show the entrance from the corridor with the Marcus Aurelius sculpture at one end, and the adjacent sitting room known as the Salon at the other end. The walls of the Master Bedroom were painted with fantastic tropical scenes from baseboard to cornice to give visual height to the relatively low ceiling.  The bed, a mahogany ormolu-mounted lit d'alcove from the first quarter of the 19th century features some mounts of a later date.  The bed cover is in the 'Maxi Classic Baroque' fabric designed by Versace and was included in the sale price of $20,300.  A pair of rosewood bookcases at each end of the bed had later ormolu mounts to match and the pair brought $29,500.
Versace's Dressing Room at Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Massimo Listri/Corbis.
Versace created a Dressing Room of unstained mahogany with ebonzied accents to showcase part of his art collection.
The Master Bathroom, Casa Casuarina.
In the Master Bathroom, the Italian marble basin on stand, shown here used as a holder for towels, was included in the auction at an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000, but did not sell.

The Salon, Casa Casuarina.
The Salon is unusual as it is one of the few rooms with a high ceiling.  The transitional Louis XV/XVI giltwood console from the third quarter of the 18th century sold for $82,000.  The 'Knole' style upholstered furniture designed by Versace was covered in his "Wild Paisley" cotton velvet;  along with two matching chairs and two ottomans, the lot was estimated at $7,000 to $9,000 but sold for $66,875.
The Media Room, Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
The modern upholstered suite in the Media Room consisting of a sofa, two club chairs, and two ottomans designed by Versace and covered in his cotton duchesse fabrics, 'Sunset Paisley', 'Jade Paisley' and 'Purple Paisley' brought $35,250.  The modern low table with an inset top of classical style mosaic and pietra dura brought $22,600.  A pair of Louis XVI style giltwood consoles with three scrolled supports ending in hoofed feet sold for $26, 625.  The lamp on the right in the image above was made from a Paris porcelain urn with a parchment shade coverd with a Versace-designed fabric;  it sold for $8,100.  The painting 'The Soldier's Return', French School, 19th century, estimated at $30,000 to $50,000, did not sell.
A bedroom at Casa Casuarina.
This bedroom at Casa Casuarina with a beautifully painted ceiling is believed to have been assigned to Gianni's sister Donatella.
The pyramid box.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
One of this writer's favorite items in the house was this unusual pyramid box of mahogany with ormolu mounts, dating from the early 19th century.  Purchased from Galerie Fremontier, the Paris antiquaires who specialize in Haute Curiosite, it sold for $21,450.

A bedroom at Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Corbis.

This neoclassical bedroom features pilasters in what appears to be finishes to resemble porphory, lapis lazuli, and malachite with gilded ionic capitals.  Due to the center doors, there are two beds, made in the Empire style with covers in Versace's 'Portrait Gallery' fabric;  estimated at $70,000 to $90,000, the beds sold for $104,250 (hammer price with the buyer's premium).  The biblioteque on stand which had been bought at Dalva Brothers, New York City, sold for $41,000.
A bedroom at Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Massimo Listri/Corbis.
The set of four neoclassical style gilt and patinated metal table lamps designed by Gianni Versace feature hand decorated black parchment shades;  they sold for $18,000.
A bedroom at Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Massimo Listri/Corbis.

In another bedroom, the walls and ceiling are painted with classical but romantic views, and the floor is marble laid in classic patterns. The white painted Directoire style bed with a cover in Versace's 'Baroque Savage' fabric sold for $5,700.
Guest Sitting Room.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
In the Guest Sitting Room, Gianni Versace designed the suite of upholstered furniture with the sofa and chairs covered in his quilted cotton velvet 'Wild Miami' with the loose cushions in his 'Lion King' fabric.  Estimated at $6,000 to $8,000, the three piece lot of a sofa and two chairs sold for $72,800.
The Corridor to the Swimming Pool, Casa Casuarina.
Photo:  Sotheby's.
The corridor to the Swimming Pool is decorated with marble mosaics covering the vaulted ceiling and furnished with modern reproductions of classic black figure pottery kraters and jars.

The Swimming Pool, Casa Casuarina.
The spectacular Swimming Pool is located in the new garden created by the demolition of the Revere Hotel.  The existing house and the new wing form two sides of the garden with this wall backing up to 11th Street on the south and another wall to the east to shield the traffic of Ocean Drive.  The pool is completely covered in mosaic tiles.
English tourists at Casa Casuarina,
July, 2007.
Photo:  Corbis.
Most recently, the property has been used as a party venue and hotel called The Villa by Barton G., operated by restauranteur Barton G. Weiss.  Room rates started at $3,995 per day in high season.

More information can be found at the real estate website of The Jills.  And more about the domestic style of Gianni Versace can be seen in his 1995 book DO NOT DISTURB.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ben and Libby Page's Country Place

A Muskogee crape myrtle in the main garden.
Photo:  William Waldron for Elle Decor.
The Devoted Classicist's friends of over 25 years, Ben and Libby Page are one of Nashville's most charming couples.  Devoted Readers might remember them being mentioned here before;   Ben is the founding partner of Page / Duke Landscape Architects and Libby is a much sought-after events planner.  Their weekend place in the country is featured in the current issue of "Elle Decor" magazine.
The vernacular Greek Revival house dates from about 1845.
Photo:  William Waldron for Elle Decor.
The article is written by one of my favorite authors, Julia Reed, an acquaintance with many mutual friends, with photographs by William Waldron.  The story is told of how Libby's mother helped them find the Giles County, Tennessee, property in 2004.  Coincidently, it is less than a mile from where Libby's grandmother had grown up.
A contemporary sculpture by Carroll Todd
is surrounded by a clipped beech edge.
The 1945 barn had been built for polo ponys.
Photo:  William Waldron for Elle Decor.
Although only about an hour from their home in the Richland district of Nashville, the Pages enjoy the change of scenery and lifestyle of their weekend get-away.