Monday, October 29, 2012

Thomas Jayne's American Decoration

The Sitting/Guest Room in the New Orleans apartment
of Rick Ellis and Thomas Jayne.
Photo by William Waldron from
One of the season's most anticipated book is surely the monograph of interior designer Thomas Jayne, AMERICAN DECORATION: A SENSE OF PLACE.  Published by The Monacelli Press, the book will be released October 30, 2012.
Twenty-four projects by Jayne Design Studio are discussed in the book and illustrated with remarkable color photographs of the highest quality.  Thomas' rich academic background in decorative arts and historic interiors reinforces his respect of the traditions of the past while creating interiors to suit modern sensibilities. 
The stairhall of a house in Philadelphia
features a green painted floor.
Photo by John Hall from
Although I have not yet seen the book, I've had a few sneak peaks at parts.  One project in particular stands out as being representative of Thomas Jayne's talent for finding inspiration in history, but very much of today.  It is a house in Scarsdale.

The dining room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from
The living room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from
The sitting room of a house in Scarsdale.
Photo by Pieter Estersohn from

Thomas Jayne's own announcement of the launch of his new book can be read on his blog Decoration: Ancient and Modern.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Stuff

One of the very promising new books to be released before the end of the year is "STUFF: The M (Group) Interactive Guide to Collecting, Decorating With, and Learning About, Wonderful and Unusual Things".  Written by Carey Maloney, an interior designer and partner with architect Hermes Mallea in the firm M (Group), the book is a monograph of the pair's work.  But the unique twist is the 40 topics relevant to the projects shown, with additional online resources available at just a point of the smart phone or tablet using the free Digimarc Discover app. 
The Devoted Classicist has not seen the book yet -- it won't be released by Pointed Leaf Press until December 16, 2012 -- but it promises to be an interesting melding of print and electronics and a boon to Enquiring Minds and lovers of the decorative arts.
More about the book may be seen at the STUFF website.  Devoted Readers may order it at a discount from the published price here.
All images are from the M (Group) website:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cool Oasis

The rear garden of Dr. Cooley's residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
Anyone doubting that Global Warming is upon us has not been to Memphis in the past few miserably hot summers.  A swimming pool is a much-appreciated amenity in this climate, and a particularly refreshing pool is one feature of a house with six landscaped courtyards that is presented in the article "Cool Oasis" by Anne Cunningham O'Neill in the October, 2012, issue of Memphis Magazine.  Although I am friends with the homeowner, John Tackett Design had nothing to do with the property.  My associate Hector Alexander Samada had revamped the garden, however, refining the planting to give more interest to the Brutalist architecture of the house.

The entrance of Dr. Cooley's residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
At the end of the 1970s, the deep garden of a neo-classical mansion was subdivided, providing four additional building lots along the side street.  The three other houses are typical suburban types, but this one is a complete departure, stylistically, for the neighborhood.  Since this house was built in 1980, the neighborhood primarily of early 20th century houses has been designated as a National Conservation District known as Central Gardens.  Although the house might not fall within the design guidelines for the district today, it is much admired though shielded from the street and is often overlooked, in fact. 

The Great Room of the Cooley Residence.
Photo:  Andrea Zucker
Memphis Magazine.
The house was designed by Memphis interior designer J.O.E. Beck as his own home.  It includes a feature that Mr. Beck often employed, panels of a coromandel screen are hinged to fold open to reveal a bar.  Knowing that, it may be made out in the background of the photo above;  the lamp is on a table at the end of the sofa and the panels are partially open to reveal that the back wall of the bar is mirrored.  A glimpse through the doorway on the right reveals the galley kitchen with the original flame-red cabinets.  The central doorway leads to the entrance hall with a spiral staircase to a second bedroom and the door to the left opens into the master bedroom, giving a clue to the compactness of the plan.

A satellite view may be seen on Bing Maps.  Sorry, I could not get the link right, but you may search the address 684 South Willett Street, Memphis, TN.  The mansion from which this lot came is Beverly Hall, located adjacent at the corner of Central Avenue and South Willett Street.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Brilliance of Tiffany

Detail of the Dragonfyl Hanging Lampshade.
Tiffany Studios, New York, 1900 to 1905.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
"The Brilliance of Tiffany:  Lamps from the Neustadt Collection" is an illuminating exhibition now on view at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art through January 13, 2013.  Thirty five lamps on loan from the Neustadt Collection, Long Island City, New York, form the core of the exhibit, amply supplemented by Tiffany silver and Favrile glass from both the Brooks permanent collection and items on loan from local private collections.  It is all expertly organized by the Brooks Curator of European and Decorative Art, Stanton Thomas.
Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Image:  Neustadt Collection.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848 to 1933, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany who was the founder of the luxury retailer Tiffany & Company, started as a landscape painter, eventually branching out into interior design and the decorative arts, becoming one of the foremost artists of his time.  In 1869, Tiffany established a studio in the new headquarters of the New York City chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association, the YMCA Building by Renwick and Sands.  But it was Tiffany's design for his own residence at the Bella Apartments that caused a sensation when completed in 1878.  Read about "the fly-eye of New York" as O. Henry called it, in two articles from the early 1880s posted in the Half Pudding Half Sauce blog here.  In 1880, Tiffany established the interior design firm Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists with partners Lockwood DeForest (furniture and woodwork specialist), Candace Wheeler (textile and embroidery specialist, often credited as the Mother of American Interior Design) and Samuel Colman (a former Hudson River School artist who became one of the country's first professional interior designers). 

Tiffany Studios, New York City.
Image:  Macklowe Gallery.
In 1883, Tiffany left Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists to form his own glassmaking firm, first known as Tiffany Glass and later, Tiffany Studios.  When his father's magnificent Romanesque Revival house commissioned from architects McKim, Mead & White was completed in 1885 on the northeast corner of East 72nd Street and Madison Avenue, New York City, L.C. Tiffany and his family occupied the top two floors.

The Charles Lewis Tiffany residence,
East 72nd Street and Madison Avenue.
Image:  Macklowe Gallery.
Although he continued to collaborate on interior design projects, Tiffany built large workshops and furnaces in Corona, Queens, New York in 1893 and registered "Favrile" as the trademark for his iridescent glass that same year.  Tiffany had become interested in the artistic effects of elecric lights, especially after his collaboration with Thomas Edison for the Lyceum Theater, the first theater to  have electric lights.  The growing availability of electricity provided the impetus for producing commercial lamps in 1895, although the early ones were kerosene and then with the option of either kerosene or electricity.  In 1900, Associated Artists was reorganized as Tiffany Studios.
Laurelton Hall, Laurel Hollow, Long Island.
Image: David Aronow, circa 1924 view, 
Historic American Building Survey.
Louis Comfort Tiffany became the Artistic Director of Tiffany & Company in 1902, following his father's death.  Art jewelry, copper enamels and pottery designed by Tiffany wered added to the retail offerings.  Tiffany's grand estate, Laurelton Hall, was completed in 1905 in Laurel Hollow, Long Island;  it was destroyed by fire in 1957 with its mosaic-decorated loggia installed in the Englehard Court of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1970s.  (Devoted Readers will recall reading about benefactors Jane and Charles Englehard and their estate Cragwood here).  Louis Comfort Tiffany died in 1933 at the age of 85.
Dragonfly Hanging Lamp.
Tiffany Studios, New York.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
Despite the many facets of his career, Louis Comfort Tiffany is best remembered for his colored glass lampshades.  These lampshades were influenced by his experience in painting nature, and his exposure to Art Nouveau with his several exhibitions in Paris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The Dragonfly Hanging Lamp, 1900 to 1905, exemplifies these influences.

Pond Lily Library Lamp.
Tiffany Studios, New York.
The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass,
Long Island City, New York.
There were several variations on the Pond Lily shade shapes with a library lamp shown here.  The large, hardy, white water lily, Nymphaea odorata, is depicted on the table lamp.  A globe lamp, probably for a newel post lamp, features Nelumbo nucifera, or sacred lotus.

The Pond Lily globe.
Photo by permission of the curator,
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Image:  John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
The lampshades were assembled on a wooden mold with different molds for the various shades offered.  Brass patterns provided guides for cutting glass, with many colors and effects created in the studio's own furnaces.  Each piece was wrapped in a thin strip of copper foil and placed on the mold, and then the edges were soldered together.

Using the wood mold to fabricate a Tiffany Shade.
Photo with permission of the curator,
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Image:  John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
Lindsy Parrott, Director & Curator of the Neustadt Collection, will give two talks in Memphis in conjunction with the exhibit.  On Saturday, November 17, 2012, Ms Parrott will talk at 3:00 pm about the seven Tiffany windows at Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church in a Decorative Arts Trust event open free to the public;  this lecture will be given at the church located on Peabody Avenue at Belvedere Boulevard.  On Sunday, November 18, 2012, Ms Parrott will talk at 2:00 pm at Memphis Brooks Museum about the artistry and historical context of the lamps in the exhibit;  this second event is free with museum admission. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jeffrey Bilhuber: Reflections on American Beauty

An enormous ceramic vase centers the Living Room
of the townhouse of the Laird family
as furnished by Jeffrey Bilhuber.
Image by William Abranowicz for
The Way Home:  Reflections on American Beauty
published by Rizzoli.
Mid-Southerners are in for a real treat on Friday, November 9, 2012, when Jeffrey Bilhuber, one of today's most in-demand interior designers, comes to speak at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art for a special event sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust.  Mr. Bilhuber's list of clients ranges from design legends Hubert de Givenchy and Elsa Peretti to celebrities Iman & David Bowie to media mogul Robert Pittman and wife Veronique to cultural icon Ashton Hawkins of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, also a client, sums it up best, "Jeffrey is great at taking one's taste and making it better".
A detail of the entrance of the Entrance Hall
of the Laird townhouse as furnished by Jeffrey Bilhuber.
The image by William Abranowicz is from Bilhuber's latest book
The Way Home:  Reflections on American Beauty
published by Rizzoli.
While Bilhuber's portfolio is full of one glamous room more fabulous than the last, his latest book THE WAY HOME: REFLECTIONS ON AMERICAN BEAUTY focuses on very livable residences, often home to children, that are furnished to suit the way families live today.  While it would be difficult to choose a favorite from the dozen residences featured in this book, one stand-out for The Devoted Classicist is the very first presented, the Upper East Side Manhattan townhouse of advertising superstar Trey Laird and his family.  (And it is merely a coincidence that Trey's lovely and most gracious mother was a client of John Tackett Design).  Although this project was also featured in Architectural Digest magazine, it was beautifully re-photographed for this book by renown photographer William Abranowicz, as evidenced in these images.
More will follow in the weeks leading up to this event, but the tickets have just gone on sale for the special two-part presentation in Memphis and more than half of the seats are already sold.  So I did not want to delay any further in announcing it here.  Ticket information, and advance purchase is recommended as it is sure to be a sell-out, may be found on the website of Decorative Arts Trust here.  (Unfortunately it is flash-driven site and cannot be viewed on many mobile devices).

Jeffrey Bilhuber
Image:  Bilhuber & Associates
I look forward to seeing many Devoted Readers on Friday morning, November 9, 2012, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Southern Cosmopolitan

Susan Sully, author of ten books on regional architecture and design, will celebrate the sophisticated South with a presentation sponsored by Decorative Arts Trust this Saturday, October 20, 2012, 10:30 am, at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Ms Sully leads tours of stylish Southern destinations and is also the author of the blog The Southern Cosmopolitan.
There will be a books sale and signing of her latest title THE SOUTHERN COSMOPOLITAN, SOPHISTICATED SOUTHERN STYLE before and after the lecture.  The event is free with regular museum admission.

Photos are from The Southern Cosmopolitan, Sophisticated Southern Style by Susan Sully, published by Rizzoli, 2009.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rex Whistler's Circle

Rex Whistler self portrait.
Image:  BBC.
While the great artistic talent of Rex Whistler cannot be denied, the contributions to his success made through his friendships should not be underestimated.  His association with the 'Bright Young Things', as the group of young bohemian aristocrats and socialites of 1920s London was dubbed, undoubtedly helped Whistler's stylistic development.  As mentioned in the first post of this series of The Devoted Classicist, it started with his friendship with Stephen Tennant whom he met in art school.  Another member of the same set also known as the 'Bright Young People' was Tennant's best friend Cecil Beaton.

Rex Whistler as a shepherd.  1927.
Photo by Cecil Beaton.
Cecil Beaton was a fashion and society photographer known for his portraits of the royal family as well as the celebrities of the day.  (He also achieved success after World War II for designing sets and costumes for stage and screen, notably "Gigi" and "My Fair Lady". both which earned Beaton an Oscar for Costume Design).

Rex Whistler and Cecil Beaton.
In 1930, Beaton was taken by sculptor Stephen Tomlin and writer Edith Oliver (Whistler's collaborator on the mural for the Tate restaurant) to see Ashcombe, a derelict house that was originally part of a larger 18th century manor on over 1,000 acres.  Despite the poor condition and lack of plumbing and electricity, Beaton fell in love with the property and took on a 15 year lease for GBP 50 a year on the condition that he make all the improvements at his own expense.  Guests at Ashcombe House included many notable actors and artists such as Salvador Dali, Christian Berard, and Augustus John in addition to Whistler.

The bed in the "Circus Room" at Ashcombe.
Image from Prints Online.
One of the famous rooms of the house was the "Circus Room" with a carousel-inspired bed designed by Whistler and murals painted by Whistler and other houseguests. 

Cecil Beaton in the "Circus Room" at Ashcombe.
Rex Whistler also designed the front door surround of Bath stone.  Sadly, Beaton had to give up the house at the end of the lease (and it was then occupied by the landlord's son).  The story of Beaton's time there is recorded in his book ASHCOMBE, THE STORY OF THE FIFTEEN YEAR LEASE.

The cover of Beaton's book, first published in 1949,
features Rex Whistler's painting of  Ashcombe.
The Devoted Classicist Library
Madonna and Guy Ritchie bought Ashcombe in 2001 (for more than the guide price of GBP 9 million, it is believed).  Little remains of Beaton's neo-baroque interior decoration with the exception of part of the "Circus Room" murals.  After the divorce, Mr. Ritchie retained ownership of the estate.

Ashcombe and Madonna as they appeared
in a Vogue magazine photo by Tim Walker.
Despite what may be seen as Dream Projects for Rex Whistler, the clients were not always easy to please.  Such was the case with Mrs. Gilbert Russell, owner of Mottisfont Abbey.  Her portrait by Boris Anrep, around 1930, shows her in bed in a previous residence.  But it is too marvelous not to include.

A portrait of Mrs. Gilbert Russell
 circa 1930 by Boris Anrep.
Another painting to be shared is one by Rex Whistler, in the manner of Salvador Dali, a Surrealist landscape done as a challenge to imitate his friend's style.

A Surreal Landscape by Rex Whistler, 1942.
The Estate of Rex Whistler.
The last painting by Rex Whistler reveals not only the artist's great talent and imagination, but also his sense of humor.  It shows the almost naked Prince over the sleeping ingenue of the city of Brighton.

Allegory:  H.R.H., the Prince Regent
Awakening the Spirit of Brighton.  1944.
Royal Pavilion, Libraries & Museums, Brighton.
For the Devoted Readers who were already fans of Rex Whistler, it is hoped that this provided a satisfying, if brief, review.  For those who were not familiar, The Devoted Classicist hopes new fans will be inspired to learn more about this great artist.