Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Visit to the Dowager Duchesse de Mouchy

The orangerie in the garden of the
dowager duchess de Mouchy.
Image:  French Garden Style.
A garden design class for architects way back during my university days continues to be a great influence in my work today.  In addition to studying the history of garden design, my class visited a number of private, truly remarkable gardens in the Ile-de-France region with the tour of each site led by the owner.  All the gardens were memorable, but none more so than the enchanting garden created by the dowager duchesse de Mouchy, Marie (de la Rouchefoucauld) de Noailles, as her country retreat about an hour outside of Paris.

Chateau Fleury.
Image:  Wikipedia.
After the death of her husband, in 1950 the dowager duchesse acquired the cottage adjacent to the 250 acre Fleury estate, next to the parish church of the village of Fleury-en-Biere, once the chapel of the chateau.  Her son lives in Chateau Fleury while another member of the family lives in the nearby Chateau de Courance;  we visited both in the class.  (For a relatively recent event at both to benefit the American Friends of Versailles, see the story in New York Social Diary here). 

The path from the herb garden to the pool
passes through a formal area with a
lawn decorated with geometric designs of
colored gravel and two yew obelisks.
Image:  French Garden Style.
The large garden surrounded by a high stone wall had long been neglected but the old magnolias and cedars gave evidence that the landscape had once been carefully considered.  It was thought to be the original potager (kitchen garden) for the chateau which dates from the sixteenth to eighteenth-century.  Although not as well known to the public as some other gardens in France, the garden of the dowager duchesse was the standard by which all others were measured, in some circles of residential garden design.

The Koelreuteria paniculata (golden rain tree)
with pale yellow blooms is outside the garden
 but visually brought inward with a gap
in the hedge filled with an iron fence.
Image:  French Garden Style.
Using the premise that each area of the garden was an outdoor room, the spaces followed various themes and functions.  A magnolia-filled Persian garden contained many unusual varieties, a very unique feature in France.  Another garden contained herbs and another area provided flowers especially grown to cut.

A wall of yews are clipped in the form
of buttresses define the herb garden
which also contains aromatic flowers
and foliage.  Note the unforgettable
topiary 'confessional' in the garden beyond.
Image:  French Garden Style.
As the dowager duchesse led us through garden, she might stop briefly and take clippers out of her pocket to snip an errant twig.  Design is crucial, but after all, it is maintenance that makes a garden legendary.

An arcade of trees trained on cables (1) and
a screen of pleached trees (3) provide garden
architecture.  A bench of stone slabs is backed
both a hedge of clipped yews and unclipped branches
to give contrast (4).  The tumbling naturalized
plantings against the cottage are in the English style,
in contrast to the topiaries bordering the terrace (2).
Images:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
The immediate area outside the cottage comes to a horticultural climax with a life-size sentry box or confessional and a row of enormous fleur de lis topiaries.

The duchesse's 'confessional' carved from
Thuja plicata 'Atrovirens' (giant arborvitae).
Image:  Derry Moore.
The cottage, and that term is relative, is just as charming as the garden.  Like the garden, it carried the dowager duchesse's personal touch.  She said that many of the furnishings had come from her family but she had bought some things at the flea market.

The fleur de lis topiaries on the terrace
at the entrance to the house.
Image:  Derry Moore.
The space known as the Servants' Hall provided a cool, welcome transition from the garden.  It served as a casual reception room.

The Servants' Hall.
Image:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
The adjacent room which also opens onto the terrace is the dowager duchesse's dining room which also served as a casual sitting room.  One of the distinctive features of this room is the tapestry wallcovering, hanging but not fully attached to let the stone walls 'breathe.'
The Dining Room.
Image:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
A slightly more formal sitting room follows in progression, the tone of the room set by the eighteenth-century paneling.

The folding screen illustrates the 17th century
poem Le Lutrin by Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux.
Photo by Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
The use of miniatures adds to intimate character of the Sitting Room.

Another view of the Sitting Room.
Image:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
A guest bedroom with papered walls and a papered dado of an architectural paneling design displays colored engravings of gardens.

A guest bedroom with a chimneypiece
and hearth of rouge royale marble.
Image:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
Another bedroom, with rich red walls, is filled with photos and drawings of family members and other personal mementos.

A bedroom having a view from the bed
to the garden below.
Photo:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
The Duchesse acknowledged getting advice from her brother-in-law, the Vicomte de Noailles (whose exemplary garden was also visited and will be featured in a future post), and her Danish cousin Mogen Tvede, a landscape designer.  But she clearly developed her own taste and skills to become an incomparable gardener in her own right.  The Duchesse de Mouchy died in 1982, and it has been said that her beloved garden, though briefly in a period of decline, is now maintained as a tribute to her remarkable spirit and talent.

A park-like section of the garden.
Photo:  Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.
The photos noted as being from Architectural Digest were published in the June, 1982, issue of the magazine.  The additional images here by the photographer Derry Moore appear on his own website.  The other photos are from FRENCH GARDEN STYLE, now out-of-print but used copies may be purchased through The Devoted Classicist Library.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Pink Suit

Arriving at Love Field, Dallas,
November 22, 1963.
Photo via NY Magazine.
November 22, 2013, marks a very sad 50th anniversary in the history of the United States.  Devoted Readers around my age and older most likely remember the day and where they were when they heard the horrible news of the assassination of the President in Dallas.  Even for those not particularly interested in fashion, an iconic image of that day is 34 year old Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in a pink boucle wool suit.

The Kennedys preparing to begin the
motorcade from the airport.
Photo:  Associated Press.
In 1963, when most people usually saw only black & white images of the fashionable First Lady, it was first reported that the crowds in Dallas were particularly enthusiastic to see Mrs. Kennedy in a custom-made suit of what has been described alternately as raspberry or strawberry pink.  The Chanel-style suit in a classic cardigan double-breasted form was trimmed with navy blue and worn with a navy blouse, shoes and handbag.  The ensemble also included JBK's signature pillbox hat.

Image via Steven L. Brawley
Although Mrs. Kennedy was known to be a Chanel fan, it was felt that the President's wife should wear only American-made clothes.  With a clothing allowance provided by her father-in-law, Joseph Kennedy, and wardrobe supervision by Oleg Cassini, JBK enjoyed specially-made 'knock-offs' of high fashion.  But it was not pirated designs.  According to Steven L. Brawley of the Pink Pillbox site, Mrs. Kennedy's  dresses were made in cooperation with Chanel by Chez Ninon, a small dress-making shop that was popular with the ladies of New York society, owned by Nona McAdoo and Sophie Medrin Shonnard (with silent partner Alisa Mellon Bruce).  Brawley reports that it was common to have fabric, buttons, trims, etc., imported from France along with an actual Chanel garment to be copied for three or four garments.  Average prices ranged from $800 to $1,000 for a suit, which was very expensive at the time, but a fraction of what a suit would cost to be made at Chanel on rue Cambon.  The hat was made by the millinery boutique at Bergdorf Goodman, Marita, presumably by Halston. 

Architect John Carl Warnecke points out some
of the features on a model of Lafayette Square.
Photo:  Google Images.
Although the visit to Texas was an important trip, the kick-off for the re-election campaign, it was not the debut of the pink suit.  Photos show JBK wearing the suit on several previous occasions, including a viewing on September 26, 1962, of the model made as a presentation of the plans to renovate and redevelop Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House;  it was one of the First Lady's many projects to beautify and improve the culture of our nation's capital.

The motorcade slowly traveling through the
streets of Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Image via Daily Mail, MailOnLine.
Since the weather that day in Dallas was predicted to be cool, it has been said that the President recommended that his wife wear the wool suit (which had a matching coat that was left on the plane when it was clear that it would not be needed) with the intent that the bullet-proof bubble roof would be removed from the dark blue Lincoln Continental limousine that had been flown in from Washington for the motorcade. Tragically, one of the last color images published of the pink suit was Mrs. Kennedy as she instinctively scrambled onto the trunk deck to retrieve bits of skull and brain tissue before a Secret Service agent pushed her back into the rear seat and the motorcade sped to Parkland Hospital.

The swearing-in of Lyndon Johnson
aboard Air Force One with
Mrs. Kennedy as a witness.
Photo via Yahoo.
Despite arrangements made for Mrs. Kennedy to change clothes on Air Force One, she reportedly refused so that all would see the evidence of the crime.  The whole contents of the hospital operating room where the President was declared dead are stored in a stable-climate cave at an undisclosed location along with the suit the President was wearing.  The 1961 limousine was leased (for only $500 per year despite the cost estimated to be $200,000) from the Ford Motor Company who retained ownership rights;  it continued in service until 1977 (although some say it was not used by an acting President) and is now on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  The blood-stained pink suit, blouse, stockings, shoes, and handbag were placed in a box by JBK's mother, Janet Auchincloss, before being donated to the National Archives and Records Administration in 1964 and kept in a climate-controlled facility in Maryland.  In the chaos at the hospital, the hat was removed and there is only speculation of its whereabouts today.

Happier times.
Photo via Image Zone.
Recently, daughter Caroline Kennedy, currently in Japan serving as ambassador,  confirmed her 2003 stipulation that the suit would be kept from public view until 2103.  At that time, Jacqueline Kennedy's heirs can decide if the clothes can be displayed without causing the hysteria that is felt would ensue with exhibition today.

For a previous post of The Devoted Classicist presenting Jacqueline Kennedy's efforts to furnish the Green Room at the White House, click here.  For the post on the creation of the upstairs President's Dining Room, click here.  The post on the Aaron Shikler portraits may be read here.  And the post on the island of Scorpios (or Skorpios) may be read here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Apartment, Part III

Although being published out-of-sequence, this post will be the third of a series to show how an Upper East Side Manhattan apartment has been furnished by different owners.  This shows the current incarnation, as decorated by interior designer David Kleinberg as his own residence.  Except for the images noted as being from DKDA, the photographs are by Eric Piasecki for Architectural Digest.

Another view of David Kleinberg's Living Room.
David retained the Living Room's handsome paneling but painted it cream and white to provide a more contemporary background.  The suspended spiral light in the first image was designed by Swiss architect Max Ernst Haefeli in 1937.

The end of the Living Room.
David uses the end of the Living Room as a library.

The Entrance Hall.
Image:  DKDA.
In the Entrance Hall, the barrel vault ceiling remains but the recessed downlights of the previous owners are replaced with a new linear light designed by David's firm, DKDA.  Also, the smoked glass mirrors are removed.

The Dining Room
David uses the coromandel paneled library as his Dining Room.  The rug is made from squares of cowhide.

The Master Bedroom.
A custom-made bed is the dominant feature of the Master Bedroom.  The walls are upholstered with the same striped fabric as the curtains.  The mirrored shutters from the previous owners remain.

David Kleinberg's Dressing Room.
Folded shirts and sweaters are stored on shelves in the oak Dressing Room.

The Bathroom.
In the Bathroom, the striations of the marble provide pattern and color in the otherwise primarily white space.  The iron chair from the 1930s was designed by Jean-Charles Moreux.

The Study.
The walls of the Study are covered with upholstered linen panels decorated with nailheads.  Vintage armchairs by Edward J. Wormley are upholstered in leather.

The Kitchen.
The Kitchen shimmers with cabinet doors and appliances of stainless steel.  Countertops and backsplashes are Calacatta marble.  The floor is faux wood tile from Ann Sacks.

The Breakfast Area of the Kitchen.
A Breakfast area features a classic modern Saarinen table.
David Kleinberg.
Image:  DKDA.
More of David's work may be seen in the book TRADITIONAL NOW: INTERIORS BY DAVID KLEINBERG available at a considerable discount here.  Part II of The Apartment which shows the Robert Denning decoration of the previous owners may be seen here.  Part I will be shown in a future post.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Apartment, Part II

The apartment's Living Room as decorated
by Robert Denning for Marlene and Spencer Hays.
First, it must be explained that The Devoted Classicist has been planning for quite some time to do a series of posts on a particularly attractive Manhattan apartment and how it has been furnished by different owners.  A recent post by blogger, author, and speaker extraordinaire, Jennifer Boles on The Peak of Chic presented the apartment as furnished by what we will call the first owner.  So this, the apartment as decorated for the second owners, is being published out of sequence for this blog, but it will be a logical sequence in the end, hopefully.

The barrel-vaulted and mirrored Entrance Hall
is lined with paintings and drawings by Utrillo,
Ingres, Forain, Pissarro, and Matisse.
The apartment first came to the attention of The Devoted Classicist when it was published as the residence of the current owner, David Kleinberg, a friend and former co-worker at Parish-Hadley.  (A preview of Part III of this series featuring David's décor may be seen in a previous post here).  David had mentioned that it had earlier been decorated by the firm, Denning & Fourcade, his former employer.  These photos by Durston Saylor appeared in the September, 1994, issue of Architectural Digest which reveal the interior design implemented Robert Denning.  (Vincent Fourcade died in 1992 and Robert Denning in 2005).

The Library walls are paneled with elements
of a coromandel screen, repurposed by
the previous occupant.
At the time, the apartment was a pied-a-terre for Nashvillians Marlene and Spencer Hays.  (Selections from their art collection were exhibited at the Musee d'Orsay this summer.  Although the museum text associated with the exhibition reports that their New York apartment was decorated by Renzo Mongiardino [who died in 1998], these photos, showing a décor very much in the style of Denning & Fourcade, would indicate that his involvement with the Hayses would have been later).  The AD article noted that Marlene Hays had Robert Denning in mind during the two years she searched for a suitable apartment for displaying their art and entertaining.  Of the decorator she said, "At first, I thought some of his ideas were crazy, and I'd wonder.  All these mirrors for example.  But they turned out to be a perfect setting for our pictures.  What he suggests always works."

A drawing and a gouche by Pissarro
are displayed on an Empire table in a
corner of the Library.
The 15 x 30 foot Living Room needed lightening and brightening, according to the article, to create a proper background for the art.  Denning repainted the framework of paneling a slightly different green, gilded the moldings, and upholstered the inset panels with printed linen from Brunschwig & Fils who also supplied the tapestry border on the ceiling, a hold-over from the previous occupant.  Two nineteenth-century Savonnerie rugs were cut to cover the floor as a foundation for the mix of Biedermeier, Empire, and Regency furniture.

Jules Emile Saintain's La Menagere, 1866,
hangs over the secretaire a abattant in
the Master Bedroom.
Just as memorable of a room is the Library, paneled with a cut-up black and gold cormandel screen by the previous owner.  Denning added his signature touches with the ceiling upholstered in a floral fabric and a Belle Epoque style light fixture featuring three elaborately pleated and ruffled silk shades.

The bed in the Master Bedroom was made
from a pair of four-poster beds from the
Delano estate.
The Master Bedroom features an eight-poster (!) Louis XIV style bed created from twin beds that Denning refashioned and provided with fringed hangings.  The walls are covered with a Cowtan & Tout chintz and the windows have a yellow striped taffeta festoon blind, a lace shade, and mirrored shutters.  "Rich fabrics soften the master bedroom," says Denning in the article written by Aileen Mehle.

Small sculptures by Maillol and Daumier
are displayed on shelves in the hall
outside the Dressing Room.
The Dressing Room has walls covered in a Clarence House chintz and a ceiling (not visible in the photo) upholstered in a mustard colored moire to conform to the pyramid shape.  The adjacent hall has concealed doors in the form of bookcases faced with false books.

Parts I and III, showing the decoration by the previous and the subsequent owners will appear in future posts of The Devoted Classicist.