Friday, February 21, 2014

Mayfields: A Cradle in the History of Decorating Civilization

Mayfields, as it appears today.
Image via Elle Décor.
Sometimes there is a Design Vortex of sorts, where everything comes together with a new (or extensively renovated) house.  A great architect, a talented decorator, sensitive landscape designers, a good builder, and clients with the best taste (and some money), are all critical factors in a successful residence.  Such was the case for Mayfields, the Far Hills, New Jersey, childhood home of Dorothy May Kinnicutt, later to be better know as the legendary interior designer Sister Parish.

Mrs. Parish, with Albert Hadley, was my former employer, and Mayfields was often used as a reference for country house projects when I worked there as an architect in the 1980s, what we who worked there during that period call the Golden Age of Parish-Hadley.  Whether it was white-washing the fieldstone facing, providing the opportunity for three seating areas in the living room, or including a designated space for a visiting chauffeur to have lunch, the precedents at Mayfields were often recalled as a standard for comfortable country house living.

Mrs. Parish was quoted to say, "The most monumentous event of my life occurred in 1920, when I was 10 [sic].  It was the day we moved from Morristown to Mayfields, our new and wondrous stone house set on miles and miles of rolling country in Far Hills, New Jersey."  The architects were the New York City firm Cross & Cross with the landscape designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman and Marian Cruger Coffin.

"Mayfields was to be my parents' last and most important home, the ideal house for Daddy to express his love and knowledge of good furniture, for Mother to show her superb taste, for them to fulfill their fondest dreams of the most beautiful gardens, most fulfilling house, and the ideal setting for themselves and their children."

Mayfields, along with more country houses, city residences, and other buildings by Cross & Cross are featured in a new book NEW YORK TRANSFORMED: THE ARCHITECTURE OF CROSS & CROSS by Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker.  Published by The Monacelli Press with a release date of March 18, 2014, it may be purchased at a discount rate here.  An earlier view of the house, when the stone was white washed, is shown, along with floor plans, and recent photos.  Those interested in the history of 20th century design will especially appreciate this monograph of an important architectural firm, not particularly known outside the greater New York City area.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Notable Homes: Emilio Terry for Princess Caroline and Ambassador Raymond Guest

The Paris apartment of Princess Caroline
and Ambassador Raymond Guest
decorated by Emilio Terry.
Photo via
The Devoted Classicist is an enormous fan of the work of the Cuban architect & decorator Emilio Terry (born 1890).  Unlike his sometime collaborator Carlos de Beistegui who only worked for himself on his own projects, Emilio Terry did take on commissions, but apparently only among a very tight circle.  Published examples of his work have not been widely circulated, so it is always a treat to see more than a single image of a project that shows examples of his refined taste.

A corner of the Guest's living room.
Photo: Christie's.
The Parisian apartment overlooking Parc Monceau that had been decorated by Emilio Terry in the 1960s for Raymond Guest and his second wife Princess Caroline Murat Guest allowed a somewhat obscure view into this limited world of high style continental taste when some furnishings were included in Christie's auction in Paris on April 22, 2013.  Despite the claims in the Christie's publicity that the apartment was "untouched" since Terry's original decoration, some differences apparent in the first two photos might dispute that point.  (It must be noted, however, that there were two of these niches with matching banquettes).  None-the-less, it is an interesting look into the genius of Emilio Terry.

The walls and curtains in the Guests'
living room was gaufraged velvet.
The three pairs of curtains sold for
Euro 2,750.
Photo:  Christie's.
Raymond Richard Guest, the New York-born son of Frederick E. Guest and Amy Phipps, was the second cousin of Winston Churchill.  Joining the U.S. Navy during World War II, Raymond Guest served on mine sweepers before being made head of the Navy section of the Office of Strategic Services in London.  After the war, Guest was a member of the Virginia Senate from 1947 to 1955.  President Lyndon Johnson appointed Guest to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, a position he held from 1965 to 1968.

The exceptional custom made rug was designed
by Emilio Terry around 1963.
295 1/3 x 181 inches.
Sold:  Euro 193,500.
Photo:  Christie's.
As a slight detour in the story, it must be noted that the first wife, Elizabeth Polk Guest, was a descendent of President James Knox Polk who grew up in New York City and attended the Julliard School of Music.  She was on the boards of several music schools, opera companies and arts councils including the Metropolitan Opera Association and the School of American Ballet.  She helped found the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and was chairman of the friends of the center for many years.  At the time of her death in March, 1990, at age 79, she was a resident of Dark Harbor on the island of Islesboro, Maine, and Front Royal, Virginia.

The pair of sofas designed by Emilio Terry
around 1960 sold for Euro 3,500.
Photo:  Christie's.
But it was the second Mrs. Guest who was responsible for having Emilio Terry consult on the decoration of this apartment, according to the press release by Christie's.  Princess Caroline Murat Guest (born 1923), younger daughter of HH Prince Alexandre Michel Eugene Joachim Napoleon Murat married Raymond Guest in 1960.  (The title was created by Emperor Napoleon I for his brother-in-law and is still used today by heirs).  Raymond Guest died in 1992 at age 84 and Caroline Guest died in 2012 at age 88 at the American Hospital in Paris.

The chimneypiece for the Guests' dining room
was designed by Emilio Terry around 1960.
44 1/4" x 62 1/2" x 11".
Sold: Euro 115,500.
Photo:  Christie's.
Unfortunately, the Dining Room of the apartment was not pictured, but the chimneypiece designed by Terry was removed and included in the sale.  Fabricated of gray marble and decorated with Wedgwood-like porcelain biscuit circular and diamond-shaped motifs, it was estimated to fetch between 8,000 and 12,000 euros.

The canapé-confident from the Guests'
Living Room was 92 inches long with a
provenance of Blenheim Palace.
Sold: Euro 61,500.
Photo:  Christie's.
The apartment is mentioned in the book NOUVELLES REUSSITES DE LA DECORATION FRANCAISE, 1960-1966:  "In each room, unity of architecture, doors, colors is attained; the brightness of the palette and the precision of the form work hand in hand in harmony for the eyes' pleasure.  Classicism, though, is every time renewed with bold invention: in the grand living room, welcoming despite its icy colors, with intimate corners offered by alcoves arranged all around, the stunning carpet, blue and white with a geometrical outline, proves to be no less than the work of a great designer."  The fantastic rug, pictured in its entirety in the fourth image, was black in addition to blue and white and estimated at 20,000 to 30,000 euros. 

A view to Parc Monceau from the
Living Room of the Guest apartment
decorated by Emilio Terry.
Photo via Pinterest.
The canape-confident from the era of Napoleon III that occupied the center of the Living Room was formerly among the furnishings of Blenheim Palace.  Despite the importance through the Duke of Marlborough-Winston Churchill family connection, it appears to have at least partially obscured the center medallion of the especially noteworthy rug.

The pair of 19th century consoles-dessertes in
the living room of the Guests' apartment.
39 1/2" high x 63 2/3" wide x 18" deep.
Sold:  Euro 56,700.
Photo:  Christie's.
The pair of consoles-dessertes may have seemed a curious choice for the Living Room, but clearly a pair was advantages as was the size, and they served to display some selections from the Guests' collection of porcelain.

The faience group featuring Napoleon
was signed and dated 21 Juillet (July) 1804.
Sold:  Euro 20,000
Image:  Christies
A Louis XV-Louis XVI transitional
 presentation of a putto in Meissen with
gilt bronze and lacquered tole, circa 1760.
Sold:  Euro 2,750.
Image:  Christies.
Not everything seen in the photos of the living room were included in the sale.  But it is worth noting a pair of chairs, a console seen in the first image, and a pair of sconces.

A pair of marquises a la reine, one
of the Louis XVI period and the other
from the 19th century.
Sold: Euro 30,000.
Photo:  Christie's.
A gilt-wood console dating the early
19th century from the Guests' living room.
35 1/2" high x 59 1/2" wide x 20 1.2" deep.
Sold: Euro 11,875.
Photo: Christies.

A pair of ormolu sconces in the
style of Louis XV dating
from the 19th century.
Sold:  Euro 3,500.
Photo:  Christie's.
Raymond Guest came from a family long involved in thoroughbred horse racing and his horses were often winners in England, Ireland and France as well as the United States.  His collection of sporting art mostly featured racing horses with a couple of highlights included here.
"Bloomsbury, winner of the Derby"
by John Frederick Herring Senior (1795 to 1865)
was estimated to bring Euro 10,000 to 15,000.
Sold: Euro 12,500.
Photo: Christie's.

"Appaloosa Horse and Spaniel"
by Thomas Weaver (1774 to 1843)
was estimated to bring Euro  6,000 to 8,000.
Sold: Euro 12,500.
Photo: Christie's.
As another detour in the story, Devoted Readers might also be interested to know that the Guests also owned a historic 1,100 acre horse farm in King George County, Virginia, about 3 miles west of Williamsburg.  The property was made up of three historic farms, one having the historic house Powhatan that Raymond Guest bought in the 1940s and restored.  (Today Powhatan is a resort). 
The Guests' Virginia home, Powhatan.
The two top images via HABS
and the bottom via the Powhatan resort website.
All the results of the Christie's sale, which included other interesting lots not necessarily associated with the Guest apartment may been seen here. 
A new book about Emilio Terry by Pierre Arizzoli-Clementel is scheduled to be released in April, 2014, and is available for pre-publication purchase at a discount through The Devoted Classicist Library.  This monograph is in French, with insiders telling me they do not think an English edition will be forthcoming at present due to complications in gaining the publication rights to the images.
For other posts in the Notable Homes series of The Devoted Classicist, see the heading of the same name in the LABELS listed in the right-hand margin of the regular web version of this blog.