Sunday, February 22, 2015

Valerian Rybar: Chic Chaises

The Dining Room, Candib residence,
Miami Beach, as decorated by Valerian Rybar.
Image: Architectural Digest.
As another chapter in the sporadic series on high-personality chairs associated with a person of equal stature, this post of The Devoted Classicist presents chairs from a project by interior designer Valerian Rybar.

A pair of chairs similar to those in the Candib photo
except that the fabric is different.  Pair "A" for reference.
From ebay at a date not recorded.
The Miami Beach residence of Claudette and Murray Candib decorated by Rybar was featured in the April issue of Architectural Digest and appeared on the cover.  Murray Candib has been credited with creating the first self-service department store and introducing the concept of shopping carts to his chain of stores, King's, that grew to over 200 by the time of his death in 2013 at age 97.  The Candibs led an active social and philanthropic lifestyle with their home on the shore of Biscayne Bay given the aura of a villa on the Rivera by Rybar.  The magazine article describes the Dining Room as having a ceiling painted as a skyscape and walls painted with green trompe-l'oeil treillage to give the effect of dining alfresco.  The floor is marble tile and the dining table is a single slab of green marble on ornate gilt wrought iron supports.  No reference is given for the chairs other than a mention that the fabric is from Stroheim & Romann.
A detail of the back support of Pair "A"

A detail of the painting of Pair "A"
Nine side chairs appear in the magazine photo, but it would be realistic to believe there was a set of at least twelve.  They are in the Italian neo-classical style of the last quarter of the eighteenth-century, but likely to be made in the twentieth-century.  Although not impossible, it is difficult to assemble a large number of antique chairs of this sort that would be suitable for use in dining. 

Pair "B" of chairs currently on ebay.
Seller: sourcemyeyefordesign
Adding to the desirablity, it appears that the inside face of each back is painted with a differnt scene of frolicking putti.  Regardless of the date, there is no denying that the chairs are chic. 
Detailing from the "B" pair.
Seller: sourcemyeyefordesign

Detailing from the "B" pair.
Seller: sourcemyeyefordesign.

The backs of the "B" pair show evidence
of previous upholstery.
Chairs, similar if not actually the same, have appeared in venues such as ebay, but not much information has been recorded.  Knowing there are no bounds to the facts at the fingertips of you Devoted Readers, I ask that all who might have more information please do sign in with a comment below (on the regular on-line blog site).

More chairs.  We will reference to these
as the "C" pair.
Image via William Merrill.
ADDENDUM:  Thanks to Devoted Reader Will Merrill for sending this image of a pair of similar chairs, perhaps from the same set, from a recent real estate offering of a David Alder house near Chicago.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Barry Dixon

All Devoted Readers are invited to meet interior designer Barry Dixon this Saturday, February 21, 2015.   He will speak at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art at 10:30 am as guest of Decorative Arts Trust.

Born in Memphis, Barry Dixon's work is influenced by a childhood spent in Pakistan, India, Korea, New Caledonia and South Africa.  Now based on a 300-plus acre 1907 estate in Fauquier County, Virginia, near Washington, DC, he has created a line of furniture for Tomlinson/Erwin-Lambeth, accessories and furniture for Arteriors, fabrics and trim collections for Vervain, furniture and pendants for Avrett, and a paint line for C2 Paint in addition to serving as principal for his interior design firm.

A book-signing will follow the talk with BARRY DIXON INSPIRATIONS offered for sale with the proceeds benefitting Decorative Arts Trust.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valerian Rybar and Jean-Francois Daigre on Sutton Place

Advertisement from August, 1982
Architectural Digest.
Coming across this 1982 advertisement for blinds photographed in the Manhattan apartment of interior designer Valerian Rybar brought to mind that the designer, internationally known among the Jet Set Rich and Famous during the 1970s and 80s, might not be a familiar name today.  And what better way to present a decorator than with photos of his own home?  With his partner Jean-Francois Diagre, who was perhaps more famous in Europe but usually regulated to a side remark in U.S. publications, Valerian Rybar (sometimes referred to as Stux-Rybar or Styx-Rybar) lived in a six-room Sutton Place apartment that they completely remodeled in the early 1970s to showcase their talent, leaving no original material or feature visible.

Rybar & Daigre in costume for Le Bal Oriental,
as used for the cover of the 2003 Christie's catalog.
Officially known as Valerian Rybar & Daigre Design Corporation, they promoted being identified as the world's most expensive decorators and undoubtedly worked to make that a reality.  Rybar, who was born in Yugoslavia, worked as a trainee at Lord & Taylor department store before designing packaging, displays, and shop interiors for Elizabeth Arden.  Rybar joined Daigre in 1968 to stage a spectacular ball for Mr. & Mrs. Antenor Patiño (see widow Beatriz's Paris apartment in a previous post of The Devoted Classicist here) introducing 1300 guests to their new country house, Quinto Patiño, set in a 200 acre park in Portugal.

Rybar & Daigre at Le Bal Oriental, 1969,
as documented in watercolor by Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Image via Scala Regia Inspirational Archives.
The following year, an even more spectacular fete designed by Rybar and Daigre, Le Bal Oriental, was hosted by Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Redé, at his home in Paris, Hôtel Lambert.  Read an excerpt from ALEXIS: THE MEMOIRS OF THE BARON DE REDE about the famous ball provided by the blog Scala Regia here.

The Rybar-Daigre Living Room, Sutton Place.
Photo by Ezra Stoller via New York Magazine.
The coral (more like the orange-ish color of cnidarians than the pink-ish polo shirts) velvet walls of the Living Room had radius corners and mirror-finish stainless steel bands as the base and cornice.  Etched steel plates covered the floor accented with a mink rug by Oscar de la Renta.  Most of the furniture was designed by Rybar and custom made by Karl Mann, but there were accents of antiques such as a Boulle tortoiseshell and brass filigree desk, and a carved crystal bust of Ferdinando de' Medici.

The Rybar-Daigre Dining Room, Sutton Place.
Photo by Ezra Stoller via New York Magazine.
The Dining Room had the same steel flooring with walls lined with concealed closet doors that were designed to appear as shelves filled with books; the titles stamped into the leather of the otherwise identical false books spines were written to reflect chapters in the designers' past.  An article by Jeff McKay in "New York Magazine" states that the title INTERNATIONAL BOREDOM referred to Rybar's marriage (1956 to 1965) to Irish brewing heiress Aileen Guiness, the Jet-Set chatelaine of Luttrellstown Castle near Dublin.  Again, custom made furniture filled the room, with Rybar-designed tables covered with batik fabric in this 1972 photo.

The bedside console in the Rybar-Daigre Master Bedroom.
Photo by Ezra Stoller via New York Magazine.
The Master Bedroom's bedside leather console topped with mirror-finish stainless steel was fitted to hold a slim-line telephone handset which also served as an intercom, and controls for the alarm clock, television, stereo, and dimmable lighting as well as the electric blanket.

The Rybar-Daigre Dressing Room, Sutton Place.
Photo by Ezra Stoller via New York Magazine.
The Dressing Room with the same low-cut pile caramel carpet as the bathroom was larger than the bedroom.  Based on a concept of display, double-hanging rods held suits and sloped shelves held shoes.  Translucent plastic drawers held folded shirts and glass shelves held rainbow stacks of sweaters.  A 3-way tailor's mirror figured prominently in the space, but the most memorable feature was a bench upholstered in hand-painted pony skin whose height could be electronically adjusted to serve as a luggage rack, ironing board or massage table.

The Rybar-Daigre Master Bathroom, Sutton Place.
Photo by Ezra Stoller via New York Magazine.
The Master Bath featured a custom-made stainless steel bathtub and a lavatory set in a pedestal of marble.  Tall mirrored cabinet doors provided storage for toiletries and reflected tortoise-shell faux finished walls and ceiling also punctuated with a section of mirrors.  Carefully stitched leather-covered masks by Nancy Grossman provided ominous decoration.

Marie-Hélène de Rothschild  (wife of Baron Guy de Rothschild
who owned Hôtel Lambert) with Valerian Rybar at Le Bal Oriental.
1969 photo via Artnet.
According to Rybar's 1990 obituary written by Carol Vogel for The New York Times, he was 71 years old and died in his Manhattan home of prostate cancer.  Daigre's 1992 New York Times obituary reported that he died of an AIDS-related illness in a Paris hospital at age 56.  This notice reported that Daigre had been hired at age 19 to work at designing décor, textiles and packaging for Christian Dior before joining Rybar to plan the Patiño ball.  It also said Diagre had managed the business side of the firm while continuing to be involved in the planning of gala events.

Valerian Rybar, Paris, 1967.
Leonard Nones photo via Corbis.
The couple's Paris residence, usually assigned to Daigre in print, was even more opulent and will be featured in a future post of The Devoted Classicist.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Whitehall, Part II

Whitehall, the Flagler Museum,
 Palm Beach, Florida, in a 1960 view.
Image:  Florida History Archives
As a continuation of the previous post of The Devoted Classicist, the docent-guided tour of Whitehall ends with the return to the Grand Hall.  The tour of the Second Floor is aided by a personal audio tape and begins after climbing the main staircase.  After ascending to a low landing which also opens to the courtyard, there is a split to a matching pair of triple-runs to the Second Floor.
The marble staircase, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum
The Second Floor held the Master Suite of Henry and Mary Lily Flagler, fourteen guest rooms, twenty-two servants rooms, and nineteen bathrooms.  Each guest room included a private bath and a large closet plus a distinctive décor.

The Second Floor Plan as redrawn from the original
1/8 inch scale plans by Carrère & Hastings.
Image: Historic American Building Survey
The central courtyard provided the opportunity for cross ventilation aided by the louvered loggias at the north and south ends.  Guest bathrooms without windows and adjacent passages have skylights.

Second Floor Loggia, Whitehall.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist
Typical skylights in a guest room passage, left,
and in a guest bathroom, right.  Whitehall.
Photos by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
Today, some of the guest rooms have been converted to exhibit space to display artifacts from the Flaglers.  Other guest rooms have been restored to the original Pottier and Stymus decorating schemes based on period photographs and historic documents.  The rooms were named according to their décor.

The Colonial Chamber, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum.
The Colonial Chamber, the largest guest room, is located at the northeast corner.  While most of the bedroom furnishings were ordered to be specially made for Whitehall, this furniture came Flagler's home, Satanstoe, Mamaroneck, New York.

The Blue, Gold, Green, and Pink
Guest Bedrooms, Whitehall.
Images: Flagler Museum
In the Master Suite, Henry and Mary Lily Flagler were said to have shared the bedroom, a practice not common in Gilded Age mansions.  (He was 72 and she was 35 at the time of the house's completion).  The bedroom is decorated in the Louis XV Revival style.  Samples of the original bed fabric and wallcovering provided the documentation that allowed reproduction.

The Master Bedroom, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum.
There are His and Hers Dressing Rooms with fitted cabinetry.  For museum interpretation, some clothing from the period is on display.

The Master Bathroom, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum
The Master Bath is about the size of a typical guest room with slabs of marble forming a tall wainscot and squares of matching marble covering the floor on the diagonal.  In addition to a double bowl onyx lavatory and a wood tank flush toilet, there is a bathtub and needle-spray shower stall plus the most modern convenience, a telephone.

The Silver Maple Room, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum
The Silver Maple Room features furniture in the style of the English Arts & Crafts Movement.  The bed painted with the Muses of Music on the headboard and the Four Seasons on the footboard is original to the room, as is the chest.

The Yellow Roses Room, Whitehall.
Image:  Flagler Museum.
The last guest bedroom on the tour is referred to as the Yellow Roses Room which features matching fabric and wallpaper in the "Marechal Rose" pattern reproduced from a fragment behind the mirror over the washbasin.  This room was used by Henry Flagler's (male) secretary J.C. Salter, who also usually served as secretary on of the Board of Directors for Flagler's corporations.

The Morning Room, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum
At the southwest corner of the Second Floor overlooking Lake Worth is the Morning Room which served as Mrs. Flagler's boudoir.  She used it as her personal space for writing letters. practicing the piano, and playing bridge.  The Louis XV Revival style folding screen and console piano are original to the room.

A typical servant's room, Whitehall.
Image: Flagler Museum.
Twelve bedrooms for servants once filled the west wing of the Second Floor.  Part of this space is now used for exhibitions.  In addition, there were ten rooms on the Third Floor for use by the staff of the Flaglers' guests.

Whitehall's Laundry Building can be seen in the
distance of this 1903 photo of a luncheon on the grounds.
Image: Flagler Museum
There was a separate building off the northwest corner of the house that contained the Laundry on the ground floor with rooms for black servants above.  It was demolished in 1925.

One of the many original heat grilles in Whitehall.
The Flaglers typically occupied the house only in
January and February, but a minimal staff stayed
there year around.  In the humid summer months,
the house was kept closed with the heat on to
stabilize the humidity indoors.  The grilles are now
used for air-conditioning to maintain the interior climate.
In March 1913, Henry Flagler fell down the stairs at Whitehall and broke his hip.  At age 83, he never recovered from the injury and died two months later.  Mary Lily inherited the bulk of his fortune estimated to be worth between $60 and $100 million.  It is complicated to translate that into 2015 dollars, but it could easily be as much as $24 billion today.  In any case. she was reportedly the richest woman in the U.S.  The house remained closed for the next two seasons, but was opened in 1916 and 1917.  She married Robert Worth Bingham in November 1916, and died under suspicious circumstances eight months later.  (More may be read about that in THE BINGHAMS OF LOUISVILLE: THE DARK HISTORY BEHIND ONE OF AMERICA'S GREAT FORTUNES).  Whitehall was bequeathed to her niece Louise Clisby Wise who sold it to a group of investors who converted it into a hotel with the addition of a 300 room, ten story tower to the rear.  The mansion was used as public rooms and special event rooms for the hotel.

The Whitehall Hotel, 1925 to 1959.
Image Florida History Network.
Jean Flagler Mathews, Henry Flagler's granddaughter, heard that the hotel was in financial difficulties in 1959 and bought the property.  She formed the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum as a nonprofit corporation that opened Whitehall to the public in 1960.

The hotel's dining room remains as a events space.
Image: Flagler Museum
The hotel addition, with the exception of the ground floor, was removed, leaving the hotel dining room as a durable space for events.  Adjacent spaces are used for museum-related activities, including the museum store.

is one of the many selections available in the gift shop at Whitehall.
A separate building in the Beaux Arts Revival style, the Flagler Kenan Pavilion, was completed in 2005.  Inspired by Gilded Age railroad stations, the Smith Architectural Group designed the pavilion to accommodate the museum café and serve as another events venue as well as an elaborate exhibition gallery for Railcar No. 91.  Henry Morrison Flagler's private railcar, built in 1886 and one of two that he owned, was restored and visitors may walk through to get an idea of luxury travel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Henry Flagler's private railcar on display
in the Flagler Kenan Pavilion, Whitehall.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
Visitors should not fail to admire the spectacular fence when entering and leaving the property.  Designed by architects Carrère and Hastings to an important aspect of the whole architectural effect, it is iron with bronze details spanning almost 1,000 feet across the front of the site.

The entrance gates to Whitehall, Palm Beach.
Photo by John J. Tackett for The Devoted Classicist.
The Flagler Museum is to be congratulated on its efforts in conservation and interpretation.  A visit to Whitehall offers an educational and insightful look back to America's Gilded Age.