Friday, December 30, 2011

A design history lesson courtesy of Life : Imbibed

Life : Imbibed: Design Digestif: The Monteith: A 1709-10 monteith by London silversmith Joseph Ward, at the Victoria & Albert Museum. At first glance you might guess this curious ob...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A look back at Dumfries

Dumfries House, built between 1754 and 1759, is located in Ayershire, Scotland.

Despite having studied in Scotland and done research at Hopetoun House, Dumfries House managed to stay off my radar. I didn't learn about the house until we featured it during my tenure at Architectural Digest. The house was essentially saved by the Prince of Wales, whose foundation stepped in at the last minute to stop the auction of the house's contents. The trucks were en route to Christie's in London when the sale was cancelled, making for quite a dramatic story!

Since the house opened to the public in the summer of 2008, significant restorations have been completed, both structural and decorative. I thought it'd be fun to look at some images and read about the highlights.

The wall decoration in the Pewter Corridor, part of Robert Weir Schultz’s late 19th century extension to Dumfries House had been almost completely painted out in the 1960s. The Conservation Studio from Edinburgh has uncovered the original vibrant polychromatic Adam revival wall decoration in a section of this corridor. Nevins of Edinburgh have replicated the wall decoration it the remaining corridor.

Chippendale Bookcase: The magnificent padouk bookcase in the drawing room is generally recognised as the greatest achievement in Chippendale’s early career. Like many pieces in the collection, this too, had seen some crude repair work and modern, somewhat inappropriate surface treatment in the past. The furniture restorer James Hardie from Edinburgh has spent weeks conserving this complex piece in a circumspect and sensitive manner. Missing parts of sculpted and gilded limewood have been recreated; 20th century surface polish gently removed and areas of greatest instability have been appropriately strengthened. In the process, a full understanding of the constructional and material details of one of the world’s most amazing works of fine furniture has been gained and contributed to our appreciation of Chippendale’s unrivalled position amongst furniture makers-designers on the world stage.

18th century Axminster carpet: This carpet, which is one of the earliest documented carpets to have been made by Thomas Whitty in Axminster, has now been restored by Heather Tetley from the Tetley Workshop in Devon. It has been wet-cleaned, partly in-filled, stabilised and put on a linen backing. The carpet’s vibrant rococo design and colour have been reawakened and skilfully complemented by a newly made protective runner (Eyemats, Chatham, Kent). An innovative method, this runner digitally simulates the historic pattern beneath in order to create a visual continuity for the whole interior. By focusing on the carpet project attention has also been drawn to a surviving letter in the archive which hints at the possibility of John Adam having been involved with the carpet design.

The Chippendale sofas and elbow chairs, all of which had seen previous 19th and 20th century refurbishments, haven now been sensitively restored by Peter Holmes of Arlington Conservation. The silk damask covers have been applied by Barry Ansell of R D Robin Upholsterers. The Blue Drawing Room, as it was historically known, once again, sings out to the visitor with its rich colours and texture. The fabric for the handmade (by curtain maker Janette Read) 18th century style silk damask curtain complete with wooden pulley wheels (made from box wood by James Hardie of Edinburgh) as all the other newly made silks in the house have been commissioned from Humphries Weaving in Suffolk. The ‘Dumfries House pattern’ has been woven on looms of 21 inches width and is based on a piece of 18th century fabric, which had survived on one of Alexander Peter’s Scottish made chairs at Dumfries House.

The Chippendale Bed: This majestic four poster bed by Thomas Chippendale, the best of all the beds at Dumfries House, has now been restored to its full 18th century splendour. The bed, which had undergone a dramatic refurbishment in the 19th century, is once again shown as Chippendale first supplied it, complete with a silk fabric covered cornice, ornate bolt covers and layered mattresses containing historically correct stuffings of horsehair, wool and feathers. This bed is the only bed design from Chippendale’s Director which is known to have been realised and to have survived.

For more information on how you can help support the house's continued preservation efforts, click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Chambord of one's own

I can always count on the folks at Sifex to deliver a few indulgent hours of day dreaming about moving to France. This time around it's a château in Indre that's captured my attention. Indre is at the very heart of the country, and just about 2.5 hours from Paris... not exactly close, but close enough! The house, which is surrounded by a moat, sits on nearly 50 acres of parkland (partly wooded, partly cleared), and once had formal gardens. It was built in the 16th century by the same architect who built Chambord, and retains many original features (like fireplaces, ceiling decorations, staircases, and parquetry floors) that are classified as historical monuments.The outbuildings, and the parkland itself, are classified, making this one very special restoration project. The price is available upon request, but falls in the $3.8-5.2 range. Were it to be mine, my very first call would be to designer Timothy Corrigan!

First or ground floor
Entrance hall with staircase; dining room with monumental fireplace; large larder; service staircase; 2 large kitchens, one with monumental fireplace; large salon with armorial fireplace decoration; small salon; boudoir; library; second library on upper ground floor; bedroom with fireplace; bathroom and dressing room; small bedroom.

Second floor
Large landing; gallery leading to 7 principal en suite bedrooms.

Third floor
Three large rooms with tommette, or terracotta, tiled floors; 6 additional bedrooms.

Two Mansart-designed pavilions (each 3,000 square feet), one a guest house and one stables, with horse stalls and boxes, as well as garages and workshops.
A 2 bedroom/1 bath caretaker's house with a full kitchen and sitting room.
An orangery and a 900-square-foot garden house.

Bathrooms need to be redone, as do the heating and wiring systems.
Projected costs for repairs to roof and fireplaces (to bring up to standard): about $2.1

Friday, December 16, 2011

Looking upward for inspiration

Designer Angela Adams at home in Portland, Maine.

As the daughter of a retired Naval meteorologist I'm somewhat predisposed to watching the sky. So when I read about designer Angela Adams's new weather-inspired rugs, Cumulus and Borealis, I just had to post them. They're made of hand-tufted wool from New Zealand, and come in a variety of colorways and sizes. What's even nicer is that a portion of each sale goes right back to the country of manufacture (in the case of these two, India), making the purchase as warm and fuzzy for your conscience as it is for your toes.

Cumulus (in Puff): "Cumulus clouds are full of personality and energy," says Adams. "They are like big bold animated shapes in the sky. At times they are puffy and playful, almost cartoon-like - while at other times they can be fiercely dominant and almost evoke a warning of the power they behold. They remind us that Mother Nature is always boss."

Borealis (in Glow): "Mother Nature puts on the most magical color displays late in the fall when the sky is clear and the air is cool. The flashes of greens dance in the sky so quickly that you see them out of the corner of your eye. The Borealis design has a flash of bright colors that pour down through the center and give off a soft, glowing burst of color."

Each design is available in two colorways, and seven standard sizes: 2.5'x8', 3’x5’, 5’x8’, 8’x10’, 8’ round, 9’x12’ and 11'x14'. Prices range from $370 to $3,500.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nordic influence

A group of vases by Danish ceramist Claire Marie Lehmann. Each one-off piece is about 5 1/2 inches high, and is dipped by hand into colored glazes for a layered effect. $60

Kitchen designer Susan Serra has just launched a new online shop called Scandinavian Made, focusing on ceramics, and new and vintage rugs. Together with her daughter Kelly Serra Donovan, the two have sourced some of today's most innovative craftspeople, many of whom are little known outside their homelands. All of the items available through the digital storefront are one-of-a-kind. And at very reasonable prices, it's an easy way to introduce a little Scandinavian style into your home.

Orebro is a 60" x 29" rug woven by Eva Valente, who lives on a farm in Ladja, Smaland. Valente was inspired by the Valborg tradition, where Swedes celebrate the coming of spring on the Eve of April 30th with bonfires and singing. $275

Danish ceramist Hanne Bertelson's Rille vase, available in 4 sizes and a variety of colorful glazes, ranges from $45 to $175.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ice skating across Britain

The Santa Ana winds are blowing through Los Angeles tonight, and although it's not cold it at least sounds wintery. We've had a stretch of really warm days and it's making it kind of hard to think about decorating for Christmas. But thanks to the editors at Country Life and their round up of the UK's best places to skate, I can induldge (albeit vicariously) in a bit of icey holiday frolicing.

Winchester Cathedral's ice rink, Hampshire

Small town charms

Fillmore's train depot and city hall.

So I thought I'd sit down and write about our dream of a home in France, but instead, I'm going to write about Fillmore. Yes, Fillmore, California. It's orange groves, orange groves and more orange groves. And, much to my surprise, I kind of fell in love with it. Fillmore is gorgeous! It's craggy brush-covered mountains on one side and a wide open valley on the other. It was just a quick trip up to visit an old friend newly ensconced on a ranch (one formerly owned by Sunkist's president --see, oranges, oranges, oranges) but we spent Sunday morning meandering around the tiny historic downtown area.

The town square.

Now, I'm not going to paint a nicer picture than it is. Fillmore's got issues: no money, not much industry, few jobs and one of the worst school systems in the state. But what it does have, aside from oranges (and a few lemons now, but that's another story) is an incredible history and some wonderful architecture. The old citrus packing houses and train depot are frequently used as film sets (Fillmore's only about an hour north of LA), and the surrounding streets are dotted with Craftsman bungalows. And, just down the highway is the historic Rancho Camulos.

The Ygnacio del Valle adobe, built c. 1853-80, and rose garden at Rancho Camulos.
The winery, which was built about 1867, at Rancho Camulos.

What Fillmore needs is a major influx of DINKs looking for a fixer-up of a weekend country house. For $600k you can snaffle up a ranch house (some historic, some 70s) and find yourself living amid groves that can bring in a hefty annual sum. And let's face it, who couldn't use a supplemental income? Or you can snap up a little bungalow for far less. It's such a pretty area - close to Santa Barbara, close to LA - and has such incredible potential. And, it's got Ay! Chihuahua, right off the 126 highway, where I had the best carne asada tacos ever. Ever. And the pickled onions are to die for.

It's also got some pretty fun shops, like Lost and Found Depot Antiques!

Lost and Found is directly across from the train depot and city hall. It's filled with some crazy things, but a lot of really cool stuff, too. Good old bottles, cast iron cobblers tools, brass headboards, fireside fenders...  
And some fabulous garden furniture. Just imagine this fixed up and set glamorously on the pool terrace of a Paul Williams house in Beverly Hills. It's only $40. There were four!

Another great one. Actually liked this one even better.
The railway bridge heading west out of Fillmore, most recently used in Like Water for Elephants with Reese Witherspoon and the Twilight guy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Putting it all together

A drawing by Ray Eames, from the Library of Congress

Charles Eames was right, eventually everything really does connect.

The story: I was bored at work, started an anonymous design blog, got tons of followers, had lots of fun, work changed and got very busy, and, well, there was no more time to blog. My last post was in October of 2008. But, life changes. So with that, I'm back at it.