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16 March 2009

Mad For: Pagoda Pelmets


John Fowler often advised clients to "pig it in" in a new residence before they started decorating thereby allowing time for the space to tell them what it wanted. After a year and a half in our Brooklyn Heights digs, the living room is insisting on a pair of pagoda pelmets and it's time to comply.

One of our naked windows

The pagoda, most often associated with Chinese architecture, is a multi-tiered building used as a place of worship or as a reliquary for sacred objects. Below is a replica of a Chinese pagoda in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.


It was designed in the mid 18th century by Sir William Chambers who actually visited China and adhered more faithfully to the Chinese aesthetic than his contemporaries. Today, most people associate this period of English chinoiserie with furniture maker Thomas Chippendale whose designs are unbridled confections of fantasy - rather than replications.


A mid 18th century japanned pagoda display cabinet, maker unknown, at Uppark House


Virtuoso overdoor carving, c. 176os, by the sublimely named Luke Lightfoot at Claydon House. John Fowler advised on its restoration.


Pagoda pelmets fall most definitely in the latter category and the more over the top, the better - as far as I'm concerned.

Decorator to the stars Billy Haines designed these pelmets for a client in the 1930s...




In the Lake Forest dining room of the Leslie Wheeler house, Frances Elkins installed these mustard-yellow curtains with white plaster valances in 1934....


Haines designed a modified pagoda-form here for the Garden Room at Winfield House, London for US Ambassdor Walter Annenberg in 1969. Love the detail of the tassels at the ends.


Who does OTT better than Diamond and Barratta?



Traditionalists with a twist Brockschmidt and Coleman winningly paired their pelmets with a festoon shade. I'm going to follow their lead, but with an Austrian instead!


Top Photo, a bedroom by Miles Redd - the blue walls with white curtains is so Butterfield 8

19 comments:

Mrs. Blandings said...

Simply cannot wait to see!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Thank you, Patricia! Lets hope it doesn't take me another year and half to make it happen!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Also, that last image reminds me that I want leather on my dr chairs. THAT will be a year and a half indeed. And if your project takes that long, no big deal - I'll still be reading.

Toby Worthington said...

There is a built-in problem that you may not wish to hear about. Your windows have virtually no "dead light" above them; they pretty much reach to the ceiling. Therefore your pagoda pelmet will need to be quite shallow, so as not to obscure too much of the upper part of those windows. One of the best solutions to windows that nearly touch the ceiling, is the E. Knoblock approach as interpreted by Mrs Lancaster,where the valance moves with the curtains.
Only one person has mastered this in the USA and that is David Easton.

Rose C'est La Vie said...

EEE, for me this is the most beautiful, pulse-quickening post I have seen anywhere. Pagodas have a magical effect on me as do all these pelmets featured and the inspiration for them. Thank you, thank you for rounding up such glorious images. I am lucky enough to have visited Winfield House a few times and have always been in awe of that Chinese wallpapered room. Have you seen Maria Tuttle's recent book about Winfield Ho.? I am sure you have!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Rose, so glad someone else shares my current obsession! Mr. Worthington, you're breaking my heart!!! Don't you think because I'll be using pull-up shades it won't matter that the pelmet is so deep? The room hardly gets any light as it is....

CCC said...

Emily, absolutely love this post- so beautiful and inspiring- Winfield House is gorgeous...Can't wait to see your next post!!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Thank YOU, CCC, for YOUR inspiration!

Anonymous said...

EEE - Yes, a pelmet mounted up at the ceiling line will cover the top of the window frame and glass even more so with a Austrian shade (side note tho.. wow.. how refreshing to hear that ole' term "Austrian" - you got it girl no balloons)!! Just remember to mount the shade as high as possible from behind the pelmet and you will be set. How pretty to see the ruffle/gathering of the soft shade from below the pelmet. The shade can be lowered to offer some privacy - maybe with a sheer or unlined fabric so the sun filters in - and then for total privacy close those fab shutters. You will be fine. No need for heart break over decorating!! The proportions will be fine.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Whooosh! Thank you, Anonymous, for renewing my confidence! Yes, unlined creamy white taffeta is what I'm planning with a blue tape trim from Houles on the pelmet... oh - and at the suggestion of my friend Beth, I'm going to do a ruffled hem on the Austrians a la Evangeline Bruce curtains by Fowler....

Toby Worthington said...

The heartless Mr Worthington returns with another vexing question, Emily. Will the Evangeline Bruce by Fowler flounced hem be scalloped and pinked, as were hers at Albany? Love that effect, but isn't that rather over-egging the custard, in tandem with a pagoda valance?

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Mr. Worthington, I appreciate brutal honesty over sugared niceties any day. The edging would actually be pleated - is there a more technical term? It may be gilding the lily, but I love it so and only have so many windows to dress...

Anonymous said...

Tisk Tisk Tisk Mr. Worthington please let the gal be. After all even Diana Vreeland who was the chicest of chic surely over edged, over detailed, over trimmed, over accessorized. She obviously didn"t care and didn't follow any of those unwritten laws of decorating - do they even exist? So lets hear it for layers on layers on layers - as seen in her "red pudding" of an apt." (see Emily's most recent post as well as numerous books world wide that also highlight that famous DV New York Apt.).


P.S. MR. W. are you the decorating police??

Toby Worthington said...

Anon:The real question in decorating, is doing something stylish without looking ridiculous. Am paraphrasing Mark Hampton here, but it happens to be my credo as well.

Cote de Texas said...

Well, Mr. Worthington may NOT be the decorating police, but he surely deserves the title! He has impeccable taste and any opinion he gives should be at least seriously considered. I consult him regularly for his opinion and feel honored he answers me - free of charge, no less! His knowledge of classic design and history is almost encyclopedic and to not utilize his wisdom in such matters is a waste - IMO!!!!
Joni

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

There's nothing like a little fracas to add sizzle! Joni, I couldn't agree more about Mr. Worthington's fine eye. His advice is always welcome and I too am grateful to receive it. I must also thank Anonymous for supporting my desire for exuberant, maximalist pelmets. While not perhaps the most astute choice for the room - for reasons I hadn't thought of until the wise Mr. Worthington - I believe they will make me smile. Of course, I may soon fall prey to a fixation for Venetian blinds, and then all bets are off!

Anonymous said...

Ah...with the so many "experts" in this wonderful world of decoration offering advice both for free and for a fee...the list will continue to go on and on as time passes. But the ones who are true experts at least in their egotistical minds and in print ?? may not even know what a blog is, how to log onto a computer, or are in the heavens now forever. So lets celebrate my blog friends we all have opinions which are correct - and you go girl miss eee maybe there is a need for scaling back now - how about completely redecorating in the 90's style of HH - then those venetian blinds would be fab!!!!!! and MR. W et all will truly be saddened....

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Anonymous - HH? Who that?

Anonymous said...

My oh my could that be Holly Hunt??