30 April 2009

The EEE Artropolis Travel Guide

If you are also going to Chicago for Artropolis, here are a few recommended sights to see, boutiques to shop, and restaurants to dine courtesy of lady-on-the-scene and fellow Sotheby’s Institute alumna Mia Lewisman.

To See

The Chic Chicago exhibit is going on which is a great way to see some of the costume collection from the Chicago History Museum. The museum is a great way to get a sense of Chicago’s past and the Great Fire. 1601 N. Clark St
Tel: 312.642.4600

The Chicago Architectural Boat Tour ….Mia’s fave thing to do in the city."If the weather is nice…it will be fantastic." Ticket booth directions: Go to 465 N. McClurg Court (just south of Illinois Street and McClurg) and walk east on the River East Art Center’s promenade to the Ticket Office. Tel: 312.527.1977.

A walk through Millennium Park

The Driehaus Museum Access to museum at 50 Erie Street. Tel: 312.932.866 You may remember the photo of Mr. Driehaus' living room in the Neoclassical Moderne chapter of RR.

To Eat

Blackbird 619 West Randolph Tel: 312.715.0708

Avec 615 West Randolph Tel: 312.377.2002

Le Colonial937 No. Rush Street (between Oak and Walton Streets) Tel: 312.255.0088 an old favorite, right across from the newly opened Barneys which in turn is located at 15 Oak Street St and does have a Fred’s

RL ….great ambiance and great people watching. You can do lunch or dinner there. [Editor's note: Yes, RL as in Ralph. Located adjacent to the world's largest Polo store] 115 East Chicago Avenue Tel: 312.475.1100

Tempo… an old fashioned Greek diner with reasonable eats on the corner of State and Chestnut. The omelets are huge and amazing! Open 24/7. 6 East Chesnut Street Tel: 312.943.4373

To Shop

Ikram – of course! [Editor’s note: too bad you can’t buy Mrs. Obama’s biceps as well] 873 North Rush Street

Blake…It is located in an old post office and on Chicago Avenue near the gallery district (River North). 212 W Chicago Ave (between Franklin St & Wells St)

If you are at Blake…head up to Wells street to walk around and see some of the new galleries and shops popping up. This area is not far from the Gold Coast…so all easily walking accessibility. Both beautiful stores with fantastic clothes…..

Branca 17 East Pearson Street (two short blocks west of Michigan Avenue- between Wabash and State) Tel: 312.787.1017

Further Afield….

Buck Town/Wicker Park - Great little boutiques and restaurants and you can see the old punk shops and thrift shops on Milwaukee. However…this area has changed in the last two years with Scoop NYC and Marc by Marc Jacobs opening…more “trendy” now than arty but still a cool area. Francesca Forna is a great place for lunch/brunch or dinner. Hejfina is a cool store/gallery…cool clothes (Comme, Maison Martin Margiela, etc) coupled with furniture, books, etc.

28 April 2009

The Miss Havishams Come Home

For more than a year, this pair of bergeres have haunted our living room. Their exposed stuffing and hanging shreds of ivory damask gave us no choice but to nickname them the Miss Havishams.

After purchasing oh-so-many different fabrics from my favorite online sites, I eventually committed to this Scalamandre Willow pattern lampas found on designdivafabrics.com Its muted pinks made me think of Newport in the 20s.

Then, with the help of Beth Martell of Randall Ridless LLC, I navigated the dark waters of the D&D Building and bought this smashing Glen plaid raffia from Schumacher. Although those nailheads look a smidge too big for my eyes, these snappy numbers are definitely not Dickensian anymore.

Stay tuned for my tufted homage to MC!

A Design A-Ha Moment

How could I be so foolish? How could I be so thick?

I have long been smitten by this room Emilio Terry designed for the Raymond Guests' Paris residence, not least of all because of the incongruity of the graphic carpet among the gilded old world opulence.

While in Los Angeles for the antiques show, Mr. EEE and I visited the Getty Villa in Malibu which replicates the Villa dei Papyri at Herculaneum in its prime 2000 years ago. Boom! Here in the Outer Peristyle Gardens was this mosaic...

which must have been the inspiration behind Terry's rug, no?

Click here to read more about the Guests' apartment courtesy of the incomparable Aesthete.

Top photo from Nouvelles réussites de la décoration française, 1960-1966

27 April 2009

Chicago Artropolis May 1 Lecture: The Regency Revival from Deco Greco to Hollywood Glam

EEE will discuss the interpretations of neoclassicism during the twentieth century—from the Art Deco designs of Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann to the silver screen set designs of Hollywood. With an exploration of how during the turbulent years between the two World Wars, many people—from socialites to housewives—turned to the high style and comfort of the Regency style instead of the cold tubular steel of Modernism, and how such legendary designers as Dorothy Draper and David Adler were able to find their voice in the Classical tradition to create spaces that were as modern as they were timeless

When: May 1st, 1:00pm

Book signing of Regency Redux to follow. To R.S.V.P. click here or call or 312.527.6885. Generously sponsored by CINOA and the Magazine Antiques.

Special for EEE readers: click here and enter promotion code: CINOA for a complimentary pass to all three Artropolis events.

Photo: Stephen Tennant's Wilsford Manor - originally decorated by Syrie Maugham but amply embellished by Tennant

23 April 2009

My Elegant Evening with the Countess

Oh yes I did.

The dynamite Kerry Robinson of Zuber thought of one person and one person only when she saw that the Alliance Francaise was hosting a signing of Real Housewife LuAnn Countess de Lesseps' new etiquette book.

Yes, my addiction to the Real Housewives series is one of my dirtiest secrets - although more dirty than secret as I love to talk about it whenever given the chance.

Last night we listened to LuAnn tell the story of her life which is actually rather interesting. Did you know that she was the Italian Vanna White for a time? I particularly liked that she is completely open about her modest background and the less glamorous things she did to pursue her ambitions. Like working as a night nurse while making a go of it as a commercial model in New York City. That said, she certainly leans on that title rather heavily.

A few juicy morsels:

LuAnn loves to sing so watch out - a Countess album may be next! Apparently Bravo is too cheap to pay for the rights to the songs she sings to air her in action.

She has spent some time at the Chopra center during this difficult time of her divorce and meditates twice a day. A woman there told her that first marriages are for meeting your biological mate and producing children. That done, the marriage has been fulfilled and there is no failure in moving on. This resonated strongly with LuAnn.

This woman (who lives next to Ramona) asked her what her sign was....

Taurus with Cancer rising was the answer.

Did the RHoNY show doom her marriage? It didn't help, but there were signs for awhile that things were heading south.

And although I bought a copy of Class with the Countess just to get a picture with her, I *secretly* can't wait to read it only because it is more about her life and less about class. Now, a book by Ramona on manners - that would be something.....
Click here if you want more more more RH guilty pleasure!

All photos - except top - courtesy of Junenoire Photography/FIAF

21 April 2009

The Real Doris Duke Sale

Oh my.

Forget the priceless jewels Christie's sold a few years back. Property from Doris Duke's residences Duke Farms and Falcon Lair will be on the block May 2 and May 3 in Morristown, NJ courtesy of Millea Bros. auctioneers. We're talking light fixtures, Tony Duquette be-shelled sculptures, those huge curved sofas! Proceeds will benefit the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Click here to peruse the online catalogue, deliciously categorized by room, including Bernard's Room, the Hollywood Dressing Room #2 (which the hallowed McMillen firm helped DD with) and even selections from her New York apartment (now owned by gossip columnist Cindy Adams) and her Los Angeles estate Falcon Lair (onced owned by Rudolph Valentino) - both of which were decorated by Tony Duquette.

DD's New York bathroom as decorated by Tony Duquette

From the Bamboo Room
Lot 499: Suite of bamboo and rattan seat furniture

First half of 20th Century, comprising: (2) 3-seat sofas and (2) club chairs, with leopard print upholstered cushions, sofa: 29"h x 84"l x 34"d, chair: 26.5"h x 28.5"w x 32"d -
Estimate: 700-1,000

Pair of andirons from DD's bedroom
Lot 612: Pair Art Deco andirons in the manner of Jean Perzel
Each composed of stacked glass panels inserted into a stepped nickel-plated base, 16"h x 5.5"w x 5"d - Condition: overall fair/poor, many glass plates chipped or broken at base, pitting to metal - Provenance: The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Estimate: 250-350

For more information on Duke style, look out for an article I wrote for an upcoming issue of Veranda magazine on the decoration of Miss Duke's residences.

Top photo: detail of a screen from the Hollywood Dressing Room #2
Lot 574: Attributed to Boris Lovet-Lorski (1899-1973, American), painting
First half 20th Century, three-panel floor screen with Neo-classical and "God Unknown" bust motif, unsigned, 68"h x 21"w (each panel)
Estimate: 1,000-1,500

Happy Birthday, Rome

American Girl in Italy, 1951 © Ruth Orkin

The eternal city celebrates its founding on this day in 753 BC. According to legend, twins Romulus and Remus - sons of the god Mars and Rhea Silvia, daughter of the king of Alba Longa - were ordered to be drowned in the Tiber by Rhea's uncle who wanted the throne for himself. Instead they floated downstream and were rescued by Lupa, a she-wolf. A shepherd eventually found them, raised them as his own, and Romulus went on to found Rome after killing Remus for making fun of him over a wall (oh, that Mars temper!)

It's amazing the power images can have over one. When I saw this famous photograph of An American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin, something seismic happened inside of me. At the time, I was in college in the middle of Ohio where Birkenstocks - not gladiator sandals - were de rigueur (although I NEVER went down that path, I assure you) and couldn't have been further from this street scene which seemed so worldly and glamorous to me. Click! Within days, I had changed my major to Latin and started counting down the days to when I would spend my semester abroad at the Centro in Rome.

Couple in MG, Florence, Italy, 1951 © Ruth Orkin

Why this long story? Because the best decisions I've ever made have come from the gut, and life is too short not to go for it. Because it's important to step outside of your box and expose yourself to new things - whether they are old guard or avant garde. If you don't know what your passion is, you're not going to find it doing and looking at the same old things. Because the key to being eternal - like Rome - is to evolve and embrace change.

Click here to read about the making of the photographs (which sadly were taken in Florence, not Rome).

17 April 2009

Los Angeles April 24 Lecture: Madeleine Castaing and Le Style Malmaison

My first MC lecture!

Madeleine Castaing and Le Style Malmaison
While many were drumming to the beat of modernism, French antiquaire and decorator Madeleine Castaing created her own look that was a unique blend of Neoclassicism, Proustian Romanticism, and pure wit. EEE will discuss the elements of the Castaing style along with a look at her fellow traditionalists, including Emilio Terry and Charles de Beistegui, who found great inspiration in historical styles.

Friday, April 24th, 4:00 PM
Los Angeles Antiques Show
Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Air Center
$15 admission to show includes lecture

15 April 2009

Do you really need all those pinball machines, Michael?

Whether it's a 3 1/2" high priceless Mesopotamian antiquity or a Bob Mackie headpiece made for Cher, WRJ Design Associates are the go-to team to make anything look like a million bucks. Besides being super talented, Rush Jenkins and his business partner Klaus Baer are the most down-to-earth, generous and handsome guys you could want to know. Am I fawning? OK, they also happen to be very dear friends (remember that Phyllis Diller drawing?).

One of the highlights of my Los Angeles trip a few weeks ago was visiting them while they set up the Michael Jackson sales exhibition for Julien's auctions. Now, I am not a huge MJ fan, but there was no way I was going to miss a peek into his "unusual" private life at Neverland. And when he sued the auction house to cancel the sale, it only increased my excitement to see what he was so eager to hold on to.

I was not disappointed, and neither will you be if you head over to the exhibition which is on view through April 25. (Click here for more details.) Unfortunately, you will not be able to bid on any of the items as MJ successfully negotiated with the auction house to stop the sale to both parties' benefit.

A few glimpses in case you are unable to hotfoot it over to L.A.....

Just like Napoleon or any other sovereign, MJ, the self-dubbed King of Pop, is totally on board with the power of portraiture to convey one's greatness. In the background is a triptych of MJ's coronation.

The abs on this console table are not of steel, but bronze

Several limousines are offered in the sale, including this stretch Bentley. (N.B. the life-size wax mannequins of a butler and policeman - just two of the dozens offered for sale which resided at Neverland)

the limo is complete with an ormolu-mounted interior

As we all know, MJ welcomed many children to the ranch and accrued an astonishing collection of arcade games, perhaps the world's largest in private hands. Movie memorabilia is also well represented, with MJ's particular penchant for Disney evident.

Below is an animated diorama of Gepetto's workshop measuring almost 8 feet tall

Don't miss the little MJ in the center right - see the close up below....

My friend Kelli and I both voted for our "Most Creepy" favorites. The winners:

Just one of many versions of this disturbing red-headed doll

a life size Bruce Lee.

What you can't see in the photograph are the red claw marks across his chest.

Photos #1-5 © Stefan Studer Photography courtesy of WRJ Design Associates, LLC.

14 April 2009

Bob's World of Blobs: The RW Russell House Tour

Imagination is both free and priceless. I was never more inspired by this than on a visit to Bob Russell's private sanctum a few weeks ago. (Click here to see Bob's dazzling chandeliers which I posted on here last week.)

Although located only a few blocks from Sotheby's on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Bob's apartment couldn't be further from Park Avenue style than if it were on the moon - and, indeed, if you thought you were on another planet, you wouldn't be mistaken - it is truly out of this world.

Out of posterboard, wine cartons, and elbow grease, Bob has created an extremely original environment whose only boundaries are what he can dream up. No concessions to conventional notions of "good taste" here - Bob is fearless!

Mounted on the wall of Bob's living room are all manner of brightly colored free forms. "I am fascinated by blobs," Bob told me matter-of-factly over red wine and guacamole. The free forms are in fact flagella, just one of the different types of blobs to be found here....

...such as this mobile of a group of sperm. Because sperm always swim together in one direction, Bob ingeniously affixed magnets to them so they would all point northwards.

His patience to complete projects is staggering. Here is one of many pen and ink drawings that he's been working on for years. He documents the date and location of every session.

This alien blob is having an affair with a nearby jade plant.

I fell in love with this driftwood and shell low table. Bob said he collected these shells over a two year period from the beaches of Fire Island, where he used to have a house. He glued them to a piece of wood and mounted it on driftwood also scavenged from the shore.

The Great Gatsby as sculpture

In the kitchen are a series of illustrated menus. It was the tradition at Bob's Fire Island house for house guests to make up a menu to commemorate the evening. Wine corks signed and dated by all sit atop. This reminded me of Cecil Beaton at his weekend house Ashcombe....

where in the Circus Room, various guests such as Rex Whistler, Salvador Dali, and Oliver Messel each painted a figure in a niche...

In the bedroom,

Bob takes tablescaping to new heights....

If one is good, one hundred is better....

Bob has several of these hanging from the ceiling. They are inspired by Dorothy Draper's chandeliers at the "Dorotheum" restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are made out of wine boxes which limits their size. (Somebody send this man a jeroboam!)

Yes, Bob is afraid of nothing, not even the large size of this Water Buffalo head....

A print of the Lusitania sails over Bob's desk....

Photo #1,3, 5, 7, 14, and 15 courtesy of Nephi Niven; #9 and 10 the Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby's Picture Library

10 April 2009

"French Regency" : Non Mirabile Dictu

The exacting Dr. Megan Aldrich, my furniture tutor at Sotheby's Institute, despaired of the labeling of furniture after rulers' reigns. After all, the minute George II ascended the throne in 1727, there wasn't a complete overhaul of fashion with everyone throwing out their pad-footed chairs for ball-and-claw ones. However, after working in the trade for several years, I've found these labels useful as a shorthand as they tend to loosely coordinate with the change in styles from Baroque to Rococo to Neoclassicism. Useful, that is, as long as people are still au fait with them....

the Billiards Room at Malmaison, circa 1790s, designed by Percier and Fontaine for Josephine is the defining example of Directoire style

You may remember that I was aghast upon coming across the phrase "French Regency" in Vanity Fair magazine and some have asked me to elaborate. Quite simply, there is no such thing. There is French Empire, corresponding to when Napoleon was crowned emperor of France, and there is English Regency, referring to the Prince Regent's interim rule while his father George III had an interlude of insanity. He then became George IV in 1820 until his death in 1830.

Moreover, what I discovered while researching RR was that the English called their own furniture from that period (1790-1820) "English Empire", much as we call ours "American Empire", until the late 1910s, when the usage of Regency as a style term was coined by the architect Sir Alfred Richardson. So to use the term "French Regency", implying the French were following the English, is absurd. After all, the French have made it a point of national pride to lead fashion since the days of the sun king himself, Louis XIV.

Empire, Regency, po-tay-toes - po-tah-toes - what does it all mean?

In a nutshell, they both refer to a late phase of neoclassicism which was more archeologically correct in terms of replicating actual furniture from antiquity than the preceding phases of neoclassicism - i.e., Louis XVI, "Adam" or "Sheraton" style - which grafted Classical ornament onto existing European forms. To make huge generalizations, Empire and Regency are more bold and massive with complicated curtains while Louis XVI, et al, is more delicate and refined. Directoire - the period of Josephine's Malmaison - is transitional and, like Madeleine C., my fave.

Louis XVI

Marie Antoinette's bedroom in the Petit Trianon, circa 1770s


view of Madame Recamier's bedroom, circa 1798


Josephine's bedroom at Fontainbleau, 1808

English Neoclassicism -

1st Phase - Adam Style

The Etruscan Room at Osterley Park by Robert Adam, 1761

designs for furniture by Robert Adam, circa 1775

Early Regency - 1790s

Living Room cum Library at Bromley Hill - note the casual arrangement of furniture left in the middle of the room

Late Regency

The Prince Regent's tour de force, Brighton Pavilion, in its final phase of decoration, circa 1820

design for an armchair by Thomas Hope, 1807