27 August 2009

For all you chintz lovers

Race down to the Hines and Company showroom. Now. Discontinued colorways of Rose Cumming chintz is to be had for $10 a yard. (You might even run into the impossibly gorgeous Javier Bardem and rumored-to-be pregnant Penelope Cruz, according to Page Six.)

Rose Cumming at Hines and Co.
D & D Building
979 Third AvenueSuite
1010New York, NY 10022
T 212.754.5880
Friday 9AM - 5PM

26 August 2009

My (teeny-weeny) Homage to MC

Tufting, leopard print, sky blue, and lots of trim.... a small gesture in a small New York city apartment....

25 August 2009

Love or Loathe?

"Chareau" by Clarence House, half-cotton, half-linen - where else but here?

Designed by Vladimir Chopinoff - who? His name sounds worthy of Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes....which definitely adds to my fantasy story built around the pattern. And "Chareau", of course, as in Pierre Chareau, the architect of the iconic Maison de Verre of 1932.

photo by François Halard from La Maison de Verre

So what say you? Love or loathe?

(I know some of you will think I'm being lazy - but another naked shower hangs in the balance.)

21 August 2009

Joséphine's Tent-o-mania

Napoléon's consort, Joséphine, was renowned for her flawless taste and to say that the creation of the severely chic Empire style could be laid at her feet wouldn't be entirely an exaggeration. Nowhere did her personal style more crystallize than at her country house Malmaison.

Its smaller scale and unofficial status gave Joséphine freer reign to express herself with more intimate spaces not held hostage to the demands of pomp and ceremony. Lucky for us, Malmaison was opened as a museum in the early 20th century and continues to be the purest expression of the former imperatrice's taste.

I am currently reading Joséphine and the Arts of the Empire and in a chapter on her interiors, scholar Eleanor DeLorme notes that Joséphine adored tents and took any opportunity she could to incorporate them into her design schemes.

Even the very entrance to the chateau was a tent, which DeLorme points out, went against any sense of protocal.... also according to DeLorme, Napoléon was not a fan and thought it looked like a cage for animals

On her visits to Napoléon on campaign, Joséphine would have seen tents like these made of striped ticking. Napoléon's own tents were always blue and white striped, and Joséphine is known to have bought huge quantities of the stuff....

although this photo of French soldiers on campaign dates to the second half of the 19th century, it gives us an idea of Napoléon's time

At the smallest opportunity, Joséphine would order makeshift tented shelters for an outdoor entertainment or refreshment of which alas I can find no pictures, BUT this great lady of style and imagination didn't limit herself to the out-of-doors....

Bonaparte's campaign tent was what she set out to recall...

with his Council Chamber at Malmaison. It received great acclaim, and has been imitated and inspired many, including Madeleine Castaing (who greatly admired Joséphine's taste) below in the '50s....

Louis-Martin Berthault designed this bedroom for Joséphine after her divorce. The room is almost circular, with sixteen raspberry wool-draped sections surrounding the canopied bed.

Watercolors by Redouté of flowers from Joséphine's garden were hung on the walls, further embellishing this rich room where she died in 1814.

By contrast, her mirrored and white-tented boudoir was much simpler....

Napoleon often chastized Josephine for her outrageous bills for passementerie. According to DeLorme, she promised her upholsterer an extra 10,000 francs more if he would keep it "simple"!

A similar white scheme was employed for her boudoir at Compiègne, which she took great pains decorating, but never got the chance to spend the night in.

Photo #3 by rucher.orgeval on flickr; photo #8 meddeb3 on flickr

20 August 2009

Amanda Church's Very Hot Pants

"Room 412", 2007

If Pierre Bergé is trying to recast YSL as an artist first, a fashion designer second, artist Amanda Church is going one better. Instead of borrowing a painting - say a Piet Mondrian - and putting it on the silhouette of the day, Church takes her own psychedelic and free-flowing work and applies it to her favorite garb....

to make "Mandy Pants!"

One of the first things you may notice about this very stylish lady is her sassy short hemline which has earned her the nickname "Mandy Pants." From this apt moniker sprang the inspiration behind her new line of shorts.

"Last summer I was really into board shorts but never found a pair with a really cool design. So somehow I came up with using my own paintings as the design, and when I lost my job in January, I decided to start the Mandy Pants business."

Amanda's first foray into the fashion fray was customizing the Fendi Chef bag for the New Museum a few years ago.
"I really like the art-meets-fashion idea -- it was interesting to morph my own work to mesh with something else, since art generally stands on its own."

"I wear my Mandy Pants lounging around the house, out and about in the neighborhood, to the gym, biking, and at the beach -- they are super-comfortable! Mandy Pants are made of a kind of polyester that feels like a faux-suede. They are very durable and can be worn in the ocean or pool and also put in the washer and dryer.

"These shorts use the painting as their design, and future products (men's board shorts, bikinis, beach towels) will use different paintings, but I won't be making work specifically for Mandy Pants products. I want everything I make to have the same groovy, trippy, happy, sexy vibe as my paintings!"

A lavish 18 silkscreens are used to reproduce the pattern. As befits a work of art, they are a limited edition of 200. Available in xs, s, m, and large, with a generous fit, they retail for $80. Mandy Pants are currently available exclusively through A Little of What You Fancy, East Hampton's oldest boutique and one of the only non-chain stores to remain on Newtown Lane.

Owner (and friend) Kelly Smith has the most incredible style radar, from Kerry Cassill linens to Carthusia perfumes from Capri to my mother's special Hamptons line (if I do say so myself).

Don't be surprised to see other famous style setters and shop owners sniffing around to see her latest finds.

To reserve your pair:
A Little of What You Fancy
19 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, NY
tel: 631.324.3113

17 August 2009

Wendell Castle's 10 Rules of Thumb

Last week I had the privilege of spending a few days at furniture artist Wendell Castle's studio in upstate NY. Castle whose career has spanned an astonishing five decades is a groundbreaking pioneer in blurring and breaking the boundaries between art and craft.

It's enough that he's a genius , but I was further inspired by his thoughtful, soft-spoken demeanor not to mention great personal style. How has he stayed focused and at the top of his game for so long?

Here are 10 of his "Adopted Rules of Thumb"...

1. If you are in love with an idea, you are no judge of its beauty or value.

2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the frame.

3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don't think you know the trade.

4. We hear and apprehend what we already know.

5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.

6. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms it was brought to you.

7. If it's offbeat or surprising, it's probably useful.

8. If you don't expect the unexpected, you will not find it.

9. Don't get too serious.

10. If you hit the bullseye everytime, the target is too near.

16 August 2009

Adrian's Loving Hands at Work and at Home

What just appeared in my inbox but these photos of the chinoiserie awnings of Adrian's dress shop made by Adrian himself!

A big thank you to Hutton Wilkinson who first told me about the awnings. He was kind enough to send us these photos after our conversation about Adrian's monkey house....

the roof of which is alive and well in Santa Barbara, and definitely looks like it's also by Adrian's own hand.

The shop was located at 15 Olvera Street in Los Angeles, which now stocks burritos instead of bolero jackets.

Below is an excerpt from a 1931 article in which journalist Harriet Parsons trailed the ever elusive Greta Garbo for a day, which included a stop to her favorite dressmaker....

"Garbo and Feyder slip through a side door into Adrian's Shop, next door. Adrian is the costume designer at M-G-M and I begin to feel scared – scared that my prey will slip away from me through some underground passage sacred to ladies of mystery.

"But I go around in front of the shop and paste my nose against the glass of the door. Inside I see Garbo going from one object to another in the small shop, animatedly. She is gay and interested. Suddenly she spies a huge, fantastic monkey with a body of white fur and a comic red corduroy face. She stands delightedly while Adrian shows her how the arms and legs move. She is as pleased as a child.

"Meantime, a crowd has collected outside the patio. With that genius peculiar to crowds, they have sensed a celebrity near-by – their greatest celebrity. But Garbo lingers in the shop until they have all gone except me. It is eleven when suddenly, much to my relief, Adrian, Garbo and Feyder come out and stroll up and down the street. Adrian is showing her the sights of the minature village."

Click here to read more from www.garboforever.com

P.S. Did you know that Hutton has a new book coming out on Tony Duquette this fall?! I just found out and have already pre-ordered my copy here. "More is More" is right.

11 August 2009

Man of Style: Charles de Beistegui

de Beistegui at his famous 1951 ball at the Labia Palace in Venice

Only a man with supreme confidence in his taste could rock a Louis XIV wig with so much conviction. Aesthete, millionaire, and party-thrower par excellence: Charles (or Carlos as he was named by his Mexican parents) de Beistegui was all these things, and for decades he wowed Parisian society with his spectacular style.

In a 1952 interview with Connaissance des Arts, he imparted some of his views on interior decorating, a pursuit, the magazine notes, in which he surpassed many professionals.

In 1929, Le Corbusier created an apartment for him on the Champs-Elysees which melded Le Corbusier's committment to modern living with de Beistegui's interest in surrealism.

Beistegui, who liked to change things up and often, commented years later, "In 1929, my entire house was a bath room. Now, my bathroom resembles a bedroom." By the 1950s, his interiors in town and in the country had evolved backwards in time .

At Groussay, his chateau in Montfort L'Amaury, he favored the Louis XVI, Empire and Charles X styles.

A detail of the Goya Tapestry Room with Empire style furnishings

The double-height library is seen by many as his masterpiece. The range of periods of the furniture, objets and paintings align with his belief that interiors shouldn't be museum recreations of a particular moment. In fact, he believed as I do that the whole idea of a period room is a fallacy as most rooms show the accretion of different generations. This electic approach - which is very "English country house" - seems more organic.

He also thought it was a mistake to hide telephones, cigarette boxes and other conveniences of modern life. No doubt he would have had his flat screen out for everyone to see. These familiar objects make a room cosy. (And yes, the article actually uses the word "cosy.") Having lots of things in a room also lends to the warmth of a room. Definitely my kind of guy.

Naked and white walls are for airports and hospitals, thought de Beistegui. He dressed his to the hilt. Wallpaper, velvet, and silk hung walls were overlaid TO THE MAXIMUM with pictures and large pieces of furniture. Red and green were his favorite colors, followed by pairings of blue and green. The only color that could never seduce him - orange.

Like MC (who advised him on fabrics for Groussay and whose influence I believe is seen in his bedroom above), he believed it was a "faute de gout" to transform items into something else, such as fake books opening to a cigarette box, a radio made to look like an old chest, etc. For example, MC never turned anything that wasn't already intended for lighting into a lamp and de Beistegui probably didn't either.

And even though he had very grand taste, de Beistegui held, "The most important thing isn't the beauty of the objects, but the personality that is created by their arrangement." Words that even non-millionaires can live by.

Click here to live vicariously through the dashing Grant K. Gibson who visited Groussay last year.

10 August 2009

At Home with the Gilbert Adrians

Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Adrian in the 1940s

This is for those of you who have been following along with my Adrian posts. Surely I wasn't the only who was tantalized by that monkey house roof and left wanting to see more of the Adrian-Janet Gaynor residence? Well, no more sleepless nights....

The Adrians' Bel Air house was remodeled in 1951 with the help of architect Burton A. Schutt (pronounced Skutt), who is best known for designing the Bel-Air Hotel in 1945. In a town where all the secrets of greasepaint and stagecraft were intimate knowledge, it was very common to give an existing structure a cosmetic face-lift, instead of building from scratch.

Adrian was very involved with the project, and the interior was gutted and reimagined with a more contemporary open floorplan and floods of light.

The living room layers traditional furnishings, paintings of Africa by Adrian himself, and tribal artifacts collected on the couple's extensive travels.

Besides bearing testament to Adrian's penchant for animal skins, the sunroom also features Robsjohn-Gibbings sofa and armchairs, a slamming mirrored cocktail table, and a pair of African drums used as end tables (which would have been very at home at this summer's Hampton Designer Showhouse where all things African seem to be the trend du jour.)

All photos by Fred Lyon, from the April 1992 issue of Architectural Digest

04 August 2009

Diva Decor

While thumbing through old magazines in pursuit of MC, sometimes a room just stops me in my tracks.

Such is the music room of Lily Pons. Pale blue taffeta upholstery, deep blue wallpaper embellished with exotic birds and trees, and, the boldest stroke of all, black carpeting.

Could there be a more romantic, glamorous room to showcase the vocal stylings of this prima donna, who was the Metropolitan Opera's top coloratura for over two decades? Click here to hear her signature piece, The Bell Song, from Lackme.

Pons by Steichen for Vanity Fair, 1933

Top photo from Art & Décoration, March 1952

03 August 2009

Adrian's Monkey House

A few weeks ago, I was tickled to receive a comment from interior decorator Penny Bianchi on this post on Hollywood gown designer Adrian. It turns out she is the faithful keeper of the roof of Adrian's monkey house, which she uses to protect her prized French bantam chickens in the verdant hills of Montecito.

Penny's friend bought the Gilbert Adrian-Janet Gaynor estate and lucky for us, sent the roof over to Penny and not the scrap heap. My first thought was that perhaps it was by the hand of the divine Tony Duquette, who created such extraordinary decorations for Adrian's Beverly Hills showroom,

such as this pagoda structure.

I had to know, so I reached out to the fascinating and always helpful Hutton Wilkinson, who told me that more than likely it was Adrian himself who was responsible. In fact, Hutton told me, Adrian fashioned the chinoiserie awnings on his first shop on Olvera Street in Los Angeles which apparently are still there! (A free copy of Regency Redux to anyone who hops on down to Olvera and sends me some snaps!)

Click here for a virtual pastoral repast at the lovely Bianchi residence, courtesy of David Patrick Columbia.

And to complete the circle, wouldn't it be perfect if Penny found one of Adrian's hen-house dresses to call her own?