Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manhattan Classic, New York's Finest Prewar Apartments

I was very excited to recently receive a copy of Princeton Architectural Press's new book "Manhattan Classic" by Geoffrey Lynch, pictured below, (from the firm H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture) which features the best 'Prewar' apartment buildings in NYC.
This well organized book starts with a map of NYC which shows the location of the buildings covered. Each chapter then features an exemplary floorplan of the prime unit in each building as well as photos of additional apartments.  In many ways it reminds me a lot of Washingon, DC's version of this (our real estate bible!) Best Addresses by James Goode (another book I can't recommend more highly!)
For architectural floorplan lovers like me you won't be able to put this book down - pure floorplan porn with over 84 apartments featured!
Some of the images you may recognize such as this apartment from 998 Fifth Avenue but it's interesting to see them placed within their buildings and area of the city -putting a name to the face so to speak. I love this dining room above and the staircase located within the same duplex apartment, seen below, is even more stunning!
Some people may sneer at apartment living as 'small' but this book proves that the dwellers of these apartments aren't missing out on anything from a single family home!  Pick up your own copy of the book today and settle down with a glass of wine to study the floorplans; I promise you won't regret it!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can you rebuild the past? The Berlin Schloss

A debate has raged in Berlin for the past 2 decades over whether to rebuild the historic Berlin Schloss or City Palace on historic Museum Island. Badly damaged during WWII, the communists tore down the palace in 1950 to make way for their Palace of the Republic, a hideous steel, glass, & asbestos multi-use structure which was recently, in-turn, torn down.
The Schloss had served as a public art museum since 1918 but was started in 1443 as a royal palace. Constantly renovated over hundreds of years, the exterior stayed fixed to the baroque period while the interiors reflected the styles of the day. The dome was rebuilt in the mid 19th century by none other than the architect Karl Shinkel in collaboration with Stuler.
Many people have debated rebuilding the historic structure because they claim it has overtones of the previous monarchy, but what monument in Europe isn't tainted by history? In these photos you see photographs of a model of what is currently under construction taken by my Australian Penpal at the neighboring Bode Museum in Berlin.
What these people seem to want is a building of our own age -much as the communists wanted in their construction of the Palace of the Republic. Would they want someone like Frank Gehry (heaven forbid) to build something that doesn't match the historic area in the center of the city and would be reviled in 10 years time (as well as now)?
The compromise has come about that the exterior will be built to closely match the former palace with modern interiors which will house a modern, non-western art museum. The costly exterior recreation will be done mainly through private donations which have nearly been fulfilled and plans to be finished in 2019.
The undertaking is gargantuan as can be expected for such a massive building site. The exterior carved stonework has been meticulously copied from historic photos and paintings. Each piece must be modeled full-size in clay (which takes about a month) and approved by a panel before being carved in sandstone by masons (each small piece can take up to 2 months by one artisan).
 Here you can see 1 of 43 required eagles which will adorn the facade.
The workmanship is amazing; encouraging to know it exists in this day and age! The sandstone cartouche above took a mason 2 months to complete. Talk about job security!
Above you can see construction from last month. What do you think -would you have decided to rebuild the historic palace to fit within this historic district or hired a modern day architect to build something new?
See more images of the building's past and future HERE.
This article in the WSJ details the controversy in more detail.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lecture opportunity with Stephen Salny: The interiors of William Hodgins

Washingtonians are in for a treat!  Author Stephen Salny will be speaking on his latest book, William Hodgins Interiors, in Georgetown at Blake Hall for the ICAA on Thursday, Sept 18th at 7:15. Join members of the ICAA for drinks beforehand at 6:30. Mr. Salny will be signing copies of the book, which will be available for purchase, after the lecture.
Boston based decorator William Hodgins is considered one of America's greatest interior decorators. William Hodgins Inc was launched in 1969 and his work encompasses residential commissions from New England to Florida, as far west as California, and overseas.  Author Stephen M. Salny will present an in-depth look at Hodgins most important work to date during his illustrious, ongoing forty-year career.

Stephen M. Salny, who grew up in the Boston area and has had a long-standing interest in interior decoration, first became familiar with Hodgins' work at the age of 13. Salny knew many families who hired Hodgins to decorate their homes. Salny and the designer met in the early 1980s at Hodgins client's home in Palm Beach and they became good friends. In writing about Hodgins, Salny has had the pleasurable privilege of spending quality time with Hodgins, his associates, former employees, and many of his clients.

Information on attending the lecture is available at the ICAA website HERE about 1/2 way down the page. I hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Upholstery: before and after

As many of you know I've become somewhat of an estate sale junkie.  At a sale earlier this year I picked up two rather ragged chairs for next to nothing.
 Above you can see the before. The chairs were upholstered in a tired, faded fabric but the frames were sturdy, the cushions in great shape, and the design unique and oddly comfortable. The Venetian shape just nestles your back perfectly.
I paid a visit to Roxene at Haute Fabrics in Arlington, Virginia, and found this amazing hand-done crewel fabric. Here she is measuring out my yardage. Hi Roxene!
After a quick turn around from my upholsterer they're happily ensconced at my friend's house; at a fraction of the cost for comparable new chairs. Can you even recognize them?  Leaving the skirts off modernizes them and the pattern is really cheerful.
 Here is a closeup of the amazing crewel work.
I love the way the fabric complements the rug but isn't matchy-matchy. This last shot isn't very good but gives you an idea of the line of the chair. These definitely need to be manufactured again by someone as they're so comfortable!
I can't recommend more highly a visit to Roxene at Haute or my upholsterers, Urban Castle Interiors.
PS. since I've received emails about it this is obviously not staged nor the final resting place for the chairs as work is ongoing in the house. Just quick snapshots!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A 'Duesy' of a Duesenberg

Recently while in Maine visiting friends I spent some time in the lovely, revitalized town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; definitely worth a visit let me tell you, charming town! While walking the streets I noticed this fantastic car and thought 'WHAT IS THAT?'. Clean lines like a greyhound and obviously much beloved by its owner in pristine condition.
Duesenberg was an American luxury car company in operation from 1913 until 1937 when it succumbed to the depression. Each car was a limited production and entirely built by hand so they are obviously much valued by collectors today (such as Jay Leno and a fantastic looking car MUSEUM).
While I don't even own a car myself (believe it or not, Americans) and have never considered myself a 'car person' I definitely appreciate the design of many antique cars. Have you noticed any extraordinary cars lately?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kenwood House

Located in London is Kenwood House, a stately house that has acted as an art museum since 1928 which was re-envisioned by Robert Adam in the 1770s for the Earl of Mansfield.
Recently the house has been in the news after both a massive restoration as well as having one of its' former occupants immortalized in film:  Dido Belle (Belle, 2013). Unfortunately I have yet to see the movie, portions of it filmed at Kenwood House (also portions of the film Notting Hill) .
The shallow Ionic entrance portico was added by Adam during his renovation of the house as well as the side wings.
 Adams' hand is evident throughout many of the public spaces.
None of the furniture was included with the house when Lord Iveagh donated the house and art to the nation in 1927. Since then all of the furniture seen has been donated and collected, some originally from Kenwood.
 Notice the fabric covered pelmet with these curtains.
 The most famous room of the house is no doubt Adam's library.
 I've read that the spines of many of these books are fake but they sure look real to me, don't you think?
 The ceilings are a neoclassical masterpiece.
 Gilded pelmets grace the windows of the library, notice how the motif echoes the ceiling decoration.
 Another graceful cantilevered stair graces the house.
 I wonder why no art is hung on the stair walls; it looks so naked.
 But there is no shortage of amazing art throughout the rest of the house.
The quality of the art is so good that you probably recognize much of it, including the Van Dyck above the fireplace below of Princess Henrietta of Lorraine.
Of course Lord Iveagh had help amassing his collection, he hailed from the Guinness family.
 I love the subtle reminder of the large thistles to not sit on the armchairs; much more elegant than rope.
The breakfast room seen above includes other notable paintings such as Lady Hamilton at the spinning wheel by George Romney.
The collection of Robert Adams upholstered furniture was designed for the house but was of course later donated and with impressive provenance.
During the Kennedy era renovation of the White House the sofa was expressly donated back to Kenwood House by Jackie Kennedy.
 Not sure I love the upholstery of the matching armchair above.
Lastly this collection of lovely desks caught both my eye as well as my penpals who provided me with these pictures.
In this age of email, the laptop, and tablet will desks go away? They really are one of my favorite pieces of furniture so that would be a shame -although admittedly I sold my own desk years ago.
 Kenwood House is conveniently located in London so be sure to include a visit to the house and its' art collection on your next visit!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Basildon Park

Lets leave the continent and travel to Basildon Park in England, outside of London, courtesy of my Australian penpal yet again.
You may recognize the Palladian house as it has been featured in many recent movies and tv shows: Downton Abbey, Marie Antoinette, Dorian Gray, and Pride & Prejudice to name a few.
The couple who donated the house and collection to the National Trust in 1978 after restoring it, Lord and Lady Iliffe, retired to the wing seen above to the left. Not a bad retirement, no?
One of my favorite parts of any English Country house are the staircases: here you can see the stone delicately cantilevering out of the walls.
The house is actually a rather recent building as it was basically a shell when the Iliffes acquired it.
The couple spent decades collecting pieces of 18th century houses which were being demolished at an astonishing rate to restore the houses' neoclassical interiors.
 Much like other country houses decoration from many centuries are shown side by side.
 I love this pair of knife boxes in the shape of urns shown flanking the fireplace in the dining room above.
The decoration encompasses all manner of furnishings and art that one expects to see in a house which has been constantly occupied for centuries: all gathered in the span of 3 decades.
 This Adamesque painted ceiling is stunning.
 And I know many of you will love these formal pelmets.
 Recognize any of the interiors yet from your favorite tv shows or movies?
 I especially love the library, particularly the mid century fabric on the couch and easy chairs.
 Many great mirrors are to be found in all of the rooms.
 The plasterwork in the hall above is stunning.
While none of the artwork is particularly important it is highly decorative.  Each piece was chosen for its scale and to add to each room's ambiance.
 Although with ceilings like this do you even need artwork on the walls?
 And of course it wouldn't be an English country house without beautiful bedrooms.
I'll leave you with this image of Lady Illife's very 1950s bathtub (I hear the kitchens also were the height of 50s high style!) - don't miss those fabulous faucets!