Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Architect Mihran Mesrobian at home

Last fall I had the pleasure of touring the home of noted local architect Mihran Mesrobian when it was briefly on the market.  Mesrobian was an Armenian-American architect responsible for many of the most interesting apartment houses and large buildings found throughout Washington from the 1920s and 30s.  He passed away in 1975 but the house was kept on by his family. It acted as a time capsule to when it was built in 1941; his own design laboratory.  Come explore it with me!
Located in Chevy Chase, just over the DC border in Maryland, the traditional brick and cast stone garden walls tie the property into the rather traditional houses that surround it.
The house however is a stand-out in Art-Moderne style. Notice all of the original steel casement windows, the interesting front door, and the curved glass block wall.  Modern!
Turning to the side the living room has a curved bay while there is a stone terrace off the dining room and a roof terrace off the master bedroom. I would remove those 1960s aluminum awnings to let some light in.
I'm not sure if the brick was originally painted but I think it helps it feel more modern.
The geometric entry hall has the most beautiful stair railing. The doorway in front of you underneath the stairs is a coat closet with back access to the kitchen to the right.
I'm crazy for these aluminum railings.
Two steps down to the left is the living room; with the original 1941 furnishings and curtains!
Remember when I said this was a time-capsule; I meant it!  2 more steps up into the dining room (I love a step down living room, it makes me feel like Fred Astaire).
The original 1941 curtains in the dining room from Schumacher in a Peruvian Linen. I hope the new owners keep these with their wild colors!
Remember this is a design laboratory! Up the stairs is an unusual crystal chandelier and a blue-glass interior window to a little sewing room over the front door.
The house has a lot of bedrooms -a real family home.
A look at the other side of the interior blue window.
The master bedroom with a small door out to the balcony over the living room bay.
I think we're due for a comeback of colorful bathroom fixtures. Waterworks has a line of colored tile, Architectronics, that I'm dying to use in a project.  Maybe not a maroon sink with moss green tile but more color in general!!!
In the basement is Mesrobian's home office with his personal drafting table!
More beautiful vintage curtains. I think people used to have a lot more fun with design than we do today with our greige and whites.
These old school linoleum floors are classic.
The basement bathroom even had faux-tile linoleum sheet walls. Have you ever seen anything like this? And check out the shower curtain!
Here you can see how it's actually a painted/printed linoleum product -not actual tile. 
The few times I've bought these suction cup soap dishes they never hold but this has been here since 1941 and only one suction cup failed.... I guess they don't make them like they used to.
Off the laundry is this ironing room with a built-in ironing board.
And what basement is complete without a vintage screening room!
Complete with old tv!
More bold upholstery choices -more Schumacher perhaps?
Out the back kitchen door you can see a very sunny family room (I don't have photos of that unfortunately)
2 car garage and ample parking in the driveway. At some point someone spray painted all of the metalwork silver but I would take it back to classic black. I haven't had a chance to drive by to see what the new owners have done. As the house is a national landmark the outside isn't allowed to change much.
A really great metalwork Juliet balcony off the family room.
At some point the garden must have been very elaborate. I imagine there was once a fountain here below the classical ram's head.
As I mentioned the house sold very quickly; It's a large lot in a great neighborhood with good schools and a lovely house full of character. I'm dying to see what became of the interiors!
I explore a lot of real estate (perennial open house goer) but I've never seen a time capsule quite like this. I hope you enjoyed following along!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Learning from Ledoux

Claude Nicolas Ledoux has always been one of my favorite architects but finding information about him is a struggle. The few books written on him are hard to find and incredibly expensive. The little that is left of his built-work is in France of course so not easy for me to get to. Recently Ashley Hicks had a 2-part talk about Ledoux which you can watch on his Instagram TV (link HERE) showing a few projects I wasn't familiar with.
I learned a few months ago there is a Ledoux Museum at his Royal Saltworks project and Ashley Hicks says he had even stayed there overnight and there is a sort-of hotel on the property. But like many things in France there is little information about this online. Wouldn't that be a fun post-covid trip to plan (whenever that may be).  A bit about the museum on their website HERE.  
The altered but still lovely Pavilion of Music designed for Madame du Barry at Louveciennes is one of his few remaining residential projects. On the market for a staggering $50 million Euro you can see the real estate listing HERE with drool worthy photography. 
The little I've seen in person of his work includes the Hotel D'Hallwyll which I snuck into and posted about HERE.   There is some paneling salvaged from the Maison Hosten in Paris circa 1790 at the Getty Museum which I wrote about HERE and you can read more about on their website HERE.
Ledoux's largest built projects was a number of tollhouses surrounding the city of Paris which were built within a wall. Only a number of these survive and each is different.  The images I've shared in this post I took in the Park Monceau  (behind the Musee Nissim de Camondo which I wrote about HERE) where this tollhouse now houses public restrooms. Another has been repurposed into a small museum as the Musee de la Liberation de Paris.
This may seem a rather pointless post but it includes a number of links to websites that I've put together in my own self-education about the work of Ledoux. I think we need a major exhibit of his work (hello Moma) to raise awareness and research on this very modern of architects and city planners.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

John Singer Sargent at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian

While much of the city is on self-imposed quarantine as we figure out Covid-19, most of our museums are still open (for now) and there is one show you can't miss if you are in Washington, John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal.
As most of you are not here in Washington and won't be traveling in the near future, I thought I would share some of my favorite pieces.
One of my favorite things about the exhibit, other than the art of course which is naturally in B&W, is the galleries are painted in a wide range of colors to keep things from being sterile.  Much of the paper varies in tone and white walls would have made the drawings appear dirty. We need more color in our museums!
While we may all know Sargent for his portraiture, he quit oil portraits in 1907 to concentrate on other things. However, he continued to do charcoal sketches for his friends and those who interested him in the worlds of art.
 I'll start with Sargent's 1912 sketch of art collector Sir Philip Sassoon, lent from the collection of Houghton Hall. Sassoon collected Sargent's works which were displayed at his London house where he would organize exhibitions. He was the youngest member of parliament at age 24 in 1912, the year he inherited a vast fortune, and remained a member until his early death.
Nearby hangs a portrait of Philip's sister, Sybil Sassoon, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, also painted by Sargent in 1912 at the age of 18. See how the colored wall help the portrait?  Sybil became a Marchioness through marriage and spent her life restoring Houghton Hall.
Next we have this 1923 portrait of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, lent by her daughter, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This was sketched shortly before her marriage to the Duke of York who later became king.
Above is a 1914 sketch of Lady Diana Manners, better known as Diana Cooper. Cooper would lead one of the 20th centuries most interesting lives crossing from her aristocratic background into intellectual and even acting worlds.  I love that she refused later in life to be known by her grand title, 'Viscountess Norwich', because she thought it sounded like "porridge".
The author Henry James was one of Sargent's close friends and was painted by him numerous times but this sketch from 1912 was commissioned by their mutual friend Edith Wharton.  Dissatisfied with the likeness, Sargent gave the work to George V for his collection of recipients of the Order of Merit (as one does....giving a cast-off to a king!).  This portrait is also lent to the exhibition by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Possibly the most interesting to me personally is this portrait of William Adams Delano from 1922.  The architect is known for his collaboration with Chester Holmes Aldrich (Delano & Aldrich) but also taught at Columbia. Delano became friendly with Sargent during his work on the Grand Central Art Galleries which Sargent had a hand in founding.
Arguably the most famous portrait in the exhibition is of William Butler Yeats from 1908 commissioned for his first volume of collected poetry. Oddly enough Yeats appears younger than his 43 years in the portrait; drawing being the original Instagram filter, haha! 
The last portrait I'll share is a rare self-portrait of Sargent dating to 1902.  The artist is only known to have completed 6 self-portraits in his lifetime because he found it boring and was never satisfied with the results. I don't know why, it looks pretty great to me (though I'm also loath to take selfies)!
Portraits in Charcoal is open now through May 31, 2020 at the National Portrait Gallery here in Washington.  Don't miss it!