Monday, October 1, 2018

Dior and his Decorators - a must have for any design library!

To this day Christian Dior's name is associated with all that is elegant despite his passing 61 years ago. The post-war period in which he was most active is personally one of my favorite times to study as the output of the western world's artists was at a creative peak (similarly the same could be said of the inter-war period).
Historian Maureen Footer has just released the book I have always wanted to read and it does not disappoint, Dior and his Decorators: Victor Grandpierre, Georges Geffroy, and the New Look.  While Dior may be a household name the artists working behind him, inspiring him, and sometimes providing him with his eponymous look aren't as well known.
 As a reader of this blog you are probably already familiar with Ms Footer's previous book, George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic (also a must have!), and this book picks up where that left off by delving into the most chic interiors of the 20th century.
On a side note, have you seen Ms. Footer's apartment recently published in Veranda Magazine September / October 2018 issue?  One of my favorite spaces to see published lately, Veranda is killing it; resubscribe one and all!
The book explores Dior's relationship with Victor Grandpierre and Georges Geffroy.  These two designers created a sophisticated Parisian style for the mid-century which was not modern but rather an updated neoclassical French style based on the 18th century. Roots in this work can be seen in the most sought-after designers today such as Michael Smith.
Dior had these gentleman design not only his own homes but also his shops, advertising, packaging, and even his logo!  We can credit Grandpierre with developing 'Dior grey' used with pale pink accents, white mouldings, and Louis XVI style furniture.
The book also explores the work of these designers elsewhere and in their own Paris apartments - not to be missed!
One will recognize the bold-faced names that float through the book and leave you wanting more- Yves Saint Laurent, Gloria Guinness, Daisy Fellowes, the Baron de Rede and even Maria Callas - perhaps a 2nd volume? I'm anxiously awaiting Footer's next work.
While this fascinating book is chock full of information it reads conversationally and not like a boring textbook. You'll definitely want to spend time pouring through this book and not just look at the pictures unlike some recent 'design books'. This one is a keeper, bravo Maureen Footer and the Vendome Press!
Images in this post are courtesy of Vendome Press, not my own, and are not to be used without permission.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The grand Willard Hotel DC, some historical surprises

Most people here in DC know of the Willard: one of the grand dame hotels of the city which one assumes have been there forever.
However what most probably don't know (I for one did not) is that the current hotel is actually mostly a recreation of the historic space!
We recently hosted a tour of the hotel with our ICAA chapter and the hotel historian had some eye opening surprises for us.
Many of the beautiful details which appear to date to the hotel's rebuilding in 1901 when the beaux arts style hotel was built actually date to 1986!
Lets back up here. Yes the hotel is historic. Like many hotels however it has been renovated and rebuilt almost continuously since its founding in 1818 (the year is a stretch but is when a hotel was first built on this site). Above is the lobby as it appeared in 1950. One recognizes the overall space but decoration and mid-centuryisms are the focus.
And above is how the lobby appeared in 1984! This area of Washington suffered greatly during the 1968 riots and after being ransacked the hotel was closed and practically abandoned.
 Finally in 1984 work began under new ownership to rebuild the luxury hotel.
 Above is the famous Peacock Alley, both before and after renovation, where society once had afternoon tea and today you can again as well.
It is said that the term 'lobbyist' was originated in this very hotel. Abraham Lincoln would cross the street from the White house to smoke cigars and have a brandy in the lobby as his wife did not approve of such behavior, and he would be accosted in the lobby by people asking favors; hence the term lobbyist was coined!
 Above the same area before restoration. As many of the fixtures appear to be original and everything in such good 'olde' condition I had assumed the hotel has sat this way for generations.
One of the oldest appearing rooms is known as the Crystal Room which features the original gas (now electrified) chandeliers. The building time period of this hotel was known as the gilded age after all!
 And below the Crystal Room as it appeared prior to the renovation. One can recognize the room by the beautiful plaster ceiling.
 All of the 'marble' pilasters and columns throughout the hotel are faux painted or scagliola (an Italian technique of creating faux marble) done in 1986 (recreating the former faux marble).
 Beautiful crisp plasterwork.
The former grand dining room features mahogany paneling. Sadly the restaurant closed during the recession but is still available for events.
The dining room was the site of a murder by a crazed congressman who shot his waiter in 1856 (read about that here for a good time).
The lower paneling is a recreation of the original as only the upper paneling survived but looks a pretty close match although less ornate.
The hotel also claims to have been where the Mint Julep made its original debut in the famous Round Robin bar(more about that here).  One can still order one in the bar today which I highly recommend!
The restoration of the hotel is a lovely recreation and modernization of this iconic hotel -so successful that no one on the tour had any idea it wasn't all original!
 All is not preserved however. During the renovation the original ballroom on the top floors of the hotel was moved into the basement, seen below, and the upper floors split into additional meeting and guest rooms with a few additional stories added to the hotel.
My favorite part of this renovation however is that the craftsmen still exist to create such intricate detailing.
If you are in the Washington metropolitan area I hope you will considering joining us on one of our many tours or perhaps considering joining the organization! Check out our website's Calendar of events and our facebook page which are constantly updated.
 And if not I hope you will add tea or a drink at the Willard hotel to your Washington visit.
All historic photos provided by the Willard Intercontinental hotel while all present day photos my own.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sophisticated Simplicity with Suzanne Kasler, Jeffrey Dungan, and a booksigning!

The great designer Suzanne Kasler is at it again with her 3rd book from Rizzoli, Sophisticated Simplicity, sharing more of her timeless projects. This new book looks at a number of her recent projects ranging from town to country, mixing high and low, and with a lot more modern than we're used to seeing from her!
The project below in South Carolina had the homeowners taking Suzanne out of her comfort zone with their love of bold colors.
Many of the projects however feature Kasler's signature of beautiful neutrals with light-filled interiors.
The project in Maine, seen in these 2 photos, showcases the homeowners' love of blue &white and is what relaxed coastal living is all about!
But the event I'm excited to share with you is a booksigning with Suzanne Kasler, Architect Jeffrey Dungan, and photographer William Abranowicz, that I'm hosting through our chapter of the ICAA in conjunction with Circa lighting with whom Kasler has a lighting line. Dungan is a talented architect out of the South who recently released a monograph of some of his impressive work to date. This book is not to be missed!
The free book-signing event will be hosted at the Circa showroom in Cadys Alley, DC on the evening of Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018.  The first 75 attendees will win copies of the books courtesy of Circa!  A fun giveaway raffle from Circa and the ICAA is yet another reason to come! Kasler, Dungan, and Abranowicz will all briefly speak about their work featured in these 2 interesting books.  Books will be available for sale in addition to the free copies.  I hope to see many of you there! 
All images courtesy of RizzoliUSA

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Heavenly Bodies

While on the topic of the Met I wanted to share with you some of my pictures from the controversial exhibit, Heavenly Bodies; Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
While my interest in fashion is only passing the clothes throughout the exhibit are remarkable. Most remarkable of all however are the actual papal vestments found in a (respectfully) separate gallery from the secular garments (no photos allowed).
 Most extraordinary of all however is how excited people are for this exhibit; The crowds were immense. In all of my visits to the Met I have never seen crowds of people actually spending time in these medieval galleries.  People are excited for church stuff, in the 21st century,  that should be good right?
Well a lot of people are complaining that an exhibit on fashion inspired by Catholicism is disrespectful.  Whatever happened to 'Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery' or 'There is no such thing as bad publicity'?
 I found the exhibit thrilling, particularly the addition of chant'ish type music and great lighting.
I also thought it was incredibly respectful.  The actual papal vestments as I mentioned are in a separate gallery all to themselves, not mixed with other artwork.  These are works inspired by Catholicism, not copies or mocking in any way.
 This is an art museum:  we're looking at the artistry of the clothes both secular and religious.
Seeing these clothes up close and in person was truly astonishing, much better than in the pages of Vogue. The art is in the details.
 These glamorous gowns by Thiery Mugler were from his 'Winter of Angels' collection in 1984-85.
 Lame!  How I loved these.
 Also interesting were the 1991-92 evening tops by Versace inspired by Mosaics.
The exhibit Heavenly Bodies is on view at the Met and the Cloisters (which I sadly missed) through October 8, 2018, be sure to catch this!