Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sans souci

Sans souci is French for 'without cares or concerns'. It's also the name of a beautiful palace in Potsdam, outside of Berlin in Germany. It was sort of the Petit Trianon of Germany: it was built as a private refuge for the king. Designed in 1745 and later remodeled by successive kings, it remains a perfect example of the rococo style. the front is built up on top of these terraces

detail of front caryatids

It's also the name of my 'good' china pattern by Rosenthal! I love this china because even though rosenthal has been making it for years, I have it in plain white. It's a great counterpart to the elaborate rococo tracery around the edge ( based on the main salon in Sanssouci) . A little modern ( white ) and a little old-fashioned -it's the Phillipe Starck of china patterns! Food also looks great against plain white porcelian. I'm sorry, no offense to anyone who has hot pink china with bright green polka dots. I'm sure thats beautiful too but nothing shows off food like pure white in my opinion. Plus if I didn't have this pattern in pure white it would look like someone's grandma's china!!
service for 12

I visited Sans souci when I was a German exchange student in HS and remember being blown away. Both by the ornate palace itself but also by all the very unique buildings scattered around it and the beautiful gardens -such as this chinoiserie pavilion!
2 garden structures

I think this was about the time I was seriously thinking of going to college to become an architect instead of music ( yes, even most of my close friend's don't know I used to be QUITE the piano player......i'm not anymore - practice makes perfect!! ).

view of rear of palace and view from the rear - the fake 'ruins' in the background are the waterpumps for the numerous fountains!the orangery

Friday, February 8, 2008

Something a little different

So as a break from the ordinary I want to share a blog I found today at lunch: Lauren Alane This super creative girl makes felted little birds and photographs them ( then sells them in her Etsy shop ). These are so cute and I can't help but look at these photographs and smile! I have a few lined up to be my computer's wallpaper here at work. These are the cutest little birds! Here are a few of my favorites; am I crazy or are these AWESOME?!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Petit Trianon, 2

I was so excited about the Petit Trianon that when I got home last night I took out my book on Petit Trianon right away and had to scan some of the images in to share with you. The book is the 1913 Boston Architectural Club Year book. The Boston Architectural Club was sort of like an AIA - it was a continuing eduction type of club that architects could belong to. They produced a yearbook every year on a different subject. In 1913 it was on the Petit Trianon.

About 225 pages are devoted to it - first a brief history, then site plan and floor plans (pictured ), some photos, detailed drawings of every room ( you could practically build it! ) and then some furniture working drawings of Marie Antoinette's furniture! The rear has a few envois drawings of students ( I'll do a posting on these drawings later ) and then some really interesting ads. You can find the book around through some antique vendors ( I did a quick froogle of it and found 2 up for sale on the WWW ).section, plan and elevation of stair hall
a typical window detail and elevation - mirrored side panels!

drawing showing the detailed flooring and paneling of the dining room

While the first floor has a very logical and well thought out floor plan, the '2nd' floor is a warren of little bedrooms. I was surprised to read that the 'closets' off the bedrooms were actually where servants slept! How awful! I mean -these literally ARE closets!
detail of 'MA' monogram on paneling in stair hall

The main room is the dining room, with the secondary main room being the salon ( isn't that backwards?? ). I know that these names are merely just terms and furniture in the 18th century was built to be moved around -so basically any room could be used for any purpose. Hence the light weight and delicacy of 18th century furniture. In the days before air conditioning and heating, you just stayed in the most comfortable room based on natural conditions and had servants bring in the dining table, sofa, dressing table or whatever piece you may require.
dressing table at Petit Trianon

Marie Anoinette's bedroom (s) were the small ones off the salon shown here. They are only 1/2 height and have another set of bedrooms right above her ( for her closest friends! ). The section shows this relationship more clearly.
section - on the right hand side of the lower one you see MA bedrooms off the salon with lower ceiling

I hope you enjoyed this 2 part lesson on the Petit Trianon!site plan of petit trianon ( square on the right side ), gardens and auxiliary buildings

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Petit Trianon

Like a Palladian villa, the Petit Trianon is perfection of architecture. Nestled on the grounds of Versailles, the Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV from 1762-1768 ( don't you always need to use the roman numerals for the french kings, haha ) first for his Mistress Madame du Pompadour and later after her death for Madame du Barry ( to whom i'm distantly related! ).

The architecture is Neoclassicist that at the time was taking hold over the formerly popular rococo style. As precise as a calculated formula, strict rules were followed for porportions and the Corinthian 'orders' of decoration. This was then set into a 'natural' english garden. The plan of the building is square similar to the other 'perfect' neoclassical building, the Villa Rotunda by Palladio.
When Louis XVI took over the throne when his grandfather died, he gave the jewel to his wife, Marie Antoinette in 1774. Marie used the petit trianon as a refuge from court life ( which she hated ) and to escape with her friends into a world of flowers and fun. Even her husband the king wasn't allowed except by invitation!In the movie 'Marie Antoinette' (which you can read a bit about in my posting on the subject) you see Kirsten Dunst channeling Marie and having dinner parties with friends, roaming its gardens with her daughter and lounging with lovers in the secretive interiors ( she had mechanical mirrors installed as 'blinds' to keep people from peering inside ). The privacy was so intense that even servants couldn't observe her as the dining room table came up through a hole in the floor and they weren't required to serve the meal!
some interiors at P.T.; notice the lack of gilding on the boiseries leaving it simple and elegant .
All these interior photos were taken on the Piano Nobile ( the main floor with largest windows ) and it leaves me to wonder what the spaces are like on the top floor -whether they are similar or even more simple. All the lighting is from lanterns because the globes protected the candles from the open windows. No chandeliers here, function first! This was mainly a summer-time retreat, although Marie Antoinette was a year-round occupant, spending more time here than with court at Versailles up the street, especially after giving birth to her 2nd child.the stair hall with lantern

The Petit Trianon has been copied and referenced endlessly, and recently this 'copy' sold for $20 million!!!! It's sort of tacky and right on a city grid, but goes to show that everyone ( good taste and not ) appreciates the Petit Trianon!The bad copy -but nice landscaping
One of my prized possessions is an antique book about 200 pages thick and a huge coffee table size that has detailed drawings of all the plans, elevations, interior elevations and details of the millwork. I'll have to scan some of these in to post at a later date. The Petit Trianon is currently being renovated ( from profits from renting it out for the movie perhaps? ) and its contents have been in San Francisco and I'm so disappointed I never got to see them there. Hopefully one day soon I'll be able to visit and see them in their own restored home. a garden pavilion on the grounds of the petit trianon

Monday, February 4, 2008

Newport, RI

The Elms
In my last post about Newport, RI, I want to talk a little bit about my favorite house there which was not even designed by R.M.H.!! I'm talking about 'the ELMS' - a truly elegant estate. Built from 1899-1901 by the coal baron, Edwin Berwind, the mansion cost ONLY 1.5 Million ( compared to marble house and the breakers, it was a steal! ) and was designed by the prominent architect Horace Trumbauer ( what an unfortunate name ).the rear facade of the Elms

Now, it's not facing the ocean nor is it on a very private lot in a quiet part of town like many of the mansions. The elms is right off the secondary main street in the middle of town! However, it has the most open feeling of any of the mansions due to it's siting. Because of it's more-urban-than-most location, the 'cottage' is built nearly right on the street.
front facade and detail of statue

This leaves the yard in the back to be totally free and open creating a huge open lawn.
the fountain in the middle of the huge back lawn

At the rear of the lawn is a beautiful architectural garden with fountains, beautiful tea pavilions and a caretaker's cottage / carriage house seen below( when I was there a party was getting started! I was so jealous I wasn't invited! ).

The funny thing is, I actually took clippings from an architectural magazine of these same gardens when I was probably about 10 years old ( yes I started my clipping file at age 10 -I was a freakish boy ) not knowing what it was and I still have these same clippings!
here I am in front of one of the beautiful tea pavilions

Adding to the scenic estate was the fog that was drifting in at the end of the day -very romantic :-)
a bizarre lactating fountain - ew!

To end my Newport Posts, I thought I'd include this photo of this unusual house built on a rock in the middle of the bay about 100 years ago. Talk about a postage stamp lot! This house was recently restored and is owned by a local Newport Architect - the only way to his house is by boat! Forget pizza delivery!!

I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to Newport, RI as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you!