Saturday, December 6, 2008

Yeah, weekend!

I'm sure everyone is busy getting ready for the holidays. Between gift shopping, card writing, baking and decorating there is no time to relax!! I hope you all take some time this weekend to enjoy the start of the holiday season :-)
Image of Lisa Fonssagrives by Irving Penn, 1951, entitled 'Woman in Palace'

Friday, December 5, 2008

So pretty...Healing Barsanti

If anyone ever asked me what my ideal home would look like, I would mention any home by Healing Barsanti. Besides having the coolest name ever, they're the most talented designers (sorry, Miles Redd, I still love your style). The design team of Patricia Healing and Dan Barsanti work out of Connecticut and have a website up but no online portfolio yet ( get on the ball, H.B.!)
I first heard of them through Desire to Inspire which is where these color edged photos come from.

They were involved with the 2007 Kips Bay showhouse and I found a great interview and pictures of that project at House Beautiful's website. They created this Luxe Lounge below and freely admitted that everything in the room was 'expensive'. I hate when high-end designers try to justify and downplay their prices; if it's expensive -admit it! This lively assortment of furniture pops against the natural walls!
The space was to be a cozy refuge for the owner's favorite possessions to spend time in with friends. The colors are beautiful, bright and clear, against a neutral backdrop.
Not as much my taste perhaps but equally lovely, is an old farmhouse in Connectitcut which was featured in House Beautiful favorite part of the house is probably this cozy reading nook in the family room. 'Cozy' is a word they seem to use a lot to describe their work.Again with the colored furniture against a neutral backdrop. I'm seeing a theme.......The beauty of this is you switch out the accessories or upholstery when you tire of the color.It's very last year, but I still love this birch tree wallpaper. Such a cozy guest room!

Probably my favorite shade of blue (I have this in my own apartment!), this little seating area around the fireplace is the best place to cuddle up with a good book and a drink on a cold night. I hope to see more of this duo in the future!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

850 Ridge Avenue

This is (another) one of my favorite houses in Pittsburgh. I'm not sure when it was built - early teens perhaps -but it was converted to office space in 1930. The original owner who built the home was William Penn Snyder (1862-1920) who made his fortune founding the Shenango Furnace company as well as developing the Lake Superior iron ore mining. It now houses the Babb Inc. insurance company and they keep the building in immaculate condition.
It is vaguely 18th century french but in an unusual material for the style, brownstone. Also unusual is a lot of the modern convienences it offers. No yard, it's a true townhouse, just a little bigger than the average!Typical of the period, all of the interior rooms were built to showcase different styles. The grand staircase and 'state' rooms are all English - Elizabethan thru Georgian, but the ballroom is a more fitting french style. Here are 2 interior photos I was able to find of 2 fireplaces: very different styles, huh? Both are spectacular though!This home features a very large garage which holds several cars. It is entered through a very modern looking, but original, garage door. Remember when this was built, an integrated garage!! In a city neighborhood what a find! Oddly enough, the ballroom is adjacent to the garage! look at the amazing detail at the entrance - soft brownstone but still crisp! I pieced this together from 3 photos - excuse the lines.
In 1948 the addition was added to the right hand side to double the amount of square footage. They used the same Hummelstone Brownstone from the same quarry for an exact match but did it in a much simpler, but cohesive style.
I've always wanted to see the interiors, but it's always closed whenever I'm in that neighborhood. I was able to find the 2 interior shots of fireplaces on the Babb inc website, the rest are my own.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Henry Hobson Richardson in Pittsburgh

Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) one of the most prominent architects of the 19th century. He left an important mark not only on our country's cities, but also on the architectural styles of the world. Much of the work he created late in his career is in Pittsburgh.Most well known is the Allegheny Courthouse & Jail (1883-1886). Richardson died before its completion (at age 47 of kidney failure) but considered this his finest work and a culmination of his lifes' work. Built of huge chunks of gray granite (some pieces weighing up to 5 tons!), in 2007 the AIA named it the 35th favorite building in the country. Sure, not in the top 5 but this was NATIONALLY -so thats pretty high considering the millions of buildings to chose from!Notice anything odd in this photo above? You can see the line where the original grade or ground was when the building was built. This was initially built on a hill downtown which was later removed to create flat streets for streetcars and ease of traffic. So for many buildings, the former basement became the first floor! Hence all the stairs going up to the main level. You can see this below in the entrance to the courtyard above as well. See the tiny windows on the first floor? They're almost like portals!
The beautiful interior courtyard. The fountain is original.
The term for the style 'Richardsonian Romanesque' was coined to describe the heavy, rusticated stone buildings he was known for: with square byzantine columns supporting arched openings, , symmetry and clear beaux arts planning, occasional gothic elements and often a French Renaissance influence. Thats a whole lot going on! He was the 2nd American Architect to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris (after William Morris Hunt, whom I blogged about in a 4 part series back in February. You can read the first of these posts HERE). The interior stairway is especially grand -fitting for a public building of justice.
These beautiful frescos decorate the main lobby.The entrance to the old law library is especially grand. The scale is so huge as to make it seem almost modern.If this structure below, the jail, looks familiar, it's because it was used in "The Silence of the Lambs" for the jailhouse scenes. This bridge which cleverly connects the courthouse to the old jail (seen above) was modeled after 'the bridge of sighs' in Venice. Easy commute to your prison cell from the courtroom! Interesting fact, Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the world second to Venice.
front facade of Emmanual Episcopal church
Less well known, but very unusual for his work and this time period is the Emmanual Episcopal church in the Allegheny West neighborhood I mentioned yetserday. Built in 1884, it was created a national historic landmark in the year 2000. The exterior is extremely simple with a gabled front but with an extermely unusual rounded nave. Richardson used arches here even in plan! the facade above is the left hand side of this picture, you can see it curving to the right.
This is a view of the back of the building facing the alley. You can see how a future architect put an addition on - he met curve with more curve!
Because of the simplicity, it was way ahead of its time and hinted at the modernity to come.look at this intricate brickwork at the front arches
this side gate into a courtyard with parsonage was added later, but i just thought it was so pretty that I had to post it!
You see examples and copies of this style all over the country, it was so popular. Even in this neighborhood, Allegheny West, are many examples of Richardsonian Romanesque, probably not by Richardson (but who knows!). I saved the best for last, some beautiful houses!
This house is a pretty clear example, don't you think? Notice how the front wall at the first floor is set back 2' from the arch. Pretty dramatic! This is split into apartments and I nearly rented the first floor apartment here years ago had I stayed in Pittsburgh and not moved to DC.This one is richardsonian too! I've been inside on a housetour, it's positively spooky and Victorian inside!I've been inside this home as well, it's beautiful and very Victorian with heavy atmosphere with lots of curiosities.I love how this old stone agesI just wanted to post this front door with wreaths!Lastly, this house isn't really Richardsonian Romanesque, but you can clearly see the influence in the rusticated stone and arched windows. I post this house last to pique your interest -it also had a very famous inhabitant that I'll blog about later this week!!