Friday, January 29, 2010

Petit Trianon: billiard and guard's rooms.

In my second in-depth look at the Petit Trianon, we'll continue to explore the ground floor.
The billiard's room is adjacent to the grand stairhall and in the time when the trianon was first built, was intended for the male guests of Madame de Pompadour. King Louis XV himself supplied an ornate billiards table for the use of his guests: You see the room on the floorplan below in blue.

However, when Marie Antoinette was given the PT for her own private use, she had Louis XV's pool table moved up to the main level (1784). She then gave the billiards room over to the officers of the guard (who were stationed across the stairhall) with a more ordinary billiards table, probably similiar to the one found there now. A kind gesture on her part in my opinion, as it gave additional space to her guards that also occupied a prime corner room with views of the garden.
The room has a bust of Marie Antoinette on the mantel, beautiful herringbone floors and 'high' painted paneling. The jib door connects to the warming room, a sort of butler's pantry, where some of Marie Antoinette's personal china is displayed today.
This detail shot of a door shows how beautiful the gilded bronze hardware is. I especially love this shade of green paint.
Across the stairhall from the billiards room is the guards room, seen on the floor plan above in the darker green shade. It was inexpensively finished with plaster walls fauxed to look like stone and wood cabinets with fauxed-marble tops. The window and door in this room look out into the main entry court. The room would have been filled with cots, tables and chairs for the guards as they would spend most of their time here; I can only imagine how boring that would be!
On the opposite side of the guards room from the grand stairhall (seen in the light green on the floorplan) is an unfinished stone passageway. This sits under the main terrace off the dining room on the floor above. It provided passage from the service courtyard, servants lodgings and carriage house with the kitchens behind the grand stair.
Through this roughly finished space, servants could pass un-detected from the kitchens to their own dwellings without disturbing Marie Antoinette and her guests in the gardens. The guards would also use this space and could patrol who was coming in and out of the kitchens.
I love these hewn limestone walls and exposed timber beams. This unfinished roughness was the complete opposite look of the very finished spaces found elsewhere in the Petit Trianon, but one that is very popular and copied today. Join me next week when we explore the main level occupied by Marie Antoinette.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Petit Trianon: the grand stairhall

I'm about to start a comprehensive series of posts on the Petit Trianon utilizing drawings and my photographs; not all at once, mind you! What better place to start than the stairhall where any tour begins. Like many grand houses, the Petit Trianon is designed on a Piano Nobile layout. The ground floor is relegated to servants quarters (with the exception of the stairhall, guards room and a billiards room which all flank the courtyard to the bottom of the drawing). Above you see the ground floor plan.
The stair wraps the grand 2 story space and brings you up to the main floor above, which contains the entertaining areas as well as the primary bedroom and boudior.

This section shows the relationship a little better in blue. The main kitchen is the area on the ground floor with the large fireplace and the salon is above. The top floor were guest and servant bedrooms. I think the building is best understood here in section as it contains numerous floor and ceiling levels: not handicapped accessible!
The view above from the guards room, through the stairhall and into the billiards room shows the beautiful marble floors in the hall as well as the enfilade. The light was amazing in this space reflecting off the limestone walls, as it was within the whole house.
Stepping into the stairhall (along with the other tour members, it was crowded!) you notice the beautiful limestone staircase with gilded iron handrail. The symbols in the center portion are the monogram of Marie Antoinette. The low doorway (see the gentleman ducking) steps down into the kitchen.
The lantern crowns the space: I would love to see the room in the evening lit by it!
The doors and shutters are painted a light blue which adds some color to the neutral space.
I loved the juliet balconies and windows into the space, much like a courtyard. This one straight ahead opens into the private dressing room of the master bedroom.
A closeup of the railing where you can see the gilded monogram of Marie Antoinette.
A detail of one of the limestone brackets which decorate the room.
I'll end this first tour with some elevations, you should recognize them after the photos!
Next up, the billiards room!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What goes around comes around.

Just think of this as the Eames chair of the eighteenth century!

From the book by fashion illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme, The Cultivated Life, published by Rizzoli

Monday, January 25, 2010

All in the family

Recognize these easy chairs? No, they're not from your local thrift store! These are the chairs of Archie & Edith Bunker (Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton) from the long running tv series, All in the Family (1971-1979). These items join the list of hundreds of important artifacts of American Culture at the Smithsonian's American History Museum
What I love most about this museum is the mix of low & high brow. Archie Bunker's hat and the original Kermit the Frog in the same collection as the Gunboat Philadelphia and the Star Spangled Banner. All a part of our history and something to interest everyone: Even Julia Child's kitchen! It's worth a visit (or two or three!).