Saturday, May 22, 2010

Where Fabulous Lives

I spent the afternoon today at Hillwood, the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, which I've blogged about many times in the past: House, Gardens, Greenhouse & Japanese Garden. While I did a quick spin through the house and gardens (how could I not?), I was there primarily for the exhibition on Sevres which ends next week.
It was a gorgeous day as you can see and the grounds were PACKED, always a comforting sight.
The exhibition on Sevres was located in the back garden, in the Dacha. The small exhibit ranges from the infancy of the factory in 1740 at Vincennes, to patronage of the French monarchy and works through the year 2000. It was shocking to see how modern a lot of the older pieces were!
As part of the exhibit, the dining and breakfast room tables inside the house are set with some pretty spectacular Sevres. Many thanks to Steve at Hillwood for alerting me to a very special piece of porcelain in the exhibit and inviting me to the estate today. That particular piece was a cup and saucer commissioned by Marie Antoinette for the dairy at the Hamlet of the Petit Trianon! Thanks for thinking of me, Steven!
While walking around, I noticed these bootscrapes by each door, I'm not sure how I missed them before: adorable dachshunds!
Don't less this fantastic opportunity pass you by - visit the exhibit before May 30th!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

DC Design House

Tonight I attended the 'gala' opening of the DC Design house at the design center hosted by Elle Decor. Scrumptious food and decadent drinks, but we weren't there to be wined and dined, rather we were there to see the work of 8 talented designers. Drama was big in the showhouse, as it should be. A beautiful stuffed peacock greeted you in the living room by JDS Designs. I loved the grasscloth wallcovering by Maya Romanoff for Donghia.The foyer, equally dramatic, is by Kelley Proxmire. I loved the combination of turquoise and black. The floor was painted in a hexagonal pattern in black and white, continuing the theme.My favorite room was the study by Nestor Santa-Cruz. The perfect blue walls by Farrow & Ball with a cozy seating group AND stacks of my favorite magazines (WOI and Elle Decor) -just what I would want to spend an afternoon doing here!
The carpet (Stark) was such a great complement - blue, golden yellow with orange accents.
This adorable little brass telescoping table was just large enough to set down a drink.Back in the living room, I loved these console tables by William Switzer for Niermann Weeks. A modern take on a glamourous English console: gilding removed and a simple stone top! I would have gladly taken this home.
Loved this lamp in the master bedroom - a little rabbitt by Moooi! The desk was interesting but it left me in the mood for a massage, yes?
The lobby to the Design center, more drama, was also done by Kelley Proxmire (I guess she specializes in lobbies these days?). Loved the combination of reds with black: you KNOW you've arrived!
The design house is open thru December 4 at the Design Center - please visit if you are in the area and many thanks to Elle Decor for a great evening!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An evening with Thomas O'Brien

Yesterday evening I attended yet another great lecture at the Corcoran Gallery. Thomas O'Brien was visiting for a book signing and to talk a bit about his work. I expected him to be knowledgeable, but what I didn't expect (and found pleasantly surprising) was his charming ineloquence. I do not mean that as a back-handed compliment at all! Rather, the lecture was informal and conversational: straight off the chest rather than totally prepared. Rather than stand behind the lecturne, Thomas casually perched on the edge of the stage and went through images from his book and talked about them in depth. Of course an over-arching theme was his interest in revival; looking back to move forward as he put it.. I was so glad to hear him say what I'm always thinking: antiques were the modern items of their time! Each generation makes its own modernism. Thomas is always trying to see an object in the light in which it was created.
If you haven't seen the book, you must soon - a requirement for any design library! The images are gorgeous of course, but the text is really helpful and an interesting look at his iconic work: from target to high-end custom residential design. As he himself stated, he's not a decorater, but rather someone who is interested in the complete idea: helping you find 'who you are'.
Thomas's work is collection based. He's always on the hunt for unique and special pieces, often at local thrift and junk shops! For this reason, I thought it a bit odd that he's against boutique hotels; I wish he had expanded on that point a bit more. For instance, in DC he's staying at the Hay Adams hotel, undeniably a gorgeous hotel, but I would have thought he would have loved something with more character like nearby Tabard Inn. I suppose it's because he believes design is personal: a boutique hotel is inherently 'fake' in that it represents no one while a true hotel is anonymous and luxurious.
Thomas talked at length about his own homes: both on Long Island and his now famous apartment in New York. I love his reasoning of putting the bed in the living room as it's the most amazing space which he found he wasn't using. This aligns with my philosophy of 'why have nice things if you don't use them!'. During the question and answer session following the lecture, a discussion was started where he states his love for marble. Many people are afraid to use the material as it's 'high maintenance' but he strongly disagreed. He pointed out many uses of marble where it ages and develops a patina that sadly, many Americans are simply scared of. So use those marble countertops: no more boring granite!
Thomas is constantly inspired by everything around him: his interest in movies interested me especially. Gosford Park inspired his use of high sheen and gloss: the long hallways of gleaming white paired with glossy black doors. This also ties in with his interest in texture: the pairing of old with new, the highly polished with the rough. He also mentioned the gorgeous movie 'Fanny & Alexander' (1982) which inspired his love of the enfilade in architecture and fine millwork.
I loved how he talked also of his interest in color, much like another designer who gave a lecture at the Corcoran last year, Jamie Drake. Now, obviously, the two designers are oceans apart: yet the same concept interests them both. While Jamie is interested in the dramatic affects color can provide, Thomas is more interested in the subtleties and ephemereal qualities of color. He's interested in the feeling the soft colors provide and the ways in which light interacts with them. In every project Thomas showed, he spoke of the light the space had: like a true artist. And so he is himself!