Saturday, January 8, 2011

A grand instrument

In 1903, Roosevelt had a very grand piano commissioned from Steinway & Sons for the East Room. Steinway commissioned noted Aesthetic artist Thomas Dewing to paint the inside of the gilded case in a patriotic theme which he entitled America receiving the 9 muses.
In the painted scene, women in colonial revival gowns representing art, music, poetry and learning pay homage to America, the new steward of western culture, as represented by the seated woman. The piano now resides at the National Portrait Gallery, but I think it should be brought back to the White House, don't you?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

DCOTA WinterMarket 2011

Join me, Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic, Brooke Giannetti of Velvet & Linen, Jennifer Boles of The Peak of Chic and Gaye Tapp of Little Augury as we discuss Redesigning Design with moderator Allison Mezzafonte from at the Design Center of the Americas. If you live in the Ft. Lauderdale area or plan on attending Winter Market 2011, we will be discussing how we think the internet has changed the design world at 2:00 on Tuesday, January 18th. Hope to see you there! Many thanks to Elle Decor for the opportunity!

San Simeon: Refectory

The Refectory, or main dining room, at San Simeon is suitably grand for a captain of industry or even the King of a small country! Located behind the Assembly Room, the use of architectural salvage is the highlight of the enormous space.The room was modeled on a monastery dining hall. Notice the scale of the space: the 2 tour members seen above could walk right into that fireplace.The flags decorating the room are Sienese banners, I love the color they add.The estate was added on to many times over the years (1919 until 1947), indeed building started before the drawings were even complete and with constant changes. This results in a lot of odd spaces, such as this window which looks into one of the stair towers in one corner of the hall.A close up of one of the sconces which light the space between the banners. Some beautiful wood architectural salvage from a European cathedral.Hearst's art collection was legendary (mainly for its size) and ancient statues and artifacts dot every spare inch of space; more is more! Again more antique tapestries insulate the stone room. While dining in such grand surroundings, the food could be quite plain: this was afterall "the ranch". Paper napkins were always used and the condiments were laid out on the table: ketchup and mustard!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

San Simeon: Assembly Room

Housed inside the Casa Grande at San Simeon (or "the ranch" as Hearst called it) are the main entertaining spaces. Each night, guests would gather for cocktails (weak and limited, apparently) before dinner in the Assembly Room.Despite an extremely grand facade, the interior floor plan is quite simple, without a cobweb of hallways and vestibules. The main entry leads into a small vestibule seen above, and then directly into the Assembly Room (the living room of the estate). I suppose this is an example of California outdoor living.Most of the estate is composed of European architectural fragments. The ceilings, doorways, fireplaces and really, every piece that you see, began life in another building.Above is the main entry to the room.
The scale of the room is enormous, definitely meant to impress Hearst's guests. You can glimpse a sense of scale from the number of people on my tour group, seen below.You could walk into this fireplace it was so large. Just a cozy little room for pre-dinner cocktails!The room is lined with ancient choir stalls, an interesting, if uncomfortable, choice for additional seating.All of the stone could feel cold, so antique tapestries were brought in to soften both the acoustics and add insulation.
It's hard to remember sometimes that this was a very modern getaway. Radios are hidden within cabinets and guests were here to relax and have fun, as evidenced by this card table with a puzzle in the middle of so much grandeur.
I'm not sure what the fabric is which covers the upholstered pieces in the room -anyone recognize it?
As I said, most of the ceilings throughout the estate are reclaimed from European castles, palaces and monasteries; quite a collection!
See the radio in the cabinet below? Also, a cocktail table for every chair.
Next up, the adjacent Formal Dining Room.
As with all of my San Simeon posts, written permission was kindly granted to post my interior photos of the estate on this blog. Please respect that and do not copy. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

House of Sweden

While walking home last night, I passed the House of Sweden along the Potomac right at sunset, when the building disappears into both the sky and river. As much as I love classical architecture, I have a deep appreciation for moden buildings such as these, especially when done right. Given the site, a classical building would have been highly out of place.
However, I'm not sure how I feel about the back. The use of lighting is odd (hello Vegas?) and the glass panels are actually patterned a faux wood. What do you think? Tomorrow I'll pick up on the tour of San Simeon that I dropped earlier this summer. Still so much to show there!
excuse the poor quality of the photo -again from my cell phone!

Monday, January 3, 2011

White House: East Wing

As I mentioned in a previous post on the White House, unless you are on official State business, you will enter through the East Wing, seen above. This allows for the extensive security to be hidden around the side and rear of the building.
The entire house was decorated for the holiday. I loved the red berries and ribbons in these iron urns decorating the porte cochere.
Inside the vestibule is access to the first ladies' offices. The wood paneling is beautiful and a handful of presidential portraits decorate the space.In the holiday decorations, I especially liked the use of these magnolia garlands.From this hallway, you enter into the east colonnade which was originally open when constructed in the 1902 renovation. It was enclosed in 1942 when the east wing was expanded.These transoms let light into the spaces adjacent to the colonnade which includes the family theater.
The length of the colonnade was decorated with these enormous beautiful wreaths, each made of a different fruit.
The east colonnade leads you though this archway into the Visitors Vestibule, decorated for Christmas with more uplit glittered branches. Centered on the archway is an enormous bronze bust of President Lincoln. I liked the playfully decorated trees in this area the best.
These spaces lead you to the ground floor Main Hall in the original block of the White House, off of which are the Library, Vermeil Room and China Room which I discussed last week.
I hope these photographs I've shared over the past weeks have helped you become familiar with the White House. If visiting Washington, I highly recommend trying to get a tour to see this lovely house, rich with so much history!