Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vizcaya: Living room and East Loggia

The largest room at Vizcaya is the Living Room - 25' wide and 50' long with ceilings which soar to 20 feet high. This is nearly a double-cube which follows the Renaissance rules of porportioning. The ceilings again are imported from a 16th century Venetian Palazzo but are modified to fit the room. Chalfin decorated the room in French Renaissance style, perhaps not the most cozy of styles to select but appropriate for the collections.Originally the room also housed more 'modern' couches for comfort and was not as museum-like as it appears today. The tapestry decorates plain plaster walls and dates from the mid 16th century from Ferrara and depicts the labors of Hercules.The fence you see helps to protect a valuable heraldic rug woven in the 15th century for the grandfather of King Ferdinand of Spain, an Admiral in the Spanish navy. The flooring underneath is dark terrazzo which is appropriate for the seaside setting.
Chalfin grimaced at the inclusion of a Welte pipe organ which runs on player rolls (which still works and CDs are available in the gift shop!) but Deering insisted. The designer did his best to mask the machine, housed in the small room next door, behind a 17th century Neopolitan altar painting which was cut into 2 to allow for access to the organ.
The most expensive item bought for the house (at $12,000 -remember these are 1915 dollars!) was the French Renaissance chimney of Caen stone from the Chateau de Regneville, which required the 20' tall ceiling.The figural top is actually not original but was created by Chalfin's design staff as a sort of finial to complement the chimneypiece.
Salvaged Roman columns line the room and are topped with electric candelabra to charming affect.
After leaving the living room one passes through the East Loggia which faces the bay, opposite the courtyard from the entry loggia.The double columns, beloved of John Singer Sargent, are seen here with the blue curtains passing between them as well as the more contemporary glass doors which were added when the courtyard was enclosed.
The highlight of the space is a 5' long model of a Spanish caravel. Imagine this ship swaying in the bayside breezes when the loggia was open.
The 4 cedar doors into interior spaces came from the 18th century Palazzo Torlonia in Rome. They feature mounted decorations in bronze and the original marble surrounds. The loggia was originally treated as the outdoor living room and was furnished with comfortable wicker furniture with brightly colored cushions. As it had one of the best views of Biscayne Bay in the house, it's not hard to imagine guests spending the majority of their time here.
The historic photos come from the book 'Vizcaya; an American Villa and Its makers' by Witold Rybczynski and Laurie Olin which I highly recommend while the remainder of the photos, as throughout my Vizcaya tour, are my own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

"I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being — to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame." Acceptance speech for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993.Good bye to a one of a kind beauty and phenomenal actress.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vizcaya: Reception Room and Library

Chalfin abandoned the strict neoclassicism of the Entry Hall for a more exuberant French Rococo styled salon in the Reception Room, seen on the plan below in green.Chalfin referred to the room as the 'Marie Antoinette Salon' due to the bust on the mantelpiece. Indeed, I think she would feel at home in this exotic decor! The role of a reception room was the same as what we today refer to as the formal living room; the most public of rooms in a house in which to entertain guests.The wallcoverings, now reproductions from 1966, were originally embroidered Italian silk from the 18th century and appropriately featured palm trees with flying birds and butterflies.
The exquisite mid 18th century tinted plaster tracery ceiling came from the Palazzo Rossi in Venice and really is the star of the room. Notice the bust of Marie Antoinette on the 18th century French marble mantelpiece.
I just loved these carved and gilded overdoors. The chandelier is not original. Instead a more fanciful Venetian one was in its place, see the image below.
The library, seen on the plan above in blue, also switches the French neoclassicism of the Entry Hall for a more English styled intimacy in the Adams style. Even the colors used throughout denote English coziness: warm yellows and oranges with rich mahogany rather than austere marble finishes.The side chairs reportedly belonged to Maria Pauline Borghese, although Chalfin was never interested in the history of any item but merely the way it looked and the feeling it would lend to a room.The grand Sheraton bookcase hides a door into the reception room. These chandeliers and red shades are original to the room.Deering's desk was purchased in Paris just shy of WWI and was originally an 18th century shop counter. Chalfin painted and applied Empire decorations to better fit in with the room.The floor plan and historic photo of the Reception room come from the book 'Vizcaya; an American Villa and Its makers' by Witold Rybczynski and Laurie Olin which I highly recommend while the remainder of the photos, as throughout my Vizcaya tour, are my own.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vizcaya: Entry Hall

A guest's entry via car into Vizcaya would take them through the Entry Loggia and then into the Entry hall, seen in green on the floor plan below. Chalfin decorated the space in strict Neoclassical style, as if the renaissance house had been renovated in the 18th century.
Wallpaper panels from Joseph Dufour, Paris painted in 1814 decorate the walls and elaborate plaster moldings echo the marble floors.The space is small but makes QUITE the impression!The delicate plaster work on the ceiling is like icing on the cake, literally!Off to the sides of the window are seperate lady and gentleman's cloak and powder rooms.This mixing of styles and the light color palette here is perfect for the Florida climate.I loved these little mirrored sconces!The painted finishes throughout are just phenomenal. On the opposite side of the reception room, seen above in blue- is the North hall and telephone booth.The north hall has elaborate rusticated walls of local Florida limestone meant to look like Italian stonework. A little telephone room also decorated in 18th century style seems like the height of luxury to me -especially in 1918!
Up next, the library and reception rooms!