Saturday, June 18, 2011

French Rococo at the Getty

While in LA, I hightailed it to the Getty to see the exhibit 'Paris: Life and Luxury'

The exhibit focuses on the home life of Parisians of the 18th century -a spectacular time and the objects on display will make your mouth water.

While photographs weren't allowed in the exhibit, I was able to take a few pictures of this French Rococo Parisian room (1730-1755) from the permanent collection (much like the period rooms at the Met). Light was so important so the boiseries were painted light colors to reflect candlelight and costly mirrors were integrated wherever possible.I'm happy to report to those naysayers, that the Getty burns the wicks of all the candles in their exhibits! If it's good enough for the Getty, it's enough reason for me!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Inside the McCormick Apartments

Sorry for the lack of posts lately; I was vacationing in LA and wasn't online as much as I would have liked. Before I bring you the highlights from that trip, I wanted to share with you the interiors of the McCormick Apartments that I talked about last week.

The building has 4 massive full floor units at 11,000 SF each and 2 smaller apartments on the first floor along with accomodations for dozens of servants.

Seen above is the typical floor plan for the 4 main units and the first two photographs show the elegant oval entry foyer.

I mentioned earlier that the building luckily contains many of the original details from when it was finished in 1915; basically everything except the bathrooms. This may be in part due to the National Trust for Historic Preservation which has taken such great care of the building since buying it from the Brookings Institute in 1977 and using it as their headquarters.The top floor apartment, famously occupied by Andrew Mellon, features numerous skylights which flood the unit with light. Above is the laylight into the foyer and one of numerous fireplace mantels.The original butler's pantries (bigger than most studio apartments) retain the original silver safes.

Many of the interior mahogany doors still have their elegant original hardware.

The long bedroom hall still has a row of 11 beautiful cedar closets with mahogany doors, useful for storage of winter clothes while the residents would leave for the summer, abandoning sweltering DC.

I loved the hidden drapery pockets in the living room.

Light is a theme throughout the apartments. The public spaces have glass french doors and transom windows allowing light to pass room to room.

The 25'x45' living room is still as elegant as ever, in this case used as the main conference room on the 2nd floor.

Here is a photograph of Andrew Mellon taken in his living room in the McCormick in 1929.

His living room was not very comfortably furnished perhaps, but I'm sure the art collection in it was amazing; his collection formed the base for the National Gallery of Art afterall, put together while living in this very apartment!

The dining room is nearly as large as the living room at 25' x 35' and opens directly into it. I love the pedimented overdoors.

Another famous tenant was Lord Duveen, the famous art dealer, who rented the apartment below the busy and aging Mellon so that he could preview different works of art in the privacy of his own apartment building. Mellon returned the favor to Duveen by purchasing every work of art he had brought: 24 paintings and 18 sculptures at the cost of $21 million (1930s dollars!).

In 1941, the state department requisitioned the apartment building (due to a lack of office space in the city) from the McCormick estate and leased it to the British Embassy. Later in 1950 the building finally left the McCormick hands and was sold to the American Council on Education. Above - plasterwork in the library.

The servants quarters are open to the main apartments but split the high 14' tall ceilings into 2 levels with an upper and lower floor with tiny bedrooms opening off a miniscule corridor.

The 2 smaller apartments on the first floor have recently been renovated and are offered to rent as the National Trust doesn't require the entire building.

I love how they have respected the historic mouldings while adding more efficient modern lighting.

Living in the McCormick wasn't cheap, as one would expect. The main apartments contained 6 bedrooms and 4 baths as well as the public spaces and would set back the renters $15,000 a year (later dropping to $12,000 a year during the great depression).

Historic photographs of the Mellon apartment from the book 'Best Addresses' by James M Goode