Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Belgian ambassador's residence interiors 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently toured the Belgium ambassador's residence with the ICAA. Designed by Horace Trumbauer's firm (or more specifically by his chief architect Julian Abele) for Anna Dodge Dillman, the house was meant as a wedding gift for her daughter Delphine to her second husband, Raymond T. Baker. Sadly they only lived in the house for four short years.
After Baker's death, Delphine rented the house to a roster of who's who before finally she herself passed away at only 43.  Her mother shortly thereafter sold it to the embassy of Belgium who have been in trust of the house since 1945.
These gorgeous interiors you see were designed by the Paris interiors firm of Alavoine et Cie. The entry hall, seen above, may look like it has stone walls but they are in fact molded plaster. The floors however are marble.
Immediately to the left of the foyer is the stairhall. This room sets the tone for the ground floor with panel moulding in pastel colors of the time and amazing detail work such as the iron railing.
 I love how the paneling is justified under the stair to different heights. The panels are an excellent organizational system as they hide any number of storage doors, vents, and other utilitarian devices.
 A lovely thing to see before going upstairs, no?
The parquet flooring, chandeliers, and carved paneling was imported from France by Alavoine et Cie. The first ambassador, Baron Silvercruys, hired the firm yet again to complete the space to their original design after many items and furnishings had been removed during the sale and multiple rentals.The Belgium ambassador frequently teases the French ambassador for having a more French house than him!
 Again I have to point out the beautiful bronze hardware - architectural jewelry!
This tiny paneled vestibule separates the stairhall from the men's powder room. Yes there are two, one for men and one for women; a common design element in such formal houses at the time period.
This tiny vestibule may be my favorite space of the house, so precisely decorated like a small jewel box.
 On the opposite side of the entry foyer is the women's cloak room, seen below.
I immediately think of the iconic Cecil Beaton photograph of models in Charles James gowns when I see this room as I imagine this was the setting for many similarly elegant scenes.
The slightly open door to the right leads to the powder room while the panel to the left is actually a jib door and hides a coat closet, full of coats and wellies (yes I looked!).
This built-in dressing table survives and is surely the most elegant piece of furniture in the entire house.
All of the bathrooms feature these custom designed marble sinks with glass legs - they epitomize 1931 bathrooms for me.
I'll leave you with a last photograph of the ladies cloak room (notice the multi-colored umbrellas in the corner and my reflection in the mirror). Look for post 2  soon which will feature the Dining Room and Salon, said by many to be the most beautiful room in Washington!


Nancy {at} powellbrower at home said...

What exquisite details! I love the staircase! Should have posted that today on my stair post! Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving! Stay warm. xo Nancy

Michael Hampton said...

My favorite feature was the built in neoclassical or French Empire dressing table too! I have to add that to my inspiration file!

Divine Theatre said...

I cannot even imagine all the planning that went into this. Every single detail is perfection!



Karena Albert said...

Stefan, the staircase is stunning. I love the dressing table and the vestibule mirror. I would be dreaming about the wonder of this residence.

The Arts by Karena

Stephilius said...

Just as lovely as I'd hoped. Can't wait for more. : )

Windlost said...

Hi Stefan, I saw your previous post yesterday but did not get a chance to read, so I was delighted to see a Part Deux today! What a beautiful home and what a treat for you to receive a tour! And even better for you to bring us along. That ladies cloak room is lovely - the blue painted panelling is just beautiful. And I love all the bronze hardware.

Last time we were in DC we stayed at a Dupont Circle guest house on a street with several embassies. It was such a treat to drive and walk the nearby streets and admire the stately homes. You are gifted with a charming city...!

xo Terri

deana sidney said...

Mad for the house... and the paper would be grand with that 40'srug from Blau. They really don't make them like they used to. What extravagance to be able to use the French firm and all their resources.

ChipSF said...

What a treat. I may like this one even better than The Elms. Thanks!

Things That Inspire said...

I'm so glad they let you take pictures! What an experience it must have been to see it all in person.


The Down East Dilettante said...

A treat indeed. On pretty much can't beat 18th century French for elegance and rationality...

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Hi, Stefan - These light greens were so popular in the 1920's, and that makes me wonder whether the color scheme is original to the house. I like that Neoclassic painted panel next to your reflection!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Mark - it's not the original color scheme (which was a buttercream / ivory) but has been there since the late 1940s.

Paisley Curtain said...

It is a treat to see these beautiful interiors of Belgium Ambassador's residence. From moldings to hardware, all are mouth watering :) I wonder if it is possible to build something like this today?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Stefan: I have admired this house since the 70's when I saw it featured in "Great Houses of Washington D.C." I love Trumbauer's work and live near the site of his largest (and, sadly, demolished) mansion, "Whitemarsh Hall." The story of "Whitemarsh Hall" and the Belgian embassy are interconnected. W. H. was build for Edward T. Stotesbury - the richest man in Philadelphia - who lost most of his fortune in the Depression. Mrs. Stotesbury had to sell the 100-plus room behemoth and "downsize" to this magnificent place in Washington. Mrs. Dodge was her friend and let Mrs. S. stay there for little or no rent. (whish I had a friend like that!). That is how the down-and-out grand dame was able to continue living in Trumbauer splendor. ATTENTION TRUMBAUER FANS: Trumbauer's suburban Philadelphia chateau, Bloomfield, which was gutted by fire last year, will NOT be demolished. The new owner has begun rebuilding it.

Titanic Bill

DAM said...

These two posts were wonderful. To see into some of these homes is such a treat and continues to remind me about the rich tradition and history that makes Washington so special when not on the Mall, or the Hill.

Thanks for sharing.