Friday, November 29, 2013

Belgian ambassador's residence interiors 2: Salon & Dining Rooms

As promised in my last post today I'm going to share the Salon, Dining room, and Breakfast room of the Belgium ambassador's residence designed by the firm of architect Horace Trumbauer.
The wood paneling, parquet flooring, and crystal chandeliers were all imported from France by the interior designers, Alavoine et Cie, to evoke the style of the French Regence (1715-1723). The portrait above is of the first Belgium ambassador to inhabit the house, Baron Silvercruys, who was responsible for its purchase.
While a formal room we were assured the Ambassador and his family love to use this space and entertain here frequently, evidenced by the personal photographs on the piano.
Despite the beautiful light the room receives in the evening I think I prefer it best a night when the chandeliers and lamps are lit, seen above. You can't beat that elegant ambiance.
The paneling is spectacular and in immaculate condition. It was only lightly retouched in the recent restoration.
The charming interiors look straight out of House Beautiful circa 1935. However- symmetry, as seen in the arrangement above, never goes out of style in my book!
 The painted paneling allows the oak parquet floors to shine and warm the space.
 From the salon one enters the Dining Room, which occupies a corner.
 Again I think the room is best seen at night!
 The caned chairs were recently restored and date to the 1930s.
One of the most intriguing details in the entire house are the mirrored screens in the dining room which shield the service areas, seen above flanking the chest.
If you look closer the screens are actually mirrored french doors, mimicking the other doors in the room, with false hinges, and open as a screen on one side to shield the actual leather-padded butler pantry doors. When not in use, the screens fold flat into the wall and appear to be normal French doors like the others in the room.
Above is a view of the butler's pantry with original cabinetry. Also original was the dumb waiter which carries food up from the kitchen below to this day.
I loved this chinese lamp on a built-in marble console table flanking the fireplace- perfect for serving more casual meals. 
 The intricate crown molding features different flowers such as daffodils and old-fashioned roses.
The paneling trophies feature spoils of the hunt.
 I can't get enough of this bronze hardware!
The current ambassador is a fan of wildlife and his stunning collection of Meissen birds decorate the primary spaces.
The Ambassador leaves his post in December to return home and I'm sure the house will miss his Meissen collection!
On the other side of the dining room is the former music room, now an informal dining room used daily by the Ambassador and his family. I suppose one would refer to it as the breakfast room.
 The marbelized walls feature musical instruments while the shelves hold more of the Meissen collection.
The table and candlesticks are recent purchases while the chairs are original and belong to the dining room set.
The light fixtures in this space are simpler and more neo-classical in style. Notice again the use of mirrored french interior doors; in this case false to provide symmetry with the entry door from the dining room.
Even the hinges were beautiful! The faux marbeling on the walls is incredible and surely make this one of the most unique rooms of the house.
Join me for my next and final post where I'll feature the library and morning room aux treillage!

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!