Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stunning Interior details - Nissim de Camondo, Paris

Details matter. Details are what separate a mansion from a mcmansion, a generic box from a lovely structure, a house from a home. They need not be as ornate or historic as those at the Musee Nissim de Camondo in Paris but any good architect or designer will fill a home with lovely touches that will separate the wheat from the chaff.
The stairhall that I mentioned yesterday HERE features this lovely plaster painted to appear as limestone blocks. Notice how each individual block, separated by the thin white 'mortar' lines, is a slightly different tone of French gray? This adds depth and texture to the walls and adds to the illusion of real stone walls.
The lovely tapestry above is delicately designed into the treatment of the wall -not simply hung above the stair as an after-thought.
I warned there would be many light fixture photographs -here is one of them! These Classical gilded sconces line the stairhall.
The above image captures the curtains in the main salon and the boiserie. Notice the many different subtle shades of color picking out the detailing. Nothing high contrast mind you - subtle.
The boiserie in the dining room are also picked out in many colors. The color is softer in real life and less 'lettuce'.
 The relatively simple iron railing leading up to the private 2nd floor is probably my favorite.
 The perfect sconces line this intimate stair.
The interior halls on the 2nd floor which don't benefit from windows still are flooded with natural light from skylights. Notice how the chandelier is hung from the lay-light.
I love the worn finish on this simple door on the 2nd floor corridor with such elegant minimal hardware. Now you have to visit the museum yourself to pick out more lovely details to share!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Historic interiors - Nissim de Camondo, Paris

The interiors of the Musee Nissim de Camondo are even more stunning than the exterior; see my post HERE. While efforts have been made to make the house feel as if members of the family had just walked out the room, the house reflects the collections gifted by the Count rather than how they actually lived. One imagines it was probably relatively similar though for such an avid and passionate collector.
One enters off the entry courtyard into a beautiful faux-stone stairhall. While the floors and stairs are marble, the walls are plaster molded and painted to appear as if limestone blocks.
The architect ingeniously laid out the L-shaped plan so that it flows seamlessly without any hard corners in the hallways.
Lighting is so important and this house proves the point. The lower level is glamorously lit, the ground level nicely lit with beautiful fixtures, while the private floor is actually rather cozy and dimly task lit. You'll notice a lot of photos of light fixtures in my posts! This is a great historical house museum as no HIDEOUS recessed lighting has been installed, the bane of my existence -it should be limited to airports and bathrooms. But you didn't come here for my thoughts on recessed lighting.....
The kitchens are just beyond the entry on the ground level. One can almost feel the 'Downton Abbey' vibe - Mrs. Patmore must be just around the corner!
Efforts have been made to set the house up as for daily use -even the servant's dining hall table is set for a meal. Remember this photo to contrast with the family dining room upstairs.
Guests and family members were of course rarely, if ever, in the kitchen. One would ascend the stair into the gallery with views down to the entry courtyard.
A suite of rooms hosted guests with great flow for parties.  The Grand Salon was of course the main entertaining space.
Gilded boiserie, the best of the Count's 18th century furniture, and stunning views of the backyard and park from this raised level are featured in these rooms.
 These were public spaces to impress guests and show the stature of the Camondo family.
As the true mark of a collector, the house is not 'decorated'  per say; there are not matching suites of furniture but rather many different pieces of different woods and styles mingling together.
As with all great architecture, alignment is given to doors and windows to create lovely enfilades. No one fails to notice such thoughtful gestures in the design of buildings.
After the Grand Salon one is introduced to the Salon Huet, so named for the paintings by Jean-Baptiste Huet inset into the paneling.
One of my favorite rooms in the house is the dining room, featuring beautiful green painted boiserie.
The table is set for a meal displaying some of the large collection of the Count's 18th century china, silver, and crystal.
In order to better display parts of his collection a china cabinet or room was built adjacent to best display his most favorite services. He would often take private meals in this space overlooking the backyard.
Down the hallway is of course a more useful butler's pantry.
The gallery surrounds the public rooms which are all on the left.  The door at the end of the hallway leads into the dining room. The butler's pantry is just to the right. Notice how the dining room door doesn't fit the mirrored paneling in order to fit the antique boiserie found in the room. The architect didn't let that mess with the hall's symmetry!
 The niche adjacent to the main stair contains access to the private areas of the family.
This small office or petit bureau  below was perhaps used as the Count's private study. The French doors lead over the roof of the garage to the office block discussed in the previous posting.
One of the many things I like about old houses is the use of natural light. Staircases, hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens all feature good sized windows.
 At the top of the stairs is the private paneled family library.
After the Count's wife passed away he turned her bedroom into his private (colorful) sitting room -one of the most popular rooms on the tour.
 These two rooms feature the best views of the Parc Monceau.
 I could happily live in this room without changing a thing!
Below you see the view of the backyard from these windows with the park just beyond the bushes.
The bedrooms hold various parts of the collection but the most interesting thing to see are the bathrooms. While not entirely original they reflect the period atmosphere.
Notice the high tiled vaulted walls, abundant natural light, and easily cleanable fixtures.
The count's son's bathroom was no less elegant and featured an odd assortment of various baths and basins for feet as well as other......items.  Please remember to visit this amazing house museum on your next visit to Paris!  Tomorrow I will feature some of my favorite details found throughout the house.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The MOST elegant house- Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris

Nestled against the Parc Monceau in the chic 8th arrondissement is one of the most famous house museums of Paris, the Musee Nissim de Camondo managed by the musee des arts decoratifs (see my posts on that wonderful museum adjacent to the Louvre at the link). I had always wanted to visit this storied house but never had a chance until my last visit -I shouldn't have waited!
Located on a tony street where many of the grand houses have become foundations, headquarters of international corporations, or embassies -the back of these structures front the Parc Monceau, many boasting private entrances into the park.
Built in 1911 by a wealthy banker, the Count Moise de Camondo,  to house his collection of 18th century furniture, the house was designed by Rene Sergent to combine the best of 18th century living with the most modern conveniences of the time, replacing the much larger home of his father (see the floorplan below). 
The story of this most elegant house however is a very sad one.The count's son died during WWI and he donated the house and his collections to the Decorative Arts museum in his son's honor which opened to the public in 1935. A few years later the remainder of his family were murdered at Auschwitz.  This is therefore not a happy family home but rather has survived as a testament to the endurance of this generous public donation, securing the Camondo legacy.
The unprepossessing street front, seen above, housed the Count's offices as well as a garage.

Once through this public area a gravel courtyard welcomes one to the house, clearly based upon the Petit Trianon (see my many posts on the Petit Trianon HERE).
In a very clever application the beautiful blue/gray treillage seen above screens the view of the courtyard from the neighboring apartment building. The combination of the limestone, gravel court, boxed topiaries, and treillage makes this perhaps the most Parisian house in all of Paris!
Visit the blog of The Devoted Classicist HERE for more on the story of the house and also HERE at Mansion Floor Plans and don't miss more photos at HabituallyChic HERE.
The roof you see above the garage doors was an outdoor pathway connecting the private study of the Count to his offices which face the street.
 Above you are standing at the front door of the house looking through the offices to the street.
You can see above, in a view taken from the 2nd floor of the house, that the doors on this side of the courtyard flank a service courtyard and garage (now housing museum offices).
I love the continuity of Parisian architecture: the same warm 'french grays' and blue-gray trim prevail throughout the city lending a cohesion to the disparate building styles.
 Notice the interesting Greek key base on the lanterns which light the courtyard above.
The backyard is rather formal, but who needs a backyard when you have private access to the Park Monceau!
The parterre were still beautiful despite their autumnal lack of color. Imagine being the gardener responsible for keeping all of this gravel raked and weed-free!
One gets a sense of the level of detail to the limestone facade when looking out the windows on the 2nd, or private, floor.
 Notice the netting to keep birds from nesting on the statuary.  I am normally against any sort of graffiti but I can't help but admire what some 'artist' had done to the building's mailbox on the street facade!
Next I will post some of my highlights on the much-published interiors. You may also want to check out the fantastic book, "The Camondo Legacy" by Jean-Marie del Moral if you can find a copy.
 As always, images in this post are my own.