Saturday, April 30, 2011

Modern English-Tudor Style

Courtesy of Elle Decor. Image by Simon Upton
In honor of today's royal wedding, we will take a look at English Tudor style. Just as British royalty have gotten a modern, fresh update in Will and Kate, the English-tudor style has gotten a 21st-century makeover as well. Always thought of Tudor as dark and stuffy? Think again. Gone is the dark oak paneling with dark oak flooring with dark oak furniture, all under dark oak beams. Todays Tudor-style has lightened up, with touches of dark wood as an accent, not the main design feature that seemed to demand jewel-toned carpets, brown leather furniture, and heavy velvet drapery. 

Built in 1927, this tudor is one of the Stockbroker Tudors, houses popular with the Wall Street contingent of generations past, in Westchester, a bedroom community of Manhattan. The young couple who purchased the house wanted to freshen the imposing, dark Tudor, modernizing its appearance and floorplan. The house had separate servant's quarters and family area, which no longer made sense for a modern family. The kitchen and dining room, though adjacent, shared no common door to connect the two rooms. Designer Steven Gambrel modernized the outdated floorplan, the exterior half-timbers were painted light blue, and much of the heavy wood interiors were painted in light taupes, blues, and modern, light greys.

Gambrel removed much of the original dark paneling and painting much of the wood accents that remained. In the photo above, Gambrel moved the main dining area to the stunning but seldom-used reception hall, making the old dining room a casual family den next to the kitchen. Imagine how the reception area would look without the oak staircase and beams painted a light, fresh color. The chandelier is vintage; the English fruitwood table is from the 1930s; the Louis XIV chairs have cowhide seats; the Persian carpet is from the 1920s.

Below, the foyer's wood vaulting is now light and modern, and the beautiful front door interior is painted blue-grey. The antique light fixtures were purchased at auction; the mirrors are from Paris; the console is vintage; the lamps were made from 19th-century French urns; the silk runner is from ABC carpet.

Below, the library, one of the few instances of original oak paneling in the house. Actually, it had been painted red, and it took a team of three artisans five months to strip and restore the oak. The plaster design ceiling and stain leaded glass windows are original.

Another view of the library below. The built-in bookcase is original to the house; the Swedish alabaster chandelier is circa 1895; the sofa, banquette, and ottoman were designed by Gambrel.

A view of the second-floor hall, below. A Hunt Slonem painting, Gold Butterflies, is the second-floor hall focal point. The bench is antique English; the vintage side table and lamp are from Europe. I just love this vignette!

A beautiful example of a modern kitchen with clean lines that stays true to its historic roots. The cabinets are custom made; the coffered ceiling is new; and the counters are marble; the refrigerator is Viking. The leaded glass is original to the house.

Below, the master bath. I just love the look of the cafe curtains on the original diamond-pane leaded-glass windows.

Again, original diamond-paned leaded-glass windows, below, in the master bedroom. The headboard is custom with fabric by Bergamo; the bench is antique; the French chandelier is circa 1920.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Design by Charlotte Moss

The poor armoire. Once a prominent fixture in every well-decorated living room or den, the perfect storage for the big, boxy CRT television. Nowadays, most of us have switched to the magazine-thin televisions that are affixed to walls. We were all so used to covering up our tellies that when the flat screens arrived and were hung on our walls, we tried to conceal those, too, with artwork or screens. Now, we just accept that the television is a part of our home life, and we incorporate it accordingly into our decorating. But now, what do we do with our beautiful old armoires?

Here are some examples of armoires -- a couple are new, most are old, and many were never designed to hold a television. But hopefully, these images will spark some ideas for repurposing your now television-less cabinet.

Below, from the British version of Country Living magazine. What a nifty idea -- a liquor cabinet. It can also be locked up as well. I just love the finish on this piece.

From Country Living magazine, British version

Below are a pair of antique Chinese red-lacquer cabinets in a commercial installation by Barcelona-based interior designer Lázaro-Rosa-Violán's. I love this look in a kitchen setting! The Chinese cabinets give such a great textural element and patina to a modern, sleek decor.

Home studio of  Barcelona-based designer Lázaro-Rosa-Violán

This barn-door armoire looks so fabulous in this room, I wouldn't care if it sat totally empty! This room would also look smashing with a modern, fun element added, like an acrylic chair or side table, a piece of modern art in place of the mirror, or pagoda lamps on the parsons table. Still, a perfectly gorgeous room as it is.

Courtesy of The Enchanted Home blogspot

From chef Michel Guerard's restaurant located in an old chateau in the Grand Sud Ouest region of France. What a gorgeous table, setting, armoir - all of it.

Courtesy of Cote de Texas

From the Welsh home of art dealer Guy Morrison and his interior designer wife Penny, this antique French armoire has chicken wire in place of front panels to better showcase a charming hat collection.

From the Quintessence blog

Designer Carol Raley created a custom armoire for displaing vintage gowns and toys by first painting and distressing the piece, then replacing the front panels with chicken wire, upholstering the interior, and hanging a mini chandelier.

Courtesy of Carol Raley

From a house in Belgium, this armoire, which has been painted white, panels removed and fabric added, manages to look light and appropriate for the room. If it were in its original unpainted state, it might add too much heaviness to the room with its size. Great chandelier, too.

London designer Lisa Giles' French armoire has transparent doors, a la library storage. Love it!

Courtesy of Citified blog

Below, this beautiful armoire, from the home of John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross, featured in Elle Decor's July/August 2010 issue, is painted black, and inset with wavy glass panels and gold trim. This image was inspiring enough to blogger and designer Patricia Shackleford that she decided to give new life to her own little-used and outdated armoire.

Courtesy of Mrs. Blandings

 Below, Patricia Shackleford's armoire before painting.  

After priming, two coats of paint and a gloss:

Courtesy of Mrs. Blandings

And, after applying goldleaf, voila -- an updated armoire. Nice job!

Courtesy of Mrs. Blanding

A Swedish armoire repurposed as a linen closet.

Courtesy of Cote de Texas

In a shabby chic bathroom.

Courtesy of 58 cherries

And in a French country bathroom. Pure Charles Faudree perfection.

Charles Faudree

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grove Park Inn: An Arts & Crafts Masterpiece

The historic Grove Park Inn Resort, one of America's most important examples of American Arts & Crafts style, would not have been built had it not been for a nasty bout of hiccups. Edwin Wiley Grove (1850-1927) who made his fortune selling Tasteless Chill Tonic, was sent to Asheville, North Carolina by his doctor to see if the temperate climate in the Blue Ridge Mountains would cure his chronic hiccups. No word on whether or not the hiccups were banished, but Grove, believing the temperate mountain climate bestowed health benefits, did indeed move to Asheville. He conceptualized a mountain lodge built halfway up Sunset Mountain, using the mountain's natural rough stones for building material, and to be featured prominently in the overall design. When Grove could not find an architect who could grasp his concept, he hired his son-in-law, Fred Seely, as both his architect and contractor, despite no formal training in either discipline. Using ropes and pullies, mules, and 400 masons, stone from the top of the mountain was rolled into place around a frame of reinforced concrete. The building was completed in 1913, an astonishingly-short 11 months and 27 days after construction began.

One of two fireplaces in the main lobby. The light fixture is an original Roycroft from 1913
One of the more striking features of the hotel are the massive fireplaces situated on opposite ends of the rock-walled main lobby. The stones were placed to fit, like a puzzle, not chiseled to fit. An amazing feat, considering some of the larger granite boulders that make the fireplace are 10,000 lbs. Though it's hard to tell from the photo above, the fireplace opening is large enough to fit a van inside. In the sides of the big fireplaces are elevators, the noise of which is muffled by the stone. Both of those 97-year-old elevators are still in service today.

Much of the furniture in the common areas, along with many of the guest rooms, are handcrafted Roycroft, the legendary arts community in New York that produced some of the finest furniture, light fixtures, and art in the Arts & Crafts heyday. And though much of this original furniture has now appreciated greatly in value, the owners of the Grove Park Inn have decided against stowing away the now-valuable furniture for safekeeping, preferring for these Arts & Crafts gems to be enjoyed by all. In the photo below is an original Roycroft clock just off of the main hall. A recent appraisal valued the clock at $500,000.

Below, looking closely at the very bottom legs of this same clock, you can see teal paint. In the 1950s, the clock was located in area of the hotel being repainted teal, and there was no bother to either move the clock nor protect it from the paint.

Below, this original Roycroft grandfather clock, located just off the main lobby in a common area, was recently appraised at $1,000,000.  There is no signage indicating the million-dollar clock's value nor its provenance, though it is one of the featured stops on the official tour of the Grove Park Inn's history. There are those who drive from out of state just to view this clock, one of only five of its kind made by Roycroft, and the only one known still in existence. All the parts, both interior and exterior, are original, and the clock is still perfectly operational.

The carved inscription reads,"not enjoyment and not sorrow, is our destined end or way, but to act that each tomorrow, find no farther than today."
A room with a view! Looking out towards downtown Asheville, and down below to the subterranean Grove Park Inn spa.

One of the mineral pools at the Grove Park Inn spa. Though not original to the hotel, the spa, completed in the late 1990s, continues the design theme of the property with the stone features and Arts & Crafts lighting.

Below is the Hathaway cottage on the Grove Park Inn property. Built just after construction of the hotel, the Hathaway house has the exact dimensions as the Anne Hathaway cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon. During WWII, the Philippine government functioned in exile based at the Hathaway house, while the main hotel was used as an internment center for Axis diplomats.

Even the guard shack at the entrance of the hotel property is in charming Arts & Crafts style.

Also on the Grove Park property is the historic 1924 Bynum house. Described by the Preservation Society of Asheville as a "petite chateau of quarry-faced random course stone," the house, sadly, has been condemned. Efforts at raising the $1,000,000 to fully restore this faded beauty have failed.

A closer view.

The rear of the abandoned house, still beautiful and majestic.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ralph Lauren's New York Flagship Store

Photography courtesy of Joshua McHugh, Architectural Digest
Ralph Lauren, icon of fashion, lifestyle, and interiors. His name is synonymous with Americana and Continental styles, one of the reigning standard-bearers for these design genres. His brand's ability to evoke lifestyle aspiration is pure marketing brilliance. And one needs to look no further than his flagship stores to experience the all-encompassing world of Ralph Lauren.

At the New York flagship store's grand opening this past October, jumbo-sized LED images of the Ralph Lauren brand were projected onto the Madison Avenue store's four-story exterior, complete with complementary music. And when an image of a bottle of perfume was displayed, the scent of the perfume was magically released into the air. Brilliant!

In the past this blog has taken a look at Ralph Lauren's flagship store in Paris, as well as Ralph and Ricky Lauren's fantastic Bedford Estate. As I've stated here before -- Ralph Lauren is a wonderful and smart example of the styles of fashion and interiors colliding. When I heard that he was putting the finishing touches on a new Beaux Arts style store in Manhattan, across the street from his already-existing menswear store (located in the old Rhinelander Mansion), I just knew that it would be exquisite.

The Polo Ralph Lauren Creative Services team successfully mixes differing time periods and styles, an effect that endears me to them. For instance, the artwork below is a harmonious mish-mash of vintage photos from different eras and design styles. I adore the top photograph of the chandelier!
Photo by Joshua McHugh, courtesy of Architectural Digest
Designed as a version of a Hotel Particulier, the 22,000 square foot mansion was built from the ground up, with artisans from Europe and the States using authentic materials and centuries-old methods of building and design to craft a structure that appears constructed during the Beaux Arts heyday of the late 1800s. Expert craftsmen hand-carved interior and exterior limestone, and fire forged and formed intricately-detailed iron railing by hand.

Below, home furnishings featuring the Heiress collection. I could sit and stare at this image: the busy, filled-to-the-rim bookcase; the dreamy chandelier; the faded oriental carpet; the empty frames leaned against the wall.
Photo by Joshua McHugh, courtesy of Architectural Digest

As for his interiors, Ralph Lauren maintains the same principle for all of his stores or homes: his affinity for natural materials. "I like materials that get better with age, like leather, marble, exotic woods. They provide a sense of value." His personal interior designer for nearly two decades, the late, great Naomi Leff, shared Lauren's design affinity for natural materials, and had buyers scour the planet for antiques crafted from the materials Lauren favors for his stores and homes.

In the photo below, you see the some of Lauren's favorite interior design elements: the crystal chandelier, the French furniture, the thread-bare oriental rugs. The two dried grass 'poufs' give a great textural element to the space.

Below, from the Ralph Lauren home collection. Here's a prime example of how neutral colors don't necessarily mean boring. Again, another image I could stare at for a while, taking in all the details.

Photographed by Michael Lisnet, courtesy of Vogue
Below, the VIP suite, where the women's Made to Measure service will debut. Chinoiserie wallpaper by Ralph Lauren Home.

Across the street from the Beaux Arts Mansion housing Ralph Lauren's Womens and Home collection is the newly-renovated Rhinelander Mansion, below, which has contained the Menswear collection since the mid 1980s. Stunning!

Photo courtesy of Polo-Fashion Parties

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ruffles, Ruffles Everywhere!

Christian Dior haute couture
Ruffles are in full swing in both interior design and fashion for 2011. They're fun, flirty, drop-dead feminine, and add movement, even if you're standing still. If you incorporate only one style element to update your wardrobe or interior design this year, it's hard to get more bang for the buck than ruffles.

Below, a gorgeous ruffled tablecloth from A Beach Cottage. I would particularly love this tablescape at a luncheon, with a gentle breeze from an open window generating gentle movement in the fabric.

Dolce & Gabbana sends a diaphanous, ruffled floor-length floral down the runway for their Spring 2011 show.

Below, CAbi, from their Spring 2011 collection, illustrates how to incorporate a runway couture ruffle trend into your everyday look. Combine a ruffled shirt under a structured blazer and you're ready for a style that flows seamlessly from work to play.

What 's better than one ruffled bedskirt? Two ruffled bedskirts softens this small bedroom, giving it a decidedly romantic, cottage feel.

Courtesy of
And how could anyone have a bad day wearing these Balenciaga wool ruffled shoes!

Interior Designer Sally Wheat covered her English saddle arm chairs in eggplant-colored linen with extra-long ruffles.

Courtesy of Cote de Texas
Gina from the Shabby Chic Cottage sewed  these ruffled curtains in 30 minutes. It would take me that long just to figure out how to turn on my sewing machine!

Heavy wool clothing inspired this felt-covered chair from Sweden's Fredrik Farg. The designer said that this design is a nod to menswear, though with a ruffle to soften the look.

I just love this! Designer Shannon Bowers had this slipcover made with a double ruffle effect.

Courtesy of Cote de Texas

Even the lowly laundry bag can be glammed-up with ruffles! And why not?? Even I might crack a smile tackling laundry in this Urban Outfitter bag. 

Designer Lauren Ross slipcovered her dining room chairs in linen with a soft double ruffle. What a great look!