As I mentioned in my previous post, Costuming the Crown, a few weeks ago I went to visit Winterthur, the renowned museum founded by Henry Francis duPont. The house had been his family home which over decades he slowly transformed into an enormous museum housing his world class collection of early American furniture and decorative arts.
Now as one can imagine this method of enlarging any building can result in a building that is at best cacophonous and some might say a hot mess. I know calling beloved Winterthur a hot mess may not be the most popular opinion to hold, but architecturally speaking can anyone suggest otherwise? The collection is world class, the interiors are superb with the best quality of lighting I have ever seen, but the building itself is not so good.
Two photos above you see the original front entry which had been abandoned from that use and now acts as the conservatory door.
This isn't a pretty house museum and no one is visiting for the architecture; See the elevations above which I found on Winterthur's blog to prove my point. This house is all about the interior. As Frank Lloyd Wright suggested "A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines" and that seems to be the approach taken here: one cannot fully see the house due to the lush trees and planting.
However the interiors are strikingly lovely and really that is why one visits. Above is the Chinese Parlor, obviously named after the 19th century wallpaper, which is one of the favorite rooms in the house. My favorite part of any tour are the stories about how the family lived. I love that they keep fresh flowers in the rooms and show faux martinis and hors d'oeurvres (period appropriate to the early 20th century of course!) which make the house feel alive.
Watch a great tour of the room with Bob Villa on youtube HERE. As I visited in summer the famous green damask upholstery was seasonably covered in yellow slipcovers. The duPonts had cocktails before meals in this room.
The family moved out of the house in the 50s so it could be totally converted to museum use, and many of the other spaces don't show their original purpose as they have become more institutional. The small anteroom below is seen on the plan above just north of the 'empire parlor'. Another example is all of the guest baths have been gutted to show more of the collections as well.
The Baltimore drinking room, named after the suite of furniture, features another 19th century scenic wallpaper, 'Paysages Italien' by Desfosse & Karth.
The China Hall features beautiful built-ins showcasing the porcelain collection. The china in the cupboards below belonged to Martha Washington and is a larger collection than the one at Mt Vernon.
The immense scale of the building creates some strikingly lovely enfilades. Notice the subtle lighting creating warm pools of light - #goals.
The stairhall features another beautiful scenic wallpaper.
This lovely green space is the candlestick room but would make an excellent butler's pantry!
As I mentioned previously Winterthur takes great pains to recreate life as it was in the early 20th century for the duPonts.
The number of rooms and fireplaces are staggering. Although very different, this collection of period paneling and architectural pieces does bring to mind another early 20th century collector, William Randolph Hearst (of Hearst Castle fame). Winterthur does not like that comparison -haha. I however love Hearst Castle (see my myriad posts on that house in the search box in my sidebar).
The 'Empire Parlor' (seen on the plan above) is charmingly set for the duPont daughter's childhood birthday party.
The rather stiff Marlboro Room is set for afternoon tea with an impressive display of silver.
One of the masterpieces at Winterthur is the Montmorenci staircase which was taken from an early 19th century North Carolina mansion and rebuilt at Winterthur, described as the largest freestanding spiral staircase in the United States.
The stair is really quite the thing!
As you can see from the swimming pool in the photo below, the house is kept well hidden behind lush trees.
I do love this figural pool filler!
My favorite part of the grounds however would have to be the teahouse in the backyard (note the classroom and library space beyond).
The view of the teahouse from the lower garden feels like part of a fortress.
Inspiration is everywhere - the floors to the changing room in the poolhouse were the most lovely combination of brick and slate.
Winterthur is open most days of the week and I highly recommend a visit!
Last month I went to Winterthur (for the first time no less, can you believe it?) and while Winterthur is of course worth many trips of its own, the reason for the visit was to see "Costuming THE CROWN"(open until January 5, 2020).
I'm a huge fan of the Netflix series so was really excited to see the costumes from this ground breaking 'tv' show. I must have watched the first 2 seasons at least 3 times through.
I have to comment on the magic of tv. The show looks so lush and luxe on the small screen (literally, as I often watch on my phone!) but in person everything looked fake and flat! However the details and thought put into the costumes were really incredible.
The exhibit walks one through the process of creating costumes for such well -known real life characters (some of whom are still living), where they documented exact costumes and where they had more freedom to create in the vein of the time period (50s-60s London).
I especially loved seeing the concept sketches with the actual final costumes, such as this one created for the Duchess of Windsor.
The notes on the side of the sketches give real incite into the characters- "NOT pearls" for Princess Margaret - costume design is so fascinating!
Emmy award winning Season 2, episode 2, of when the Kennedys visit London was probably the most fun for the costume designer. The elegant Parisian dress designed for Jackie vs. the rather dumpy gown of the queen says so much about their characters.
No detail was overlooked, medals, orders, they're all there!
I don't have a picture but the padded bodysuit made for John Lithgow's amazing transformation into Winston Churchill was the highlight of the exhibit!
Queen Mary loved her jewels and her costumes were bedecked with paste which glitters so convincingly on screen yet is so flat and dull in person.
The wedding dresses of both Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were mostly faithful reproductions (adjustments to fit the actresses proportions as well as to make them more palatable to modern audiences) and the stark contrast just echoed the differences in character of the sisters. Below the embellished gown of the Queen.
The 'embroidered' dress Princess Margaret wears when she plays queen for the day is actually painted onto the fabric, which I think is even more interesting and beautiful up close (although the creepy mannequin gives me nightmares). Read this fascinating interview about the costumes Princess Margaret wears with actress Vanessa Kirby HERE at Harpers Bazaar.
The recreation of the famous red box was so fun to see too - wish they sold these in the gift shop!
Season 3 of The Crown will come out later this year and anticipation is building; Hurry up Netflix! The new cast who will play the older characters just proves how popular this series has become: gorgeous Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret (I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS).
And the equally fabulous Olivia Colman will play the queen. She's not a natural choice to me but she's so fantastic I'm sure she will pull it off. I CANNOT WAIT! Sidenote: have you seen "The Favourite" for which Colman won an Oscar? While the movie is historically flawed it's an amazing performance and fascinating film.
As always images are my own with the exception of the last 2 stills from Netflix.
The space is so good that in fact it was the only room to be directly COPIED on a sound stage for the filming of The Grass is Greener - in which it appears for only a matter of moments. That's a lot of expense although perhaps it was used in scenes which hit the editing room floor? I wonder what happened to the scenery after filming?
Above is Cary Grant on a brief walk through the house (actually sets on a London sound stage) with his butler before opening to the paying public in The Grass is Greener.
Although it was meant as the Entrance Hall today on a tour of the house it's actually one of the last rooms you see; although you catch a glimpse of it from the long gallery central doors (below) earlier in the tour. Those are the 'front doors' of the house.
The Entrance Hall was completely redesigned by Robert Adam during the extensive renovations to the Tudor house by removing one portion of the block of the house, essentially creating a U shaped plan. One enters up a grand exterior stair and through what was formerly a totally enclosed courtyard which makes for a truly impressive processional entrance. The wing of the house which was removed was replaced with a classical screen which acts as a covered porch. Even the ceiling of that outdoor space has elaborate plaster-work. One only wishes the current tour took this same path rather than in through the family entrance past service spaces on the Ground floor.
The hall was used for more than just grand entrances though; the family would use the room for dining and overflow from the long gallery during the weekend parties and balls they would throw.
Every inch of this space and surface is designed to complement all aspects of the room. The floor reflects the ceiling, the wall panels encase armorial panels, and even the furniture was designed by Adam.
The soft french grey and ivory white are excellent foils for the limestone floors and mantelpieces.
These lovely sconces designed by Adam grace elaborate plaster brackets.
At either end of the room are apses which function as inglenooks without the built-in seating.
The flowers in the firebox are decidedly odd but don't distract from the perfection of every detail.
This limestone mantel would be stunning on a flat wall let along softly and impressively curved to fit the wall.
Imagine having to do the math to figure out the details of the curved ceiling - no 2 pieces are alike.
Notice too the built-in window seats facing the courtyard.
I think mahogany doors within painted trim are one of my favorite details in life.
The Greek key cornice, which normally would be one of the first things I'd notice, is almost lost amongst the exuberant plaster-work.
Greek key too in the classical overdoor (and who doesn't love an enfilade?).
The small vestibules on either end of the entrance hall have the most beautiful groin vaulted ceilings perhaps I have ever seen. A shame more discreet smoke detectors could not be found! Perhaps it would be better more in alignment with the pattern?
I recently took a birthday trip to England to fulfill a lifelong obsession with English Country houses by touring 8 houses in 8 days. Many of these houses only survive thanks to the National Trust and visitors (and tax payer funds of course). I have to say they are exquisitely run with great cafes, well maintained gardens, and really good gift shops (I bought a tea towel for the kitchen at each house). With a membership to the National Trust (or their sister organization The Royal Oak Foundation) you gain access to many of these houses for free and help in their preservation. American house museums take note, you have a lot to learn from the British!
Rather than share over 2,000 photos I took and bore everyone to death I thought I might perhaps share a highlight. Both my favorite house AND my favorite room are the one and only Osterley Park by Robert Adams and the Etruscan dressing room.
I first became aware of the house not through any scholarly research on Robert Adams but rather through my love of film. The house has been featured in dozens over movies over the years and uses the fees to help in restoration as well as raise awareness(brilliant!). In fact a portion of the house was closed the day we visited due to filming; I missed the upstairs family bedrooms, the library, and most of the service spaces on the ground floor (although saw what was the nicest servants hall in all of England I would bet).
My favorite movie featuring the house is the charming "The Grass is Greener" from 1960 featuring Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Jean Simmons. While only the exterior of the house was actually used in filming, a number of the interiors were used as inspiration for the extravagant sound-stage sets (more on that in my next post).
The State bedchamber is one of the major public spaces off the gallery and salons, never really used for sleeping, and the Etruscan dressing room was really more of a sitting room. It all starts with the doors, below.
Probably the most scholarly room in the house, Adam took 4 years to research the design of the motifs scattered around the space (1754-1758) during his 20 years of completely renovating this Tudor house from top to bottom into the height of (his brand of) classicism. As throughout the house he designed everything: trim work, wall treatments, furniture, curtains, in fact everything down to the very design for the firescreen which the lady of the house embroidered. Actually, his first design was overly complicated for Mrs Child so he designed a 2nd simpler version.
Most of the designs are individually hand painted onto paper and pasted onto the walls: almost like decoupage. Imagine having to paint dozens of identical decorations!
While the house was built in the 16th century, in 1761 the owners of the house, the Child banking family, hired Robert Adams to renovate the house on the outskirts of London into a weekend party house for entertaining. It stayed in the family until 1939 when it was opened for public tours and then it was used by the government during WWII. This is a very abbreviated version of its history but we're here for pretty pictures, not a full history lesson.
The reason the entire Adam's design stayed intact was the house was never actually fully lived in and was only one of many houses within the family. The house was given to the National Trust in 1991 and some of the artwork (removed by the 9th Earl of Jersey in 1947) has slowly been returned by the family. The furniture stayed together as a collection because it was sold to the V&A after WWII and so was returned to the house.
I apologize for so many of my photographs but it was all so beautiful I couldn't weed any out!
Notice how the details in the woodwork are all picked out in different colors. Imagine painting all of that with a tiny little brush!
Here is the aforementioned firescreen designed by Adams for Lady Child. These firescreens kept the heat of the fire from melting the makeup from the faces of women (and probably some men given the time period!).
The details in the frame were just amazing - grey background with black and red detailing -yes please!
Keep in mind this was the 18th century and everything you see was hand carved: so intricate!
Lion motifs everywhere. I love the ribbed and swirled base.
A pineapple finial for hospitality.
The fireplace garnitures are also just painted onto the wall on either side of the mantel.
Notice the pin prick in the center of the motif above? That's from the compass used to draw the circles.
This chair-rail almost looked Egyptian to me with the leaves at the very bottom. I love that when you see everything from afar it looks crisp and perfect but when you get close you see the wonkiness and can tell its all hand done.
So many patterns. Notice below the jambs of the integrated window shutters with the swags and urns? That just screams Robert Adams to me.
See a great video of the house exterior and interior on youtube HERE Read more about the Childs family and Robert Adams HERE at a great blog, lostpastremembered. Visit the house yourself and be sure to stop in the cafe for lunch HERE. All photos with the exception of the movie poster are my own.
This past week I had the pleasure of touring this year's Kips Bay Showhouse, the most venerated of showhouses, where the best of the best get together to raise funds for after-school programs in New York City through what may best be described as a celebration of design. I toured the house from the top down, always a good idea, and so these pictures are in that order.
The first room I visited was that of talented designer Matthew Monroe Bees who created a sitting room straight out of Charleston which spoke to my classicist collector. This is a cozy room for LIVING and I could spend all day here.
The most fun room of the house had to be that of designer Young Huh where she created a lively and exuberant artist's loft. While I hadn't fully appreciated the room in photographs before my visit, in person it really blew me away with its witty details and lovely scents (most designers spend as much time on fragrance in these rooms as they do on the look!).
On the other end of the color spectrum was the room of Sarah Bartholomew. Her quiet room whispered elegance and fine detailing with a lot less color than we have come to expect from her. This was hands down the most beautiful room in the house I think, but one that has to be seen in person to fully appreciate. The ribbed plaster walls were show stopping.
This mirror from Cox London would have come home with me had I been prone to stealing; I'm rather obsessed with it now. Readers may remember her more colorful but no-less-sophisticated room from the 2017 Atlanta Showhouse which I covered HERE.
The painted floors warmed my heart - casual yet elegant in shades of warm grey.
While not technically a room, one of the vast improvements (to the rather rough house) had to be the stair decorated by Brian Gluckstein. His sophisticated treatment of the lovely round stair made traversing the crowded showhouse a pleasure.
The cherry blossom mobile was an inspired addition that tied all of the floors together. The lovely architectural molding you see on the walls is actually painted onto grasscloth with the punches of gallery-wall art featuring paintings by artist Jeremiah Goodman.
Robert Passal has created a stunning sitting room with modern details that is pure comfort with an edge. I was a bit obsessed with the rock crystal box on the coffee table above (and it wasn't even the only one in the house!).
Very much following my own maxim of taking what you have and making it better, the team at Pappas Miron inherited a room with amazing terrazzo floors and fireplace and used them as the basis for a room rich in detail. This dark and stylish room is straight out of Milan.
However it was the marble vanity and mirror in the adjoining bathroom that took my breathe away. Stunning! Quick design house question though - why so few bedrooms, designers? Are sitting rooms inherently more interesting or easier than bedrooms? When I think back to prior showhouses it is always the bedrooms which stick out in my mind. Remember Mark Sikes room at last year's Kips Bay (Video HERE)? Probably my favorite Kips Bay room of all time. Just a thought....
Lovely designer J Cohler Mason won for best wall covering in the small vestibule leading to her exquisite space. The handpainted wallpaper covering the walls and ceiling appeared to be cast bronze - and the painted bees swarming the ceiling stole my heart.
I'm not sure if designer Eve Robinson installed this amazing mid-century glass doorknob outside of her fun room or elected to keep it -but either way it was a winning decision!
One room getting the most buzz has to be the room done for Peter Pennoyer architects by their designer Alice Engel. I wanted each and every item in this room. While the pieces themselves are exquisite they were tied together by the upholstered walls and bed. Just google her name to see myriad detailed images of the Greek key tape on the retro blinds (which I adore).
Details matter - doorknobs, electrical outlets, mechanical covers. Don't believe me? How special is this light switch? Every night one would appreciate the brass switch on a glass cover....rather than the standard gross plastic. Details matter and this room is full of them. Don't get me started on ugly mechanical vents you see in projects littering magazines, straight out of home depot.
The yellow lining to the canopy bed is a surprise and makes the room.
Seriously good guys - congrats to Alice Engel. Why do I repeat her name? Well I always feel when one works for a firm ones name can get lost in the mix. I know. But teamwork and identity is a good thing.
Moving on - the dining room by Cullman & Kravis was as stunning as one would expect from this team that continually knocks projects out of the park. The mix of modern and antique is very real world, if your world is picture perfect!
The depth to these walls was impossible to photograph and the gilt specs and then applied gilt plaster medallions are just stunning. Also notice the unlaquered brass light switches.
Kitchens and built-ins always interest me most and Christopher Peacock is known for the best kitchens around. The details here did not disappoint. I loved the brass detailing around the walnut shelves.
The inset door's sticking was a little chunky but obviously intentional. Notice the fascinating marble backsplash and the shiplap walnut hood cover:2 thumbs up. Stained wood interiors to a painted glass front cabinet is going into my mental idea book.
These are not a comprehensive look at the entire showhouse but rather what caught my eye (it is my blog afterall!). Everyone involved put forth tremendous effort and every single designer is to be applauded; talk to me privately about my more negative feedback! KIDDING (mostly) although I admittedly had a few "WHAT" moments! Visit the house for yourself now, daily through May 30, 2019.
In this age of computer-aided everything (CAD, sketch-up, photoshop, etc) it's refreshing to know there are those in the architectural community who still draw by hand. No computer model, no matter how realistic, can ever replace the warmth and depth of information imparted by hand rendering. More than just an art form, it's a communication technique!
Architect David Barrett McTyre, whose proposed chicken coop for Esther's farm in Olive Branch, Mississippi, seen above, is proof that even the most informative construction drawings don't need to be boring. McTyre states that "hand drawings are much more enjoyable and descriptive than Autocad drawings". You know that these drawings are later cherished and probably framed by the owners, not thrown in the trash like most construction sets.
Architect Robert Mellin, in his drawing of the Lane house, seen above, shows how the analytique can impart more information on a project than an entire stack of drawings. As stated about his work in the book, these drawings straddle the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
In her book Moses allows the drawings to mostly speak for themselves, imparting a short blurb on each architect or designer, and speak they do. Never forget that a picture is worth ten thousand words! Let's revive the art of hand drafting and be sure to check out Single-Handedly!
What makes this book different from others on the same subject is not only the never-before-published, full-page photographs to drool over but FLOORPLANS for many of the houses! I know that will draw some attention from ArchitectDesign readers!
Not all of the houses featured are turn of the last century either, with many new builds and even some modern projects such as this sinuous house seen above in Seal Harbor by architect Peter Forbes built for a scientist. I love the little 'labs' on the roof.
My favorite of the featured houses though has to be the gambrel roofed Mallinckrodt Cottage from 1898, seen above, in Jamestown, RI. Notice the charming views from the living room windows below. If one has to be indoors at a beach house you may as well have water views (including views of other houses!) and a fireplace.
The sweeping screened porch of Rosserne, below, in Northeast Harbor isn't so bad either! Nap time on that chaise longue perhaps?
I think most bloggers get an annoying amount of junk email from publicists, but every once in awhile one sees something so special it speaks to you and you want to share it with your readers. This was the case when this renovation project by architect Tim Brown from Austin Texas landed in my inbox.
While this may not necessarily be the type of thing I normally feature here on ArchitectDesign, I think good design comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. It's not all classical all the time but rather architecture is a formula to fix all problems and appropriateness is key. The most surprising thing about this project is just how little it took to take a really awful suburban house and turn it into something special.
When the clients found the house it was the most unfriendly looking facade you could ever find. However using the good bones which were hidden and with minimal work the architect was able to make this nothing-burger of a house really shine through minor re-organization of spaces and new finishes. That's what a good architect can do for you, particularly in a renovation like this, make what you already have work!
We always telling clients to look beyond what is there now and think about what it can be. Maybe the golden rule of real estate (location location location) is the motivating factor or perhaps other fundamental qualities of the house are appealing. In this case the mid-century design translated well into a more contemporary and friendly home.
Stepping inside, right way the changes are drastic but minimal. Changing out the private courtyard obscuring the front door into an open and friendly entry are welcoming. Re-configuring the stair still allows for the rest of the house to feel private (and points you closer to the kitchen for midnight snacks!)
In this before shot you can see how previously the stairs dumped you into the entry landing -and the home depot doors did not fit the style of the house.
I imagine furring in the ceiling beams not only created a clean aesthetic for the double height living room but allowed for insulation as well.
The reconfiguration continued with the flipping of the kitchen and former dining room space off the living room. Now the dining table enjoys views of the pool deck (more on that later) while the kitchen stays central to the space. This is the same room!
The new contemporary stair railing fits nicely with the mid-century vibe while the Ann Sacks tiles lining the stair stringer are also a fun nod to the past.
A wall of storage separates the dining from the living room; the verticals are another mid-century design detail. Now the house is full of light and views of the backyard.
I believe most families today live at their kitchen island and this one has center stage in the new kitchen.
The den tucked behind the dining room allows for privacy during game day or movie night.
The existing mid-century clerestory windows work well in the new contemporary bathrooms. I'm always intrigued by these 'wet rooms' within bathrooms. Here you see the tub inside the shower enclosure; it feels so convenient and easy to use.
While the front of the house was nicely cleaned up, the back of the house really shines now with a new cantilevered roof which expands the living footprint of the house. I can imagine spending a lot of time back here!
Previously the back of the house was a design afterthought - who would want to spend time there?
You can take or leave the swimming pool (ok, actually take!) but the cute dog stays for sure. Save the best for last!
Many thanks to Tim Brown architecture for sharing this lovely renovation with us; if you don't like what you have, you can always get what you like with the imagination of an architect or designer!
One of the great charities of Great Britain (and beyond) is the Landmark Trust. While we all talk about restoring significant old houses they are out there doing the hard work to the most vulnerable properties. Many times they restore structures that are seen as beyond saving that don't necessarily make any sense financially but how do you put a pricetag on our cultural heritage? The best part is most are available to rent for your vacations after restoration!
Later this summer for my birthday this year I'm actually renting the small folly shown in these pictures. For 4 days I'll be calling this miniature chateau home as I travel around the countryside visiting stately homes!
However, when the Trust acquired the house in 1982 it was in the state seen above; a total reconstruction! Read more about the restoration HERE if interested. The funds raised by the Trust through donations, holiday rentals, and different events helps to fund these restorations.
Currently they are running a lottery promotion to raise funds to save Fairburn tower- each ticket enters you to win one of 7 prizes; money towards your own rentals! Buy your tickets for the raffle HERE by May 17, 2019. As you can see below the tower really needs major work in order to survive.
In a few short years the tower will be a lovely, habitable house again that you can rent for your family for an unforgettable vacation!
The standards of the Trust are extremely high as seen here by the charming interiors of the Chateau. I can't wait to call this home!
Not all of the rentals are this small, many are full houses and even castles for all of your family and friends and at great rates I might add.
Next vacation (or holiday given the country in which they mostly operate) consider renting your own castle and put your money where your mouth is regarding historic preservation. Visit The Landmark Trust HERE.