Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Kitchen Dresser

Interior Design and Decorating author, Mary Gilliatt, defines DRESSER this way: "An old term for a sideboard or buffet with a cupboard and shelves for plate and dish storage and display. In the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Scotland) and by extension Ireland, this term still applies to a hutch or a two-doored cupboard with shelves, or a smaller cupboard with shelves above.

These are the ones which make it for me. Hope that you enjoyed seeing what I think of as some of the best examples of that type of versatile kitchen furniture.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Successfully Decorating the Long and Narrow Room.

There are not many examples of the successful decoration of the long narrow rooms that most of us live with in the real world.
Here are a selection of narrow and longish rooms, from my own decorating books.   Enjoy.

In order of appearance: Country by Judith Miller. 2006, Aurum Press Ltd. London, England. photography by Simon Upton.
Nina Campbell's Decorating Secrets. Text by Helen Chislett. 2000, McArthur & Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. photography by Jan Baldwin.
The House & Garden Book of Classic Rooms by Robert Harling, Leonie Highton, John Bridges. 1991, Conde Nast Publications Ltd. Photography by Fritz von der Schulenberg.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Not Your Usual Mirror

This mirror, with its similarly gilded over painting, is in France. The ceiling must be very tall indeed for this combination to have been attempted. At a guess, the ceiling could be about 20 feet high. 
This is a remarkable picture of a surviving 18th century, domestic, interior scene; both very grand and very homely: exquisite carving and gilding and colourful painting combined with rough textures of rubble within the fireplace and logs casually leaning against an adjacent scratched wall. It is not what I would have ever expected to see, in a book dedicated to showcasing French interiors which date from the 18th century.

But back to that very grand mirror and its equally grand over painting which tops everything off with wit and colour. Mirrors and over paintings like these are not the usual choice except for very grand interior decorating schemes. In the past, when this type of mirror, with or without the over painting, was included in an interior design scheme it meant just one thing really: new money pretending to be tasteful, old world money.

I once found one of these mirror and over painting combinations, in one piece, at an auction. It was a laugh-out-loud moment when I discovered that outside of the mirror, everything else was plastic and spray "gold". It was so authentic looking that I had to physically touch it to be really sure that it was Plastic! Delightful! I think it would be great fun to have the plastic rendion casually leaning against the wall, as if it were on its way out to a client.  I wish I had bought it. But, I was thinking in a practical way that day - no wall space left in my apartment. This sort of plastic rendition, of course, is meant to be installed in one's grandiose livingroom or front parlor to emulate the moneyed classes. 
Most of the time, these unusual mirror and over painting combinations are on the same wood background or are connected by applied and gilded decoration. The cost of anything with true 18th century pedigree means that you place them in a room with some of your best collections. Nowadays this creates a whole picture of decorating assurance.
The picture above is just such a combination of painted and carved and gilded wood backed mirror and overpainting. And it is exquisite.
Here is the last and smallest wood mounted mirror and over painting; freed from any immediate connection to an underlying console table or fireplace mantle.
It adds a grace note to a corner of this drawing room. The rest of the furniture is rather grand but this combination of mirror and over painting has no trouble standing up to it.

In order of appearance:
The French Interior in the Eighteenth Century. John Whitehead. 1992, Laurance King Publishing. Photography by J.M. Tardy.
Hunt Country Style. Kathryn Masson. 2008, Rizzoli, New York. Photography by Paul Rocheleau.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

This is a wonderful, if simplified version of a particular type of mirrored frame. These particular mirrored frames used to be made, exclusively, in Venice. At the Toronto Interior Design Show of about four years ago, a vendor proudly declared to me that his company always has their Venetian-inspired mirrored frames made in China. I must admit that I felt disappointed to hear that news. Venetian glass, you see, has always carried a certain cache that the Chinese manufactured product has not yet achieved.  No doubt the Chinese can create this type of mirrored frame much more cheaply than the Venetians, but part of the Venetian appeal was its expense and therefore its relative rarity in anyone's home apart from those who were fortunate enough to have inherited an example.

Here is another example of a mirrored frame, framing a mirror. It is situated, as is often the custom, over the fireplace acting as an exclamation point over the other countrified elements of the room. It's even slightly glamorous. It lifts the non-beveled mirror out of being just an ordinary thing. Fireplaces are often focal points in a room. In this picture, the fireplace is fighting for visual space, visual recognition even, with that tall scenic screen.  It is never a good idea to have the fireplace, alone, stand out too much. It must work with the rest of the furniture and decorative collections to create a unified whole. A complete vignette, therefore, has been created so that the mirror, the glass and brass on the mantle and even that wastepaper basket all visually hold together and hold their own in the generally countrified yet sophisticated atmosphere of the larger room. Therefore, there is no visual fight between all the decorative furniture elements within the room. All of the furniture works together to achieve a unified effect, namely Suggestively Sophisticated Country.
Here is an example of the most modern type of mirrored frame: polished chromium (usually known as 'chrome' - like that on automobiles).
In this example, a regular marble-topped vanity has been given a decidedly urbane and sophisticated edge just by using this old industrial process, polished chrome.

In order of appearence:
Perfect English. Ryland Peters & Small. 2007. photography by Chris Tubbs.
Hunt Country Style. Rizzoli, New York. 2008. photography by Paul Rocheleau.
American Modern. Abrams, New York. 2010. photography by Laura Resen.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The not quite perfect picture frame: this frame is in fact mirrored. You can see that by the fact that not all of the frame is there. At first glance, I thought that it was a silvered frame. But, there are pieces of bare wood. And the exposed pieces have just been left bare. Since this is from a particular designer's book, I was surprised to see that the frame was not perfect. 

Just in time I remembered, this is an English decorating book, and that means that overall style and a certain appropriateness, as the late Nancy Lancaster might put it, trumps the will to perfect every time.

The English know how to use the not-quite-perfect in their decorating schemes. And the effect? 
Do you agree?

Nina Campbell's Decorating Notebook. Clarkson Potter Publishers. 2004. Photographs by Jan Baldwin.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

If It Is Summer, Then It Must Mean That It Is Time to Re-Condition Our Air

It is July 5th and it is going to be a "scorcher" out there. My thoughts naturally turn to the task of re-conditioning the air inside my dwelling. I live in a mid-century apartment building (1960's). My apartment is quite small, which is a plus when it comes to re-conditioning the indoor air. It is easy to get it right without spending lots of money on the ever increasing price of electricity. My options for this air re-conditioning practice include multiple fans, window air conditioners, ductless air conditioners, and free-standing air conditioners - which unfortunately do not have a good reputation for doing the job, but I won't get into that here.
The other option that is open to some apartment dwellers is to install Central Air, a wonderful luxury! Doing that involves all sorts of renovation tricks that I have never been faced with. Here is a picture of Lee Radziwill's former New York apartment livingroom with one cold air vent, high on the wall: please look closely at the upper left part of the picture, you will see the telltale sign of a central air conditioning vent. From what can be seen in this picture, this one vent is supposed to cool the entire room!
The second picture is of an apartment bedroom from Nina Campbell's 2004 book. Like the smaller vent in Ms. Radziwill's former livingroom, this one is also positioned on the upper part of the wall and also overhangs a doorway. Is this significant, do you think?
I have been in newer apartment buildings, here in London, Ontario, Canada, where the builders have combined the air conditioning aparatus in with the ductwork for the heating system: AT FLOOR LEVEL!! Can you believe it? This is builder efficient NOT energy efficient!
Both Ms. Campbell and Ms. Radziwill got it right.

I'm going to look into this and report back in a future post.

Nina Campbell's Decorating Notebook.
Clarkson Potter Publishers; 2004. Photography by Jan Baldwin.