Sure, you are probably thinking, Versailles? That's a pretty ornate place. Home to the French Monarchy, built by Louis the XIV, the King that believed himself to be a reincarnation of the sun, and the palace where Marie Antoinette infamously proclaimed the starving street urchins of Paris should eat cake if they had no bread. No, not much simplicity there. However, just because I enjoy creating minimal spaces doesn't mean I don't love pomp and occasionally even some circumstance. I actually secretly love it often. But the thing I love most about Versailles? Its highly ordered nature, everywhere you look.Those of you not familiar with the enfilade, it is a fabulous French invention which entails lining things up to create a charming and visually pleasing symmetrical axis upon which one can look down. Once the French came upon this idea, they just ran with it. Rooms were aligned, buildings were aligned, plants were aligned, even trees were aligned. The more symmetrical the better. You can walk for miles throughout the so-called 'forests' of Versailles, never happening upon another tourist, and never leave the perfectly aligned trees. It is a highly pleasing effect.
3. ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL
Granted St. Paul's Cathedral is by no means the most stunning cathedral in Europe or even in London. But there is a quite quality to it that stays with me. My design students were none too thrilled with this Baroque structure; they all had difficulty understanding why it was great in any sense. Its scale and mass is lost in photographs. The sense of solitude and weight only manifests as you stand, in the middle of a horribly busy city, looking straight up at its monumental dome. When you are there, you know. Sir Christopher Wren, I take my hat off to you. If only the Monarch had allowed you to rebuild all of London after the great fire of 1666. Next time you are in London, go.
4. THE PERFECT CABRIOLE LEG
5. SOTHEBY'S (NOT CHRISTIES) TILT-TOP TEA TABLE
It is likely no surprise there is a little bit of a rivalry between the two biggest auction houses in the world. But sales rarely match up so closely as they did in the fall/winter of 2007/08. Picture it: two remarkably rare tea tables carved by the very same anonymous but well documented so-called 'Garvan Carver'. (Doesn't that name, the Garvan Carver, have a great air mystery and romance? It rolls off the tongue so sweetly.) Each table turning up essentially out of nowhere, the first auctioned at Christies....the second at Sotheby's. Which one will be more coveted? Which one will be fought over by the most influential American collectors of the day? Which one will sell for more money? Ah, how the rumors flew...who wanted which, who owned which, which was better? And finally the day of the Christies sale came. And the competition was fierce...and then, in a matter of mere minutes, the Christies table became the most expensive piece of American furniture ever sold at auction. $6.7 million. Wow. But what was to become of the Sotheby's table? The one many experts felt to be superior? Alas, it was not the first, it was the second. And nobody wants the second one. Almost nobody. A mere $1.6 million. But man, what a bargain. It might be number two, but when it's this stunning, who cares? Obviously I share the tastes of buyer number two. Good job.