Thursday, May 27, 2010


Well everyone (9 followers allows me to say everyone), lets wander (yes, we are wandering today instead of strolling) back in time again, to a time before Salt Lake (city that is, not the actual Salt Lake, that was here long before Drayton Hall)....
Starting roughly where we left off...the height of American design, that is...


Of course, photos do NOT do this Georgian home any kind of justice. Another stunner from the deep South, not far from Charleston. Just about everything is painted the most stunning blue-green color, and the carvings, oh the carvings. The woodwork is exquisite. And the best part is that the building has essentially remained untouched since it was built in 1738. And one of the most remarkable aspects when visiting is the fact that the home is completely open year round. I mean all the doors and windows remain in the open position. There is no a/c, no humidity control, no nothing. Just the Southern breeze flowing straight through. It is such a change from the standard stuffy historic house visit. The other great thing is the lack of furniture and annoying carpet runners standard to such homes. You can wander freely through, without having to worry about stepping on the original carpet or bumping into a priceless antique. There is such a different sense of really being in the space. It is a wonderful experience; please visit!

This photo courtesy of

A few detail shots:


Robert Adam was a genius in so many ways... space planning, furniture design, architecture. However, if I had to pick one aspect of his brilliant and blessed career, I easily pick his plaster ceilings. They are so delicate, so subtle, and yet so bold at the same time. They are essentially the two-dimensional architectural version of Wedgewood. And who can't appreciate that!

Detail shot:


Adam in Wedgewood:

I LOVE when he mirrors the ceiling design in the flooring design as seen here (photo from the book 'The Hyde Park Antiques Collection' by Emily Evans Eerdmans):


Minimalism in the 18TH CENTURY! Remember when we talked about minimalism and the antique? Well here it is again. Sir Soane was a real leader in this area, in both his exteriors and interiors. But his exteriors strike a special cord with me, so I thought I would show a few. The facades are so devoid of ornament and so blocky, yet they are ultimately elegant and highly refined. While some today might have thoughts of power plants or water treatment facilities, you must remember what he was designing next to. These facades were quite revolutionary in their simplicity.
Shotesham Park 1785:

Letton Hall 1783:

Dulwich Picture Gallery 1817:

Two typical facades of the time (still classical, but a lot more decorative and fussy than above):


Hope was a purist. A real purist. Convinced the "distasteful" antiquity knock-offs so popular in the Neoclassical period were just horrid, he decided to design his own house to better educate the London set.

A "horrid" (according to Hope, not me) Neoclassical chair with an shield-back (classical-inspired in motif but not form)

In his themed house (each room had a classical theme such as the Egypt Room, the Vase Room, etc) he displayed what he considered 'authentic' furniture he himself designed based on Greek, Roman and Egyptian originals. Well, I am not sure how many originals he actually saw, because he came up with these, um, interesting pieces.

Now don't get me wrong, I think these are pretty awesome, however, I think they might not be much truer to the originals than the Neoclassical he so abhorred.

Vase showing Greek Klismos chair (I see a few similarities to above, but it is not exactly a pure copy):

But you know the Brits, they always have a somewhat different perspective on things. Anyway, Hope had a great big party in his new home and invited everyone who was anyone, including the Prince Regent, and well, the more correct form of neoclassical, the "Empire" style or "Regency" style (English term) took off and enjoyed great popularity in the UK.

Regency Klismos chair:

So ultimately, Hope did get his wish, and did change tastes for the more pure. He just maybe stumbled a bit along the way. If you want to see more Hope, check out the site for the fantastic V&A exhibit I was privileged enough to see in 2008:


This stuff is beautiful! Who would have thought the Austrians would ever be such good designers?! Forgive me, but I am still missing the whole idea of a more economical, modest and comfortable version of French Empire. Yes, Biedermeier has less gilding, pieces are smaller and somewhat more human-sized. However, I don't really see this as a 'poor-mans' version of Empire. It is stunning and completely Art Deco in feel, a style that didn't emerge for another 100 years! The Austrians were 100 years ahead of everyone else! Can you believe it? Well done. I just wish you had made more of it.

Louvre Biedermeier exhibit in 2007:

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