Happy New Year!
Mid-Century Modern-step aside! Move over- stainless steel and Lucite! Brown is back! It is 2017 and we predict that wood will be king once more in the world of interior design.
Check out some more of our favorite wood pieces at The Antique And Artisan Gallery :
The Antique And Artisan Gallery: What does a “Lisa Hilderbrand project” look like?
Lisa Hilderbrand: I am very aware of what my other projects look like and what other designers are doing. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself and have the same look from house to house. I don’t want one project to look like another. I want people to wonder: ‘Did Lisa Hilderbrand do this?’ And buying antiques is a big part of that. I have a strong background in antiques…. I worked at Christie’s in the city (New York) for 8 years in carpets, European furniture, estates and appraisals. So I was exposed to fantastic things…. I got to see great English furniture, Continental furniture, Asian furniture, art, sculpture, tapestries-all the time.
AAG: So apart from your knowledge of antiques and design, what do you “bring” to a project? What “informs” your design? What makes up the “Hilderbrand arsenal of decorating?”
LH: Listening to the client is foremost. Asking them: ‘How do you want to use this house? How do you want to live in this space?’ is the most important. I really like to collaborate so that the house works really well, and also feels very personal. At the same time, my clients have hired me for a reason. They have seen my work, and there is something about it that they like. So they are paying me for my eye, my taste, and expertise… I really sweat all of those details. Big things and small things….I care about every tiny detail.”
AAG: A lot of new homeowners don’t buy antiques, and don’t want furniture from their parents or grandparents. They want to quickly go to Restoration Hardware, point at a room vignette, and buy it. Do you find antiques are being abandoned by Gen-Xers and Millennials?
LH: What I often find is that my clients love unique pieces. They don’t want the exact same thing as their friends or what they see in the design stores in town, and antique are oftentimes the answer. But they are often intimidated by antiques because they don’t know about them, don’t know where to buy them, who to trust, how to judge the pricing, or they are turned off because they have a picture in their mind of antiques being “Granny” or “old fashioned,” so they avoid them altogether.
But antiques are classic and can still be youthful, if you know how to work with them. I often open my clients up to a new world of furniture: beautiful woods, rich patina, lustrous gilding, glittery old mirror plates, intricate, carving…fascinating histories. Maybe a piece comes from a place they love to travel-like an Italian mirror or a Japanese screen, or maybe it’s just unusual-like a funky Mid-Century game table, or maybe it’s an adventure and we buy something at an auction. I see it all the time…a new appreciation for pieces, rather than just ‘that looks nice.’ Once that door is open, furniture from a catalog* isn’t the same.
And I think what’s appealing is that antiques still hold their value…They’re not ‘trendy,’ they’ll never look dated”
AAG: Do you have a favorite school of aesthetics when it comes to antiques?
LH: I love the whole idea of the Grand Tour. I love English furniture with Asian objects and screens, and obelisks, and Neo-Classical pieces, antique carpets, but balanced with restrained modern pieces and clean lines. It’s exotic and timeless. It’s so fascinating and beautiful to me. That’s what I love about antiques, the history, that they are enduring and unique and one of a kind.
Make sure to get the December 2016 issue of Connecticut Cottages and Gardens to Lisa Hilderbrand’s take on classic holiday decor!
*LH: Don’t get me wrong-I buy plenty of new furniture, and furniture from catalogs too.
“ A woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes … but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul …..”
― Edith Wharton, “The Fullness of Life”
Nestled amongst the piney Berkshire hills, The Mount, remains a solid architectural homage to its mistress, famed author, Edith Wharton. Upon first sight, the Lenox, Mass. estate seems a rather staid abode. A simple Georgian facade fits the aesthetic expectations of good taste and good design. But simple, The Mount is not. In reality, much like Ms. Wharton herself, The Mount is an intricate convergence of classic principles, subtle romantic fancies, and modern innovations.
Women living at the dawn of the 20th century were restricted. Like the stays of their whale-bone corsets, expectations were rigid: a compliant daughter was expected to become a compliant wife, and eventually, a compliant mother. The “Gilded Age” was a peculiar time, a strange confection of glittering manners and harsh social realities. Adherence to the the unwritten “codes” of deportment allowed one to flourish during the Belle Epoque, but failure to follow societal expectations could mean ruin and social ostracism.
With her sumptuous tales of robber barons, delicate socialites, and salons of overstuffed chintz furniture, no writer was better able to recreate the cruel beauty of this world than Edith Wharton. In her own life, being both a”career woman” and a divorcee, meant that Ms. Wharton danced dangerously close to the edge of propriety. But while her forlorn heroines often drowned in the eddies of social constraints, Edith Wharton rose to the occasion. And while Ms. Wharton was far from a damsel, there is little doubt that The Mount was most definitely her beloved castle.
Like any good Victorian lady, The Mount presents a rather pretty, if timid face.Blue-green shutters and painted brick walls shield the facade from view, a coquettish shyness much like a fluttering fan protecting a debutante’s smile.
But a few steps to either side of the estate reveal rather more lively and exuberant views of the Wharton home. White stone paths that zig and zag lazily across the property reveal a striking architectural amalgamation, somewhere between a French chateau and an Italian villa. Moving under rows of perfectly trimmed Linden trees from one end of the property to the other, one stands in a Versailles-esque flower garden at one moment, and a wonderfully Italianate sunken garden the next. The melange of tastes should clash, but at The Mount they are seamless. Each flowering area is different, yet the repetition of greens, lavenders, and whites gives a colorful unity to every acre.
During our visit, Laurie Foote, the House Manager of The Mount, brings Edith Wharton, and her times to life. Foote is a trove of Wharton factoids: listing off the scientific names of the author’s favorite flowers, as well as the names of the author’s many famous acquaintances. Ms. Foote does this at such a pace that it surely would have impressed even the most accomplished and “in-the-know” New York socialite.
Trudging down the “Lime Walk,” Foote stops to point out the amazing symmetry of The Mount. In particular she notes how the interior of the house perfectly mirrors the layout of the gardens. Employing her amazing intellect and foresight, The Mount’s mistress laid out hedges, trees, and other plant life to mimic the walls and windows of the house. It is a genius of horticultural geometry. Nothing at The Mount is happenstance. Everything is planned, but nothing is “over done.” Though assisted by architects and designers, The Mount was the brain-child of Wharton. A child of whom she was extremely proud, remarking in a letter, “I am a decidedly better landscape gardener than I am a novelist. With this house every line of which is my own far surpasses the House of Mirth.”
Landscape designers and Wharton historians have labored intensively to recreate what the grounds looked like at the turn of the century, from planting flora preferred by the author to repairing the original bubbling stone fountains . This attention to historical accuracy does not make the landscape fussy. An adjective never used to describe the author herself. Foote notes that, “she didn’t design the gardens for the flowers, she considered them an ephemeral detail.” Instead the grounds are governed by loose principles of hue and subtle aquatic elements, which allow the landscape to maintain an almost semi-wild appearance. A sense of organic freedom permeates the grounds, and one can almost imagine Wharton rambling about the 113 acres in her beloved 1904 Pope-Hartford motorcar. Edith was an avid devotee to the horseless carriage.
Up a rather grand palisade stair, behind closed doors, the interior of The Mount maintains Wharton’s principles of geometry and style. In design she governed by one principle, “all good architecture and good decoration…must be based on rhythm and logic.” It’s no coincidence that The Decoration of Houses, a guide to tasteful interior decoration, was Edith Wharton’s first major publication in 1897. Both Decoration of Houses and The Mount apply her strict codes of decor, and out-rightly reject the suffocating style of the Victorians. Of the popular heavily upholstered salons and sitting rooms common to the late 19th century home, Wharton remarked that the “overstuffed furniture [of these rooms were] fit for a lunatic’s cell.” Instead Wharton advised simplicity.
Passing from a tastefully simple dining room, we enter into an almost sparse, by Victorian standards, sitting area. Decoration and ornamentation is kept to a minimum. Ms. Wharton chose simple Louis XVI style furnishings for her beloved estate. Fine art too is minimal, with only a smattering of oil paintings and Brussels tapestries on the walls. The only hint of Ms. Wharton’s decadence is found in the wonderfully intricate, and amazingly restored, plaster details on the walls and ceilings.
Exiting these rooms, one enters an Italianate hallway, the wonderfully colored stonework puts one into mind of a Florentine villa rather than a New England country home. Adding to The Mount’s pastiche of styles, is the library. With beautifully carved dark wood paneling, this is the one “Victorian” room of the house. Edith departed from her modern sentiments in a rather touching homage to the reading room of her father’s original estate.
Ms. Foote leads us up some rather fantastic French iron stairs to the upper floors to explore the suite of rooms which were “Edith’s.” Next to her simple bedroom is a toile adorned nook, what we would today dub “Ms. Wharton’s office.” At a simple writing table the author penned some of her most famous works. It is an ironic, if cruel twist of fate that the revenues of 1905’s House of Mirth would provide the Whartons with the funds to complete their own increasingly unhappy home in the Berkshires.
Like many of her protagonists, Edith’s marriage to Edward “Teddy” Wharton was never the heady romance a la Newland Archer and Countess Olenska, but rather a union of convenience common for New York’s “old money.” But as with many of her ill-fated heroines, Wharton’s own marriage soured, leading to separation and divorce, prompting the author to relocate to Paris.
More devastating than the dissolution of her marriage was the loss of The Mount, when in 1911 and without her consent, Teddy sold their New England home. Edith Wharton would go on to decorate two more beautiful homes while living abroad, but none would so capture the public’s imagination as The Mount.
After 1911, Edith Wharton’s beloved estate passed from owner to owner, at one time a dormitory for a girls school, at another the playhouse for a troupe of Shakespearean actors. But by the end of the 20th century the house had fallen into disrepair. Despite water damage, sinking foundations, and years of monetary setbacks, The Mount has been restored. It now sits, a proud and fitting artifact, a temple to an exceptional artist, as well as a singular woman.
Thousands of visitors make their way to The Mount each year. As a National Historical Landmark and cultural center, The Mount, through the immense efforts of patrons, artisans, and the Edith Wharton Restoration, Inc. seeks to maintain the literary legacy of its mistress with seasonal lectures, literary programs, and an array of public engagements.
To join a tour, access its calendar of events, get involved, or simply find out more about The Mount go to: http://www.edithwharton.org/
Visiting Hours: May 14 – October 31st: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
A special thanks to Laurie Foote and all the staff at The Mount
Wilson, Richard Guy. Edith Wharton at Home: Life at The Mount. The Monacelli Press, 2012.
Wharton, Edith, and Ogden Codman, Jr. The Decoration of Houses. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
All Photography by Patricia Lesyk and Mallory O’Donoghue
Gilding, covering a surface in a layer of gold, has ensnared the human imagination for millennium. Traces of beaten gold have been found in weather-worn papyri of Old Kingdom Egypt, and in artifacts from cultures and civilizations as disparate as Ancient Rome to the “Far East.”
Since these early forays into gold plating, gilding has been used to decorate all manner of items from furnishings, signs, manuscripts, book covers, and the canvases of the finest paintings. In contemporary culture however, most associate gilding with the patinated frames and mirrors found in historic homes and museums.
But do we really see these gilded beauties? Unfortunately the answer is often no. Despite the very dear cost which these gilt creations can garner, in price, time, and labor, frames are often seen merely as a “finishing touch,” what John Peder Zane of the New York Times would dub“the Ginger Rogers” of art. It is only in the last two decades that these pieces have been elevated from a sort of artistic garnish to items requiring the same amount of craft as the paintings, drawings, and pastels which they house.
Like any craft, gilding requires the patience and labor of a skilled artisan. Water gilding, the technique most often utilized for frames, is made up of many intricate steps.
First a layer of glue is applied to the “bare-bones” of the frame (having been previously carved and sanded). Then several coats, sometimes more than a dozen, of gesso are applied, sanded, and polished. Gesso is a mixture of gypsum (also known as plaster of Paris), a rather chalky material, and animal glue (usually rabbit skin). Atop the gesso, several layers of bole (a reddish combination of clay and glue) are added and smoothed to create a perfectly even surface to apply the gold leaf. Each leaf can be up to 1/250,000th of an inch thick and are so light and feathery that the artisan must take great care not to let it simply fly away from their work surface. After these precious layers are added, the final step is to burnish the frame. This is done with an agate stone tool, or with the traditional tool which is tipped with a smoothed dog tooth. Passing the tool across the surface of the gold leaf leaves the frame with a truly brilliant shine.
A process like this means that these frames can be nearly as costly, if not more so, than the art they enclose. Recently, a frame by Eli Wilner & Co. for a Van Gogh took over 200 hours of labor and sold for $48,000. This same company constructed the 3,000 pound basewood piece which now frames the Met’s 21 feet by 12 feet Washington Crossing the Delaware . An undertaking that required 12,500 pieces of gold leaf, and cost upwards of 500,000 dollars.
The astronomical amount of labor, and the accompanying price tag, needed to complete one of these frames was true for earlier framers as well. When Sandro Botticelli’s Virgin and Child Enthroned was encased in a gilt frame the patron, Giovanni de’Bardi, paid both Botticelli and the framer the same exact commission.
Take a look at some of our favorite gilt frames here and our website!
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
As co-owner of The Antique And Artisan Gallery, collecting is quite literally Mari Ann Maher’s business. When not combing the Gallery to find that “perfect piece” for a client’s collection she has slowly and surely been adding to a very special “trove” of her own.
Transferware- blue, brown, black, or the elusive yellow, has been a favorite of collectors since its initial production. When these artistic ceramics first came into vogue during the 18th century, hostesses sought to beautify their tables with pretty transferware scenes of landscapes, rural amore, and chinoiserie motifs.
Now, hundreds of years later the popularity of transferware endures with 21st century collectors like Mari Ann.
A special thanks to Gail Geibel and Mark Brown and Tim Sublette of Seekers Antiques for their research for this article.In the photo of Mari Ann and this post’s “banner”, the following is the information regarding those plates and platters featured:
Upper corner, from left to right:
First Row– “William Penn’s Treaty” platter by Thos. Godwin or Thos. Green followed by several Canova plates, most are Thos. Mayer.
Second Row– “Millennium” by Canova, “Beatrice” plate by Wedgwood and Company, Millennium–Beatrice, platter by Canova, square sauce tureen by Canova.
Third Row-“Fisherman” red and brown plate by E.Wood & Sons
Final Row– “Bosphorus” platter by James Jamieson, Canova plate, followed by “Fountain” plate by E. Wood & Sons, and “Burma” platter by Grindley.
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk
New York artist, Marianne Stikas, departs from the world of abstraction for a very special exhibition for The Antique And Artisan Garden Show. Delving into an earthy naturalism, Stikas presents a veritable menagerie of pastel creatures. From long-legged cranes to curious kiwis-Stikas’ sweeping gestures of color display not only her artistic versatility but an unassuming appreciation for the vitality of avian and animal life.
Noted garden designer, Richard Hartlage of Landmorphology, comes to The Antique And Artisan Gallery to speak about the planning and design process for Chihuly Gardens and Glass. Since 2007, Hartlage has labored to turn what was an asphalt parking lot into one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Seattle, Washington. With over 350 different kinds of plants. over 4,200 bulbs planted, and 500,000 visitors a year, Chihuly Gardens and Glass is a natural oasis in an increasingly pavement and technology driven world.
“Featuring beautiful visual landscapes and details from today’s top designers in every room of the house, Susanna Salk’s It’s the Little Things inspires us to be personal and artful with our decorating choices, creating spaces that reflect our personality. This jewel of a decorating book looks at the design details that make up a room’s décor, the stylish little touches that can help any room transcend the ordinary.”
Written by Mallory O’Donoghue
Graphics by Patricia Lesyk