Saturday, October 3, 2009

an interview: ten chimneys, part II

Stepping in the front door of Ten Chimneys I was blown away ~ not only by its intimate scale, but the endless creativity of its owners. It is no easy task to describe the interiors of the house, however if anyone is up to the job, it is KDM. So, we take a Wisconsin cheddar cheese and Ritz cracker break, refill our glasses, and begin again...

JCB: Tell me about the house itself ~ how would you describe it?

KDM: A surprise at every turn. There isn’t any classical unity to the house ~ each interior was thought of as a stage set. But, while eclectic, nothing is accidental. The Lunts collaborated with set designer and decorator Claggett Wilson in the creation of the interiors. He painted magnificent Rex Whistler-esque murals throughout the house and guided the Lunts in the selection of objects.

The Lunts did not collect things in the traditional sense, they acquired them like props, always wondering: what is the story of this room? and how do these objects enhance its atmosphere? For example, we have a table stamped by French cabinetmaker Georges Jacob alongside a chest made by the Widdicomb Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. And in the 1950s 3M came out with gilt scotch tape for wrapping Christmas gifts ~ well, the Lunts decided to use it to “gild” the trim of the wood paneling in the Cottage.

I could go on and on...but Claggett Wilson said it best when he described Ten Chimneys as “Neo-Rococo Surrealism.”

JCB: Do you have a favorite room?

KDM: It changes. Currently it is the Library with its gorgeous quarter-sawn oak (with a faint white wash to antique it). The room is hung with pre-Raphaelite style paintings by their friend Graham Robertson and two portraits of Lynne Fontanne by Wilfred and Jane de Glehn. And the books! All inevitably inscribed to the Lunts by their authors: Noel Coward, Thomas Wilder, Kenneth Clark, Beverly Nichols, Elsie de Wolf, Edna Ferber, Alexander Woollcott. Just incredible.

JCB: Tell me a little bit about an average day on the estate…how does your day begin, for example?

KDM: After a cup of coffee I could be unclogging a gutter, changing a light bulb, presiding over the funeral of a dead rodent, cutting flowers from the garden, scraping paint, meeting with contractors, greeting visitors, scratching my head over a spreadsheet. Then suddenly its lunch time.

JCB: What are you looking forward to as the seasons change?

KDM: The autumn programs ~ our popular series of play readings by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s interns is excellent.

JCB: Okay darling, tell me something fabulous!

KDM: Just yesterday I discovered documentation that the great Elsie de Wolf selected some “French china” the “color of azaleas” for the Lunts ~ so I am on the hunt for what set that might be.

My dear KDM ~ thank you! thank you! And may spring bring you all the azaleas you could possibly hope for! (p.s. more photographs of the interior here!)


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I love your blog so much I can hardly stand it. Bravo lady.
All my best,

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

this is a ten part series, right? more, more, more!

Pigtown-Design said...


Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

It is just a dazzlingly delightful interior, isn't it?

But in Wisconsin, you are never allowed to say "Wisconsin cheddar." We are very proud of our artisan cheeses and people here talk about cheese like Californians talk about wine. You always have to identify the cheesemaker. So Hooks cheddar? Carr Valley? Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with a master cheesemaker certification, so you know this is serious stuff!

home before dark said...

Wonderful series. Please two questions. How do you gild paneling with 3m tape? And who is KDM? What a delightful piece of history. Such intimate glamour. Love the fact they thought of furnishings as props. Great work JCB.

Janet said...

romantic query letter ~ thank you, thank you!

EEE ~ only two of two...but perhaps our dear KDM can be enticed to bring us a winter edition of "Life at Ten Chimneys" !!

Ms. Wis ~ forgive me for the lack of specificity, but honestly the bar menu at the the fabulous Pfister Hotel didn't go into much detail. I am pretty sure that it was not of the artisanal variety!

home before dark ~ the tape was simply stuck on the trim!!! Much easier and faster than painting it gold. But, as you can imagine, KDM has a conservation nightmare on his hands. As for KDM himself, he is one of my best friends, who until recently lived in worked in Washington. He is now director of preservation at Ten Chimneys!

Style Court said...

I've got to see some of that vintage gilded tape. Not for applying to walls but for packaging :)