Friday, September 28, 2007

trouvée: notre dame

Just off the plane from Paris! Ahhh...much, much too short a visit, but wonderful. Couldn't resist saying a quick "bonjour!" and posting this wonderful old cabinet card of Notre Dame. Probably taken about 1850. The exposure was so long, that you can't see any people ~ how strange!

Well, I will be back on Monday with a report on my trip(s) to Europe. Until then, bon weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

au revoir!

My bags are packed and I am off again ~ for a couple of whirlwind work trips, with not nearly enough time for fun. But, I do plan to go see her in person!

See you in October...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

historic house tour: montpelier

And, meanwhile, back on American soil…a brisk, sunny September Sunday heralded the first autumnal historic house tour!

Just a short drive from Washington, is the other Montpelier, located in Laurel, Maryland. Built between 1781 and 1785 by Major Thomas Snowden, the house is a picture-perfect five-part Georgian Palladian mansion. While the Snowden holdings once included several thousand acres of land and a view of the Patuxent River, the house still sits on 70 beautiful acres of park land ~ the green rolling hills of which give one the sense of being in the middle of nowhere (despite the fact that one is less than a mile from the highway!). The interiors are most interesting for their simple architectural details, although there are several original pieces of Snowden furniture and porcelain (and some lovely textiles). My favorite part of the tour however, was the lovely little Colonial-style garden, and an original 18th-century summer house which is set in a maze of overgrown old-growth boxwood.

(Anne ~ I have clearly caught your garden obsession!)

inspiration: liberty prints

Anne's post last week on Standen and its William Morris interiors made me think of my favorite store in London ~ Liberty. And, what could be more wonderfully English than a Liberty print? I looooove these... (P.S. If you are looking for Liberty prints in the States, try Purl Bee in New York).

Monday, September 17, 2007

inspiration: threads

Oh, there was so much inspiration from Anne's posts last week! Browsing the Victoria & Albert Museum website, I was amazed by their needlework collection (although, really, should I have been surprised!?! I adore that museum!). Here are a few lovely English pieces that caught my eye ~ I particularly like the little skeins of embroidery thread (see above).

(images, from top: English embroidery silk, 1800-1850, T.436G-1966; Martha Edlin, purse, 1670-1680, embroidered silk, T.435-1990; and Hannah Haines, pocket, 1718-1720, linen embroidered with silk thread, T.42-1935, all courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

Friday, September 14, 2007

trouvée: flowers and fashion in mayfair

Inscribed: "Madame Veros the fashion artist of Mayfair buying flowers this morning from Mrs. Bloomfield, the flower seller of Curzon Street who supplies the leading members of Society, including royalty, with flowers. Prince George is often to be seen at the stall of Mrs. Bloomfield."

The photograph is not dated, but it looks to be late 1920s or early 1930s. It is part of a group of fashion-related press photographs I found on ebay. I love the fabulous caption ~ and the name of the flowerseller (Bloomfield, seriously!?!).

I want to take a moment to say thank you again to Anne for posting all this week about her trip to Attingham. My dear, if Mrs. Bloomfield was around, I would buy you a posie! I have found so much inspiration from these posts, and I can't wait to share it next week.

Happy weekend to all!

attingham: blickling hall

Our grand tour of England comes to a close today with Anne's final post about Blickling Hall. As a garden lover, I think this must be my favorite. I just can't get over the smooth green grass and magnificent hedges! Many, many thanks to Anne for all of her hard work and gorgeous posts this week. Perhaps ~ someday ~ I will follow in her footsteps...

The 18th-century author Hannah More wrote: “You look on Houghton with astonishment, and Blickling with desire.” I have to agree after our final-week visit to Blickling Hall in Norfolk. The main reason that Blickling was such a delight to me will come as no surprise to those who have been following this week’s posts and have noticed a theme developing ~ gardens! Blickling is blessed with superb topiaries, hedges, a mixture of formal and informal gardens (part of which are newly planted in the style of 20th-century gardener Norah Lindsay), and drifts of flowers that seem to float across the clipped green lawn. The photo below gives a sense of the size and impact of Blickling’s magnificent hedges, and also a sense of what it must be like to be in charge of maintaining them!

After touring the interiors, a small group of us set off for a cross-country trek to visit the mausoleum of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, who died in 1793, and his two wives, Mary Anne and Caroline. A good 45-minute walk from the house, the monument unexpectedly appears in a clearing in a part of the grounds that appears completely disconnected with the gardens and landscapes closer to the house. Its pyramidal form is clearly inspired by the funerary architecture of ancient Egypt, and is an interesting precursor to the fascination with Egypt that arose from European military campaigns in Egypt in the first years of the nineteenth century.

Thank you very much to Janet for inviting me to share these brief memories of a delightful experience on her blog, and thanks to all of you who have read and commented on them

Thursday, September 13, 2007

attingham: hardwick hall

The saying goes "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall" ~ and it is a truly wonderful Elizabethan house and garden! Anne, please tell us about it...

Hardwick Hall is noteworthy for having been built by a woman in the late 16th century. Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, who famously had four husbands, built this house as a testament to the wealth and personal influence she had amassed over the course of her life. Hardwick is certainly impressive, not least in the high great chamber, with its plaster frieze depicting Diana and her court in a forest filled with animals both quotidian (deer) and exotic (monkeys). The views from this room, and from the roof are extraordinary ~ and a reminder of the necessary link between the country house and its landscape, one that is not merely aesthetic but a marker of the real political and cultural authority conferred on landowners.

Hardwick is famous for its needlework collection, and though I was unable to photograph any of the pieces, there many similar examples at the Victoria & Albert Museum (see below). I found the garden at Hardwick particularly delightful. The courtyard is encircled with flowers that gradually progress through the rainbow, from whites to blues to greens, yellows, pinks and reds in the manner of Gertrude Jekyll. And, also not to be missed are the ruins of old Hardwick Hall, which sit a few steps from the gate to the new house. Left abandoned when the death of Bess’ last husband made the construction of an even grander residence possible, plasterwork overmantles still cling to the crumbling walls.

(bottom image: Casket Panel, English, 1640-1680, satin, embroidered in silk and metal thread, Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

attingham: chatsworth

There is a reason that Chatworth has often been refered to as a "jewel in England's crown" ~ magnificent for its grounds, architecture, and collections. I'll let Anne tell you all about it...

Chatsworth is quite simply incredible, and has the distinction of being the only property we visited twice. Among its delights are gilded window casings, lounging naked boys accompanied by adoring dogs, free-range heirloom chickens, and a 17th-century metal tree sculpture that sprays water from its branches. While the house we see today was built and decorated over the course of 400 years, much of the exterior was put in place by the first Duke of Devonshire during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In the 1750s and 1760s, the fourth Duke employed ‘Capability’ Brown to create the seemingly-natural landscape park in which the house still sits (see above). In the first half of the 19th century, the sixth Duke made dramatic changes to the interiors, added enormously to the family’s collections of art and rare books, and hired Joseph Paxton to make important additions to the garden. Among these are the rock garden, where artfully-placed boulders create a magical landscape reminiscent of Alice’s wonderland.

One of the most thrilling things about Chatsworth is the way that tradition and change are maintained in perfect equilibrium. A case in point is the exhibition Beyond Limits: Sotheby’s at Chatsworth, currently on display in the gardens (I particularly love the Vache Paysage by Francois-Xavier Lalanne). This exhibition, held in conjunction with Sotheby’s, highlights 23 works of large-scale contemporary sculpture that will be sold when the installation comes to a close. I am very sorry to have to have missed it ~ it would be wonderful to see the autumnal colors of the gardens set off by such unexpected and modern artworks.

(bottom image: Chatsworth, engraving from Morris's Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen, published 1880)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

attingham: standen

Another gorgeous post from Anne! Enjoy...

Standen (in West Sussex) was a favorite destination of many on the trip, myself included. It was designed by the architect Philip Webb, known for his collaborations with William Morris, and built between 1892 and 1894. Despite its immense size, Standen differs greatly from most of the houses we visited because its architecture oxymoronically seeks to proclaim modesty and restraint rather than wealth and power. Its design incorporates Hollybush, a farmhouse dating from 1450 that stood on the property (see bottom image). Taking his inspiration from Hollybush, Webb designed a home that appeared to have grown organically over hundreds of years, and made use of a variety of local and traditional materials, such as sandstone, weather-boarding, and render. The result is a house which, though outfitted with all the modern conveniences such as running water and electricity, seems to have been tucked into a comfortable bed of flower gardens, orchards and fields.

The interiors of Standen, which are decorated in Morris & Company textiles, aspire to a simplicity and coziness that is atypical of the country estate. Unfortunately, some of the original furnishings were lost as Standen fell victim to the disdain for Victorian-era design that prevailed during much of the twentieth century. However, a few dedicated people in the 1970s managed to save much of it for the benefit of future generations.

Monday, September 10, 2007

attingham: west dean

As I mentioned on Friday, my friend Anne has agreed to tell us all a little bit about her trip to England this summer ~ and to share her beautiful photographs. So, Anne, take it away:

I am delighted that Janet invited me to share some of my photos and memories of the 2007 Attingham Trust Summer School on her blog. From July 6 to 24 I traveled the English countryside with 47 others, also interested in the history, architecture and collections of the country house. We met fascinating people, saw magnificent buildings under a cold and wet summer sky, and ate lots of cake. Over the next couple days, I hope to touch on a few of the highlights.

For the first week, we had the privilege of staying at West Dean College, a country house that has been transformed into a community of artists and craftspeople specializing in such areas as tapestry weaving and furniture conservation. Its situation in the Sussex downs is exquisite. From my room at the front of the house, I had a view (see below) of sheep grazing on rolling hills dotted with clumps of trees (which also provided soothing background music!). The people who manage the West Dean estate are committed to sustainability and community involvement. These values are apparent in many of the estate's initiatives, among them a renewable wood-fuel heating system that provides for the entire college and an affordable housing scheme for local people.

The present house was built between 1804 and 1830 by the Selsey family, who wished to expand the 17th-century manor house on their estate. Built of flint (a distinctive local stone), it was designed by the architect James Wyatt, whose romantic neo-Gothic style is clearly reflected in the castellated façade. Of particular interest are the gardens, which are divided into several parts, including walled kitchen and fruit gardens, an arboretum, an Edwardian pergola designed by Sir Harold Peto, and what is referred to as a ‘naturalist spring garden’ ~ a series of ponds and beds planted alongside a winding path that leads away from the main house. This last garden is filled with vistas and surprises, such as two surrealist sculptures envisioned by Edward James, the former owner of the house and founder of the college. When two trees in the garden were dying of old age, James had them encased in fiberglass ~ as the wood rotted away, the man-made shells were left standing. They are a fitting symbol of the interdependence of art and nature, both hallmarks of life at West Dean.

Friday, September 7, 2007

trouvée: the old house

Another wonderful find from Annapolis. Again, no inscriptions or date ~ just a romantic old house. I do love the way these postal cards are printed slightly off center!

And speaking of old houses, I have a couple of exciting announcements:

First, I have finally put together the list of houses for the Fall Historic House tours. Without giving too much away, it includes some fun autumnal destinations, with a focus on Maryland ~ among them the Edgar Allen Poe House, Darnall's Chance and Montpelier (the other one!).

And second, I thought you all might be interested to know that various members of our little historic house group have had a busy summer touring houses all over the world ~ traveling from the middle Atlantic states to New England, and even across the pond to Great Britain. I would have loved to have stowed away in their various suitcases, but I had a few trips of my own to take. SO, I have asked a couple of them to share their experiences with you all. Beginning on Monday, my friend Anne will be guest blogging about her three weeks at the Attingham Trust summer school program in England. She has already sent me some of her posts, and I must say they are wonderful! Ahhh, so many houses, so little time...

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

feet week

I thought I would join in on the fun of "feet week" and post a photo of mine rushing home from work the other day. Took several snaps before I got one that wasn't just a blur! See more feet here, here, and here.

Here are a couple links I have enjoyed this week:

* Hong Kong Suite by Josée Pedneault (via Poppy).

* Michael Gregory, Yonder, exhibition at John Berggruen Gallery through 29 September 2007 (click on current exhibitions).

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

on the way home

...and on the way home in the evening, I love how the late summer light illuminates the pink marble walls of the East Building, and the Calder casts a dramatic shadow.

the way to work

It is Tuesday after Labor Day, and I am walking slowly to work. And before I get inside, I am inspired by it all ~ the simplicity and strength of the design, the purity of the lines, the old wisteria on the walls, and the delicious promise of treasures hidden within. And this morning, like every morning, I just feel lucky to be there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

fall fashion

I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend. A mellow holiday for me ~ it included a nice day trip to Fredericksburg to see a friend. We discovered a wonderful little boutique, Simpatica, which (*swoon*) carries Orla Kiely. I couldn't resist, and bought a new fall bag!!! The September Vogue arrived with over 800 pages of wonderfulness! Again, swoon. Love the Fall fashions ~ I am feeling so inspired by clothing again.

Poking around on the Costume Institute site at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, I fell in love with these pieces ~ so timeless.

(top image: Christian Dior, evening dress, "L'Eléphant Blanc," spring/summer 1958, Gift of Col. and Mrs. Edgar W. Garbish, 1977; and bottom: Givenchy, ensemble, fall/winter 1963-1964, Gift of Diana Vreeland, 1979)