03 October 2015

A Day at Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

A LOUIS XV portrait hangs over Chinese porcelains at the chateau

The history of any family home has a gravitational pull -as a voyeurist historian myself, nothing could be more unearthly than the story of VAUX LE VICOMTE. In lieu of a trip to the chateau, an elegant new book A DAY AT CHATEAU DE VAUX LE VICOMTE is an unerring journey itself. Written by brothers and fifth generation members of the de Vogue family, Alexandre, Jean Charles, and Ascanio de Vogue- the book is beautifully boxed in a jewel-like slipcase, petit in presentation-yet monumental in content.

The book chronicles the history of the chateau and includes quotes from letters and documents in the archives. Vaux Le Vicomte rivaled Versailles-much to the King's dismay, setting off a series of events-worthy of cinema. Movies have been made at the chateau, and about it-yet nothing touches the historic reality of the storied chateau and Le Notre gardens.


The Salon of the Muses

LE BRUN'S Triumphant of Fidelity on the ceiling of the Salon of the Muses.

There is a restaurant at the chateau-apropos of the castle's 17th century celebrity chef VATEL-continuing its culinary exquisite reputation. Recipes from Countess de Vogue are included in the book.

In the formal apartments of FOUQUET, the chateau's creator, a bust of Le Brun-the decorator of VAUX le VICOMTE presides over a table worthy of Vatel.

I am unsure whether the book will go into my library or on an old table where I keep my jewelry. The book, like the chateau so "intermingle the Beauties of Art with those of Nature, and so industriously to divertise all the ornaments of so goodly a place." (on the chateau- Mlle, de Seudery, CLELIA, An Excellent New Romance.)

By Alexandre de Vogue, Jean-Charles de Vogue, and Ascanio de Vogue, Flammarion, 2015, Photographs by Bruno Ehrs. All photographs used with permission by Flammarion, Rizzoli.

25 September 2015

Schlumming it, the pure style of Jean Schlumberger.

HIRO, 1962

Nothing brings me more pleasure than an old Vogue magazine. I've added copies to my library over the years-but since I've been writing a book-there has been an onslaught of them in the mailbox. As soon as one arrives-I immediately look for the Horst/ Lawford stories that spanned the sixties and the seventies. I've no doubt at some point there will be a definitive book with all their stories-Oh to compile that book!

Jean Schlumberger's house on Guadeloupe featured in 1971, is as one would expect- perfect in its timelessness. Next month's LSD feature-Lauren Santo Domingo's stories for Vogue, could feature the Schlumberger plantation and Vogue readers would go nuts-"swooning, dying, gobsmacked, being just all round smitten, etc etc.

Furnished simply, the property was a series of pavilions-galleries where Schlumberger lived mostly en plein air. For his studio-bedroom, he used blue batiks from Java, a navy linen from Hong Kong, locally made furniture-armoires, commodes, and painted pieces. 

In shades of pale blue or grey or blue-green, Schlumberger was inspired by the colors of the houses on Iles des Saintes and painted many of the pieces of furniture in the house himself.

An armoire painted by Schlumberger inspired by the fishermen's houses on the nearby Iles des Saintes.

Master Jeweler Jean Schlumberger at Bisdary

"toutes les emotions nourrisssent un esprit creatif." *

Uncluttered, letting the plants indigenous to Guadeloupe decorate another pavilion on the property.

Schlumberger mounted hibiscus flower heads daily on tall sticks (leaf stalks from a palm) and displayed them on a table in the same blue and white porcelain vessel surrounded by Chinese musicians' instruments.

The potting shed at Bisdary

Two months out of every year Schlumberger retreated to Guadeloupe to work on his jewelry designs. Guests were invited to Bisdary, but never disturbed Schlumberger's daily rituals of creativity.

So obvious, this retreat by the sea was a constant inspiration for the artist.

* all emotions nourish a creative spirit- Jean Schlumberger

19 September 2015

from the end of a hectic summer, now that autumn advances...

the nights are cooler here in North Carolina, my garden is in dire need of relief from its summer leftovers. 
at the moment there are no takers. it's impossible to find a competent gardener that doesn't want to just desiccate the hedge or mow down the grass to within an eighth inch of his life...
but I digress, yet not so much.

"Just a single blossom can speak volumes." -Charlotte Moss

Charlotte Moss's book Garden Inspirations is a book that crossed my desk-my sofas-tables, chairs-now known as the How They Decorated files, and had me returning to it throughout the summer, and even today, just to grasp the possibilities of controlling my garden and yard, in so many ways an extension of a house's interior.

Charlotte Moss, with 8 diverse books -yet all focusing on how to make things beautiful- lasting- and personal, never disappoints. Garden Inspirations is both a visual feast and an approach to creating the lasting-lifetime project of a garden. Charlotte's garden is an extension of her East Hampton home-seen in the book, and most likely the source of her constant inspiration for what goes on inside.

"If you had to describe my garden, it's not so much about parterres and sweeping vistas as it is about intimate spaces, small rooms- gardens within gardens." -Charlotte Moss

I can find places in my garden spaces from Charlotte's book for much inspiration-but some struck me as essential and simple things to remember and to incorporate into my plans.

Have a plan, a map-a visual. At one time-early days, I had such a plan, by a professional-with many many tweaks of my own. Some things didn't work out, others after determinedly repeating what couldn't work-wouldn't work, have finally gone by the wayside, and my original garden intent has been diminished. In an attempt to get it back, I pulled everything but a few English boxes out in one area and have good intentions of regaining some structure and form to what I consider an English garden. Charlotte considered the boxwood as essential to her garden from the outset.
I like a somewhat Nancy Lancaster-Havershamish look to my English garden vision-timeless- yet a little unkempt.
As you know, this unstudied appearance takes work.

Charlotte's Garden Plan

"Boxwood-a shrub that I have such distinct memories of growing up in Virginia...was one of my first and more important requirements for our gardens and property." -Charlotte Moss

Another point well taken in Garden Inspirations is using urns to add structure to the garden. Charlotte also uses pots and urns to plant annuals that she can switch out over the season.  As it goes, I've got lots of urns that need to be moved around and placed differently for maximum effect. (Help Wanted!)

In Charlotte's kitchen garden, 3 terracotta pots of varying sizes are stacked to accommodate three different specimens-repeated to add height. I love this idea. 

Sometimes the simplest things can create the most memorable- Again this is an idea I am going to put into my garden.

The repetition of these chive plantings is so striking-at Mount Vernon

One of the most gratifying things about a garden-(even if it's just a terrace garden) for me is Cutting the flowers of our labor. Charlotte has collected wonderful vessels to arrange her flowers in-from a single stem with a moppy head, to an extravagant arrangement of wildflowers.

Wildflowers "introduced me to a world with no boundaries and no rules." Charlotte Moss

From these points, Charlotte's book also has a beautiful section on her garden travels from around the world to her home state of Virginia, along with her garden observations, often seen through the lens of her camera. Her garden heroines are noted too- a sojourn to the late Bunny Mellon's Oak Spring Farm in Virginia, and two of my favorites Nancy Lancaster, and Vita Sackville West.

Charlotte's husband Barry Friedberg who wrote the foreword said, "the development of our garden has been and will continue to be a process full of surprises and many pleasures." I know I can expect the same from Charlotte's endeavors in finding beauty in the simple or grand-all approached with such great constancy.

I'm happy to note that Charlotte is writing the foreword to my book, How They Decorated...

13 September 2015

Politics as usual...

“That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge. That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be, without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism. 

For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgement, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?. . . they say to themselves as they go into the room, I am the superior of half the people here, and it is thus that they speak with that self-confidence, that self-assurance, which have such profound consequences in public life and lead to such curious notes in the margin of the private mind.”  words from Virginia Woolf, 1929

the author in London, 1939 photographed by Gisele Freund


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