24 September 2009

Revisiting Verrieres

As with most decorators- I have my favorites. This is my absolute favorite printed fabric. VERRIERES has a glorious history creating some of the most memorable rooms in print.

After seeing the Verrieres covered screen photographed by Horst, with model Verushka in the picture as well- I couldn't resist revisiting its past. Verrieres, is forever bound to Louise Vilmorin- heiress, author, paramour to the famous & the most noted chatelaine of her family Chateau de Vilmorin in Verrieres-le-Busisson. Though she lived many places the family home remained her domain- as six doting brothers saw to it. The main salon of the house was deliciously smothered in the cotton print now widely known at Verrieres. The salon remained unchanged for decades- a testament to the idea that if you get it right the first time- there is no need to make changes in the future. This should be the credo of any successful room-Yes, additions can be made, touches here and there-But leave a good thing as is.

Verushka by Horst, I think Vilmorin would approve

The life of Louise de Vilmorin is a book within itself-An Aesthete' Lament noted the French biography by Francoise Wagener Je suis nee inconsolable in this posting (here) called Jeez Louise. Do go and read this one-it brings the Salon Bleu with Verrieres to life and sweetens things by dishing about Louise de V.'s loves. The post features two wonderful-new to me- Verrieres Rooms. Enlarge the photographs and see the ceiling detail on the Jansen room. The edge of Verrieres has a small scalloped border that creates all the edging details and defines the print. The Aesthete says since posting he has discovered the room was decorated by Henri Samuel- making perfect sense, Henri Samuel's masterful design & the Aesthete's finding this out.

Louise de Vilmorin by Beaton in her Salon Bleu

image from An Aesthete's Lament

Louise was described by Evelyn Waugh to author Nancy Mitford "as an Hungarian countess who pretended to be a French poet. An egocentric maniac with the eyes of a witch. She is the Spirit of France. How I hate the French." With Mitford adding "Oh how glad I am you feel this about Lulu—I can't sit in a room with her she makes me so nervous. And vicious… She is much more like a middle European than a French woman." (Ivry 1996) The inevitable darts get thrown at women whose lives are lived in opposition to polite society and both of these writers had reason to be a bit green where Louise de V was concerned. Their acerbic comments were likely dead on however. The lady described her own passions-that is writing- by saying "Sexual conquest lights my lantern, that's what pushed me to write." Intrigued yet?

The lady and the fabric are inexorably linked. The original, batik inspired print was designed by Jacques de Luze in Switzerland and printed in 1810 in black, white & red on a red brown background. From Switzerland, the fabric made its journey to the fabric house, Le Manach, in France- and is known as "Batik." Brunschwig and Fils now prints the fabric under license in the States in several colorways - It's Vilmorin blue being THE color. Most successful are the rooms that use the fabric on every possible surface in the room full out- as done at the Chateau. Murray Douglas is heir to Brunschwig and Fils and She was niece to Zelina Brunschwig. Her Aunt Zelina took young Murray Douglas to the Chateau de Vilmorin advising her, "Don't Talk, Just Look." (How wonderful!) Douglas describes the experience of meeting the divine Louise and taking tea in the Salon- " I just sat there completely overwhelmed-I guess you could say I was scared blue." Murray Douglas used the Verrieres Blue in her own bedroom and dressing room-the room, the lady and the fabric must have made an indelible impression on Douglas, as it has on countless others.

Louise de Vilmorin photographed by Cecil Beaton, 1940
photo from & Apres

Designer Mario Buatta's Kips Bay room is probably my first exposure to Verrieres. Here, at the 1984 Kips Bay Showhouse, Buatta lavished the room in the B&F Verrieres and the results were stunning. I think this is Buatta's best published room hands down. It captures a mood, a spirit, an energy that makes a room timeless- of course Verrieres helps out loads. The Brunschwig motto " GOOD DESIGN IS FOREVER" echos in this beautiful room. The August 1984 issue of House Beautiful is filled with pages of the Buatta room & an interview with Buatta. Mario Buatta started with Verrieres-it is the room's inspiration. "This is a timeless room. There's no date on it because nothing is faddish. It's a forever kind of decorating."

Mathilde Agostinelli's Jacques Grange decorated Paris home was featured in House and Garden in May 2006. Mathilde Agostinelli planned her daughter's room with Pink Verrieres curtains from her own childhood room. Again Verrieres casts its life long spell. Agostinelli's apartment is one of my favorites in print from the House and Garden archives. Her own past is lined with luminaries in the design world. She is tied to the house of Miuccia Prada in promoting the Prada brand. Her half sister, Victoire de Castellane, is an artistic director at Dior, while uncle, Gilles Dufour is a fashion designer, noted for his stints as creative director at Balmain and he called Chanel home as Lagerfeld's go to guy for years. Matilde is also niece several times removed to the renowned architect and designer, Emilio Terry.

Agostinelli's Childhood Verrieres

photograph by Francois Halard

Another Pink Verrieres in Cawdor Castle, Scotland. Countess Cawdor picked the B&F fabric for one of the Guest Rooms in the Castle.

... and so the story goes on with Verrieres. Do let me know if you want to be added to the Verrieres legends list? I can assist.

Sources for this post- not mentioned in the text

Brunschwig & Fils Style By Murray Douglas & Chippy Irvine
Madame de by Louise de Vilmorin Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World & their Lost Art of Love by Elizabeth Stevens Prioleau



  1. Funny, as soon as I saw the first photograph, that Mario Buatta room popped into my head. That showhouse bedroom was the zeitgeist of eighties design and it is still beautiful today. Timeless design and timeless fabric.

    By the way, have you read Title Deeds? Marvelous book written by Liza Campbell of THE Campbells of Cawdor. All about growing up in the castle. Fascinating.

  2. I was exhausted reading this and felt I needed one of those diagrams to trace the geneology of design explored here! Loved the Prince of Chintz's exquisite details on the drapery. It's one of the first of my gobsmacked by drapery collection of tearsheets.

  3. This is turning into Louise de Vilmorin month for me,
    seeing "The Earrings of Madame de.." on Turner Classic Movies, rereading the book from which the film was made, and now your fascinating post. The details of the Mario Buatta curtains were the icing on the cake. Has anyone ever made more imaginative use of a printed cotton?

  4. Just a wondrous post:
    I,too, feel completely overwhelmed ... . and just short of "scared blue."
    Meci Madame -


  5. PT&E- You are so right about the Buatta room this is what I think of immediately after the Vilmorin room. I don't know the Title Deeds a day or so ago in researching-I ran across this book with an article and interview-think you will love it.GT


  6. Home, Toby, Jjjj,
    I appreciate you staying with the story- The story is fascinating to me, I love these photos of Lulu(imagine call her that)When I started the blog-this was a to do topic-because of my fondness for it, but when AAL wrote of it, I put it on the back burner. After finding new things to add- I plunged in. This room was shown just a few years after I graduated & has stayed with me designwise for 25+ years. Love you stick to it
    determination, thanks, Gaye

  7. Little A. You are on a roll this week! Another wonderfully thought out post,rich in details. Yes a great deal to read, but I find it exciting to read something new. Thank you.

  8. I love that 3 way love seat in the blue and white print!

  9. Thank you so much for the sweet comment on my post! It means a lot to me!
    You have done a wonderful post today ,with a lot of work!

    Have a nice weekend,


  10. The Mario Buatta room is a favorite of mine; so wonderful to learn more. Can you believe there isn't a book on Mario Buatta? So crazy.

  11. Dear LA-

    Read it to the end...and re-read...and then checked on all the links.
    This is fabulous design reporting--with so may layers and inspirations and names and design inspiration.
    I followed the literature links--and must go for a search through my library as I know I have several of her books. Oh, and her relationship with Malraux...and the nasty comments by N Mitford...Oh, La La.
    Thank you,

    1. Please oh please! We beg you!

      After your exquisite book about Ann Getty!

      Mario? Please oh please!

      Any chance of it? Is he busy "decorating"? No one else is!

      May be a great time to have you write a book!

      He really does have the most fascinating story! His mother had clear plastic slipcovers!

      (I saw those once in my life! I think it took ten years off my life!)

      He is a fascinating "cat"! A prankster...We were at "save Venicce" with him......he is so talented and so funny!

  12. DDS,many thanks, so appreciated. Gaye

  13. Wasn't it Louise de Vilmorin who hung out at the British Embassy after the war and had a big affair with Duff Cooper, the Ambassador? I understood the reason for all that was that she and her set had all been terrific collaborators during the occupation sucking up to the Germans like anything and needed the aura of the victorious British to keep themselves out of jail. or am I wrong?

    1. Certainly not out of jail, but out of social siberia, you're right, they needed les amis to take the edge off.

  14. Anon- I know she had an affair of long standing with Cooper- so if it began as necessity-it mustn't have been too bad. It very well could be the case, Sounds as if you may already know. It would seem then that the Brits esp-Duff Cooper would be in collusion too-terrifically terrible. It just goes to show- the fascinating, the vain glorious- the pedestal takers are all very human-No? GT

    1. What a brilliant question!
      And an equally brilliant answer!


      How lucky we are to be un such rarefied company!


    2. What an answer! Bravo! or, rather, Brava!!

      Quitte brilliant! As always. LA!!!


  15. Oh, and I still adore adore adore the fabric. G

  16. I agree about the fabric...her, not so much. I'm not sure how much the Coopers were to blame. They were trying to make the Embassy glamorous again and Cooper was a bit of an old goat anyhow. The French upper classes and artistic/intellectual milieux had completely disgraced themselves so if the victorious allies had been too selective it would have been hard to find anybody to come to dinner.

  17. Anon-Very well said! Is the old adage true? all's fair in love and war-and we know the French are divine at both. GT

  18. You are showing my absolute favorite fabric I had from Brunschwig & Fils in blue covering everything in my bedroom/sitting room in the country(way back when). I had a little table and chairs by the fireplace covered with it, window seats overlooking the ocean and had it quilted for some of the walls and bed. I always felt as if I was vacationing in France, but I was just home. Thank you for posting!

    1. Well; you win the prize as the "chicest person alive" (kinda like the People magazine's "sexiest man alive"! (I have never heard of him!)

      So; Liz , good for YOU!

      I have been a decorator for 43 years.....it is my favorite fabric I have ever seen! I congratulate you!



  19. de Vilmorin was goods friends with Madeleine Castaing and apparently was very influenced by and asked for decorating help from MC. That black tete-a-tete in the salon is pure Castaing. She even wrote a novella inspired by how MC and her husband met called Julietta. the Waugh-Mitford back and forth is delicious!

  20. Liz- that sounds so lovely. It is at its most so in mass. GT

  21. oh-how I could see them with heads together! I love the quote from MD of B&F from her auntie.GT

  22. One of my all time favorites.

  23. When I first received my "resale number" in California in 1971!! My very first order was 30 yards or so of "Verriers chintz!" for my very own house!

    to this day.....it is still my favorite fabric!
    thank you for featuring this! It will help all these talented people who subscribe to your blog! Your blog is in lieu of " graduate school"


  24. Oh, I forgot to say! It comes with a border attached. The border needs to be cut off (by yourself.....not your workroom, nor anyone else) and then it needs to be sewn on right-side-up! this sounds crazy......just remember what I said if you ever order it. 2 out of 3 were mishaps.....then I got really strict. It is just awful upside-down...and that is what most upholsterers did! Nothing is prettier when it is well-done! Nothing! I would order it up today for my new sitting-room! And when I have it.......watch! I will!!

    It was Brunschwig.....boo hoo.....my very first account......I totally cried when I heard......bankrupt.

    Good news at Scalamandre! My genius young friend....Steven Stolman.....he designed clothes.....for men and women......was recently the design director of "Jack Rogers"; and the winning bidder was "Scalamandre"! what a brilliant idea of the new owner! No one could do a better job! He is so friendly and such a social creature (very important in this job!) and the most creative creature I have ever met! He does everything!

    He is WOW!!!


  25. Penelope- mine too-I hope you have pictures. Fortunately Brunschwig has been given a second chance with Kravet. I hope Stolman will rev up Scalamandre in the its elegant opulent way. pgt

  26. I do have pictures! I need to find them and scan them!

    Old photos!

    I am praying for Kravet and Brunschwig. It is hard to believe!



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