29 August 2010

Rooms. & A Life with ZEST


honestly, I always say-I have the best clients. They know it. Having worked on numerous projects with them all-it is like returning to visit an old friend each time we start a new project. We may not keep in touch, but when reunited, it is instant chemistry. No time lapsed, any and all topics of conversation resume.

A very rare few were friends the instant we met, even more rare-like the long lost friend we never met but always knew we would . Two such clients- I can say, I immediately KNEW. We knew each other.

& here- the best of women, the best of clients, the best of friends to me- the divine Dorothy. She grew up on Park Avenue, went to finishing school at Finch, later- married and moved to Boston, summered in West Hyannisport with her family, then returned to New York to work, and headed South after several other stops along the way. She is what I would love to be at her age-I never will-I hardly measure up Now. Dorothy has a Zest for Life that is unmatched, but her Rooms-they give her a run for her money.

It is said painter PAUL SWAN was the The Most Beautiful Man in the World that may be so-but
Dorothy says, "No. I don't see it." She did know him though-he painted a portrait of Dorothy, her mother and sister in his heyday. Sold, the family lost track of the life size painting for years, later finding it in a resort lobby holding court. The painting has returned to private ownership, not in the family, but it surely makes an overwhelming impression to anyone that sees it.

Portrait of Dorothy, (l. ) her mother and sister- by Paul Swan

I've talked about Dorothy before here and will again, I hope-sharing some of her stories. Today it's Dorothy and her most recent design project-only it was about five years ago now, yet it seems like yesterday. Just as it did the day , Dorothy walked into my office to inquire about my design services-what? about 16 years ago. Our first project was Dorothy's move from up North to down South way. Reinventing her furniture and all the lovely things she brought  to fit into a townhouse perched right on a posh golf course. It was a labor of love- hardly a labor even. It all worked so beautifully-
But that was then-

This is our latest incarnation done up for another swank locale-on the move again.

Fully "tented" 
Though the original intent in this Sunroom was to go full out with the coral and white wide stripe-it seemed to overwhelm the space.
Lose the Stripe- replace it with a crisp cotton duck and use the stripe on the bias to band the valance and the panels.. The iron and porcelain chandelier enjoys its forth hanging-at the least- in another of Dorothy's homes. The wide silk DEDAR stripe is on one of the chairs pulled up to a skirted table for impromptu dining. The fabric on the skirt is by Kelly Wearstler for F.Schumacher, Imperial Trellis.

More views- The Living Room with more of the Louis XV style caned chairs done in green linen and green & yellow check boxed cushions. The walls in the Sunroom and Living Room match the curtains a sunny white- Parchment.
Many a mismatched pair has grace rooms I decorate-here- old gilded brackets hold two of Dorothy's jades.Dorothy's work  Scherenschnitte (pronounced shair-en-shnit-teh) which literally means 'scissors-cutting' hangs over a  lacquered Regency style piece.

Gin Rickey or -elegance with a twist of lime.
We took Dorothy's already elegant and beautiful furniture and antiques and applied some ZEST. Here mostly LIME. The chair and sofa are covered in G.P & J Baker Peony and Blossom linen print. Limeapple- I call it- with dashes of deep coral peony. A chair in the forefront got the yellow rose treatment and Imperial Trellis makes another appearance in the Living Room on an ottoman. I left the covering on the old lilac gray petitpoint chair and replaced its tired gimp with a new Scalamandre trim of coral, gray and cream. Dorothy loves that little, but ever so needed, and transforming touch. The parquet floors are covered with a sisal and wool woven Stark Carpet rug. Dorothy's collection of Italian watercolors and drawings have a prominent place in the room.

Flo Clarke
Little credit can I take for my favorite piece in the Living Room. Dorothy's decorator, New Yorker, Flo Clarke takes that honor. Dorothy elaborates on Flo:

"She had  a kind of little atelier ,if that is the right word, where she had in her employ artists and painters. She was the one who had the man who did my coffee table. She was the first one I knew who used smoked glass which was big at the time. Also it was there that she put together the unimportant five sconces to become the two on the wooden ribbons that I have now and became two large ones. Also she found, when they sold the Julliard mansion, the carved wood from that library and brought it all up to Boston and reassembled it for our library there. But she would also take what you have and redo it..  That little white settee was a nothing with a plaid cover and she redid  it to be that white scalloped thing with white knitted ball trim etc.. I am trying to think of other things she thought of using what one already had..  She was also good at conning men into spending more than they expected. Oh,She was good."

Flo Clarke's monumental sconces

In Pinks-or coral.
The CORAL certainly is not done justice in my photographs but you get the picture. I insisted we use the full length portrait in this tiny Sitting Room painted Coral. Just off the Living Room-it is really a part of that room, with the luxury of mixing things up a bit. Changing the walls to this color, repeating the Imperial Trellis on the window curtains- puts this room at the top for my own personal favorite spot in the whole place. Dark bottle green bookcases fill the opposite side of the room. Notice the little "nothing" settee of Flo's creation from years ago. Maintaining Flo's good design details- the covering is now a hessian cotton with Scalamandre white cotton tufts along the scallop edges.

Dorothy's Maxims

Dorothy cut out and decoupaged the lamps long ago, new brown paper bag shades add fresh wrapping

a wire basket of Lemons sits on a center portion of stretchers under a table

D. and her husband with one of their winning thoroughbreds

a Gin Rickey please-
This narrow mellow apple green suede table swagged with brass studs was added to a hallway off the Sitting room to accommodate a simple bar for get-togethers. It works perfectly in the limited space and anchors the old framed prints of English thatch cottages hanging above.

Ladies of the Club Some of the most wonderful pieces Dorothy has are these cuttings of antique fashion plates from Ackermans or Godeys. She has a collection of them in one of the bedrooms. Along with these framed fashion plates there are a few touches of green and other little feminine-but tailored touches as well- an upholstered headboard in a Decorator's Walk floral chintz and a valance that matches, along with eyelet white curtains-both banded in a tiny green Scalamandre silk check.

This is one of the plates she did for me in with my dog Moses here.  

She is always up to something. Her latest jaunt was down to Panama to traverse the Panama Canal-something she has always wanted to do. What next?

the intrepid Dorothy with her designer.




  1. I enjoyed reading about Dorothy.The design and colors of a living room remind me of a bostonian drawing room, very appealing.

  2. Beautiful. Love all the patterns and colors.

  3. What a delightful post! Charming room, charming client, charming decorator :)

  4. Love the couch in the living room!! and the sun room is lovely.

  5. Little Augury, This is just as lovely a place as you and your client appear to be. The Paul Swan portrait is just heaven and I would put it at about 1925 or 30? The rooms you have designed are just as that portrait, full of life,color and grace. The cuttings make me want to rush off and tear into some magazines immediately. Thank you for this heavenly morning story. I love it! aw

  6. That was simply delightful. Many thanks for the tour through Dorothy's
    charming rooms!!

  7. I so enjoy 'little augury' arriving in my mailbox. Wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your posts last week - saved and re-read at my leisure. I adore the work of the Lalanne's, your Coral posts were exquisite, and I can't wait to read, 'The World of Madeleine Castaing' who has always fascinated me...not to mention La Reine Margot and Adjani. Your work here is another delight.
    Can you hear my exhuberant applause?

  8. Francine, these have always been Dorothy's colors and from living her married life in Boston. thank you for stopping in.pgt

  9. Donna, Townhouse, Kenju- thank you, I love these colors for DO , as said they truly reflect her nature and zest for life.

  10. Anon. I am intrigued by Paul Swan, especially his Warhol days (sad really) apparently many of his portraits have faded into the woodwork so to speak-& are just now finding their way to the surface and discovery. the riotous colors are wonderful I think

  11. Mr. Worthington-you would adore Dorothy. So many stories to tell too.

    Catherine- I do like an occasional ovation, merci.
    Glad you are enjoying the posts of recent days, this one is sheer pleasure on my part-such a friend. thank you- pgt

  12. Dorothy writes: I had no idea that I and my life were so glamorous.You made it all sound and look like a mixture of the Flying Cloud, Ballenciaga and the Ritz... You're a genius the way you put it all together.It was beautiful. This is better than an old album showing me on the porch with granddaddy.

  13. I think that Dorothy is her best work of art.

  14. Home, You are so Right! the very best of all. pgt

  15. You make a great pair of operators! You did a grand job.

  16. Schumacher shared this at this link: http://whatsnew.fschumacher.com/index.php/design-inspiration/1719/a-labor-of-love/

  17. Dorothy sounds fabulous. Lovely place and I adore the Paul Swan painting xx



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