Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Artificial Flowers

Branches of white pear blossoms
made of painted metal by Carmen Almon
for Deeda Blair's New York City apartment.
Photo by Julia Netta for T Magazine.
As a preschooler, one of my favorite songs was Bobby Darin's "Artificial Flowers" which was a hit in 1960 despite coming from the unsuccessful Broadway show "Tenderloin" which is set in the red-light district of Manhattan in the 1890s.  I did not know anything about that, although I did get that the lyrics were about a poor orphan who froze to death making artificial flowers.  But it was a time when lyrics could be understood and they painted an impression that I could comprehend, even as a young child.  And I loved the up-beat, jazzy, big band accompaniment.  You will understand if you watch Bobby Darin's YouTube video performance here.
A pineapple plant made by Carmen Almon
set in an antique brass container
in a detail from a photo by Carolyne Roehm.
Despite growing up with gardens and houses filled with containers of cut flowers, ever since that song I have had an interest in artificial flowers as a permanent element in decoration.  Of course, the chances of this going completely wrong are positively stinking-ly overripe with possibilities, and I have always encouraged my clients not to depend on floral arrangements, either real or artificial, to carry a room.  So you will understand my recent joy in seeing a pair of pineapple plants made by Carmen Almon that were decorating the Bird Room in Chisholm House, the lovely-though-work-in-progress Charleston home of Carolyne Roehm.

A detail of Carmen Almon's
pineapple plant.
Photo by Carolyne Roehm
Pineapple plants are very expensive to buy yet very easy to grow.  But they grow fast so it would almost take a plantation to keep a supply of potted plants in this stage of growth.  And, of course, Carmen Almon's works are not replicas of nature but her own artistic impression.  She mostly uses 17th and 18th century botanical books as her guide rather than actual plants or photographs.
A basket of prunus branches by Carmen Almon
in the Fifth Avenue apartment of Howard Slatkin.
Photo by Jeff Hirsh for NYSD.
I really began to take note of Carmen Almon's work with the publication of  Howard Slatkin's Fifth Avenue apartment; he must have a couple of dozen of her works.  She was the first employee he hired when he opened his Manhattan business in the early 1990s, according to a T Magazine article in 2013.

Carmen Almon's clematis trained on a form
is joined by additional works in pots
in Howard Slatkin's apartment.
Photo by Jeff Hirsh for NYSD.
Carmen Almon was a botanical watercolorist 25 years ago when style icon Deeda Blair asked her to restore some 1960s tole pieces that she collected.  When Mrs. Blair moved to New York City in 2005, she commissioned the white pear blossom branches seen in the first image in this post of The Devoted Classicist.  "It's the same Bradford pear I had in Washington," she was quoted in an article by Jean Bond Rafferty for a NY TIMES article published 08/25/2013.  "I became obsessed photographing flower clusters and branches and sending them back and forth to Almon.  The branches were dark wood, covered in lichen and moss."

Carmen Almon in her Bordeaux apartment
photographed by Fabrice Fouillet for
T magazine, August 21, 2013.
Almon, 63, born in Guatemala to a Spanish mother and an American diplomat father, attended several art schools in Europe.  Her second husband, a sculptor, taught her how to solder in the late 1990s.  Using brass and copper tubes, she cuts copper sheeting with several kinds of nail scissors and employs an assortment of vises and pliers to create the petals and leaves.  Working on each art piece over a period of three months or so, she applies layers of color with washes of enamel and oil paint thinned with turpentine.  A bug is often added to complete the composition.

A Saturn peach with a Callithea butterfly by Carmen Almon.
A 2012 charity auction to benefit the New York Botanic Garden offered a floral sprig donated by Almon which was valued at $850.  A show at New York City's Chinese Porcelain Company in October, 2013, had prices ranging from $3,500 for a nectarine blossom sprig to $40,000 for very large pieces.

An almond tree by Carmen Almon.
More may be read about Carmen Almon in an article in the January, 2006, issue of HOUSE & GARDEN.  In addition to Howard Slatkin's FIFTH AVENUE STYLE: A DESIGNER'S NEW YORK APARTMENT, more examples of her work may be seen used as part of the décor in room settings in CHARLOTTE MOSS: A FLAIR FOR LIVING and in CHARLOTTE MOSS DECORATES: THE ART OF CREATING ELEGANT AND INSPIRED ROOMS.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Eyford Park, Reprised

The manor house of Eyford Park, Gloucestershire.
Photo via Number One London.
There apparently has been a glitch in the publishing of the previous post for readers of The Devoted Classicist who subscribe to receive these essays via Follow By Email; "Eyford Park, England's Favorite House" was not sent out, or at least, it was not received by all.  The service is out of the blogger's control, but if the post has been missed, this should solve the problem by clicking on the link here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eyford Park, England's Favorite House

The entrance to Eyford Park, Gloucestershire,
designed by Guy Dawber and built 1911 to 1912.
Photographed by Paul Barker, published 2004.
Country Life Picture Library.
Concluding - at least for now - the series of a dozen consecutive posts with a connection to the quintessential English country house Daylesford (starting with Pat "Bubbles" Rothermere here from April, 2014), Devoted Readers are asked to consider the house known as Eyford Park.  Country Life magazine named the private residence "England's Favorite House" in a 2011 contest of over more than 150 properties judged by Emma Bridgewater, Annabel Astor, Charlie Brooks and "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes.

Eyford Park, the entrance (north) front,
photographed by Paul Barker, published 2004.
Country Life Picture Library.
Although not the grandest or even the most architecturally significant, Eyford Park has "that elusive quality, a homely [editor's note:  yes, this is correctly used; see comments] warmth that simply makes you want to live there.  This is a testament to the skills of the family that has owned it for three generations," the Country Life committee said in a press release.  Sir Cyril Kleinwort with Lady Kleinwort bought the estate in December, 1972, with their giving up nearby Sezincote to one of their daughters.  Later, Eyford Park was bequeathed to their daughter Charlotte Herber-Percy who lived in the main house until about 2010 when she passed it on to her daughter Serena Prest.  Mrs. Heber-Percy then moved to the converted stable block.

Eyford Park, aerial view from the south.
English Heritage, View Finder.
Local legend has it that John Milton began writing Paradise Lost in the first house on the property, built as a retreat in the 1640s.  A second house was built, this time in the location as the present house, as an Italianate mansion in the 1870s by the Cheetham family.  Although the lodge still remains, that house was demolished by John Cheetham to build the current house, commissioned in 1911 from architect Guy Dawber.

A portrait of the architect Sir Guy Dawber
by William Orpen, 1930, from the RIBA collection
via BBC Public Catalog Foundation.
Guy Dawber became a great admirer of the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds early in his career, working as clerk of the works during the construction of Batsford Park (later inherited by the father of the famous Mitford sisters) near Moreton-in-Marsh after an apprenticeship in Dublin.  Dawber started his independent practice in 1890 in London, soon becoming well known for middle-sized stone country houses, often in the revival Tudor or Late Stuart styles.  In 1925, Dawber founded the Council for the Preservation of Rural England after writing extensively on the vernacular buildings of the Cotswolds, Kent, and Sussex.

The west end of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
While it can be tricky to apply a label of architectural style on every house, The Devoted Classicist would called this an Arts & Crafts house of the later period where classicism become more into play than the more medieval aspects that were hallmarks of the early days of the movement.  Some would call it (English) Queen Anne (which is different from the earlier period of that name in the U.S.) and some would call it Edwardian.  In any case, there is no question that it is anything less than a spectacularly handsome house.  It is Grade II listed.

An oblique view of the south (garden) front
of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
Although there are some quirky features that resulted from an apparent pre-construction revision to make the house slightly smaller, compromises are not immediately evident on the entrance (north) front or the garden (south) front.  Inside, some of the uses of the rooms have changed to suit the needs of the current owners and some spaces have changed with opening of walls and rearranging partitions.

The north garden at Eyford Park
in a 2008 photo by Paul Barker.
Country Life Picture Library.
"What I've been trying to do is to modernize it and make it more child friendly," Mrs. Prest told Country Life.  "I hope we've hit the right note, with baths that work (they never really did in my grandmother's time) and yet none of that modern, hotel-like feel of interior design.  Eyford is not a Chatsworth or a Blenheim - it only has six bedrooms - but it's really alive.  Each day, I pinch myself at how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful, peaceful, yet practical house."

A detail of the site plan of Eyford Park.
The area in pink indicates a proposal for an indoor
swimmng pool in a portion of the converted stable block.
Drawing via public documents.
Guy Dawber laid out the gardens in the 1920s, but the Kleinworts brought in Graham Stuart Thomas in 1976 to improve the landscaping, as he had done at Sezincote; he returned again during the ownership of Mrs. Heber-Percy.  And John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler was consulted on the decoration, as also he had done at Sezincote.

The proposed floor plan for Eyford Park.
(Not as built)
"Recent Designs in Domestic Architecture"
The Billiard Room and the Housekeeper's Room were deleted, along with the Kitchen wing.  The Drawing Room was made longer, but the fireplace was left off-center.  Later, a flat roof garage was added on the east end; it now has a rooftop conservatory.  The Hall was later made into the Dining Room and the Business Room was later made into the Breakfast Room.  Presumably, the original Dining Room is now a Family Room.

The garden side of Eyford Park as originally
proposed in a circa 1910 rendering.
"Recent Designs in Domestic Architecture"
"About 60% of the carpets and curtains and 90% of the furniture are my grandmother's," Mrs. Prest told Country Life.  It is not difficult to see the influence of John Fowler in the Drawing Room, for example.

The Drawing Rom of Eyford Park
as photographed by Paul Higham,
and published in 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
In 2004, Penelope Reeve was brought in to paint murals on the walls of the space that became the Dining Room.

The Dining Room, originally the Garden Hall.
Country Life Picture Library.
A series of scenes inspired by the canals of Venice cover the walls and incorporate the members of the family, including the housekeeper.

A detail of the current Dining Room
in Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
The Breakfast Room was apparently intended as a home office for the original owner, a diplomat often in foreign service, explaining its relatively formal proportions and detailing.

The current Breakfast Room of Eyford Park.
Country Life Picture Library.
An archway was added to connect the Kitchen and Breakfast Room as a concession to modern living.

A view from the Kitchen to the Breakfast Room
in a photo by Paul Higham published in 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
More evidence of Penelope Reeve's murals line the passage outside the Dining Room at the staircase.

A detail of the staircase at Eyford Park
in a photo by Paul Higham, published 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
The paneling of the staircase is painted in three glazed straw tones as one comes to expect from a Colefax & Fowler scheme to highlight the architectural detailing.

The staircase at Eyford Park
in a photo by Paul Higham, published 2011.
Country Life Picture Library.
The attic (not shown) was converted to additional family use, giving "rooms where a million dogs or children can mill around."

The upstairs landing at Eyford Park.
(Photo by Paul Higham not used)
Country Life Picture Library.
Despite the accolades, Eyford Park is not particularly well-known.  The house is not open to the public but charity-related events have sometimes been held on the grounds.  Eyford Park appears on the dust jacket of Clive Aslet's book THE EDWARDIAN COUNTRY HOUSE, A SOCIAL AND ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY and the same image along with another appears inside, but other than captions, there is no accompanying text.  It is an excellent book, however, and highly recommended for those interested in the country houses built in Britain between 1890 and 1939.  Note must be made that it is a rewrite of sorts, or a new, expanded edition of Clive Aslet's 1982 book THE LAST COUNTRY HOUSES.  These titles as well as others by Clive Aslet are available for order at a discount from the published price here.

by Clive Aslet, published November, 2012.
If reading this in a format other than the standard on-line version, visit the main blog site to leave a comment, learn more about The Devoted Classicist, search the archives, and read other posts in this series with a connection to Daylesford.  And lastly, a special thanks to Devoted Readers TB and TW who generously contributed advice and images for this post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sezincote, Part II

The Saloon at Sezincote.
Photo from private collection.
This post of The Devoted Classicist is a continuation of the previous about the exotic Moghul inspired Cotswolds house, Sezincote.  An earlier house was extensively rebuilt over a period of years starting about 1805 by architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell for his brother Charles Cockerell.  Both had worked for the East India Company and S.P. Cockerell had used Anglo-Indian motifs at nearby Daylesford.  Such drastic changes would not be allowed to a  historic house today, so it is particularly interesting to study the extent of the commitment to a residential architectural expression in terms of both artistic and social expression.

The entrance (east) front of Sezincote.
Published in Country Life magazine, 2002.
Image via Country Life Library.
Although Thomas Daniell and John Martin were also commissioned to produce drawings that would be used in the construction of Sezincote, S.P. Cockerell, and later his son, Charles Robert Cockerell were the lead architects.  Much of Sir Charles Cockerell's fortune was spent on the house and surrounding estate.  After Sir Charles' death in 1837, the house passed to his son Sir Charles Rushout Rushout [sic], 2nd Baronet Cockerell, of Sezincot [sic], Gloucestershire.  After Rushout's death in 1879, it was put up for auction in 1880 but not sold until 1884 when it was purchased by James Dugdale.  It remained in the Dugdale family until sold in 1944 (or some sources say 1946) to Sir Cyril and Lady Kleinwort.

The Basement (ground floor) Plan of Sezincote
  drawn by S.P. Cockerell, 1811.
Image via RIBA.
Some refer to it as a small large house and others as a large small house.  Although the exterior of the house was known from exhibitions and publications such as J.P. Neale's 1823 BEAUTIES OF ENGLAND, the interior was not particularly unusual and Sezincote was not part of the tours of grand country houses such as Blenheim and Chatsworth.  The interior was essentially neoclassical, a Late Georgian/Early Regency house, so the Kleinworts were not obligated to decorate it in the Indian style.  John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler may have been regarded as in his peak at this time when he was brought to Sezincote in the mid-1950s, redecorating most of the principal rooms over a period of the next few years.

The Entrance Hall at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
by Martin Wood.
The Entrance Hall was decorated by Fowler to be simple but cheerful with yellow dragged glaze walls and yellow corduroy curtains.  Although elegant, there is a comfortable, inviting quality that many find so difficult to achieve.  With the relatively low ceiling height of the Basement/Ground Floor, there are no ceiling lights here, but lamps made from antique Chinese tea canisters are placed on fluted plinths at the pilasters.  The painting of Sezincote over the sideboard is one of the seven paintings commissioned by Sir Charles from Thomas Daniell; the Kleinworts were able to trace the subsequent history of the paintings and buy back six of them.
A detail of the baseboard in the Entrance
Hall of Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
The baseboards (or skirting boards as they say in England) were marbleized with the help of Jean Hornak according to Martin Wood in his book JOHN FOWLER, PRINCE OF DECORATORS.  The detail above shows how the visual weight is given by the marbling and how the humble fabric of the curtains is given style with the addition of a decorative tape.
The Drawing Room of Sezincote.
Photo from private collection.
The Drawing Room created by John Fowler for the Kleinworts also shows a realistic scheme to accomplish modern living in a stately home.  In this 1960s view, comfortable upholstered furniture is complimented by simple curtains, a large Oriental rug, some pictures and books.
The current Dining Room at Sezincote.
Photo from COLEFAX & FOWLER,
Judging from the ceiling height, the Kleinworts found it easier to use a room on the ground floor as their Dining Room.  In 1982, George Oakes, who had been trained by John Fowler to become one of the best decorative painters of the day, painted murals on the walls of capriccios, architectural fantasies inspired by the work of Thomas Daniell. 

Details of the George Oakes murals
in the Dining Room at Sezincote.
Photo from COLEFAX & FOWLER,
The Dining Room's chimney breast is painted with trompe l'oeil elements of Indian architecture.  The dado is painted to simulate marble.

The Stair Hall at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER

The Stair Hall is a windowless interior space with light coming from upper fanlights and an architectural lantern/cupola above.  Fowler had trouble with the wall color, Martin Wood wrote, and it had to be painted twice, at Lady Keinwort's expense, to achieve the pink that would age to the desired dusty hue.  Large tapestries are framed to appear as enormous paintings, an idea repeated from Cholmondeley ("CHUM-lee) Castle.  (Thanks again to Curt DiCamillo's Pronunciation Guide). 
The Upper Hall as it appeared in a 1931
photo from the archives of RIBA.
The main rooms for entertaining were originally on the story above the ground level, the Principal Floor, and there was a Chamber (bedroom) Floor above that.  The 1811 plans show the largest room on the Principal Floor being the "Eating Room," evidence of the elaborate entertaining by Sir Cockerell.  The room adjacent with the curved bay is labeled "Drawing Room" but other sources refer to it as the ballroom.  Beyond that is a large room designated as the "Breakfast Room."
The Principal Floor Plan and the Chamber Floor Plan
as drawn by S.P. Cockerell, 1811.
Image from RIBA.
Although, as it was noted in the previous post, Sir Cockerell used the north pavilion as his bedroom, the room above the entrance hall is labeled as the "Principal Bed Chamber."  Additionally, there are 3 more bedrooms and three dressing rooms in the main block, plus a wing extending to the west with Lady Cockerell's bedroom and dressing room along with what appears to be her maid's room.  Also, in that wing is another bedroom with en suite dressing room, a Nursery, a nursery bedroom, a Cook's Bedroom and another maid's room.  On the Chamber Floor, there are nine bedrooms and an assortment of dressing rooms and servants' rooms.
The current Master Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
The original Dining Room on the Principal Floor became Lady Kleinwort's bedroom.  The corona of the bed features an eagle holding the elaborate bed hanging in its beak.  The William Morris carpet of Arts & Crafts design was added after John Fowler's time.
Details of the upper wall and ceiling
of the current Master Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER
John Fowler painted the walls and ceiling of Lady Kleinwort's bedroom in three shades of blue.  The detail above shows Fowler's masterful use of paint with color used to give visual depth and interest to the architectural elements.

A drawing of John Fowler's design for
curtains in Lady Kleinwort's Bedroom.
Image from JOHN FOWLER
The watercolor sketch shows Fowler's design for the curtains at the big arched window in Lady Kleinwort's Bedroom.  Made of shantung silk (often used in bridal gowns) by John Mason (the curtain-maker who had worked with Fowler to create the hangings for the famous William Kent bed at Houghton Hall) the curtains of the room help soften the grand space.  In the photo of the room, note the contrasting color in the lining of the jabots/tails.
A reflective view of the Saloon at Sezincote in a 1931 photo
showing a pair of mirrors flanking the entrance..
Image from RIBA.
The Saloon, having a sprung floor to lend credence to its former use as a ballroom, is the best known space in the house.  Fowler is thought to have been the influence behind some changes to simplify the walls and give even more focus to the curved window wall.  The pair of mirrors flanking the entrance were removed, along with the overdoor pediments to the adjoining room, and the doors to the adjoining room were brought forward.  The picture hanging rail, probably a late nineteenth-century addition, was also removed.

The Saloon at Sezincote as it was published
in a 1939 issue of Country Life magazine.
Image from Country Life Library.
The walls of the Saloon were framed with batten strips, covered with burlap, lining (probably flannel or felt; it was not specified in the research fouind), and yellow silk moire.  The "fish-eye" view of the last image of the room probably gives the most accurate rendition of color for both the walls and the curtains.
The Saloon at Sezincote
as decorated by John Fowler.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER,
Two panels of mirror fills the gap between the three pairs of French doors to the balcony, with the curtain treatment being continuous.  The elaborate treatment was meticulously recreated by Fowler with his curtain-makers, Chamberlain and Mason.  Using an illustration from Ackerman's Repository, a monthly magazine published between 1809 and 1829, as their guide, the swags required expert planning to get the desired effect.
Detail of the Saloon curtains by
John Fowler at Sezincote.
Photo from JOHN FOWLER,
The Saloon curtains' trimming of bullion fringe and bobble tassels was designed by Fowler and custom made by Clarke's, according to author Martin Wood.
The Saloon at Sezincote.
Image from private collection.
Fowler's customary 'dash of French' was given by a Louis XV bureau plat topped by a pair of candelabras fitted as table lamps with simple white card shades to give the desired pools of light.  John Fowler also decorated the Kleinwort's London house on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea.

The Oriental Bedroom at Sezincote.
Photo by Ming Tang-Evans,
Tent poles from Charles Cockerell's original bedroom in the north pavilion were used to create a new bed from the ornamental spears.  Decorator Stanley Peters furnished this room in a style in keeping with the public rooms of the house.  (The pavilion bedroom, not pictured, has been redecorated to reflect the original décor in Sir Charles' day, as a tent room with a canopy of stars printed on the underside and the walls draped in a printed cotton specially commissioned in India).

A mural in the Oriental Bedroom
of Sezincote by Geoffrey Ghin.
via Bridgeman Images
A corner of the Oriental Bedroom features a mural by Geoffrey Ghin to represent an interpretive view of the house from an imaginary folly. 

An ivory veneer chair, circa 1770,
 now at Sezincote.
Photo by Diane James via
Lady Kleinwort was able to add to the Asian collections in the house with purchases of her own.  A set of six sandalwood chairs with cane seats, veneered with ivory and detailed with black lacquer and gilt were bought at auction in the 1940s.  Believed to have been made in Vizagapatam, in the Madras district of India, around 1770, the chairs are said to have been a gift to Queen Charlotte from Warren Hastings of Daylesford.
Design for a dairy for Sezincote in the form
of a chapel by William and Thomas Daniell, 1807.
Image via RIBA.
As mentioned in the previous post on Sezincote, garden designer Humphry Repton was also a collaborator on the development of the estate.  Repton no doubt had input in the layout of features such as the carriage drive and ha-ha, but probably not the out-buildings.  A friend of Thomas Daniell, Repton had been first contacted in 1805 and invited to submit designs, but he was not experienced in the exotic styles other than the Chinese influence of the late eighteenth-century.

Floor plan and interior elevations for a dairy for Sezincote
in the Moorish style by S.P. Cockerell, 1808.
Image via RIBA.
Perhaps Repton's greatest contribution to the advancement of exotic style lies in the idea that it was the landscape architect (born 1752, died 1818) who was instrumental in getting George, the Prince of Wales, to visit Sezincote in 1807.  The commission to transform the Royal Pavilion at Brighton ultimately fell to architect John Nash, however.
A view of the south garden at Sezincote.
Photo by Beata Moore via Light Encounters.
In 1961, a tennis pavilion was added in the style of the historic architecture.  In 1965, Lady Kleinwort brought in Graham Stuart Thomas, a partner in Sunningdale Nurseries and an advisor to the National Trust, for guidance on creating gardens sympathetic to the house.

The Tennis Pavilion at Sezincote
added in 1961.
Photo by Kendra Wilson via Gardenista blog.
Today, Sezincote remains a private home, occupied by the Klienwort's grandson Edward Peake and his wife Camilla, but it can be visited.  The garden is open afternoons January to November on Thursdays, Fridays and Bank Holidays Mondays and the house is open on the same afternoons May to September inclusive. Tea and cake are served in the Orangery when the house is open for tours. Six times a year, the house and garden are available for rental for a special event such as a wedding.  For more information, visit the house's official website www.sezincote.co.uk.

Sezincote at cherry blossom time.
Photo via Petersham Properties
For all the posts in the series related to Daylesford, just clink on the name in the right-hard margin of the regular web version of The Devoted Classicist under the heading of LABELS.  Up next:  Sir Cyril Kleinwort's subsequent residence, also decorated by John Fowler.