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Monday, July 27, 2009

A Beautiful Tablescape


Recently, while in the Washington DC area to visit family, I was invited over to the beautiful Northern Virginia home of nationally acclaimed designer Jim Hawes Beebe, of the firm Caldwell-Beebe. I wish I could have taken pictures, but it seemed a bit rude as Jim's house is going to be published in two major magazines over the next year. Suffice it to say that his home is absolutely exquisite. One of my favorite rooms was the guest bedroom, a lovely space filled with beautiful fabrics and antiques. I immediately noticed the side table in the guest room, and Jim noted that it is an antique that served as the model for one of my favorite pieces by Niermann Weeks, the 'Lucien' table. In fact, the name for the table was inspired by Jim's beloved departed King Charles Cavelier "Lucius'. I should stop writing about Jim's home, it is not fair to go on and on given that I do not have many photos!
I asked Jim whether I could take a photo of the tablescape in his lovely entry hall. Jim is a big believer in beautiful entries, as they welcome visitors in and set the tone for the rest of the home. Jim's entry is always changing based on his recent acquisitions, and he is constantly rotating his selection of treasures on display. The foundation for Jim's entry is the beautiful architectural space of Jim's elegant townhouse, the richly colored marble on the floor, and the Niermann Weeks Baldwin console in rift oak with a light whitewash applied to the finish. The mirror is an antique, 1820s American, with its original glass.
The 'urns' on pedestals are called 'Tazzas' or 'Tazza en suite colonne' - it's a classical form that dates back to the Etruscans. They are in three separate pieces - the base, column, and urn - and are made of carved stone. Jim found them at David Bell Antiques in Georgetown; they are circa 1800 and they came from a Bellevue Avenue 'cottage' in Newport, Rhode Island.
My favorite part of the entry was the collection of shagreen items and Meiji and Edo period Japanese sterling silver and articulated models, collected over decades of travel and focused searches. This is truly a one of a kind tablescape! The articulated items are a mix of insects (dragon fly, scarab beetle, praying mantis) and crustacea (crabs, lobsters), made of copper, bronze, or sterling silver. They range in age from 80 to 300 years old, and are predominantly Japanese (a few of the pieces are Russian). Legend has it that the Samurai armor and sword makers made them to demonstrate their meticulous metalworking craftsmanship (every part moves naturally, and the anatomical details are perfect). Jim particularly treasures his collection as they are quite rare and hard to come by as so many bronze and copper Japanese items did not survive World War II.
The boxes and obelisks are shagreen, from the 1920s and 1930s. Shagreen is the finely granulated skin of sharks and rayfish, ground flat so that the pearl like structures make a granulated pattern. It has been used since the 17th century for covering small boxes, tea caddies, and such. It is called 'galuchat' in France, and was a favorite material for mirrors and decorative furniture by the great French designer Jean-Michel Frank (who died in 1941). Jim's collection of shagreen items includes cigarette cases, card cases, compacts, obelisks, and clocks. Jim often uses the boxes as bases for displaying smaller objects, like the articulates and a starfish.
The tablescape also has a mixture of natural items such as a spiny sea urchin, a hand made (by Jim) tree lichen ball. The 'X' bronze on the stand is a piece of African currency, and the letter holder is vintage Hermes.

I asked Jim how his collections begin, and whether he has an approach to expanding the collections. For the articulates collection, Jim recalls that he kind of grew into it. He saw one 'bug' articulate at an antique show and was intrigued with it, and that was the start of the collection. Next came the fixation on shagreen; he loves the soft colors, the form and the use in display. He also loves things that are of the sea, and the fact that the collection feels so 'French'. All of the items that are seen in the tablescape came from a variety of sources: private dealers, a private collector or tow, antique stores/markets, and even ebay auctions!
Jim notes that he is a serial collector. He usually concentrates on four things at a time, and likes to acquire great pieces as he comes across them, knowing that they are one of a kind and once they are gone, he will never find them again. He always looks for things that resonate with him personally, and often they are items that are wonderfully crafted, and are usually an art that is no longer crafted in today's world. He does not go for new glitz, but for things that evoke nature, craft, and craftsmanship. To Jim, a big part of interior decoration are the accessories - it is the intensely personal part - and for him, they are the 'soul' of the home.
Although difficult to convey in this picture, the color on the wall was really beautiful. It is one of Jim's favorite colors - DK16 by Donald Kaufman paint. As is characteristic of Donald Kaufman paint, it appears to be a different color based on the light. Jim uses this paint throughout his home.
Please make sure to look at the updated website for Jim's design firm, Caldwell-Beebe. There are some new project photos, and of particular note are the new sections - 'buzz', which features Caldwell-Beebe in the news and the blogs (including a link to yours truly), and 'our favorite things', which includes Jim's favorite paint colors among other things!

27 comments:

  1. great post! thanks for sharing...

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  2. It is beautiful as is the furniture. However, with the exception of butterflies, insects are not my fave subject, possibly because the insect populations in places where I have lived have been man-eating carnivores! Thank you for sharing. Be well, The Hostess

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  3. Oh how beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. I've never seen an entry quite like it. I am a bit of a romantic when it comes to very old mirrors and objects held by many hands. The stories that mirror alone could tell, oh my, I can only imagine! Wonderful day I am certain, so pleased you shared, it has been great to read this morning.

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  5. I have seen their work in Home & Design and admire it tremendously. Love the NW piece in the foyer too. Can't wait to see more on their home in due course.

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  6. I'm glad you got a close up of the table - I enjoyed looking at his collection, and I'm sure if I was there in person I would enjoy it even more! Love the dragonflies {as long as they're not real}!

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  7. My husband has one of those articulate critters - a bronze crawfish - I'll have to find out the history!

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  8. Lovely entryway indeed.
    And I adore the floors!!

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  9. Oh I love the collection of all the little boxes and I happen to love insects and anything nature inspired really, thank you for posting!

    xo

    Jennifer
    http://milliedeel.blogspot.com/

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  10. What a fascinating collection - must be a delightful fellow to chat with. I would love to see all his things closer - they look marvellous and gorgeous and interesting too. This kind of collection of rare and exquisite things really is something to cherish, for those who can afford.

    I will check out his site!

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  11. Very cute and adorable. Delightful post!

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  12. Love the critter collection - it's charming! Linda

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  13. Absolutely stunning collections (and I love the way he has them so lovingly displayed). I can't wait to see the whole house in upcoming shelter mags!

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  14. I adore shagreen! The Rothchild's bedroom designed by Michael Smith - the headboard was shagreen. this is just beautiful. can not wait to see his guest room - it must be gorgeous!!!!!! three days in a row?????? I am beyond impressed.

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  15. Those columns, those columns, those columns. I'd love to have a few of those. And they are such a solid frame for delicate table. Very unusual look to me. My eyes keep looking back. The black table with the green shade and the little bench in the reflections. The transoms over the doors, so much much to see. Thanks so much.

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  16. I came here straight from Joni at Cote de Texas' latest post just to say thta I appreciate what a true lady you are. We need more like you in the blogosphere. Great blog too!

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  17. Wow, so unique these are truly collector pieces and I love them! I am going to his website now. What a treat to be in his home!

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  18. Gorgeous collections. I of course, love the bees :-)

    xo,
    cristin

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  19. Oh my gosh, he is doing amazing work! And I love the website...simple, with lots of thumbnails...thanks for the intro...I always appreciate it!

    Best,
    Michelle

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  20. I can't wait to see the rest of the home when it is published. What a fun opportunity you had to go through such a lovely space.

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  21. I love when people have interesting collections. We have moved so many times and I am ashamed to say I have gotten rid of so many things that in hindsight I should have kept. I am sorry that I did not know of this designer when I lived in the DC area.
    Blessings...

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  22. They are so beautifully displayed side by side with other creatures from the sea, the starfish, the crab and some coral. Why it looks like a virtual treasure chest! What an inspiring collection.
    Thank-you for your kind comment...I was admittedly jumping up and down.
    pve

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  23. Thanks for your comment on my recent post - and heavens no, I am not married! Was it the "mother-in'law" comment? That is simply convenience I guess. We do refer to each other as husband and wife most of the time, but David doesn't seem remotely interested in getting married (which makes me feel rather rejected most of the time). It is getting to be time for an ultimatum, haha!

    Hope you are well. I really like this post and must go look at his collection again.
    xo T.

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  24. Hey, I've missed a few of your posts! What a great collection of boxes!

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  25. Fantastic pictures. Thanks for sharing!!

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  26. so pretty and I love that store where he got the columns -great find!!

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