Sunday, June 13, 2010

Art and consoles

During the summer of 1997, I spent a month in England. Most of that time was spent exploring the countryside, and visiting many stately homes and castles that are open to the public. My favorite stop was Blenheim Palace, where I was able to see both the main house as well as the private quarters of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.


My favorite vignette from Blenheim Palace was in the private quarters of the family. At the end of a long hall is this beautiful painting of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough. The story of Consuelo is an interesting one; she was part of the Vanderbilt dynasty, and her marriage to the Duke during the Gilded Age was engineered to give her family the status of a royal title, in exchange for an infusion of cash to support a land-rich but money poor nobleman. Consuelo was the inspirations for one Edith Wharton’s characters in The Buccaneers.

The blue in the dress of the subject, combined with the blue of the Chinese porcelain jars and vases, struck me as so beautiful. Perhaps because of the influence that this scene had on me, I have a great fondness for a console combined with a beautiful piece of art.


When I saw this picture yesterday, on the facebook page of designer Suzanne Tucker, it reminded me of my love for this particular combination of elements. The painting in this picture is very Rothko-esque.


One of my favorite Michael Smith scenes includes a stunning piece of art (by Brice Marden), and a simple console underneath.


Although this is technically not a console, the combination of the art and the furniture underneath has the same effect. This was from the Kips Bay Showhouse last year, with interiors by Kathryn Boyd.


Designer Mary Douglas Drysdale included a beautiful example of a console with art above it – showing that you don’t need a huge space to incorporate this look into your home. Image via Tobi Fairley’s blog.


The cover of a Washington DC magazine combines my favorite kind of console – an antique Italian piece – with a beautiful green abstract painting.


Another Rothko-esque painting above a console with ornately carved legs. Interior design by Caldwell-Beebe.


The size of this piece, and the height of the wall, would have made a traditionally sized console a bit difficult. Instead, a lucite side table is placed under the painting, and the arrangement is turned into a seating area. The composition of this scene appeals to me on so many levels. Interior design by Amanda Nisbet.


A scene from Phoebe Howard’s store Max & Company is one of my favorites, both because of the art and console combination, and also because of the colors used in the vignette.


Have you ever bought a book for one picture? I have, and I bought one particular book for the picture seen here. Although the console is not my style, the rest of this scene really speaks to me – the soft contemporary art in large scale, flanked by crystal lamps. Source.

Are you a fan of this look? Although I hadn’t really pinpointed it until today, I realize that several of these pictures are included in my ‘inspiration notebook’ that I gave to my designer. I wonder whether a console with a great piece of art will find its way into the design of my new house?

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  1. Hi Holly,
    Nice to meet you!

    I have several of the same console & art images in my favorites files, as well. Between the colors chosen in the art & accessories and the contrast in textures, I am immediately drawn in.

    Wonderful post on this Sunday morning!

  2. Maurie@GraciousInteriors.blogspotJune 13, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    I love this look as well. When I close my eyes the ones that come to mind are the Phoebe Howard vignette and the bright yellow, both because of the colors. Another interesting observation from your collection: Most of these Rothko-esque paintings use the golden third principle. Great post...always educating me. Now I need to buy Edith Wharton's The Bucaneers and read about Rothko.

  3. I think the most successful ones are when the proportions are thought about, while not being too rigid. I love MIchael Smiths!

  4. The Buccaneers was actually unfinished by Wharton, so I am not sure how it reads, but the BBC version from 1995 is magnificent - it has quite an all star cast. I have it on VHS, the sole reason I am holding on to my VHS player.

  5. Maurie, thank you for the great observation - I never realized it, but I do like compositions that are in the golden third.

  6. Whilst all the images are lovely there is a richness and depth in the Blenheim Palace one that none of the others can quite capture. Hope you don't mind but I have pinched it for my file! Yes I have bought many a book for just one picture!!!!

  7. This is such a fabulous post! informative (love Edith Wharton novels), beautiful and helpful...I just saved a few images. I always find it challenging to integrate art with styling and display . The line to keep the integrity of the art piece and accessorizing a console is a very thin one.

  8. Gorgeous console tables. xo

  9. I hope so.
    A wall is just a wall without a great piece of art.

  10. Oh love, love! How cool to get to see the Dukes private residence, I would not have appreciated it then, but now! OOOOH boogie. I love that last painting, so drawn to cool, soothing colors lately, and that lovely abstract green one over the italian console...sigh. Saw you in Atlanta mag lady, looking good :)

  11. Holly, I love each and every one of these examples. A console with fabulous art and a lovely vignette are right up my design alley! And Rothko is one of my all time favorite contemporary artists...these images feel like they are speaking directly to me! (and Cy Twombley...another favorite!)

  12. love it


  13. Holly the most beautiful art, I adore the abstracts!!

    Art by Karena

  14. The examples you've shown here are lovely. Artworks such as these breathe such life into a room. And I can easily see why you bought the book for that one image. It's perfection.

  15. Holly,
    In design, I think the art above a consle is just one of those really perfect combinations and definately one of my favorite looks. I have the book you referenced and I am in love with many pages, your favorite included!

    Can't wait to see your version of this in the new house!!!

    And, thanks for the history and insights...facinating.

  16. What a fascinating posting! And wonderful photos -- LOVE that look! Yes -- another one who has bought a book to capture one image or photo! LOL! I adore the ones with lamps -- just seems to add another layer to the whole scene!

    Thanks for another great posting!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  17. Oh, I adore vignettes! I think everything looks better when arranged with a little extra thought.

  18. lovely post! I have a thing for console tables and art too. All examples are beautiful, but Smith, Tucker and Drysdale's are standouts. Maybe I am in a yellow sort of mood with all this sunny weather!


  19. Love seeing art in design. The images you shared are fantastic. I esp love Suzanne Tucker's - from this year SF Designer Showcase.

  20. I love these pictures. I felt especially drawn to the design by Amanda Nisbett!!

  21. Holly, I love this look and especially when the artwork is contemporary. I too have bought a book for simply one picture... one I just had to have at the time and couldn't leave the bookstore without it!

  22. Definately in love with this look! The examples you have shown are all stunning. I love how much art can add to our homes!

  23. Inspiring!

  24. Beautiful inspiration images, many of which are in my inspiration files. I've got a large canvas hanging over a console in my home and love the look. Thanks for the history. I always feel like I learn something when I read your posts.

  25. Hi Holly,
    Fantastic post! As an artist, it's always great to see beautiful examples of modern art paired with vintage and/or rustic furniture. Coincidentally, I'm having a giveaway of one of my original paintings, so if you're interested I'd love to enter you into the draw. So glad to have found your gorgeous blog - I'm now your newest follower! K xx

  26. I love the Edith Kuhnle art and Baker console from the Old Dominion Showhouse featured in Southern Accents 2005 Nov/Dec. I switched out my large print over my entry console for a very cool mirror until I can afford an original piece. I regret the small fortune spent on a plethora of prints and framing when I could have owned a fewer original pieces....ah well...its only money....

  27. Lovely choices in art and the consoles that go with them.

  28. I love large art pieces, but have not thought about combining them with a console until your post. I really like it. I don't usually like modern art but the ones you picked out changed my mind. They look very peaceful.

  29. This look is just "drop dead gorgeous!" Tastes do change..I would never have done this years ago. Now, I love it. franki

  30. the last picture is my absolute favorite! that is gorgeous!!!

  31. I love each and every one of these pictures and vignettes! A big piece of abstract art is on my "to buy" list!

  32. Fabulous images!!

    Our aesthetic at the gallery is all about mixing traditional and contemporary, in terms of art, furniture, design, architecture, etc.. and these images really seem to embody that too. Contemporary artwork paired with complimentary traditional furniture is a great way to introduce this type of artwork to a collector that normally shies away from it. We see it here all the time! :)

  33. Great images--any idea who the artist is on that last one?? I would LOVE to know...


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