Monday, October 28, 2013

Stephen Sills Decoration

One of the most anticipated design books of the fall is finally out – Decoration by Stephen Sills.  Sills is one of the legends of design, a member of Architectural Digest's AD100 and one of AD's "30 Deans of American Design", and has recently been included in Elle Décor’s A List of the Top 25 Designers.  His first book Dwellings (which he co-authored with James Hunniford) is in the reference library of my designer and architect, and I referred to this book quite a bit during my house build.  Stephen Sills’ new book Decoration showcases his solo residential work, and is a much bigger book both in size and scope. It is exceptional –  destined to become another design classic.

I remember having a conversation with a top designer about what sets certain designers apart. I thought of this conversation when I read a description of Sills’ work in the press release for the book:

One of Sills’ signatures is the way he mixes cultures and pieces from different centuries so that they seem to speak to one another. His designs are simultaneously classical and contemporary, layered with tranquil hues, unusual finishes, dramatic modern art, and museum-quality furnishings. Filled with luxurious fabrics, furnishings from across centuries, and unusual finishes, his work is polished and seemingly effortless.

The title of the book is so simple, but Sills’ work most definitely is not. It is nuanced and layered, and he has reached a level in his career in which his clients have the budget and the resources to create the most wondrous residences in the world, both from a décor and architectural perspective.  Sills’ projects, each and every one, are beautifully crafted and filled with treasures and exquisite details.  He is also particularly adept at creating magnificent architectural envelopes with the floors, ceilings, and walls that add a unique third dimension to the spaces.

Here are some of my favorite examples of his work from the fourteen residences that are featured in the book. All images are used with permission. © Stephen Sills: Decoration, Rizzoli New York, 2013. Photographer: François Halard.

The cover is an excellent introduction to the caliber and quality of the work contained within.  The decoration is always an important element, but the architecture and treatment of all of the surfaces is equally important (in fact, there was a point when reading the book that I checked to see if Sills is an architect as well as a designer, as there is so much detail about the architecture of the spaces as well as the décor). Stephen Sills is known for his one of a kind wall treatments; this wall was created with a celadon paint, then very thin layers of tissue paper were layered on top, creating a “beautifully translucent, very fragile effect”.  Many other details of this room and the entire Fifth Avenue apartment are in the book.

This room from a house in Connecticut caught my eye.  The goal was to create a magical house for a young family of avid readers – note that the bookcase is full of books (and only books). It seems that most of the rooms in this house contains bookshelves full of books – a great thing to behold. The walls are stenciled burlap.  This is the type of room (and picture) that you could look at a thousand times and see something different every time you looked.

I included a picture of this room in my last post on French style mirrors, and it was this room inspired the the post in my mind as I was so taken with the mirror above the fireplace. I also love the custom banquette, a novel solution to furniture layout in a square room that allows both sides of the room to be used, and the placement of a central light fixture.  It’s in a historic building in New York City that was completely renovated, but the original classicism was retained – as Sills writes, “I believe successful modern living can be achieved in classical backgrounds”.

Here is a close up of the mirror. Sills writes “contemporary furnishings against an antique neoclassical background set the mood to reflect how we live today”.

A light filled library in a newly built house in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Stephen Sills’ home state). The client wanted high ceilings and not many rooms, so much care was taken that each room was extraordinary.  The mirror above the fireplace is Roman, and the mantel is bronze.  Note the light fixture. Sills says that light fixtures can lift a whole room up. In Sills words, “Lighting fixtures are among the most important accessories in a house. They’re the ones that matter. I’d much rather have a really beautiful light than a bunch of knickknacks on a table”.

The living room in the same Oklahoma house. I always enjoy seeing how designers at the top of their game decide to arrange the furniture in a space as large as this one.  Here, the eye is drawn to the magnificent fireplace with the beautiful tall mirror and art work flanking the fireplace (one of which is a Rothko), and the glorious 17th century Venetian rug (which mimics the mosaic stonework of the floors of Venetian palaces).  Sills notes that the rug, although an antique, provides such a modern touch to the space.  A mobile by Alexander Calder can be seen on the right –additional pages of the book show the other side of this grand room, which has an fantastic, enormous Joan Mitchell painting (not included in this post, you will have to see it in the book!).

I saved my favorite image for last. I mentioned that many of Sills projects include treasures.  Take a look at this room:  on the left is a Rothko (and a beautiful one at that); on the right is a Picasso.  The chandelier is an exquisite piece, an 18th century bronze and crystal design.  The center hall table is a 16th century Spanish monk’s table (I love the casual tilt of it in a room of such exquisitely constructed design). Sills noted that the floor, made of wood and stone, was the subject of his dreams. In fact, he woke up one night in the middle of construction of the house, and wrote “it came to me that the black keys the middle of the squares needed to turn in alternating directions, so I had the whole thing redone”.  It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes a space great, and I am not surprised that the title of the chapter that this house is in is called “A Designer’s Dream” – which has clever meaning on two levels.

I highly recommend Decoration by Stephen Sills – it is a beautiful, high quality book inside and out, with fourteen houses (one of which include the landscape design too) featured in great detail with superb photography. Each one is different, and is filled with nuances in both design and architecture that will make this a book that I return to again and again as reference. When looking at the pictures and the exquisite design in each space, I get the feeling that I am looking at a beautifully composed work of art.  Have you ever felt that way while looking at certain designer’s spaces?

Decoration can be found on Amazon here; I am not surprised to see that it is the #1 book in interior design right now as I write this post.  Have you read the book? What do you think? Do you have a favorite room?

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Monday, October 21, 2013

French Style: Tall Mirrors and Paneled rooms

I started writing this post weeks ago, and kept finding image after beautiful image (most of which are in this post – it’s a long one!). I finally had to force myself to stop researching and start writing.

Earlier this year, I went to a tour of homes and was particularly struck by the look and feel of one of the houses.  The house was built in 1993, and has a wonderful floor plan, great natural light, and 11 foot ceilings.  The current owner purchased the house a few years ago, and enlisted the original architect to update the house to suit 21st century life. 

The mirror above the mantel in the living room particularly caught my eye. The tall proportions of the mirror are so elegant, and so perfect for the architecture and style of the house.

The mirror is perfectly sized to the space – the width exact to the width of the mantel, the height right up to the base of the molding. The Greek key pattern on the frame is a subtle detail.  I took a quick iphone photo, and later asked the homeowner where the mirror came from.  She told me that it came with the house, as it is built in. 

Although the room itself is not paneled, the style and design of this mirror reminded me of the many paneled  rooms I have seen in which the mirror is incorporated into the paneling and made an integral part of the architecture of the room.

The mirror in this Paris living room reminds me of the mirror from the house on the tour – perhaps because of its custom fit proportions, and the great height in this tall and airy room. Via Pinterest.

The mirror above the fireplace in this Paris apartment also has a similar look and feel. Note how the width of the mirror is the same as the width of the fireplace, and how the mirror is perfectly sized almost as if it is a piece of paneling in this room. Source.

Here is a side view of that same space, and the mirror profile and molding can be seen quite clearly.

Here is another view of this beautiful room. The wall between the windows shows how the mirror repeats the size and shape of the paneling on the walls.  The mirror beautifully reflects that sublime Parisian light, and provides lovely balance to the room.

Many of the inspiration pictures that I found for this post came from Paris apartments. A tall mirror above the fireplace, often incorporated into the paneling of the room and part of the architecture of the space, seems to be a style that is very French.  It works beautifully with the lofty ceilings and the tall windows and doors that bring in so much light in classic Paris apartments and French houses.

I love the simple style and large scale of the mirror and molding above, which is integrated into the molding. The shape and style repeats the arches of the windows and the framed opening of the door.  As a side note, it’s interesting that the furniture plan for this room is centered on the room, not the fireplace.  Source

Designer Thomas Pheasant’s Paris apartment has a charming mirror above the fireplace. This type of mirror that is incorporated into the paneling was probably designed and crafted as part of the original architectural envelope of the apartment.

Thomas Pheasant’s first book was released a few weeks ago; it’s called Simply Serene. The cover features a vignette from his Paris apartment. The book can be found on Amazon here.  Thomas designed the interiors of my sister’s newly renovated house, and gave me a personally signed copy of the book. I am reading it this weekend!

Initially, I had a hard time finding pictures of mirrors that are incorporated into paneling, as I could not land upon a search term that yielded good results. Finally, I decided to search on ‘chic Paris apartments’, and found some excellent classic examples such as this salon in a French apartment, with traditional paneled walls that integrate two mirrors into the paneling.

Another classic example of a French paneled room (an architect told me the correct term for the carved panels is boiserie). Note the mirrors built into the paneling above the fireplace and on the walls.

A room in a Paris apartment that is currently for sale – the absence of decoration allows appreciation of the pure architecture of the room, including the classic boiserie ensconced mirror above the fireplace. As a side note, what a beautiful door leading to the hall.

More elaborate examples were easier to find. This room is in Château de Montgeoffroy, via a Cote de Texas post.  It is such a strikingly French room – the floors, the French doors, the interior shutters, the carved boiserie, the furniture layout – all are hallmarks of classic French style.   I see different things each time I look at this image, and this time I am noticing the beauty of the architectural mirror above the fireplace. Note how the the detail of the carvings around the arch of the doors is identical to the detail around the arch of the mirror. I wonder if they are the exact same measurement?

A view of the other side of the room shows that the interior door openings are identically designed.

Another highly ornamental example of a boiserie room (I lost my source – perhaps in the Grand Trianon?).  The carved moldings were often gilded to emphasize the form.

Timothy Corrigan has a new book detailing the extensive five year renovation and restoration of his extraordinary French chateau in the Loire Valley. There are many of beautifully paneled rooms that incorporate mirrors, including this room above.  

The book is An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Lucé: Decorating a Great French Country House.  If anyone has read it, let me know your thoughts – it is on my wish list. I have heard great things about it, and wish I could have attended his lecture in Atlanta last week. The book can be found on Amazon here. Note the elaborate carved paneling and the mirror in the cover room – so beautiful.

Another example from a Paris apartment.  Note the elaborate ceiling, seen in the reflection. Source.

The Paris apartment of Mario and Anne Grauso, featured in Elle Décor many years ago, via Habitually Chic. Note the trumeau detail in the glass panes.

I appreciate the contrast of the 19th century boiserie and the sleek and modern style of the décor. It appears that the mirror is part of the paneling, and the edge is gilded. The style of the carving on the mirror is more in reference to the paneling on the walls versus the elaborate style at the ceiling.  I appreciate how the height of the mirror emphasizes the glorious height of the room. The carved decorative piece above the mirror is another important detail – and it appears that this element is matched on the other side of the room, based on the reflection in the mirror.

Found on Pinterest, a decidedly modern take on a classic French paneled room. This looks like it could be a separate mirror, or it could be part of the carved molding of the room, gilded for contrast. I am not sure what I think about the lettering on the mirror, but the bones of the room are extraordinary. Note the interesting take on the chevron pattern on the floor.


I love this modern take on a paneled mirror, in a sophisticated room by designer Stephen Sills (photo by Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic).  This apartment is from a historic building that was recently renovated top to bottom; the apartment is one of the projects featured in Stephen Sills’ new book Decoration, which is one of fall’s most anticipated design books. Decoration is being released next week; click here to get a preview on Amazon. It looks sublime!

A project by famed designer Robert Couturier was featured in Elle Décor in a spread called “Francophile Fantasy in New York”.  In this no budget renovation, Couturier and the clients decided to create interiors inspired by 18th century French style; all of the boiseries and wall moldings throughout the apartment are made by Féau & Cie in Paris.  The vignette pictured above particularly caught my eye because of the mirror, and I love how an additional mirror was hung on top.

This room beautifully displays the French style, with the tall paneled mirror, and the addition of the antlers to cap it off is the perfect touch to balance the formality of the design. I really like the chaise that is placed in front of the fireplace – an unusual furniture arrangement. I wonder what the rest of the house (or apartment) looks like? I am not sure where this picture is from, it was found on Pinterest.

Design by Richard Halsberg and Barbara Wisely. A beautiful modern day example of a mirror incorporated into the carved panel design of a room.

Greet Lefevre’s family company specializes in exquisite custom design and hand crafted paneling. I found this beautiful example of her company’s work on her blog Belgian Pearls. I love the trumeau style detail of the mirror – note how it is split into two pieces.

So, after a many different inspirational images, from Belgium to France to the East Coast to the West Coast, back to the original inspiration for this post in Atlanta.  What I originally appreciated about this from the moment I saw it was a fresh take on French style. The feeling is created by incorporating a tall, elegant, and perfectly proportioned mirror, created with carved molding in a delicate Greek key pattern .  It is not necessary to have a room with elaborate molding to create this look and feel, but high ceilings are a must if the mirror is going to be placed above a mantle.

What do you think of this style – does it speak to you?  Creating this post was such a pleasure as it reminded me how much I love French architectural details. I particularly like seeing spaces in France that are hundreds of years old, being lived in and decorated for the 21st century. And, how aspects of 18th and 19th century French architecture and interiors are being incorporated into designs today.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Suzanne Kasler Timeless Style

Earlier this year, when I was picking up some fabric samples from Suzanne Kasler’s office, there was a big meeting going on.  Suzanne and her book team were working on the layout for her brand new book, Timeless Style.  Suzanne’s first book, Inspired Interiors, is one of my all time favorite décor books, and I have been looking forward to her new book for a long time. 

There have been a few tantalizing peeks over the past few months. Veranda had an online feature with a few of Suzanne’s favorite spaces that were featured in the book.  The room seen above is from a house in Columbus, Georgia that is simply exquisite.

Here is another image from the Veranda sneak peek, a lovely breakfast room that is filled with light and decorated in a comfortable but elegant manner.

The little sneak peeks further increased my anticipation of the new book, and finally on Tuesday of this week, the book Timeless Style was released. I have already read it cover to cover, and it is wonderful.

In the new book, Suzanne takes us through eight houses, each of which has unique character and style. Each project inspired Suzanne in different ways, reflecting the lifestyles and tastes of her clients and the environments in which the houses function. The titles of the chapters are ‘At Home’ (Suzanne’s own home); Glamour (a beautiful renovation in Columbus, Georgia – this was my favorite); Authentic (a stunning Lutyens inspired house in Atlanta); Chic (a French style house in Greenwich decorated with bursts of intense color); Classic (another Greenwich house, decorated with soft colors and elegant but livable style); Natural (a comfortable and sophisticated beach house near Charleston); Relaxed (the farmhouse-style home for the owners of Blackberry Farm, as well as some of the Blackberry Farm spaces that Suzanne decorated); and Organic (a residential compound in Africa). 

Some of the projects have never been published, and some have been published. However, 30-50 pages are devoted to each house, so many rooms and details are revealed that have never been seen before, with in depth perspectives on the process that went into the design, why certain items and colors were selected, and how the specific space relates to the whole. Each house is introduced in context, and every image includes details of the design and thought process that went behind it. When reading the book, I felt as if I was getting a personal tour of each house by Suzanne herself. I was also struck with the wide range of styles featured in the houses, which emphasizes how Suzanne truly makes the spaces so personal to each client and so reflective of their specific style and taste.

Here are a few images from the book, used with permission from the publisher.

I particularly enjoyed seeing and reading about the details from Suzanne's own house - there is something about the personal spaces of a designer that reveal so much about their inspirations. In this vignette from Suzanne’s living room, she placed the antique Italian chair in this space before the door as a focal point at the end of the visual axis. This is the first thing that is seen when entering her living room.

This is one of my favorite views of her kitchen – she notes that the soft feel of the hand painted French credenza is a nice balance to the cool white of the marble and the bright white of the tile used in the kitchen. The painting is by Steven Seinberg, one of her favorite artists.

The entry in Suzanne’s new house. She reveals that the inspiration for the color of the fabric on the bench and the pillows was inspired by mercurial sheen of the mirror, pulling together the three into an integrated composition.

The living area from the beach house near Charleston has a casual elegance. The colors selected reflect the colors of the house’s surroundings – sand, sea, sun-bleached driftwood, with a touch of orange to reflect the sunset that is often seen from the house.

Suzanne Kasler’s new book Timeless Style is available now. It was written with Christine Pittel, a senior editor at Hearst; Pittel is one of my favorite magazine writers and you may recognize her name from the kitchen of the month feature in House Beautiful each month.  Timeless Style can be found on Amazon here.

Have you received your copy of Timeless Style yet? What do you think?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Arched steel doors and windows

Many of my pictures came from houses in Atlanta, where steel windows and doors have been a favored architectural and design element for years.  At the time I wrote the post, I was particularly enamored with this picture, taken on a home tour by fellow blogger Architecture Tourist.  I had no idea at the time that the house in this picture is owned by Jill Sharp Brinson, creative director of Ballard Designs.

Jill’s beautiful house was featured in House Beautiful in January 2010, and I immediately made the connection between the kitchen quickly photographed on the house tour, and the magazine feature – mainly because of the dramatic arched steel window.  In this picture, via House Beautiful, the window can be seen in all its glory. In Jill’s words – “the showstopper in my kitchen is the 14-foot-high arched steel window and door. The drama is big in here."

Jill has a lovely arched steel window in her bedroom too. Note that there is no window treatment – the greenery in the yard provides privacy.  Jill must like to be woken by the morning light!  Image source.

A few months later, this house in Houston was the cover story of Veranda. With architecture by Murphy Mears,  and interior design by Eleanor Cummings, this has got to be one of my all time favorite Veranda covers. There are so many things about the space that have great appeal to me – the largely neutral décor accented with dark woods and bursts of color in the pillows, throw, and flowers. But most of all, I love the arched steel windows whose darkness contrast so beautifully with the lightness of the décor, and whose style works so beautifully with the architecture and design.  I am a fan of steel windows in general, but arched steel windows have particular appeal.

Another picture of this room, from a different angle, shows the windows even more clearly. This image is from the Segreto blog – they created many of the specialty wall finishes in the house. It’s interesting how neutral the room appears in this photo, and what an impact the pillows, throw, and flowers had on the styling. Either way, it’s a beautiful space. Image source

The exterior view of the window featured in the room above. I wonder if the owners ever close the shutters?

When looking through Leslie Sinclair’s beautiful book Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors, this room in particular, with interiors by John Kidd, had great appeal – in no small part because of the three arched steel windows.  I love how the kitchen and family room in this house have a wonderful connection, and yet are distinct rooms. 

As a side note, Leslie Sinclair (the owner of Segreto Finishes) has written a book, Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors, and it is truly a gorgeous book.   It is filled with page after page of European style projects that the team at Segreto have worked on, all beautifully photographed, and most never before published.  Segreto specialize in exquisite paint and plaster finishes, and the caliber of their work and the work of the designers, architects, and builders can be seen in page after page of  houses and rooms that are featured in the book (the book is huge - there are literally 300 hundred of pages of inspiration).   I found the finishes and décor of the spaces to be inspiring, and I also studied every architectural detail of the houses and rooms in the book – many of the houses are new or recently remodeled, and the floor plans and architectural details are fascinating to me. The book can be found on Amazon here.

Over on Brooke Giannetti’s blog Velvet & Linen, I immediately noticed the arched steel window/doors that she and her husband Steve installed in their new house, Patina Farm. Via Velvet & Linen.

And another one in the bedroom while it was under construction – the airiness of the steel doors create an incredible indoor/outdoor feel, and enhance and frame the incredible view. Via Velvet & Linen.

This beautiful bathroom from a Summerour designed house in Atlanta was featured on This Photographer’s Life, and she proclaimed it to be the prettiest bathroom she had ever seen. I wholeheartedly agree – it’s a stunning space, and I think the arched steel windows are what make the room. It creates a perfect indoor-outdoor connection. Notice how some of the panes on the windows facing the pool open, as these are windows and not doors.  Also note the sphere in the corner – wish I had remembered this picture when I wrote my last post!

Another home in Atlanta features steel windows, this one designed by architect Bill Litchfield. Arched steel windows define many of the spaces in this house. Interiors by Jackye Lanham, from her website.

Another arched steel window from the same house.

One of my favorite houses designed by McAlpine Tankersley (featured in Veranda several years ago), and one of my favorite pictures from the article.  The guest room (perhaps it is a guest house?) features a large arched steel window, as well as a steel window featuring a quatrefoil shape.

Another McAlpine Tankersley project with a steel door in the entry. I like how the door is oriented on the side instead of the middle.

A favorite house I featured in my awning/overhang post has three arched steel doors.

This arched steel door/window is from John Saladino’s house in Montecito, featured in his beautiful book Villa (the book is about the design and renovation of this beautiful Montecito estate). The house has since been sold to Ellen DeGeneres.

Another incredible arched steel window from Saladino’s house.

An image found on Pinterest – the arched steel door/window brings in incredible light in this space. I noticed that I have been writing ‘door/window’ quite a bit in this post, and this is one of the great features of steel – it creates an architectural feature that is both window, letting in light and views of the outdoors, as well as door, opening the house to the outside.

These steel doors are so minimalistic, it is almost as if there is no door there at all! It’s incredibly beautiful.  I wonder how many birds have flown into this door?  Via Belgian Pearls.

Finally, an interesting design found on Pinterest. The door/window pivots to open. I wonder how this design holds up to the elements, especially when it rains?  It is certainly architecturally interesting.

I hope you enjoyed this post on arched steel doors and windows, an architectural and design element that has become one of my favorites.  I love how they combine an elegant shape, a thin profile, and a way to bring abundant light into any space where they are incorporated.

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