Sunday, January 15, 2012

The F word

Food for Thought

Just outside the jewel Italian city of canals 
is the fabulous and untouristed region of the Veneto.
Asolo is a perfect medieval hilltop town in the Veneto.
It's spectacular and quiet except on the second Sunday of
every month when a fabulous antique market is held in the square.
Charming hotels and authentic restaurants make this a must visit

Romeo Romeo wherefor art thou Romeo ?
In the Veneto is the beautiful city of  Verona where the Montagues and the Capulets
of Romeo and Juliet fame lived in the 15th century

Arguably the most influential architect in western culture
he wrote the Quattro Libri- the Four Books of Architecture
based on his studies of the classics of Rome 

Palladio's hometown
Palladian Villas dot the entire Veneto.  These fantastic structures did not depend
on expensive materials but rather on fine design

An interior trompe l'oeile in the Villa Barbaro


The Villa has four identical facades, each with it's own distinctive approach.
This one is my personal favorite as your view is totally channeled between two
parallel walls focusing the eye on the columns , the pediment and the dome

The Villa Saracceno

For a truly unique experience you can actually book a stay in a Palladian villa
if you are visiting The Veneto. 
Bookings can be made through
The Landmark Trust

It's the REAL THING 
The whole experience of visiting the Palladian Villas can best be described by accurately using the over-used expression AWESOME !!!

FAUX ...    my first F word - an imitation- not authentic- not real

                                        but given a French twist, it's very respectable

Ca'Toga is the truly FAUX Palladian Villa created by 
Northern California artist,Carlo Marchiori, 
at the northern end of the Napa Valley

Carlo is from The Veneto originally and with his talents and
imagination he has conjured up some serious magic.  If
you are in the Napa Valley between May and October
you can book a  Saturday tour but if that's not in your travel plans then get
a copy of Carlo's book.  

Not every artist from the Venetto is an avid follower of Palladio. 
Carlo Scarpa,  one of the leading modernist architects 
of the 20th century was also from the Venetto

  It's worth the drive on narrow dirt roads
 through fields of poppies to find the Brion Sanctuary
Scarpa designed  the  tomb for the Brion family.  It's a spectacular
monument with a Zen quality.  Concrete-bronze - and water.
There is no faux or fake here.
This is pure Brutalism at it's best
Scarpa himself is also buried at the sanctuary in a far corner,
wrapped in linen like a medieval knight and
encased in concrete in a standing position.

Thomas Jefferson, a great disciple of Palladio, may actually be the real "father of our country."
He began what was to become a 38 year relationship with Sally Heming, his 16 year old slave,
while he was serving as the US Ambassador to France in the years just prior to the French Revolution.

All evidence including DNA testing points to the fact that he was the father of her six children.

I am a fan of all films directed by James Ivory and this one gives a 
wonderful glimpse into the life of Jefferson and his relationship with
Sally while they were living in France

So there is that other F word  (the one that got you interested in this entry in the first place)
                                                   and guess where it all began...
                                                                                                in France 

Jefferson designed the United States Capital
as well as his Virginia home MONTICELLO

The Palladian Inspirations are self-evident.
When a neighbor asked him for architectural advice
Jefferson replied,
 "Palladio  is the Bible. You should get it and stick to it."

BTW... Did you know that Jefferson also invented the swivel chair ?  I picked up that little tidbit from Season I of Downton Abbey.  I am addicted to the PBS series on every Sunday night at 9:00 pm

FAKE... The other F word-   not real; an imitation with the connotation of being inferior

Are you old enough to remember this ad campaign from the 1960's...
So can you identify the beauty in this photograph  ?

First one with the right answer could be the owner of a
Faux Chincilla Pilla'

I have no idea what kind of faux animal Bobby McAlpine
has hanging over the arm of his lakehouse sofa  and atop a fireside ottoman
but it adds a great contrast in texture

So is authenticity and honesty still the best policy  ?
 Coke has been "banking" on  
The Real Thing 

...and  seems to have worked for George


... it didn't work for Elmyr de Hory, an artist who could find no market for his own works in the 1940's so  he began forging original works of art in the style of the celebrated painters of the day-

           without that French twist it seems to have a negative connotation

Good name for a forger don't you think ?  sound it out         DE HORY

Picasso, Matisse- Renoir- Modigliani-Gaugin 
De Hory escaped suspicion by never copying real existing works
but rather painting new subjects in the style of...

 SO...   why is an imitation  any less worthy or good 
just because it's not by a celebrated artist ?

Elmyr never signed any of his canvases and legally there is no crime for painting in the style of...                 It's only a forgery for legal purposes if the works are falsely signed. 

Elmyr gained fame and notoriety with the publication of Clifford Irving's book FAKE 

Ironically Clifford Irving went on to fake the
 auto-biography of Howard Hughes. 

Monkey see Monkey do 
Howard Hughes
What a babe - could have played James Bond
Orson Welles rode the De Hory hysteria to the bank
filmed the documentary on the forger
 helping to perpetuate the legend 
Ching ching ching- "Money Makes the World Go Around."

De Hory, possibly the finest forger in art history,  
became very collectible for his own work after he died in 1976. 
Forged copies of his paintings began to crop up in the art market.  

                     Forged - 

                                                    For sure !  All F words

You get a lot of BLING for the BUCK with Kenneth Lane's FABULOUSLY FAKE  jewels.


Seems that FAKE was good enough for the Duchesse
The Duke with the  Duchess of Windsor in her KL Pearls

and  it's OK to  jog in  K L Pearls for The First Lady

Is  Barbara  wearing  K L pearls or is she the real thing ?
So many questions ????

Faux is BIG in interior decorating.
In the hands of a novice it can become interior desecrating

 and become just plain fake-
                                                                               but in the hands of a master... 

The giant plinth column is entirely trompe l'oiele
and the door jamb and baseboard are faux marble

When faux is good it's really good but left in the hands of an interior desacrator
it's just scarey fake.

The height of chic and FINE FAUX is the design of the 
Guerlain Showrooms in Paris done in 1932

Appliqued embroidery on a golden wool ground
defines the faux doors that make not attempt at reality.  
The door jambs are all hand painted  faux marble.



Faux Bois  meaning fake wood  (there's that French again) is hand painted
on panels to give the impression of wood .

I reinterpreted the  Faux Bois motif   in a fine linen chenille
I designed for the Summer Hill Collection  and applied it
on this sofa named after my client and friend Christina.

"TUSCAN VILLAS"  are sprouting like fungus across the architectural landscape of America .

With so much really Fabulous Faux and some pretty Fantastic Fake why has there been such a proliferation of truly Freakish Fake ? 

Taking inspiration from the past is great, but give me a break...

There is so much talent available to guide those with no experience.
Mr. Saladino's book VILLA is a beautiful documentation of the
 transformation of a an old house into a beautiful villa,
authentic in it's details modern or ancient.

So let's raise a glass of sparkling bubbly to the F word

                                                             FAUX - FAKE - and FINE.  

Shramsberg sparkling wines can't be called champagne because
they are not made in the Champagne appellation of France.
However they are neither

Fake nor Faux

They are truly FINE !

In fact they are so fine that President Nixon took 17 cases of 
Shramsberg Napa Valley 
with him to China in 1972 on that historic occasion when an American president
went to China for the first time

Whatever your politics may be,  you will most likely agree with the toast he gave.






Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's a Small World ...

History Repeats Itself...

At the southern most tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans crash into each other, the Dutch East India company established a trading colony in the mid 17th century . 
Cape of Good Hope

Founded in 1679 by the Governor of Cape Colony
 is in the heart of what is now known as 
The Winelands
Simon Van Der Stell, named the town after himself
and why not ?
 "It's good to be KING."
More humble types such as farmers and merchants arrived from Flanders and 
built homesteads in a new style then unique to South Africa but influenced 
by designs from the old homeland

Recently I found this painting in my attic.
It was purchased by my parents in 1955 in Holland.
Painted in oil on board by
I now recognize it as the same place I took the
photograph below outside Stellenbosch, South Africa 

I knew when I took this picture that it reminded me of something

but I couldn't pin down what it was .  Now the connection
makes both the photograph and the painting more meaningful


The Cape Dutch Style

Stark lime washed exteriors with thatch roofs rise against 
the back drop of the surrounding hills .

Gable end walls with  a large center front gable dormer, often detailed with 
elaborate baroque gestures , bely the simplicity of the structures.

A thatched ceiling

Though solid and practical the style has a gladness about it
Built of simple, indigenous materials, the style carries influences 
from Flemish, German, Danish, and French architectural vernaculars, 
but speaks it's own  lyrical language. 

I love gabled end walls and have
 used them often in my own architectural 

Wooden partitions served as dividing walls and louvers allowed 
air to pass freely through the structure.  
Flemish chandeliers were brought from the Netherlands.

Available materials of wood and thatch were very flammable so 
fireplaces were limited for kitchen use only for fear of 
setting the whole place on fire. These early settlers 
planted vineyards and established wineries still in existence today.  
French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France 
settled in the area and brought with them viticultural and winemaking 

The Wine Lands of South Africa are now a destination for 
wine lovers and they produce some very nice wines exported all 
over the world.  
I suppose it really didn't matter to the sailors on the ships
plying goods back and forth from India to Europe 
how good the wine was,  as long as there was plenty of it.

Chimney Rock Winery was established in the Napa valley in the 1980's
The Cape Dutch style of the architecture was a tribute to the 
South African heritage of the founders

A side view of Chimney Rock  Winery

McAlpine Tankersley Architecture
A Cape Dutch inspiration for a beach front
house on the east coast of the United States

BTW- Congratulations to mcAlipne tankersley for having been selected  to
the AD 100 in the January 2012 issue of 

The Dutch Door typical for the main entry of every
 Cape Dutch Manor House 
 is often used in
 traditional American architecture

Connect the dots...
Look carefully- observe closely - 
                                                                               life is six degrees of separation
Design in the American colonies was heavily dictated
by styles in England of the same period. 

Styles traveled around the world quickly even in the 17th century.
William and Mary - 
Perhaps they improved by candlelight 
In 1689, William of Orange, born and raised in The Netherlands, became William III of England.
He reigned till 1702 with his wife Mary, and during his tenure on the British throne he introduced many Flemish designs into the refurbishing of Hampton Court. 

By the way- you can actually stay at Hampton Court by booking reservations through The National Trust.  Many historical properties allow overnight guest stays and make for a very special experience at very practical prices.

Colonial Williamsburg was established in 1693, five years after William of Orange ascended the British throne .

The College of William and Mary, the second oldest university in America, was founded in Williamsburg, also  in 1693

 Harvard University 
established 1636 
 Massachusetts Bay Colony

Hampton Court-London
 a writing room in a wing added by 
Sir Christopher Wren for
King William and Queen Mary
-notice the chandelier-
It is no coincidence that the Gun Room at 
The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia 
is almost a copy of the Guard room at Hampton Court
The King's Guard Room at Hampton Court 
Gorgeous Flemish Chandeliers (now electrified) provided light
Chandeliers began to gain popularity in the middle ages. They were only used in the castles of the nobility and the homes of the wealthy merchant class,  more as a show of wealth then they were for providing real illumination. 
So what's changed ???
Arnolfini Wedding Portrait by Jan van Eyck 1434
A wealthy Italian merchant and his wife at their home in Bruges 
The chandelier hanging in the background is a sign of wealth and opulence

Is she pregnant in this wedding image ?
Would love any feedback on this question

An antique bronze Flemish chandelier still holds candles

Candles were expensive, required a full staff to keep lighted, and were cause for concern  of fire.
A small four arm Flemish style chandelier
A 1970's version of the Flemish chandelier 
is also
an iconic American style

I found  a pair of these chandeliers at a flea market-
took them apart-and then reassembled them
 in a more relaxed and graceful composition
Now they have a provenance  and the price was right
Oops...are those cob webs I see ?
The 18th century brought with it developments in glass production leading to the inclusion of the refractive crystals as decoration for chandeliers.
18th century French tole chandelier 
with cut crystals hangs unexpectedly 
in a protected outdoor loggia

There are many fabulous chandelier options available today from fine period antiques
to superb reproductions and contemporary new interpretations of old classics. These new
models allow for flexibility in sizes and finishes and are usually less costly then antique fixtures
The Sophie Chandelier 
available in other sizes and finishes from
Hector Finch
 Scalloped Chandelier modeled on a Swedish antique
available in custom sizes and finishes from
A sailing ship chandelier  sparkles as it floats overhead
A three mast schooner it is a reminder of the ships that sailed the oceans
400 years ago
I found this charming sparkler at ABC Home in NYC

Right after World War II the best known house in America was the New England style farmhouse built by Mr. and Mrs Blandings (AKA Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.) 
"You want to do WHAT ...?"
Have a good laugh and click on the link below to see what it takes to make the perfect color selection
What begins as the American dream becomes
the American nightmare
Myrna Loy was one of Hollywood's Leading ladies from 1934-1960
She is best known as Nora Charles starring with William Powell
in THE THIN MAN  films

Archibald Alexander Leach
"They just don't make them like they used to "
 He selected his Hollywood name,
Cary Grant because he believed the initials would bring
him luck in his career as they had Clark Gable and Gary Cooper
Five times married,  (I would have lined up for an audition) 
Grant's second wife was the heiress Barbara Hutton.
Cash and Cary
Grant, a true English gentleman, had signed a pre-nup and 
did not take any money when they were divorced in 1945. 
They remained life-long friends which says it all.

kids imagine building themselves
a dream house 
Inspired by Cape Dutch architecture I  have designed The Dream House for a client on the San Francisco peninsula. 

We have engaged McAlpine Tankersley Architects to turn my sketches, concepts and plans into working drawings...

... and Lencioni Construction to turn drawings into reality. 

Together as a team we hope to create a legacy project 

John Ruskin ( 1819-1900)
Leading art and architecture critic of the Victorian era

"Today his ideas and concerns  are widely recognized as having 
anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability, and craft."
I cherish this set of  books dated 1913,
 on building and estimating .
  Truly nothing changes
Building a house is a privilege.  
It should not become a nightmare.

I hope you will continue to check in. 
Progress reports on The Dream House will be published regularly as a part of 
my journal.

Carpe Diem