The bird painting that inspired the ” Bird Room” is in place, walls are painted but much to be done…floor, upholstery, curtains and so on and on!
The Birth of the Bird Room at Chisholm House.
Having regaled you with my travels on the recent bicycle trip to France it seems a perfect segue into the geneses of the bird room at Chisholm House. It was on my first bicycle trip to Burgundy that I found a painting that would become the focal point and inspiration for the room.
For some history and context that leads to the purchase of the painting we flash back three years ago when I was off on an extraordinary trip with Emmanuel Ducamp,
a friend, who is a scholar specializing in the 18th and 19thc. decorative arts of both France and Russia. We were visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg during the Russian Easter. It was in St Petersburg that I saw a beautiful painting ( one of many ) that particularly spoke to me, in the vast collection of Catherine the Great. It was by a Dutch painter I had not heard of named Paul de Vos. He was a Baroque painter from Holland who specialized in grand scenic animal paintings much in the manner of the better known master Frans Snyder.
Four months later I am off on the Burgundian bicycle adventure. We began our trip in Beaune and after cycling the second morning I felt” the need” to wander ( meaning to get off the bloody bicycle) around the town. So while the others cycled off into the country side I “cycled” into an antiques store I had noticed the previous day. There I found several wonderful pieces of 18th c. French furniture. After just having purchased the house in South Carolina my mind was already in decorating overdrive so finding a cache of beautiful things was so exciting and fun. Just as I was leaving the shop I noticed a painting that I liked very much and somehow seemed so familiar to me. When I ask the dealer who the artist was he said a man named Paul de Vos …ahhhh…….as in Catherine the Great’s painting, which, by the way also had many birds in it. I decided by the next days departure to splurge and buy the painting …this was my first acquisition for the Charleston house. (As an aside) Simon always points out my misplaced priorities —no beds, no chairs, no appliances, tons of work to do in restoration….but I have a bird painting sitting in France… whee!
Finally after two years of planning and work the bird room is almost finished. I need curtains… perhaps. ..I do love the unfiltered light in the room and do not want to cover up the architectural detailing of the windows so the final curtain decision remains to be seen. I have three pieces of furniture that arrived just last week from Jonathan Sainsbury that need to be painted and glazed. I would like a couple of more birds plus a few more accessories… but that will all come in due time. Below are a few pictures of the evolution of the room that started with a painting that was found, almost from the seat of a bicycle, in France
For the last few years I have become very interested in birds in art. This is a close up detail of an amazing bird that is in the Jean-Baptiste Oudry ( 1686-1766) painting I have in the morning room at Weatherstone.
While at a speaking engagement for a charity in Florida I discovered a wonderful water colorist and now own five of his paintings of birds. He is a living artist who does paintings of nature, is a wonderful draughtsman and I am a big fan! His name is Scott Kelly and in my Interiors book you can see his work in my homes.
This close up of the bird is from the first set of English ironstone that I bought in( yikes) 1981! It is probably where my birds in design interest started.
More birds from Weatherstone – birds as a motif in Delft and an 18th century wall bracket with a phoenix draped below.
The great guys from our construction company Palmetto Craftsmen hoisting another mirror at Chisholm House; the mirror it is reproduction of an 18th c. Chinese Chippendale model featuring HoHo birds a common motif for the period—I believe the HoHo bird is a sign of prosperity, wisdom and good fortune…. may that be so!
I am making the rooms at the house rather Spartan—for me anyway—in that there is not a lot of stuff in the rooms which I feels allows the furniture and objects to breath. I even rather like this unfinished and clean look —is s peaceful to me.
In this photo the first porcelain bird I bought for the house and the Syrie Maugham chairs that I purchased from the fabric house Quadrille. I had already selected the fabrics for the bird room that were near perfect in color harmony for the bird painting but when I discovered these chairs in their showroom I switched to a combination of Quadrille fabrics because I liked the freshness of the clean blue and white on the chairs.
The earlier choice of fabrics worked better with the Paul de Vos painting but something about these coordinated fabrics from Quadrille seemed younger in spirit….as we all know design is a process of evolution and change…
Fast forward months later and the floor is now faux painted by my friend Heath Johnson ( more about him and other artisans that I worked with on this project in another post). Most of the furniture is here… as always there is more to be done but at least the room is now livable.
After waiting for months the final pieces of furniture have arrived. The dolphin console
has yet to be painted and glazed —just arrived last friday— but I love that the console echoes the dolphins in the Sryie Maugham chairs. The reproduction of what I think are outstanding pieces of antique furniture carved by craftsmen in England is under the guidance of Jonathan Sainsbury and his company. You will read more about Jonathan as the house evolves. The watercolor of the heron is by artist Scott Kelly
My other big extravagance —besides the the Paul de Vos painting– are the pair of pineapples by the very talented artist Carmen Almon who creates beautiful almost botanical art in tole. Here her work is presented in a pair of 18th century brass pieces which I purchased at my favorite antique store in New York- The Chinese Porcelain Company.
I bought this painted 18thc. clock from northern Germany years ago. It was in Aspen but I felt it better suited for the house in Charleston. I think on my tombstone I should carve ” She moved furniture” as I seem to move both furniture…. and gardens all of the time.
The wall brackets are reproductions that I have always loved and finally bought them to be the perch for more birds.
I love the matte blue paint with the chalky white objects in the room – it reminds me of old Wedgewood
Now “Birds Learning to Sing” in the more finished room.
A close up of the mad red parrot …who I am sure is complaining about the singing quality of the other birds.
And last…. a view of the work to be done; deciding upon the type of curtains, and the painting and glazing of the table that arrived from Jonathan Sainsbury. The antique wooden bird will go on a column in a corner behind the table. I have been reticent about curtains —in most of my houses I do not have any– because I like shutters and in Chisholm House I like the architecture of the window surrounds but at night, as the house is in the middle of a very busy part of the historic district, privacy will be an issue. So decisions…. yet to be made.