A Thank You and a Favorite Subject!


Aspen at its best!

A belated happy 4th of July from Aspen. I hope all of you had a lovely holiday celebration. I had planned a post, but alas, living out in the middle of a grove of Aspens, where there is no cell service and intermittent internet, does not make it easy to blog nor do a lot of communication in the 21st century manner. Many times that is a blessing, and at others, it can be rather frustrating.

I have never attended the parade in Aspen, but this year felt in the mood, so here are just a couple of photos showing small town America in a festive mood on Independence Day of 2014.


All I could say was wow, and I am not referring to the driver! This could give a girl a heart attack!!!!


Love the llama!!


A Norman Rockwell moment


Now back to design and things I love about it….

” An artisan is a person skilled in an applied art “

” An applied art refers to the application of artistic design to utilitarian objects in everyday use.”

As a fashion designer, one of my favorite aspects of the design process was searching out and working with the artisans who produce the myriad elements that go into the making of a collection. I searched for buttons, embroideries, shoes, feathers, flowers, jewelry, belts; anything that added adornment to what I designed. When seeking these people out, they always seemed situated in small ateliers in the creaky old parts of Paris and Milan.  I always loved  the sense of mining for gold or diamonds in some dilapidated old building with an ancient elevator or just creeking stairs that  led to a hidden place that I knew would  conceal  a room of treasures.

I think that without these talented people, no designer can express his or her creative concept to its fullest extent. I have spent hours in the embroidery atelier of the late Francois Lesage, and was regaled with his stories of working with Mesdames Chanel or Schiaparelli or Messieurs Dior and St. Laurent. This in itself was an education, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the best artisans in both France and Italy when I was in the business. These makers of beautiful product were legends in their time— so for a young designer to have such a chance was exceptional and made memories that I shall cherish forever. One really had to establish oneself with these people. After all, they worked with the greatest talents in the world ( that coupled with a certain French snobbism that only the French understood fashion) made me need to prove to them that I was worthy of their attention. You must remember at that time American designers had not started working in French houses yet. Heaven Forbid! So one had to win their respect, but once you showed what you could do, they took you seriously. In fact, a couple of them became great friends in the process, as in the case of Mr. Lesage. Of course the creators of these things are designers in their own rights, but the other fabulous aspect of the ateliers are the people who hands actually create the product.

I loved watching from them, and when I showed interest in what they were doing, they were so pleased. When it came time for them to bring my sketch into reality, I always felt that because I valued and cared about their work, and they really cared about making something beautiful for me. As more and more of this type of work is being  out-sourced to Asia and the Far East I fear we are loosing these artisans in the western world. I do not denigrate the talents of the East as they have many, but I do hate that Europe is letting that long tradition of the artisan disappear.

But enough about fashion, someday I shall do a book about my time in that world I think… The artisans I wish to speak of now are the ones who help all of us in the interior design world. I am happy that in America we seemed to be  blessed with a pretty healthy artisanal community in this field…let’s support them and keep it that way!

As my posts are always so long winded, this time I shall speak only of the faux painter that has worked with me in both Aspen and now in Charleston.  On another installment, I shall write about the master plasterers, talented curtain maker, the upholsterer and the wood carver who were vital in the restoration of Chisholm house.

My first exposure to the concept of faux painting was naturally through my mentor and boss, Oscar de la Renta. I learned much more then just fashion from Oscar: music, interiors, new  places to visit,  food, life style….  the list goes on and on.  I was very fortunate to have such a mentor.   Faux painting was not a well known concept  in Missouri—maybe a little stenciling in the manner of the Pennsylvania Dutch style, but that was about it! Oscar and his wife Francoise hired Vicent Fourcade to decorate their apartment on 5th Ave, and I remember how I loved the dining room that he created using the techniques of faux bois and trompe l’oeil.

Later Oscar introduced me to the fabulous Renzo Mongiardino, who is the master of design using faux finishes and  trompe l’oeil . We went to his small magical apartment in Milan and I became forever enamored with the concept of paint as a  highly sophisticated decorative medium.

Though I started  using  faux finishes in just small bits, usually floors,  I  know that some day I shall ” need ” to do a room that way. I do not know when, where or how but, it will happen!

Both Weatherstone and Westbury have painted floors, because in these two rooms, I wanted a light, decorative floor. In  Chisholm House, I did not like the pine floors which were a very harsh color.  There were many chopped up places in the wood, because of bad work done after the destruction of the Civil War, when there was very little money in the south.  Covering them with decorative painting was my alternative to replacing all of the floors.


The painted floor at Westbury. The room above was painted by Heath Johnson of Basalt Colorado.


The painted floor at Weatherstone painted by New Yorker Marc Gilio


One of the rooms at Chisholm House just after I bought it. The floors are patched, and as you can see, two different  colors of stain—not pretty.

I hired Heath to come down south to faux paint the floors, and later he will be doing some trompe l’oeil for me as well, but that is another post.


Heath is a fine artist, as well as a faux painter, and to make things even better he has a great sense of humor —-working with him has been a blast!  Learning how he does the technique of marble and stone was fun for me but a very time consuming and exacting art— Plus forget about his poor knees!!


The hallway is papered in a stripe from Farrow and Ball, and I wanted the floor to be another geometric pattern.


The most complex part of a faux floor in a VERY CROOKED old house was getting the geometry to work….


The taped layout is complete and now the 6 layers of painting starts.


Heath at work!


We painted what will turn into the chinoiserie room, with a marble  cabochon, in a field of stone, so you can just faintly see the grout lines in the photo.IMG_0804

The bird room with the same pattern, but there is a subtle difference in the color, difficult to see in the photo but I promise it is so.

There are no doors between the chinoiserie room, the bird room and the entrance hall, so we needed a good transition from space to space. We thought it would be too boring to have the same pattern throughout the three areas, so we used  a classic checkerboard  but in a much larger scale. All tied together by color and the same ” faux material” of honed marble and limestone.

The two historic floors shown below mix geometric patterns brilliantly and were an inspiration. My floors are much simpler, because at that time the design vernacular in America was quite  pared down from that of the long established ones in Europe and England.  I wanted to share with you two magnificent floors as well as the rooms.


The beautiful hall at Syon House


I love the strength of the design of this floor in a very beautiful 18th century pavilion in France.

And finally the completed hall at Chisholm House.



There is still much to be done in the hallway, including glazing of furniture lampshades for lamps you know the never ending process…. but we have come a long way from the demolition zone of a year ago.


Dear Readers,

I would like to thank you all for your interest and your comments on the bird room post —it does inspire me to keep writing. When I get to Aspen I hope to be a bit speedier with the posts  and have an improved internet as well. But as I do this by myself it is slow indeed…in fact after writing this post I lost it in cyber space or the  wordpress  Bermuda triangle. Thanks to Katie and Paul Viola most of it was retrieved or it would have been another six months before i got this darn thing up and going again…..cr








27 thoughts on “A Thank You and a Favorite Subject!

  1. The Chisholm House looks lovely! I am so impressed at Heath’s work! How do you keep it looking so fresh? Does the paint not scratch?

  2. Carolyne,
    You impress me with your ability to take us, your readers, on the journey of your beautiful Chisholm house’s restoration and make it read like a novel. Your latest installment has been my favorite thus far, as you highlight such an underappreciated art form, inspiring me to have some faux painting done in my own much less grand home here in the Virginia mountains

    • Darn technology. Cyberspace decided that my comment should be sent before proof reading could be done. Chisholm House is coming along quickly (I know it probably doesn’t feel like it to you!). I look forward to hearing more about it. I just might have to walk by on my afternoon stroll when I am in Charleston next week. All the best to you, Carolyne.

      Erica Leigh Crumpler

  3. I am gobsmacked! as my English pals would say.

    This post and your bird room post leave me salivating for more.
    Love how you translate the complexity of historic patterns and decorative treatments in words and images that are accessible and conjure the feeling of being right there with Heath and you. I simply can’t believe those are wood floors.

    As I look down at my badly finished alder wood floors in the kitchen, my imagination is starting to wh-i-r-r-r. But like a lot of people, I’m afraid of paint (and I’m even a watercolor painter!). Wish I had your courage. Perhaps I will have following a few more of your posts (hint, hint).

    Beautiful photos, wonderful writing. Keep up the great work. And thanks for letting us come to your open house ‘preview.’

  4. Carolyne always excited to see one of your post. This was inspiring to me on so many levels. I am a lover of black and white and I have marble and black granite floors in my very small California suburban ranch home. Not period but I love my little home. I learn from you on every post. Thank you for your knowledge and your inspiration,

  5. Your moldings for ceiling, around windows, and the very deep skirting boards as well as ceiling height really make your rooms ideal for adding dramatic painted floors. It’s a pleasure to see what you are doing. In the chinoiserie room the marbelized details are called “truffles” by the French and English, not cabochons- it is a truffled floor, and it’s a great effect. You are really taking the Charleston home from fusty to feisty!

  6. as always, a beautiful post…….most importantly, hope you are having fun! (my daily goal at age 60!) and you can say to yourself when you crawl into bed at night, “life is good for me”

  7. Dear Carolyne,

    I love the black and white entry room. My husband can’t believe that the floor is painted. Please make your posts as long as you want, I can never get enough of what you do. I check every day, can’t wait to see the green room. I absolutely love chinoiserie and can guess what is coming.


  8. Dearest Carolyne.
    The Floors are truly magical…
    Heaths work is exceptional and a real joy to see!
    As always your writing is inspirational and gives me the faith that there are still people who care so deeply about detail..
    As always a monumental congratulations on all you have achieved and for embracing all the elements of design ,style and colour and mixing them together so perfectly to create the perfect balance of grace and harmony..
    Absolutely Fantastic !!
    My best and warmest wishes..
    Jonathan Sainsbury

  9. Dear Carolyne,
    Not sure if my comment got through as you would say the “bloody” internet hit a snag. So, thank you for showing a side of Aspen we do not normally see. I thought it was all celebrities wearing Ugh boots.

    I found your comments as your work as a fashion designer most interesting. Sadly, I do think we see the same quality these days. With the exception of Mr. De La Renta most of the other designers have stepped aside etc. And, yes it would make a great book. I actually remember riding the escalator at Saks in NYC and getting off, I believe on the 3rd floor, to look at dresses you had in silk with I believe a black top. The looked very rich and vibrant. Amazing what we remember, but your design certainly made an impression.

    The house in Charleston looks amazing. The wall paper is simple and elegant and with the coral on the side table just breathes coolness. The stencil job is amazing. I look forward to seeing on the other floor turned out.

    Have you thought of giving Heath a rolling board with cushioned wheels for Christmas?

    I look forward to your posts, your humor and the truly elegant rooms you are posting.

    Best Regards, Adrian C. Markocki

  10. I think I can safely speak for all of your followers that we will wait for your next post despite no cell service, intermittent internet, the wordpress Bermuda triangle or you just kicking back and enjoying life. No apologies necessary. We’ll still be here waiting to see what wonderful, beautiful things you have created. Things that will inspire us. Life’s too short to be tied to technology, but we do like hearing from you now and then. It is, after all, summertime and the livin’ is easy.

  11. I love following your Charleston project. I hope you will write a future post on your completed landscaping. I can only imagine!

  12. Carolyne, it has been a great pleasure to follow your wonderful aesthetic via your web site.Your book ‘A Passion for Flowers’ was my first encounter with your immaculate style and love of flowers quite a few years ago now. Now living and gardening in country Australia, and with an art and travel background, I appreciate following your cosmopolitan life in various locations and admire your high design ideals. You are fortunate to be able to work on such a grand scale ( thousands of bulbs!) but I realise everything you have achieved has come about through your own efforts. You are kind enough to reveal your life/projects to the many thousands of us who value the art of living well but are unable to realise our visions in quite the same manner. Thank you for all you give us.

  13. Dear Ms Roehm,
    Congratulations on this new and equally sensational project.
    Great fun reading you.
    Wondering if your plans include a lecture somewhere in the Swiss Alps one day.
    Would be a success I’m certain and a much needed breath of fresh air..
    Best wishes,

  14. Absolutely gorgeous. I would even say genius. I was worried throughout the post that mixing the geometry was not going to work. I thought it would be too busy. It is so beautiful I can’t believe it. Great job to all involved.

  15. Carolyne – I’ve followed your work for years. You are a true gem. You have vision beyond 99% of us. Following this latest house is so fun. Thanks so much for doing these blogs – I have a gorgeous autistic son who LOVES the computer, so while he is on his, I can be on mine sitting right across from him and your site is such eye candy for me. I have a lovely old home in Webster Groves, but can always use a dose of inspiration. I also have a tie to Washington University and the School of Art and Steinberg Gallery. Keep up the posts !

  16. What kind of paint did you use on the woodwork? It appears to be flat or satin. It is gorgeous!

    • Hi Martha —I always use a flat matte paint—delicate in terms of maintenance but gives me the look I want –cr

      • Thank you, so much Carolyne,

        It did appear in your photos and in your books, your moldings to be a flat mat, as well as your walls. It does give a very delicate look. I love them!

        We recently bought a Georgian home in El Paso, TX. The walls are painted a light moss green but in a semi gloss, which makes them look too glossy. The moldings are a natural light oak color. When my son came home for a short visit he said, “Mom are you going to paint the moldings white?” Ah my son knows me too well.

        I eventually would like to do something about these walls, however, I need to keep within the Historic Preservation rules on period paint. It will be fun to redo the walls and moldings. I so appreciate your advice, again, thank you!

        I love your style and your books. You have inspired me to create

  17. Well I’m sure I speak for all your followers that although the task of posting a post like this can feel daunting, it is so interesting and intriguing or the reader to see how a project like this is done. For some of us this will never be a project we could ever take on so we appreciate seeing art work like this because that is what it is truly. This home and what Heath has done to the floor and the brilliant touches created in each room are a treasure to see, especially in these spectacular photos. Absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait to see the house in it’s completion. So excited for you.
    So even though it is time consuming and verwhelming to post I am so glad you are Carolyne. Thanks for sharing this.
    Lisa Mercado-Fernandez

  18. Carolyne, your beautiful designs give me hope for our world! I am so tired of ordinary and cheap! You are the only one still working in the true field of interior design.
    Every item is carefully selected (the best of show) and placed perfectly .
    Your faux painter is fantastic!
    Thank you for taking the time to show us your work.
    All the Best,

  19. Hi Carolyne
    I forgot to ask when is the new book you were working on earlier coming out? I believe you were working on the galley’s prior to your first blog. The books in the main image triggered the question. Thank you.

    Best Regards, Adrian Markocki

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