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.
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.
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