To be inspired by beauty, be that from Mother Nature or by the beauty created by man is a marvelous gift for all and one that I treasure everyday. As most of you know I am a classicist at heart. My love for classic architecture, classic design is pretty evident in my style. But I also love many other periods and styles. So while the rococo is almost the opposite of classicism I think it is exciting to find amongst the purity of a classical foundation a room that is there for whimsy, the imagination and to inspire the feeling of an another time or place.
Chinoiserie refers to the interpretation of Chinese style for a European market. This stylistic movement reached it’s zenith in the 18th century period known as the rococo.
I love the painting above done in the style Chinoise. Just pulled the images off of the web so sorry for the small pics but this so clearly shows the combination of Chinese style reinterpreted by and for the European market by a master of French art, Francois Boucher.
Another master of this style ( above) was the French painter Jean Baptiste Pillement who created many rooms for Marie Antoinette. This is a Pillement painting I bought years ago as I have had this long time love of this style and technique called ” camieaux bleu “.
At long last my fantasy of having a room “a la chinoiserie” has been realized. Not quite in the manner I had envisioned and dreamt about. This is my pared down fantasy inserted into a southern neoclassical house built in 1836. But first now a few pictures of the process.
The room when I bought the house. One door on the left side had been blocked and bookshelves had been added. Because I had a pair of chinoiserie inspired consoles I needed a balanced wall space –something that Chisolm house did not have because of it’s many windows and doors. I closed the second door so the consoles could flank the fireplace. The entrance to the room is from the main hall. This was not an accurate restoration of the house but once in a while one must follow ones decorative heart over the fence into the realm of fantasy and long delayed dreams. So please forgive me.
The room stripped back to the basics before I closed either side of the chimney.
The Clayden house door surround
Jonathan’s rendering of the the reconfigured door.
As I mentioned previously I did not want to keep the Victorian era fireplaces and as they were not original to the house, I did not feel compelled to do that. I also mentioned that Jonathan Sainsbury, in Dorset England, was doing other pieces for the house. During a telephone discussion about the room I had found a chinoiserie overmantel and wondered if he could incorporate that over a carved fire surround. He mentioned how wonderful an over mirror and fireplace surround would be patterned on the door surrounds of Clayden house. I heartily agreed as I had for years drooled over pictures of the famous house. Two imaginations running wild can be a wonderful thing. Tho Jonathan, at times, made my hair turner whiter with certain things -it took a year and a half to finally get the piece, it was worth the wait.
The long awaited fireplace surround and over mantle arrives in one piece – well two to be exact.
One of my biggest decisions was whether to leave the surround white as in Clayden House but alas I already owned a lovely pair of chinoiserie inspired gilt mirrors from Italy and thought it would be too much together. Then I spotted a pair of mirrors on Jonathan’s web site that I had not seen before and with his salesmanship skills I ended up commissioning a pair of what he described as the ” Hector Pagoda” mirrors. I could have made them all white but as another of Jonathan’s wonderful carved mirror in the bird room was already white and I wanted contrast between the rooms. So green and gold was the decision.
After restoring the original plaster cornice and base board, closing off the doors , restoring the crumbling chimney, the room was painted green to work with the consoles, Heath painted the floors, and the decorative process was in full swing.
I painted many objects green and gold including the statues below
The fun part is the installation but the road to that point is filled with many problems to be solved and worked around—but such is life and you all know that. Pictured above is the restored space before the faux floor is painted when the curtains were just a bolt of fabric and the original mirrors were waiting to be hung and there was as yet no fireplace surround.
The Hector Pagoda Mirrors which finally arrived the week before Thanksgiving.
The surround did not exactly fit–with blueprints and all and there is not a level surface, corner or floor in this house built on the edge of marsh land. In every room you can place a ball on one side and it will roll to the opposite side! A big pain in the backside for any work done in this place.
After the mirror was painted green and the first layer of gold paint glazed I realized that it did not work with the pagoda mirrors and that I had to take the plunge and have the gold paint gold leafed. This was done by the talented faux painter Kristen Bunting from Charleston.
Kristen painstakingly painting glazing and gold leafing ( not sure that is a verb but…) The mirrors in this picture were the original ones that I bought now hanging in other rooms in the house.
I took a gold magic marker to indicate where I wanted her to paint.
Before the final change the original mirrors, the un-gilded surround.
At last all is in place even down to my first camellias for this season. Pagoda mirrors safely installed curtains up.
Following pictures of different views and details.
A detail of the 8’6″ mirrors.
I have no curtains in most of the rooms in Weatherstone and in my friends house in Aspen. I had been into shutters but the great gal who does the bed dressings, table clothes and pillows for me, another Kristen by the way, was surprised when I said I think I want curtains for this house. Those 10′ high windows does make one feel rather exposed at night. So yards and yards of taffeta later the curtains are up through out the house with the exception of the bird room. www.kristenskurtains.com
The one of the two statues now in green and gold.
One of my extravagant pieces an 18th century secretaire it is so beautiful I could not resist.
The Pagoda Mirrors in place.
So there we are the chinoiserie room at last. A mix to be sure but it makes me happy.
I am off to Paris for Maison Objet and to wander the streets of my favorite city for a few days. So sorry if there are typos here I have to go pack! I just turned in my 12th book to my publisher—a huge endeavor culling through an accumulation of almost 30,0000 garden photos taken over many years time. After going through that I decided I needed a break and some inspiration. see you soon-cr