Tuesday, April 21, 2015

English country house living in Australia

Located in Bathurst, Australia (about a 3 hour drive west of Sydney) is Abercrombie House. This charming English country house style structure was built in the 1870s for William Stewart, the Lieutenant Governor General, or 2nd in command. Since 1969 it has been in the hands of the Morgan family who have restored the house and have it open to the public to help with funding for further care of the house.
Don't let "open to the public" fool you; this is a real family home which is probably the most interesting reason to visit the mansion.  Staid house museums can sometimes be a tad boring (even I'll admit that) and seeing an active family in residence and how they live in period style is the main attraction here.
This Victorian house mixes elements from many genres but Gothic Revival might be an appropriate moniker if one must be chosen.
Reminders of the Stewarts' native Scotland are abundant.  If it weren't for the sunny Australian weather one might imagine oneself in the heart of the moors.
This tiled loggia looks like a lovely spot for afternoon tea. Notice the modern light fixtures lining the ceiling - I love seeing how the house has moved with the times.
Period details such as Gothic plaster arches and stained glass though proclaim the age of the house.
The furnishings are casual and old; nothing fussy. One might believe they have accumulated over generations of Stewarts.
The double parlor is of course very Victorian. Lovely plasterwork and colorful wallpaper lend the period aire.
The original marble mantel pieces really steal the show. Notice the Gothic door paneling to the left below. Piles of books and a fireplace..... heavenly.
 The grand dining room looks right out of a period drama.
 Much of the wallpaper is in fact original, including this William Morris wallpaper.
 The William Morris wallpaper in detail has lovely shades of brown, ivory, and gilding.
 The grand oak stair is lined with old family photographs.....
 which continue up to the landing. Notice the much narrower stair to the 3rd level.

It's lovely to see these old rooms LIVED in. One of the sons is interested in anthropology which is evident in his taxidermy filled bedroom.
 Notice the modern lamps mixed in amongst the antiques.
 Their other son occupies another cool and shady bedroom -also full of antiques.
 The very clean fireplace sadly doesn't look as if it has been used in years.
 The gardens, which occupy 50 acres, are frequent hosts to weddings and events.
 Notice the old green house at the rear of the house above along with utilitarian farm vehicles.
 Further out back are vintage Austin Princesses in 'storage'.
 Lovely old wrought iron surrounds the immediate gardens.
It's somehow reassuring in this age to see such houses really lived-in and in such time worn style! Thanks to Neal for supplying us with his gorgeous inspirational photos!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

That touch of black; contrast

Continuing the conversation from last week (Shades of Umber at the Thyssen-Bornemisza HERE) another direction to go in an art gallery are black walls as seen here at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
My Australian Penpal sent these to me -what do you think?  I'm a fan of black (these almost look to have a blue tint to them in the lighting) as I think it shows all images in sharp contrast. Even at the small scale of these photographs the paintings are instantly recognizable and in sharp detail thanks to the black background.
I hate the 'trend' (I even hate the word) for black walls in the home but I think in a gallery or retail space it's a brilliant idea. I wouldn't have kept the same black background here at ArchitectDesign for 9 years if I didn't think it worked!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Springland Lane Garden Tour: Cleveland Park Historical Society

Adjacent to Cleveland Park is a little wooded area which when one enters feels like the street that Washington forgot.  Springland Lane and the beautiful houses and gardens which have grown into it is a tiny alcove nestled just north of Cleveland Park that until recent times was a farm and vineyard (right near the heart of the city!). On May 23, 2015 the Cleveland Park Historical Society is cohosting a garden tour of the area which is an exclusive look not just at the 16 pretty houses and private gardens but a look at the not too distant agricultural past of the neighborhood. Tickets are available on the website HERE - I hope to see you there!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Shades of Umber: Thyssen-Bornemisza

Who says art museums need white walls?  One of the finest art museums in the world, the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, sports walls in numerous natural shades of umbers, orange, sienna, and yellow (see my recent post on the Givenchy exhibit in the museum HERE)
 The pleasant shades complement the art and flatter the skin; great spot for a date!
What do you think of this color palette? The great lighting helps as well. Thanks to my Australian Penpal as always for the photos!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Details Matter

If you follow me on Instagram (@architectdesignblog) this weekend you probably saw a number of pictures I posted of a grand apartment building here in Washington DC in the historic Kalorama neighborhood.
Buildings such as these are listed in the Washington real estate bible, Best Addresses, by the local authority on such matters, James Goode.  I live in a 'best address' building myself, although not as grand as this, and it really was one of my apartment's selling features. It's always the first statement of any real estate description of any apartment in these buildings in Washington. I would recommend the book to others who don't live in DC as a great compilation of grand apartment buildings from 1900 till the 1970s, full of floorplans and historic photos.
The details matter here and separate this building from common apartments. Symmetry and aligned spaces are key, but delicate plasterwork, marble mosaic floors, and charming original stairwell doors and exit signs are all details that speak of care and quality.
Notice the well thought placement of modern HVAC grilles discretely placed above the exit door. I think also important to notice are the signs that this building is a home;  minimal quality non-cluttery furniture and artwork grace the spacious halls.  Compare this to atrocious new-construction apartments we see going up all over this city and also cities around the country as we experience this (wonderful) return to urbanism. Why do people prefer new construction to this again?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Holly Hunt opening at Washington Design Center

Yesterday (March 18, 2015) was the grand opening of our new Washington Design Center. Washington is finally coming into its own and our new design center just goes to prove that. These gorgeous light-filled showrooms are at the heart of the New Washington action on 14th street NW.
The crowds were soul-crushing, as one expects at these events, but it's important for design professionals to go out and network; share ideas and potential new jobs! I only attended the Holly Hunt showroom opening party out of many events with some very dear friends (hi Steph and Mark!) and thought I would share some highlights with you.
The Holly Hunt showroom is the largest in the design center I believe, measuring in at 10,000 SF over 2 floors. It also is the only showroom to feature a street entrance -welcoming in the public.  The ground floor focuses on the more modern collections carried by Holly Hunt while the 2nd floor focuses on the more DC-centric traditional lines. Above the cozy Coco Sofa was empty and beckoning us over to get away from the crowd!
I briefly chatted with Holly Hunt who was delightful. She is intensely focused on bringing new artists and work to the public -meeting and working directly with the artists on items such as their lines of (brilliant) lighting which are the focus of my snapshots here!  Alison Berger is one of the prominent lighting artists with these delicious handblown glass fixtures seen in the images here. Above is the Lure sconce - nothing is MORE alluring than a sconce (my favorite lighting source!).
Most popular with us were the Sea Urchin pendants with heavily seeded glass featured below over a nightstand. These are designed by an artist named Stefan Gulassa, no relation (for those readers who don't know, my name is also Stefan).
I loved their updated version of the classic wingchair below upholstered in rope with a luxurious velvet cushion (in my favorite turquoise -this would fit right into my own apartment, how I wish!)
Be sure to visit Holly Hunt here in DC at the new Washington Design Center, they'll be happy to see you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hubert de Givenchy - Fashion at the Thyssen-Bornemisza

On a note different from what I normally feature on this blog, I thought I would share some images from the recent exhibition on Hubert Givenchy at one of my favorite museums, El Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza, in Madrid which my penpal kindly sent me.
Givenchy will forever be known for his relationship with celebrities, primary amongst them Audrey Hepburn, but also Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor, and the list goes on.
I think these clothes appeal to me not only for the obvious reason, their beauty, but their architectural qualities and attention to detailing are astounding.
 The use of vivid color and black together also is architecturally appealing.
 Recognize Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's above?
 Or Wallis Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor, in mourning here.
Or the Duchess again here in a striped gown. These clothes are iconic and a part of our culture; instantly recognizable.
Seeing some of these famous gowns in color, such as Jackie Kennedy's gown from the Paris opera, is a delightful surprise; cream and soft colors.
 Bridal beyond boring white....
 The details of this non-white wedding dress (emphasis on NO BORING WHITE) are amazing.
 I don't even know how one makes something such as this!
 Clothes make the woman or so one would believe based on the models below in the room entitled elegance and simplicity.
 Who needs jewelry with clothes as beautiful as these?
While many of these gowns are surely dated would 'Fashion Police' mock them on the red carpet I wonder? Does style such as this date?  Maybe the jackets.....
 but what jackets they are!
Givenchy is a master of color - unusual colors - and pairings that give life to one another.
 I'm sure the yellow/orange dress is difficult to wear but on the right woman....amazing.





 And don't forget the hats!
Thanks to Neil for sharing his images with us all. See more on the exhibit at the museum website HERE, which includes the program and an interactive video walk-through of the exhibition.