Wednesday, October 7, 2015

John Russell Pope's Laughlin residence tour

I recently had the pleasure of planning a lunch time tour through one of the most beautiful houses in Washington for the Mid-Atlantic ICAA (full disclosure I sit on the board so it's kind of my job). Of course I'll share it with all of you as well so lets go inside :-)
The house was designed in 1920 by John Russell Pope for Irwin Laughlin (of Pittsburgh!). The house is immediately next door to another of his spectacular houses, the Henry White residence from 1912, which currently forms a campus with the Laughlin house for the Meridian Foundation.  More on the Henry White house at a later date. 
One enters through a very urban paved courtyard.  Things haven't changed much since 1920, those are even descendants of the original Linden trees (which they grow in the sideyard as replacements).
 Shall we go in?
The house continues its' urbanity indoors with a piano nobile floorplan.  One ascends a gracious staircase to the main level, or down a few stairs to the ground level which was originally service spaces (now meeting rooms and offices).
I think this vintage shot, taken right at the front door, shows it best. It hasn't changed at all down to the tables.
The floorplans and vintage photos in this post are all from the fantastic book, "Mastering Tradition, the residential architecture of John Russell Pope" which I have mentioned before and highly recommend. The other snapshots are all from my iphone.
The ironwork and stonework are gorgeous.  I love the polished brass finial and handrail, lovingly maintained.
Looking back towards the front door.  Pope followed the Louis XVI neoclassical style throughout the house unlike so many houses of the same time period which were more of an international collection of styles.
One enters the gallery at the top of the main staircase, a paneled and mirrored magical space which is the main artery of the first floor. This was designed as a house to entertain, Mr Laughlin was a numerous time ambassador, and the circulation is wonderful.
You get a sense of the scale from the other guests on the tour; not too big, not too small. One would feel at comfortable all by ones-self or in a crowd of 100 people.
I loved the detail work to the reeded pilasters. Notice they're convex below the carved leaves and concave above.
 My favorite room in the house however has to be the library; like all rooms on the ground floor located directly off the gallery.
 It retains the original paint finish from 1920! Look at the beautiful brass hardware too.
The doors to the gallery are hidden when closed with leather bookspines behind chickenwire.
 My friend Michael Hampton demonstrates how it works above, haha. What door?!
The Drawing room opens directly from the library. Currently most of these spaces are unfurnished as they are used for all kinds of events.
As I mentioned the gallery is the spine of the ground floor. Above one sees through the gallery from the drawing room into the dining room beyond.  I know a lot of architects say lining up vistas 'doesn't matter' but when it's done right YOU NOTICE. It does matter: symmetry and enfilades, sign me up!
Before heading to the dining room we'll make a stop in the Loggia or conservatory. Notice the curved end wall with views into the backyard.
Looking the other way the interior wall is thickened and curved between the loggia and the gallery. We were told that the terrazzo floors were designed with those cracks in them, to appear older than they were in 1920. I'm not sure I buy that but I like the story!
 Don't miss this crazy 9'-0" tall torchieres!
 Another glimpse into the gallery above.
The backyard is formally paved with peagravel and Linden trees on a grid. One feels they're in Paris!
The door into the butler's pantry from the dining room is still hidden by the original painted screen but the other furniture has been removed.
 The dining room's paneling was designed around the ancient tapestry above.
 The lot is very long but shallow -leaving the largest 'yard' to the side seen above.
 Lets step outside into the backyard and see it for ourselves now.
 Notice the curved doors (and glass) in the Loggia wall.
 Above is the site line from the backyard into the sideyard - such a lovely enfilade effect.
Stepping up into the sideyard you can look back to the house to see the symmetrical design of the exterior, even on the sides.  Notice the false window covered by shutters; that's where the tapestry in the dining room sits.
From here one can see upstairs into the bedrooms. While they are all still in their original condition they are fitted out as offices. I think a few of the original bathrooms may have been removed but otherwise intact -it could revert back to a house tomorrow!
Before going up the stair to the upper level lets check out the breakfast room - fitted out as a conference room at the moment.
 The iron railing design and stone stair is much simpler than the formal entry stair but no less lovely.
 You can see this stair in the floorplan below in the lower right hand corner.
The stair is lit by a laylight and skylight above.
The hallway is beautifully preserved and features formal panelmould and painted overdoors. Rather than a long hallway it is broken into smaller spaces to nice affect.
Looking back to the stairway. I don't have many photos of the bedrooms as they're currently offices -but trust me when I say they are all lovely featuring paneling and stone fireplaces.
This central space used to house Mrs Laughlin's clothing and now serves as an office to this very lucky young lady! All of the built-ins are original but obviously not the recessed lights - the one concession made to the rooms use as an office.  Yes I HATE recessed lights.
The house remained in the family until 1960 when it was sold into institutional use. As you can see every owner has lovingly maintained this stunning structure.
The house is open to the public on Saturdays between 10 am and 2pm unless there is a scheduled event - make sure you visit this masterpiece here in DC!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Carrier and Company, Positively Chic Interiors

It seems shelves are inundated lately with Interior Designer monographs (the new calling card of many) and occasionally you'll come across one which is actually inspiring.  Or at least that's how I felt when I was sent a copy of 'Carrier and Company, Positively Chic Interiors'.
The work of husband and wife duo Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller is inspirational because it is NOT a calling card of monotonous work like we see from so many decorators, but rather appears to reflect the tastes of the homeowner. No 2 projects look alike. Don't believe me? Check out their awesome website HERE.
Jesse and Mara are setting the backdrop for their clients, spaces to grow into. The factor tying together all of their work are clean lines and good taste. Good taste may be a dirty word to some decorators and 'tastemakers' but is something that is actually valuable to clients; that's what they hire us for afterall: our taste! That's basically what we're selling these days with the growth of online shopping and big box stores offering a range of services. Competition is fierce!
I love that the book features tons of different baths and kitchens covering many styles.  This versatility is much like most magazines, perhaps why so many in the industry have turned to them to work on their own homes such as Anna Wintour who wrote the forward to the monograph and Jay Fielden.
 Frequently published I think you'll find a lot of new work to ogle in this book -seen with fresh eyes.
The work is tailored to the client, to the location, and is thoughtfully appropriate. These aren't statement interiors but rather spaces to be lived in. As Anna Wintour writes in the forward "Each and every interior here embodies a real sense of personal charm; these are homes whose high style comes from a very human-scaled sense of warmth and joy".
From spare and modern to richly traditional there is a project here for everyone.
Pardon the photograph above scanned from the book but it so exemplifies my own taste that I had to include here.  Be sure to get your own copy of one of this seasons best design books; Carrier and Company Positively Chic Interiors from the Vendome Press!
Many thanks to the Vendome Press for my copy of this book -views expressed are my own.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Details of St. Paul's Cathedral

Everyone knows of St Paul's Cathedral in London even if they have not visited (like me). The huge domed structure was designed by one of England's great architects, Sir Christopher Wren,  in 1708 and still stands as the seat of the Bishop of London.
The immense Baroque Cathedral stands tall at 365 feet over the city, seen in this image above from Wikipedia. Until 1965 it was the tallest building in all of London!
Of course everyone associates the Cathedral with the 1964 movie (my favorite!) Mary Poppins.  It was a major tourist destination to Jane and Michael Banks and remains a hot spot in the city to this day.
Oscar winning actress Jane Darwell at 84 years of age depicted the lovable Bird Woman who sold food for pigeons from the steps of St Paul's.

Did you cry? I always do -love that song. Anyway -back on track here - we're here to discuss the details of St. Paul's. The writers may have been influenced to write the song based on said details!
Among the many sculptures decorating the facade are many depicting birds, food, and even mother birds feeding their young (seen above).
The details can get lost in such an impressive structure -above is the front entrance.
Even the rear or Apse of the Cathedral features elaborate ornament.
Birds and cherubs, birds and cherubs -the next Disney song?
Notice the birds above under the cornucopia of produce.
No birds here but plenty of winged cherubs.
Read more about "Feed the Birds" and the connection to St Pauls on their own website HERE.
Thanks as always to my Australian Pen-pal Neil for the gorgeous snapshots!