Friday, July 26, 2013

Whitehall, The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, inspires window treatment with Gilded Age style

Window treatments are a passion of mine.  How delighted I was to see that my visit to Whitehall gave such inspiration for elegant window treatment.

The library was also used as a reception room by Henry Flagler and to hold business meetings.
It is done in a masculine Italian Renaissance style.  The ornate coffered ceiling is actually plaster faux finished to look like wood and then gilded with gold leaf. Note the red damask fabric covered walls!
A Palladian window, as this arched window is called, can be a tricky shape for designers to  treat.  This shows a beautiful way to drape it using swags and cascades, or jabots as they are also called.  Hanging a large tassel from the center is a nice finishing touch.
I have done similar window treatments for client projects, though none with a gilded carved molding surrounding the window!  A treatment like this is a very formal look but done in a floral chintz would make it less formal and done in a linen would also tend to be more casual.

Above is the grand double staircase leading from The Grand Hall to the second floor.
This is another less intricate and therefore less formal way to treat a Palladian window.

Here is one corner of The Music Room, which was also an art gallery.

 This window is surrounded by decorative gold molding and topped by an ornate carved pediment.  What a lovely idea to enhance an ordinary window.  I was also taken with the use of simple boullion fringe across the top as a little valance over the drapery.  This is also a fun and inexpensive way to trim out a window.  I have actually seen swags made from cording and fringe too.

The Grand Ballroom had fifteen windows and doors, all topped with beautiful paintings called lunette paintings as they were in a half moon shape.
A famous lavish party called the Ball Poudre was held here in honor of George Washington's birthday.
The Bal Poudre, held in 1903, was described as one of the most sumptuous affairs south of Washington.

Here is a closer look at one of the lunette paintings, surrounded by scrolled gold molding, of course!  This could be another idea to be used atop a window to add height and drama. The painting could be anything that related to the over all style of the interior, like seashells in a seaside retreat or fruit in a dining room or kitchen.
Also notice another little valance just below the painting. It seems it is just a simple way to disguise the rod underneath.
This window is located in The Drawing Room where Mary Lily entertained guests and listened to music.
Another beautiful Palladian window treatment. This is a wider softer arch with one large swag and two smaller jabots.  Sometimes the space in between can have another pair of swags but this is a great way to save on fabric yardage and keep the treatment lighter.
This close up shows a velvet panel trimmed with tapestry and then edged with tassel fringe. The delicate lace you see here was evident in many areas of the house and was a highly prized material used in fashion and design during The Gilded Age. 

Looking closely at one panel you can see a thin layer of touille over the tapesty. It was fraying with age.
Here is a detail of a window treatment recently installed showing a band of brocade fabric and double layers of beaded and tassel fringe.  A coordinating tassel tieback completes the elegant style of this treatment.

Photo courtesy of Picture Pretty Interiors
The Master Suite glowed with light and rich gold damask upholstered walls.  While the bed is the main focal point, this triple window certainly grabbed my eye.  You can catch a glimpse of the dresser in the reflection of the full length mirror, and notice how the dressing table is placed so that light from the windows would reflect on Mary Lily's face.

 The valance above the window panels is so charming. I would guess it was custom embroidered and shaped to follow the design.  That's a very interesting idea for a contemporary window valance if  you chose a modern pattern instead of a traditional floral.  Adding more architectural molding also dramatizes a window and draws immediate attention. It could even be the focal point of the whole room.
 A similar style of valance is shown here in The Morning Room.  The embroidered design is more tailored and has also been used down the leading edge and bottom of the drapery panels.
Here is  another look at The Drawing Room.  As you can see there are several  windows and doors. There is more detail in the crown molding above the window molding.  Because the ceiling is so high these windows would look tiny if they did not have such substantial woodwork which both grounds and elevates them to the proportion of the room.

How would you use inspiration from these old world designs in today's interiors?  Have you ever considered creating a focal point with a dramatic window treatment?  I invite you to share your ideas in the comment section below. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A field trip to The Flagler Museum, Whitehall, in Palm Beach Florida offers so many design inspirations.


I love field trips.  For me they are little inspirational journeys.  Last week I had the pleasure of touring Whitehall, the winter home of Henry Flagler in Palm Beach Florida.  In fact Whitehall was a wedding present from Henry to his third wife, Mary Lily, and quite a magnificent gift it was. It was to become the fabled center of the Palm Beach social scene.

(Photo courtesy of The Flagler Museum website)

We were greeted by an incredibly knowledgeable docent who told stories of a bygone era woven with history and charm.  Whitehall was built in 1902 in the style of The Gilded Age and in walking through it's amazing interior you can see no detail was left out.  
I could not resist sharing some of this incredible American treasure.  It will take several posts to cover even just a part of what I saw and was inspired by. 

Beautiful architectural elements were everywhere.  Just looking up on the front portico I saw such elegant detail.
 Framed architectural renderings of elements like seen above are popular as artwork in all styles of interior design.  Fragments of these elements can also be hung on the wall or placed on bookshelves or tables.  This inspires me to do just that.

This is just a small example of the ornamental ironwork that  appeared throughout this home

Ironwork like this can be used in banisters, railings, gates and fences in any style home.  I love gardens with ironwork, whether it be trellis, benches or other seating.
And of course chandeliers, sconces and lamps can all be made in iron.  Adding the element of iron grounds an interior and adds texture.  Don't worry about rust, it is nature's way.
One of many beautiful plaster and gold leaf reliefs that adorn the ceiling of the reception room.
Inside the first room (just a mere 5,000 square feet) we were surrounded by beauty above and below.  The carvings, castings and paintings are remarkable.  The gold leaf you see here and that which was used throughout the interior is just what you might find in a home of The Gilded Age.

The ceiling of the receiving room.
To translate inspiration from a ceiling like this can be daunting but done in small touches would be very manageable and effective such as in the ceiling of this bathroom shown below.

Photo courtesy of Picture Pretty Interiors

This front "room" is where the Flaglers would receive their guests.
The soft light from the velvet dressed window cast a lovely glow on the cut velvet settee.
One of my first inspirations was how I might  translate what I see here in this    magnificent interior into projects of my own or for my clients. The patina of time worn  antique furniture and fabric lends a sense of history to any interior. Though   some may not want a whole room with antique furnishings a few soft fringed pillows    in an old needlepoint fabric would be one way to begin to achieve that style.

When you look closely you can see the pattern of this fabric is actually cut elegant and subtle.
Here is a thought, why not search local flea markets for old furniture or needlepoint and use just the fabrics for pillows.  I have seen pillows made from old rugs as well.

You can cover a footstool, bench or an ottoman in  another vintage needlepoint to add to the ambiance of an old world feel.

Hanging an old tapestry or even a fragment of one in a frame is another way to add to a time worn feeling.

How about upholstering a whole wall or room in all different tapestries!  Well, I have never seen this done but I have seen tapestries in frames of molding going all around a room and I have actually wallpapered a powder room in a wallpaper that looked like tapestry.  It was very effective.  

Photo of this powder room in tapestry wallpaper courtesy of Picture Pretty Interiors
Adding touches like this here and there is one way to convey a look without doing the entire room.  Other accessories from the period such as rugs and porcelain and occasional small pieces of furniture can complete your look.

 Do you like this "Patina Style"?   Take a look at a wonderful book depicting time worn elegance. It is called Patina Style by Brooke and Steve Giannetti.  Brooke also writes a great blog called   If you like this look you will love this book!

What is your favorite way to "age" a room or create a feeling of history, a sense of being collected over a long period of time?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Choosing an awning for your home and mine.

Awnings come in all shapes and sizes. Continuing with the theme of outdoor spaces,  I have been exploring getting an awning for our own home and have discovered there is a lot to consider.

Toylsome Lane Southampton Village New York contemporary landscape
Batten Awnings contemporary deck

 Once we decided that an awning would solve some of our rain and sun issues, I have noticed awnings everywhere.

Private Residence II mediterranean patio

I like the style of these awnings. The color of the house is similar to ours and this would look nice. I also like the scallop and contrast banding. I like how they are mounted high above but still come down low enough to give protection. But would I like looking at the dark red from the inside? Would the open sides shield us from the rain on our windows?

Sheeps Run traditional landscapeStripes are so classic.

Standard window awnings with box valance traditional exterior

Blue is pretty but the straight tight bottom is a bit plain and better for a contemporary look.

I always thought a patio sheltered by an awning was charming. Add drapery panels and it becomes a really special outdoor room, instantly.

  lighting modern exterior

Pool contemporary pool

In doing some research I have found so many different styles, from contemporary to traditional.

 When I looked up awnings on, I expected to find a variety of canvas awnings but it turns out that awnings come in a lot of materials.

Lake County Builders traditional exterior      Feldman Architecture modern entry

Although my focus is on canvas awnings this style with barrel tile is the perfect accent to our Mizner style home.  It would be permanent and we would not have to worry too much about it blowing away in a hurricane, nor would we have to take it down beforehand and have it rehung afterward.  Still cost is a consideration.

Exteriors mediterranean exterior

In addition to looking on I did some real life research by driving through local neighborhoods and found some excellent examples of what I am looking for.

We have a clerestory window above our sliding door in our living room.  We have been plagued with leaks for years but we think we have it licked.  However since we have no overhang on our roof on that side of our home,  a contractor said that there is no guarantee that we wouldn't have another leak at some point down the road.  Our goal in installing an awning is to ward off the rain, which, in South Florida, can  blow sideways! A secondary benefit is that it will keep out some strong sun too.

Ana Williamson Architect contemporary exteriorI like this awning because it lets in light but it is not practical for our situation, is it?

But, I must confess, this whole project is also going to allow us to replace our old carpet with beautiful new hardwood floors!  And that will be followed by another decorating project, our living room. 
It is also important to think about what the awning will look like from inside the house.  I will miss looking up at the palms, blue sky and starry night sky, but I must keep the my eye on the prize..... our new hardwood flooring. 

A lighter color makes the room inside brighter. A stripe  could work if it was not too bold, and though a darker color might look better from the outside, would it make the living room too dark?  And how would stripes look from the inside?

Retractable Awnings traditional patio  Retractable Awnings contemporary patio

These awnings are retractable which is a great idea but would not work for our project.
They are not rated for winds over 40mph when open and are very pricey.
We are only considering a 3 foot awning to cover about half the height of the upper window so as not to block too much light.

Here are a few more awnings I spotted on a driveby shoot on a rainy day.  I am now very taken with awnings on houses.  I never realized how popular they are and so charming too.


This one actually creates a front porch. and the next one becomes a covered entry.

 The house on the right has two styles. The lower makes a covered entry and the upper windows are covered by Bahama shutters that not only shield from the sun but can be lowered completely for storms.

Below the green awnings highlight a sun porch and really add charm to the style of the house.
And what about those yellow awnings!  How fabulous theylook.  Even on that rainy day they brightened up everything.  But I wonder if they give a yellow glow to all the rooms inside kind of like when you put a yellow buttercup flower under someones chin.  If it reflects yellow it means they like butter! 

These last three pictures above show a nearby home in a light gray color, sparkling white roof, shutters and front door.  The awnings are white with gray banding set slightly above the edge.  I really love that look.  What do you think?  Would that work for our house? We could have white awnings with beige or even terracotta banding.  It would be simple, and classic and would probably pass the architectural committee's approval.

Here are photos of our patio and the subject window and slider.  What do you recommend? What color and style do you suggest?  Solid with a trim? A stripe? Dark or light? The house is beige, the roof terracotta barrel tile, the patio is terracotta and the window trim, columns in the front and front door are white.

I look forward to your comments and suggestions!