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!

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