Scenic Wallpapers, The Eternal Vista

Capturing the beauty of nature, the grandeur of architecture, and the seductively fascinating global culture of humans has inspired wallpaper manufacturers for centuries. Last year I had a chance to attend the Salon Art & Design in New York and was overwhelmed by the extraordinary panoramic panels filling entire rooms. Among the creators were Zuber et Cie and Joseph Dufour et Cie, two visionary French Manufacture de Papier Peints et Tissus (French for: painted wallpaper and fabrics). Zuber continues to produce their historic designs and other companies such as Fromental, Gracie Wallpaper, and de Gourney offer traditional patterns with more contemporary atmospheric designs being offered by Philip Jefferies and Paul Montgomery.  Here are a few of my favorites but you will find an amazing number of designs on each of these manufacturer's websites.

 An abstracted version of a landscape mural, akin to the great Zuber papers but much simpler.

An abstracted version of a landscape mural, akin to the great Zuber papers but much simpler.

 Les Monuments des Paris by Joseph Dufour

Les Monuments des Paris by Joseph Dufour

 Zuber wallpaper, Lush Colors and Exceptional Details

Zuber wallpaper, Lush Colors and Exceptional Details

 Zuber Wallpaper

Zuber Wallpaper

   Grisaille Paper is various shades of gray

Grisaille Paper is various shades of gray

 Phillip Jefferies new Scenic Wallpaper

Phillip Jefferies new Scenic Wallpaper

 Kauri in Wyre by Fromental

Kauri in Wyre by Fromental

 Travertine in Rhea from Fromental - room designed by Lichten Craig

Travertine in Rhea from Fromental - room designed by Lichten Craig

Downton Abbey, Fabulous Fashions on Exhibit

If you're an addicted Downton Abbey fan like myself, you are probably attracted not only to the complex and layered characters but also to the elaborate period interiors and the finely detailed fashions. If you feel the same then you're in luck as there is presently a fascinating exhibit traveling to several cities in the United States. This visually stunning exhibit features many of the most extraordinary costumes from the award-winning British series. The presentation combines photographic stills with the costumes and allows viewers a chance to see the careful detailing of each design. I was also struck by the slender physiques of the actors, with a few notable exceptions, that the clothing reveals. As a former fashion designer, I was particularly impressed by the fine beaded and sequined silks worn during the London Social Season. To learn more about the exhibit and to check scheduled cities visit http://dressingdownton.com/Exhibition/

 "Dressing Downton" is presently showing in Richmond, VA. Future exhibits are scheduled for Cincinnati, OH; Anaheim, CA; St. Augustine, FL; Oshkosh, WI; Chicago, IL; South Bend, IN; and ending in Nashville, TN in 2017.

"Dressing Downton" is presently showing in Richmond, VA. Future exhibits are scheduled for Cincinnati, OH; Anaheim, CA; St. Augustine, FL; Oshkosh, WI; Chicago, IL; South Bend, IN; and ending in Nashville, TN in 2017.

 Lady Edith Crawley in her riding attire.

Lady Edith Crawley in her riding attire.

 Frog closure, a beautiful and functional detail

Frog closure, a beautiful and functional detail

 A striking red ensemble worn by Lady Mary Crawley

A striking red ensemble worn by Lady Mary Crawley

 Costumes worn by Lord and Lady Grantham

Costumes worn by Lord and Lady Grantham

 An impeccably detailed Art Deco dress worn by Martha Levinson

An impeccably detailed Art Deco dress worn by Martha Levinson

 Formal evening dress worn by Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham

Formal evening dress worn by Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham

 Handsome tweeds worn by the Crawley family.

Handsome tweeds worn by the Crawley family.

 The lovely dress worn by Lady Rose MacClare when dancing to the music of Jack Ross.

The lovely dress worn by Lady Rose MacClare when dancing to the music of Jack Ross.

 Beaded and sequined eveningwear adds glamour to "The Season" in London.

Beaded and sequined eveningwear adds glamour to "The Season" in London.

 Lady Cora Crawley's outspoken mother Martha Levinson played by academy award winning actress Shirley MacLaine.

Lady Cora Crawley's outspoken mother Martha Levinson played by academy award winning actress Shirley MacLaine.

Secret to Great Design

To be a truly great designer you must trust your inner voice.

You must be willing to fall short of your own definition of beauty.

It is in the bold gesture and the confident, even arrogant, assertion

that greatness can occur.

Genius is never meek!   Be bold, be assured, be the great designer

you've dreamed of being.

                                                                                                                     Gary Inman

 David Collins famed Blue Bar, Berkeley Hotel, London

David Collins famed Blue Bar, Berkeley Hotel, London

 Nancy Lancaster's Iconic Yellow room at Colefax & Fowler, London

Nancy Lancaster's Iconic Yellow room at Colefax & Fowler, London

 Bold Color from Robert Couturier

Bold Color from Robert Couturier

 Julia Morgan's Azure Pool at Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

Julia Morgan's Azure Pool at Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA

 Dramatic Scale, Strong patterns, Erudite Collection, all inspiring. The home of Piero Castellini in Milan.

Dramatic Scale, Strong patterns, Erudite Collection, all inspiring. The home of Piero Castellini in Milan.

 "Frozen Music" indeed, the poetic Milwaukee Museum of Fine Art by Calatrava. 

"Frozen Music" indeed, the poetic Milwaukee Museum of Fine Art by Calatrava. 

Black and White, The Timeless Color Combo

Fashion in films - The Devil Wears Prada 2006

Power red, shocking pink, spa blue, Hermes orange…..the world of design is always looking for the new color that will animate their editorial content and add graphic punch to their covers. Countless articles extol the virtues of the newest “it” color. Manufacturers wager on the next big color trends anticipating the new and the exciting. As intoxicating as these powerful colors are they can not surpass the bold clarity and timeless elegance of black and white. Chanel, more than any other designer, understood the power of this most balanced yet striking of combinations, adopting it has her signature colors. Here are a few of my favorite black and white designs. 

The clarity and refined taste of this black and white office is a perfect outward reflection of the Miranda character from The Devil Wears Prada.

French garden under the glass ceiling of the Grand Palais - Chanel fashion show 2011

Prada's pristine black and white luggage

Jaguar elegance in black and white.

A Brilliant London Style Door in high gloss black in stark contrast to the white classical edifice.

Chanel suite at the Ritz, Paris

Chanel gift box

Henry Dreyfuss - Telephone

COCO CHANEL, THE CREATION OF A STYLE ICON

Coco with her incredible sense of fashion and her unstoppable confidence.

Gabrielle “Coco” Bonheur Chanel (1883 – 1971)

It seems poetic that my first blog is on the great French couturier, Coco Chanel. No other designer has inspired me more than Chanel. Her extraordinary vision and taste, her lifelong commitment to her art and career, and her absolute confidence in her innate gift, continues to inspire me, and many other designers, more four decades after her death. Chanel was the first designer name I learned, and it was her style that defined elegance in the upper south society of my youth. In 1989 I had the rare privilege of studying at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Included in their stellar collection were numerous examples of Chanel’s artistry and I was able to study these creations, wearing white archival gloves of course, over the course of a year, ultimately writing my major research project on Chanel. In the years since I have continued to study her life and career and have had the opportunity to lecture on her many times. This blog entry is but a tiny nod to the rich and complex topic and I look forward to sharing more on Chanel in future blogs. 

Coco Chanel was the most influential designer of the 20th Century. A verbose statement? Perhaps, but how many designers can claim to have fundamentally shifted not only fashion, but the lifestyle of generations of women. Chanel’s radical departure from the conventional fashions of the early decades of the 20th century allowed women to embrace modernity. Sportswear, menswear inspired jersey suits, the “Little Black Dress”, the now iconic Chanel box suit, the 2.55 quilted leather cross body handbag, Chanel No.5, gripoix jewelry, camellias, her design vocabulary is refined, instantly recognizable, and is still coveted globally.

A thoroughly modern woman wearing an iconic Chanel tweed suit.

Coco Chanel's Little Black Dress ca.1927, the most iconic fashion of the 20th century.

Chanel's apartment at 31 Rue Cambon, Paris.

Chanel Maltese Cross cuff bracelets from Verdura.

Chanel’s coveted 2.55 quilted leather handbag.

Broadway play based on Coco Chanel.

Chanel with Duke Fulco di Verdura who began his career as Chanel’s head jewelry designer.

Gripoix also known as Pate de Verre (poured glass) was popularized by Chanel.

Developed by Ernest Beaux in 1921, Chanel No. 5 is still the world’s most familiar fragrance. The great French actress, Catherine Deneuve was the spokesperson for the fragrance in the 70s.