"Things I love to look at, things that make me smile."
The living-room, "like a tapestried train.. a den for an elderly Arab."
I submitted to the desire for property because I happened upon a house that was unlike any other, and I thought living there would be something special. The house was built by John Barrymore and called his studio. It served as projection room and aviary for a man who believed that if he stopped building he would die. It was the third addition to a compound that included the maze-like main house - with Meissen chandeliers, old monastery doors, and rathskeller floored with redwood trunks - and the hacienda, or guest house - with heated dog kennels, a fourteen-foot Renaissance sundial, planted squarely in the pool, and hand-carved doors from Bombay brothels. This man was not without style.
What I loved about my house was that it was like a castle conceived out of fantasy. A man who builds a stained-glass, domed projection room downstairs and frescoed, skylit aviary upstairs cannot be called earthbound. What he achieved was a sublime time capsule where one could seek solace from a growing metropolis.
The theatrical proportions of the house are often overwhelming. The miniscule living-room is crowned with a three-storey-high cupola studded with stained-glass windows. A great rock fireplace splays grandly across one wall and a crusty iron chandelier hangs perilously from a stained-glass clipper ship at the top of the dome. Empty, the room has all the warmth of a monk's crypt. Some of my friends refer to it as the lobby. When it is filled to its capacity of eight people, facing each other nose to nose in its tiny rectangular shape is like sitting in a tapestried train. All of which is its charm - I guess.
I wanted to accentuate the fantasy I loved in the house and Jay Steffy seemed the only decorator whose mind could drift in distant places. The downstairs suggested something mediaeval. Late Beowulf, I saw it; with fraying fabrics on fecund sofas and Moorish chests with dark patinas. And that is, more or less, what we got. Tapestry and needlepoint materials and great old Persian and Moroccan rugs that were a trifle threadbare.
Jay painted the downstairs a terracotta that emerges as soft and seductive by night and a claustrophobic orange by day; and he emphasized the architecture of the cupola by painting the pilasters a deeper shade and striping muted bands of colour around its base. The crowing glory is a copy of the portrait of Victor Mature as Samson by Norman Rockwell that left the art world reeling. It is, at once, the worst and best. If there were a fire, I'd surely save Victor.
Jay thought of a long slab of table to exaggerate the narrow dining-room, and I wanted each chair at the table to be different, huge and comfortable. Jay slipped a cane and chrome Marcel Breuer in with all the carved medieval monsters just to keep people on their toes. As if they weren't already.
The kitchen assumed shape gradually, a repository for memorabilia I was too embarrassed to have anywhere else. During a brief fling with decoupage, I spent an afternoon decorating cupboards leaving half the job unfinished. Then I threw down a slightly impaired Persian rug to unify the chaos.
In the Vermeer-yellow kitchen: Americana and toys, " a place for sitting around in", with a rug to warm the floor, a Mexican painting.
Bathed in light, the upstairs is the antidote to the downstairs, like walking from winter up into spring. As the aviary, it was designed with large, high rooms and skylights to soften the blow to a bird in captivity.
I wanted the smaller of the two rooms for a den, with Paisley and a huge, high couch crushed with pillows. Jay got Michael Kelly, paint wizard, to work geometric wonders on the walls, and the great felt-topped gaming table is a sensational desk. The den, with the most outrageous of my lamp collection, ended up resembling the home of an elderly Arab. It seemed natural to extend the fantasy to the furnishings - games and toys; a wheel of fortune; a telescope; a plastic porpoise in the bathroom; a hand-decorated desk chair and hand-painted lampshades of pastel pastorals I'd like to curl up and live in - things I love to look at and things that make me smile.
The vast reaches of the bedroom constitute a spatial experience that was, at first, like waking up in an airplane hanger. For reasons I am at pains to explain and subsequently outgrown, I wanted a rainbow for a headboard. Jay, a Frank Stella devotee, designed it and the graphics are superb. However, the word "nursery" does spring to mind upon entering the room. I call it my "arrested-growth room", since on its completion I realised I was living in never-never land. It was, indeed, the perfect child's room, I saw somewhat to my horror, and incriminating evidence of my infantilism. Still, the bedroom, or Rainbow Room, banked with windows, crowned with skylights and crammed with sunshine, is the happiest room of all.
When I got my house, I thought, mystically somehow it would change my life because it was, after all, a mystical house. Well, it didn't act as the creative catalyst I thought it would. Obviously. But it did effect some change: my life is tracked with the footprints of plumbers, roofers, painters, electricians and exterminators. I have broadened my horizon of friends. Now the house is no more or less important than it should be. But I love it, it lets me outwit the city, and whatever its magic it works for me.
The bedroom, once John Barrymore's aviary, now "Rainbow Room, the happiest room of all..."
Photographs by Henry Clarke for Vogue UK, November 1971.
Though I can understand her thoughts on the rather childlike bedroom, I personally would adore having a rainbow painted on my wall- just looking at it would bring so much joy everyday that it would more than make up for the lack of sophistication.
Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat patterns for Butterick, 1970s.
I was very sorry to hear about Betsey Johnson filing for bankruptcy yesterday. While I haven't bought anything new from her in a decade, when I was 16 her dresses were pretty much the ultimate for me. Since then my interest in her has shifted to her earlier work, especially her brightly coloured sweater dresses from the 80s (I live in a red one patterned with huge neon shells come winter) and her 70s work with Alley Cat. Above are two of my favourite patterns she did for Butterick- some day I will get around to making them...
Hopefully the company can regroup and use this as a way to refocus the company around its core clientele and original message- it seemed to me that in recent years the fabrics have become increasingly poorer quality and there has been a sameness to the collections- a lack of the creativity that marked her earlier work.
When Napoleon decided to annul his marriage to Josephine in 1810, Josephine stormed off to Malmaison, her private estate outside Paris. before she left, however, she furiously doused everything in Napoleon's home with her unique musk fragrance, literally marinating the premises in her scented oils.. Napoleon never was able to extricate l'air de Josephine from his draperies, furniture, rugs, clothing, and linens. Madame Bonaparte's flagrant personal statement in fragrance was, in this case, "Va te faire foutre, you twerp!"
Twentieth-century male connoisseurs of feminine allure think differently on the subject of how women might employ sweet scents. Guy Fery told us, "Like wine, a fragrance should never be too sweet, too dry, or too heavy." And Hollywood beauty expert George Masters suggests in his new book, The Masters Way to Beauty, that you atomize a mist of spray cologne about an arm's length away from you, walk briskly through the perfume-permeated air, and voila.
The art of perfuming yourself well makes for irresistibly feminine allure. Indulge yourself in at least one of Viva's choices of bottled bouquets.
Perfume: Cachet by Prince Matchabelli.
Hair by Patrick Bouguennec, Jean Louis David Salon, Henri Bendel. Perfume: Cachet by Prince Matchabelli.
A Potpourri of Summer Scents
Amour Amour, by Jean Patou, means "love times two"; a lyrical, lingering fragrance with not too sweet floral high notes and hint of spice. Chanel No. 19 is a whole new experience of Chane;'s fine craft - light and airy as a bright, early morning in a field of ferns. Tabu is Dana's musky, seductive scent, a passionate vertigo of enigma and forbidden mysteries.
Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue has addictive potential for poetic romantics; it's name means "the blue hour" - twilight, when harsh edges are blurred and lovers stroll peacefully by the Seine. Essence Rare, by Houbigant, is fresh and young, poignant and reminiscent; polar forces of fragrance are blended into a totally provocative perfume. Je Reviens, by Worth, is no less than a statement, a signature in scent, sophisticated and sunny. "I return," it whispers. Cachet, by Prince Matchabelli, is the ultimate individualist's nosegay - gentle wafts of mossy forests mingled with exotic, tender blossoms.
Pavlova, by Payot, has drama, confidence, an undercurrent of mellow moods; decidedly city-chic, it has suggestions, too, of tiny, wild mountain flowers. Cabochard, by Gres, is boldly feminine, insistent yet yielding, delicately seductive with shades of shy mystique.
Paco Rabanne's Calandre is a love song, clear and high, adventurous and whimsical, yearning softly, making magic music. Havoc, by Mary Quant, creates exactly that with the romantic men in your life; breezy, devil-may-care, this fragrance also carries base notes of more serious, ravishing resonance. Courreges is the ultimately haute scent, mature and knowledgeable; once you've tried it, you'll feel utterly unfashionable without it even when you're dressed to the nines. Babe, by Faberge, has a distinctly americaine sense of fun and confidence - clever and witty, charming and gay, all the things you like about yourself, in one lovely, provocative perfume.
Black Chinese silk man's antique robe ($45), black suede fifties Spring-O-Lator shoes ($32.50), all one of a kind from Early Halloween, NYC. Perfume: Woman by Jovan.
Midnight blue-and-black quilted-silk man's robe ($5), one of a kind from a selection at Early Halloween, NYC. Perfume: Parure by Guerlain.
Illustrations by Guy Fery and text by Susan Duff for Viva, August 1978.
Is anyone still a fan of any of the perfumes listed above? L'Heure Bleue was my grandmother's scent and is still my absolute favourite perfume of all time, but I'm waiting a few more years before I start to wear it. I'm definitely intrigued by Courreges and Babe after reading their descriptions- I might have to track some down...
Materials and colours run riot in this slightly crazy an unconventional bed-sitting-room designed for two young people. This informal setting has a bed consisting of a big mattress on a platform right in the middle of the living room, surrounded by brightly-coloured, casual armchairs and cushions.
The Lino fabric on the walls and the Montecolino moquette on the floor are the same colour and provide a monochrome background which is a dramatic contrast to the lively colours of the furnishings. There is no conventional furniture as such, apart from the kitchen unit and the wardrobe; the bed, tables, bookcase and bench have been built out of 'Cartesio' by Ponteur, a type of large wooden meccano which can be made into any shape.
It is also interesting to notice how the room has been furnished using Ponteur's 'Abstracta' units (in metal instead of wood). Two different aesthetic effects have been achieved by using different materials for similar units (see above and below).
The all-yellow kitchen is by Alberti.
The woven straw and rattan wardrobe in the sleeping area is by Dal Vera.
The upholstered elements, coloured cushions, lamps, 'Zip' bed and canvas pockets behind the bed are by Evoluzione.
As a result, this is a home to be lived in and enjoyed. It may seen a little ostentatious for some tastes and is certainly unconventional, but then conventional designs, however rational, can often become boring, and may cramp the personality of the inhabitant.
Interior designed by Mariella Serpi. Text by Franco Magnani. Scanned from One Room Interiors, 1979.
Giant designs heighten ceiling and stretch walls of Jay Vlock's home outside New Haven.
Pained band provides the backdrop for piano, played by the youngest of the five Vlocks.
The whole idea of supergraphics is to knock down walls with paint. That's what a growing group of young architects and designers are trying to do - change the apparent shape of rooms, bring order to rambling space, break up boxlike confines - all by applying outsize designs to floors, walls and ceilings. To lengthen that room at top, Yale architecture student William Grover designed a swirling band for the ceiling that continues down the wall to line up with the piano. He added a billboard-sized numeral to heighten the 6' 10" ceiling. A can of paint - artfully applied - is much cheaper than remodeling. And if it doesn't look right, you can just paint it out.
When a dwindling budget shrank the size of the bathhouse at Sea Ranch, a resort community north of San Francisco, the architects called in Graphics Designer Barbara Stauffacher to dress up their diminished interior. In only three days, Mrs. Stauffacher transformed the stark white walls with wrap-around supergraphics that delighted the builders and residents alike. Mrs. Stauffacher did most of her designing right on the walls with charcoal, letting two sign painters fill in the colors. In the ladies' lavatory, she drew half a heart that becomes a whole one when reflected in the mirror (three above). Along the stairway, she place a bold directional arrow that points the way upstairs to the women's locker room (two above). In the men's locker room, a half circle borders a doorway through which is seen a matching half (above). In the women's section, she lettered the word "sauna" in one corner (below) and painted hairpin stripes around another (two below). In the cramped space mailboxes serve as lockers.
Awkward areas in a house, apartment or office are easily painted away. In the Vlock home (above), a 30-foot hall is shortened by slanting bands that broaden to twice their width at the far end. New York architect Hugh Hardy and his Italian-born wife created a nursery in their one-bedroom apartment by painting and labeling a circle (below). Architect Doug Michels devised the ceiling-to-floor design (two below). It camouflaged a radiator in the former New Haven office of Charles Moore, whole firm designed that bathhouse above. Moore calls supergraphics "a magnificent device for playing with scale. They make a toy out of a room."