Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes


Decorating Back-Stories

[Detail view, Grey Crawford photograph of Schuyler Samperton's coffee table as seen in Elle Decor, 2003.]

In his new book Michael Smith says, "Designing a house is a bit like the movies because you're making up stories.." It's fascinating, for me at least, to learn about these stories people make up in their heads -- the fantasies that become sort of the back-story for a design. Often it's a highly personal vision based on a film, a book, or even a moment in time.

For example, some say that Schuyler Samperton's style is partly informed by Exile, a volume of photographs from celebrated French rock photographer Dominique Tarlé. The pictures were taken during the summer of 1971 while Tarlé stayed with Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg at Villa Nellcôte. Think rock stars -- the ultimate rock stars -- playing in the South of France with a stately house as the backdrop.

Since I'm so inspired by images of Jackie visiting India in the early 60s, I was thrilled to recently read in House Beautiful that Peter Dunham describes his textile collection as "half Jackie Kennedy goes to Jaipur and half Brigitte Bardot 1960s South of France." There really is a collective design unconscious.

If you are interested in learning more about JBK's travels, her interest in art, her involvement with The Met, or the books she edited, check out the PBS documentary, Jackie: Behind the Myth.

What books, films, or time periods are part of your design back-story?

Illustration is by Jacqueline Duheme, as seen in Mrs. Kennedy Goes Abroad. Depicted are Lee Radziwell and Jacqueline Kennedy riding elephant, Jaipur 1962.

Peter Dunham textile images are courtesy House Beautiful. Albert Hadley's inspiration board is from Parish-Hadley: Sixty Years of American Design.


Mike said...

Too many designers that I have known are committed to simply executing a preferred style for a client. I, being both a writer and a design, love creating a story that reflects the taste, real life, and dreams of a client. The most challenging projects (this would include my own home), and most rewarding, involve weaving two or more diverse narratives, blending together real life concerns with dreamscapes that a client (or more to the point "clients") can retreat to. This, for me, is what makes each job so very satisfying, and worth giving thanks for at the end of each and every day.

It is just an observation, but thank you, Courtney, for allowing me to offer it. Again, what a lovely post!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Courtney - This gave me a good long pause. A wonderful question, and I had not considered it before. If I had to boil it down to just one thing, it would have to be the Connecticut country houses of 1940's movies. Holiday Inn, Bringing Up Baby, Philadelphia Story - gracious and lovely and that perfect mix of formal and informal. A suiting backdrop for both family and entertaining. Animals and children, both inside and out, both seen and heard. Crystal and leather and chintz and chinoiserie. The first time I saw it I thought that is what home should be.

Mike said...

Mrs. Blandings: I agree! I might even add "Christmas in Connecticut" to your list of lovely country houses of the day.

Style Court said...

Mike -- you raise several interesting points. I guess a good designer's role is to listen and draw out what the client's dream really is.

Thanks for sharing your perspective!

Style Court said...

Mrs. Blandings -- yes, those 1940s films set in Connecticut are so you! It would be fun to do another blog post or a story for a magazine matching up various decorators or design bloggers with movies and books that capture their essence. Although it's probably already been done.

Thanks for sharing these great details.

pve design said...

When I was a teen, I loved all the classics, Audrey, Grace and Jackie O and now that they are gone, I look to those with a modern endurance, Elsa Peretti, Eva Zeisel, Diane von Furstenberg, Jil Sander- designing, creating and inspiring an artful world for others. A jewel,a collectible, some fashion.
What more does a girl need. I love vintage decor more than the decor today.

Style Court said...

PVE --

I like very much how you have injected some fresh icons here. I'm a big DVF fan too. Since you are an artist, it makes sense that you especially connect with those creative talents.

And a jewel -- what a great jumping off point for a room!

Karena said...

Yes, I agree with the comments on Audrey, Jackie, and Grace, also Paloma Picasso's style and designs. When my children were young we had in a Cape Cod home in Westwood, and I loved decorating it, it had a huge tressle covered with honeysuckle at the back patio.

Style Court said...

Sounds lovely Karena!

beachbungalow8 said...

this is so true, we all really do bring our past, our want-to-be past (which would be 'projection') into our environments.

My question is, do we create our homes to reflect our past? or what we'd like people to believe we are 'of'?

provocative post, love it.

Karena said...

I think we create our homes to reflect the transitions we make in our lives, as well as our past. Some of my favorite belongings, I have had forever, yet now I am mixing fun bright abstract art with my very traditional, and antique pieces.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Courtney - even if it's been done, I think you'd do it better; I'd love to see your interpretation.

And, Mike, adore Christmas in Connecticut - especially as the chic Barbara Stanwyck cannot cook. A girl after my own heart.

The Peak of Chic said...

V. interesting! I think I decorate my home for the way I want to live- which is in a 1930s movie! But I try to do it in a way that's comfortable and modern too.

The Peak of Chic said...

I also forgot to say that I think in a previous life that I lived in 1930s NYC and Patricia lived in 1930s Connecticut and we visited each other often!

Style Court said...

I'm loving everyone's input!

You all are really inspiring me.

jennifer said...

what is the fabric shown here folded? Is it all peter dunham? love!

Style Court said...

Yes, it's all Dunham :)

simply seleta said...

First things first: we both share an interest in Jackie O. I guess us and 90% of the rest of the the world's female population. LOL. I have several of books on her, I should send them to you. They're still in my home in Atlanta.

How interesting about Peter Dunham! Is this a new line or one he's had a while?

Second, I've always loved the house from Father of the Bride. Soft, casual, feminine and relaxed. I remember recording the movie on my VCR years and years ago and rewinding to look at the beautiful slip-covered wingbacks in the living room. Pathetic, I know. Most recently I was captured by the home I saw on in the movie, "Penelope". I nearly fainted when I saw her family's library. Have you seen the movie? The storyline and the set are two reasons to must see!!!


Style Court said...

Hi Seleta --

Which books do you have? I bet we have some of the same ones.

I think Peter Dunham's collection has been around 5 years or so, but I should do some fact checking.

Do you mean the Steve Martin "Father Of" or the Elizabeth Taylor version?

I haven't heard of Penelope -- I feel so out of it! Thanks for the tip :)

simply seleta said...

When I go back to Atlanta soon, I'll check my Jackie O. book inventory and let you know. :-)

Steve Martin "Father of the Bride".

Rent Penelope!!! You must!!! It's a little bit teenager-y but the story is heart warming and meaningful. Produced by Reese Witherspoon. And the set design is intriguing and unusual. The only reason I know anything about this movie is because I saw it on a long plane ride back from Vegas recently. So I was able to focus, no kids to distract! LOL.

Style Court said...

Thanks for the tip Seleta!

pve design said...

They came to me, in the middle of the night...
Diana Vreeland
Dorothy Draper
all style legends.

katiedid said...

Design Backstory. What a great concept, and one I have not really analyzed too much about myself. I grew up in Pasadena about two blocks from the Father of the Bride house. I grew up in a Prairie style house and passed by the Gamble House by Greene and Greene every day on my way to school. I think Jacki O and Candice Bergen have both been on my style radar ever since I can remember. I have even been told that I have looked like both of them at times (and NOT because I really do, but I guess because I have had similiar hair styles and clothing styles.) So I guess that style is very influenced by what one grows up with and experiences.

You have got me thinking here Courtney!

Style Court said...

Katie -- you really do look like Candace Bergen!

That's fascinating that you grew up near the "Father of the Bride" house.

Let us know what you think of.

Paul Pincus said...

hi courtney: this post was highly compelling. thank you so much for the intro to dominique tarlé and exile. also, i've just netflixed jackie: behind the myth!

a little off topic, but you just made me think of one of my favourite books: one special summer (jacqueline and lee bouvier)! jackie was an artist. no question about that.

i love love love the quote from michael smith. fascinating. it hadn't occurred to me but i think he's right! i think i may have done just that...unconsciously! cheers: )

Style Court said...

paul -- well, i'm glad i reminded you of "one special summer," and very excited to introduce you to something new, that's not easy to do!

Nell said...

A wonderful house that instantly transports and inspires, always in some part of my subconscious as the archetype for "house":the house and grounds in the movie "Howard's End."

Style Court said...

Nell -- thanks for another good suggestion to re-visit.

Bebe said...

Just could not pass this opportunity to tell you how,
with these comments, you have transported me back in time and space.

When I was young and gay (as they then called it) and 'on my way', following Jackie O, and her sister and other icons of the era, was just second nature to those of us so charmed by her grace and style .

I found myself opening a speciality shop on Main St. in a small town in Tennessee, subscribing to the
then spectacular "W" trade papers, supplying my clients with the best little pillbox hats, sheaths,
suits and pearls their money could buy. It worked for them, and for me, for 10 years.

But one eventful night I had occasion to dance at a gala in Atlanta with the inimitable Billy Baldwin. Not too long thereafter, the prevailing winds of the
day blew my family across the plains of Texas, and me smack into the middle of Interior Design in Dallas.

That was now 25 years ago, and I have never looked back, except with pride and contentment over the fact that my design portfolio exudes the same finesse and enduring qualities as did then
the little black dress she made so famous!

And, of course, I cannot conclude without thanks to
both Billy Baldwin AND Diana Vreeland and the
indisputable mix in between...and I throw the likes of you in, because, you great bloggers must surely know that, indeed, you are style-setters of your day
insomuch as you ALL encourage us to be the best
Interior Designers we can be.

Style Court said...

Well my goodness Bebe, what a lovely comment. It sounds like you have had a wonderful adventurous life so far!

You are too generous but I very much appreciate you sharing this with us. Can't thank you enough for stopping by.