Style Court

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


Splendor in the Grass

The Atlanta History Center has updated its site with expanded views of the iconic 1920s Swan House designed by classicist architect Philip Trammell Shutze. These additional interior views should be helpful to students researching the celebrated architect or decorator Ruby Ross Wood. (Swan House was donated to the non-profit Center in the 1960s.)

When I see pictures of the house shot in the spring or summer, I sometimes think of a favorite chapter (Stilettos in the Grass) in this book. The lawn seems ready for a tent, strings of white lights, and big silver coolers.

The dress is from Anthropologie
Kate Headley photographed Maria with the lanterns
Cocktails courtesy Southern Accents
Circa 1891-1902 wine cooler available at Beverly Bremer

Via illustrator Anna Bond, I discovered a different sort of garden imagery, new album cover art for M. Ward.

New Order also went botanical a few years ago.

BTW: If you are a design history buff, love grand old houses, and plan to be in New York City in March or April,  check out the free lectures presented by Mitchell Owens at NYSID.

Art, The Cosby Show, and David Driskell

Remember the episode of The Cosby Show with the auction? When Mrs. Huxtable buys back a family painting? The picture, Ellis Wilson's circa 1947 oil on composite board, Funeral Procession, was just one of many pieces of fine art that hung in the Huxtable house. A real departure from the typical sitcom interior.

In real life Camille and Bill Cosby were serious art collectors, often advised by scholar and artist, David Driskell. On the television set, works from various periods were juxtaposed with Early-American-style furniture, and I've read that Driskell was consulted on the choices.

The High now presents an annual award in the art historian's name, the Driskell Prize, to honor a scholar or artist who has made a significant contribution to African-American art. And in April the Museum will mount a large exhibition of Driskell's prints. Evolution: Five Decades of Printmaking by David C. Driskell will encompass woodcuts, linocuts -- 80 prints representing a variety of styles and artistic influences from African to Modernist to classic Western aesthetics.

Image two is a David Driskell print.

Of related interest, the NGA's online tour of the week: African-American Artists. Cosby of course has collected works by many important artists, including Joshua Johnson who is represented on the this tour.

Credit for work shown above:
Henry Ossawa Tanner
The Seine, c. 1902
Gift of the Avalon Foundation

BTW: Wilson's Funeral Procession now belongs to Amistad Research Center at Tulane University.


Every once in a blue moon I like to post pictures from a designer's (or artist's) wedding. Usually I do this after I've been cleaning out files or rearranging old books. Since a professional photographer friend was just telling me how slow his wedding business is, due to the economy, I thought it would be nice to share two really simple-but-luxe ideas from photographer Amy Neunsinger.

Amy's wedding was on a farm outside Savannah, Georgia, and admittedly it was intended to have a barefoot-in-the-grass feel. As I understand it, her mom and friends did the flowers.

A few magnolia branches were tied together for an understated (yet stunning) bouquet. On tables magnolias floated in bowls, and scattered around were big tubs filled with voluptuous peonies and roses. I'm sure you've seen things like this before. Still it never hurts to be reminded of the incredible no-fuss arrangements that can be done with "backyard flowers." I also think some of these ideas could translate to a graduation party.

Later in her Los Angeles home, Amy propped her own photo of a magnolia above the fireplace.

Images one through three are from Shabby Chic: Sumptuous Settings and Other Lovely Things and image four is from Martha Stewart.


Nellie Mae Rowe's Lush Life

Back when I used to man the information desk at the High or find my self stationed in the galleries, I seemed to repeat the same lines over and over: "The cafe is on the lower level, the bathrooms are down the hall, Nellie Mae Rowe's work is to your left."

Joyous, radiant and approachable, Rowe's drawings appeal to many -- including those who normally don't appreciate self-taught art. The daughter of a former slave, Rowe was born in Fayetteville, Georgia in 1900. High curator Susan Mitchell Crawley writes that Rowe used art to escape the tedium of her chores and throughout her life passionately created pieces from whatever materials were at hand.

The examples shown here happen to be from Barbara Archer Gallery and the Ogden Museum (see complete credits below), but the High has well over 100 of Rowe's works, a fairly recent bequest by art patron Judith Alexander. In fact, the High is the only major museum in North America with a curatorial department specifically devoted to folk and self-taught art.

There is something about Rowe's dense patterns and electrifying color combinations that could really inspire textile designers.

Clearly the natural beauty of the South inspired Rowe. Here, a few flashbacks to favorite flower-filled images. Above, Vesta Fort's vignette photographed by Paul Costello for domino, May 2006, and below a hydrangea garland by Dorothy McDaniel, photography courtesy Southern Accents.

Art credits from the top:
Nellie Mae Rowe
Untitled, 1982
18" x 24"
crayon on paper
Barbara Archer Gallery

Picking Berries, 1981
16 1/2" x 14"
marker and crapas on paper
Barbara Archer Gallery

Mixed media on paper
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Anonymous Donation (Gift of Judith Alexander and Barbara Archer Gallery)

Couldn't resist this pairing. Dress is Trina Turk.


Leafy Greens and Quote of the Week

I was happy to see Vesta Fort's name in the March-April Southern Accents. (She styled an alfresco vignette for Julia Reed's story on spring dining.) To help spread a little more spring fever, I thought it would be nice to round-out the week with Gustav Schmiege's pretty picture, above, and an image of a Miranda Brooks-designed garden, below.

The great quote I share in hopes of inspiring some weekend interior rearranging -- or just optimistic dreaming -- it comes from Patrick Dunne, same issue of Southern Accents:

"...I share in some small part the headstrong human instinct to order and embellish and evoke that guides every mortal sensible enough to know that we are the species in all creation most adept at decorating."

Gallery Hopping II

At long last the mailman just dropped off my copy of the March-April Southern Accents. It's a special issue because Patrick Dunne, writer and owner of the epicurean antiques shop Lucullus, allowed his soulfully elegant New Orleans house to be featured in a nice long spread. And he contributed the wonderful text too.

But I'm also drawn to a story about Charleston.

The respected gallery, Ann Long Fine Art, is among the hot spots mentioned. (That's Ann above.) I was intrigued to learn she has a section online for young collectors. One of the small works in that area caught my eye: Hanging Feathers II, by Elizabeth Leary,  shown here at top. The size is about six by seven inches.

Image three courtesy Southern Accents.

Gallery Hopping

Today I stopped by Emily Amy Gallery and got a sneak peek at last minute preparations for tomorrow night's opening of Clayton Santiago's solo show.

Many of Clayton's works reflect an affinity for the Southern landscape and a certain spirituality. Tar, oil paint and epoxy are among the mixed media he uses. When I first entered the gallery, I was struck by the rich, slick surfaces of his work. To me, the epoxy feels like a contemporary variation on the varnishes used by the Old Masters.

Lately some singles have been complaining that they can't date during the recession due to the high cost of going out. Well, gallery visits are free and rarely dull. Clayton's opening takes place at Emily Amy Gallery on Friday, February 27, from 7 - 10 p.m. Cocktails and hors d' oeuvres will be served and Clayton will be on hand to answer questions. The next day at 1 p.m., he will give a tour of his show. This talk is offered in conjunction with the first Westside Arts District Walk.

Activities will take place throughout the day on Saturday, February 28 beginning at 11 a.m. Visit Emily Amy's events page for details and links to participating galleries and sites including: the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Bobbe Gillis Gallery, Get This! Gallery, Kiang Gallery, Octane Coffee Bar, Saltworks, and Sandler Hudson Gallery.

BTW: the small works at the top on the bookshelves are by Melanie Parke


Dash & Albert

A question I'm frequently asked via email is where to find striped woven cotton rugs similar in style to the one seen in Carolina Irving's living room. A good place to hunt is Dash & Albert. Starting tomorrow the company will offer customers the option to order cotton woven, wool hooked and polypropylene rugs online. I think you will be pleased with the prices. (My mother has one of the striped cottons and finds it super-durable.)

Just F.Y.I., the appealing striped rugs we see in Vogue Living or World of Interiors are often antique Indian dhurries (heavy flat-woven cotton or wool cloths).

Above, Carolina Irving apartment photographed by Francois Halard for Vogue, October 2006.

Aleta's Specials

Recently I had a very positive experience ordering a couple of meters of Brigitte Singh's Mughal-inspired block print "Poppy on White" from Aleta Bartel-Orton. Even though I'm in the U.S. and Aleta is in London, the transaction was a breeze. The shipping cost was so reasonable and the discounts offered on Aleta's remnants are significant. It is not neccessary to be in the design trade to order her fabric, so if you have a project in mind -- perhaps a small stool or chair in need of recovering -- be sure to visit Aleta's "specials" section.

As you may have read on Aleta's site, she is currently doing some spring cleaning and in March will offer vintage Brigitte Singh remnant fabrics. She says that many of these pieces are 10 to 20 years old and will never be produced again.

BTW: Schuyler Samperton is a fan of Aleta!


Women's Work

Historically for women needlework was essentially a requirement. A practical necessity (mending household linens and clothing) but also an expected part of the well-bred woman's repertoire. During the mid-to-late 20th century when skill with a needle and thread was no longer necessary for survival, traditional "ladies arts" came to be viewed, by some, as "granny."

But in the last 20 years many young women have rediscovered needlework and embraced it. Some, like Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, use thread and canvas as an artistic medium. During her exploratory days, fine artist Elliott Puckette did monochromatic needlepoint. Others, including Ellen Baker, are putting a modern spin on classic domestic applications such as hand towels or children's clothes. And of course others are working in a traditional style.

In tune with the times, the V & A offers extensive online resources related to embroidery and needlework: history, patterns to download, links to embroidery blogs, lists of contemporary embroidery artists and so on.

Shown at top:
Embroidery design on squared paper
Il Monte, Libro Secondo
Giovanni Bindoni

Second image:
Red disa
Illustration from The Illustrated Needlework Book
Florence Caulfield
About 1910

Both courtesy the V & A.

BTW: You may enjoy these related links about Leontine Linens founder, Jane Scott Hodges, and the woman who preceded her, Eleanor Beard:
Eleanor Beard history
Eleanor Beard main site

Image of Jane Scott via Leontine Linens and Georgetown News-Graphic

Click here to see Jane Scott on Martha's show.



I was reading about our talented friend Grant Gibson, and his participation in the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, when I stumbled upon Lost Art Salon. The gallery offers a large selection of vintage pieces. Today, my eyes went straight to a pair of mid-century linocuts by Ethel McKenzie Sullivan. Individually the prints are 6.5 by 7.5 inches and cost $195. (Or $350 for the pair.)

I thought this would be a good time to offer a super-short linocut recap too. As MOMA explains, linocuts are a "type of relief print in which linoleum is used as the printing surface." The artist digs in with knives or other strong tools to carve her desired image into the linoleum. When the process of linoleum printmaking was introduced in the early 20th century, it did not initially garner much respect. Since linoleum is a relatively soft material to work with, many artists viewed linocuts as too easy, in contrast with the centuries-old process of working with wood.

But when Matisse and Picasso embraced the new technique, the perception changed. Linoleum is especially suited to engraving that yields smooth white lines, and for a time linocuts were popular for producing large decorative prints. I think it's been documented extensively throughout the blogosphere that 21st century artist Hugo Guinness shows his linocuts at John Derian. Click here for more history.

Images three and four are courtesy Georgetown Frame Shoppe.

Henri Matisse Linocut
Pasiphae Suite - 1944
Red Ornament II
Edition of 100
Duthuit 38
12-3/4" x 9-7/8"
(image three)

Henri Matisse Linocut
Pasiphae Suite - 1944
Figure With The Sun Edition of 100 Duthuit 38
12-3/4" x 9-7/8"
(image four)


All I Really Need

Despite her closets filled with couture, it seems that Jackie O usually favored capris or jeans, sandals, and a classic sweater. In the end, that was all she needed. This makes me wonder, what are the domestic equivalents of white jeans, a navy turtleneck, and strappy sandals?

Or more to the point, what are the essentials that matter most? The answer is different for each of us, and this is where all those magazine tear sheets and design books come in handy. Recently I poured over my own saved pictures looking for common threads. This time I wasn't searching for English furniture or Asian ceramics -- or even certain colors -- just really broad strokes that, for me, equal a rich life.

Four-poster beds with white linens make the final list of good things. Although I prefer color on my walls, I might be content in the room above, if I could add a wing chair or bench upholstered with a large-scale print.

Built-in bookcases are another must. Of course for books, but also for small works of art and collected objects.

And finally, a pretty garden courtyard or patio. I've always been partial to the brick courtyards of New Orleans (like Patrick Dunne's featured in the March-April Southern Accents) but I think these images from Los Angeles are pretty enticing too. I always return to them.

So, for me it's patios, art, large-scale prints, bookcases and four-poster beds. What's on your short list?

Credits: First image, Simon Upton for Southern Accents March-April 2009; Second and fourth images, Francois Halard photographs of Julia Reed at home, for Vogue; Third image, Brigitte Singh block print from Aleta online; Sixth image is via Town & Country; Seventh and eighth images show Tim Clarke's house via Elle Decor ; The last image is Schuyler Samperton photographed by Paul Costello for domino, April 2007.

Patrick Dunne is the owner of the antiques shops Lucullus in New Orleans and Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

Afterthought: I also want to throw in the image of Diane Cash's little slice of Indian paradise outdoors in Dallas. (Patios can be exotic or down-home.) A passionate collector, Cash has treasures brought back from around the world. The intricate patterns here remind me of some of the references in J. Crew's spring inspiration board.

Cash's home photographed by Tria Giovan for Southern Accents, July-August 2006.

Just to bring in a bit of related art history, but deviating from my original point about sticking with essentials, a sliding marble screen (a.k.a. "jali") that was part of a suite of marble screens and frames commissioned by Doris Duke in India on her honeymoon in 1935. Photo by David Franzen, courtesy of the Doris Duke Foundation.

And another follow up image that perfectly illustrates my essentials -- four-poster bed, white linens, bold textiles. The bedroom is ensconced in Lulu DK's Moondance.