Syrie Maugham II
The name Maugham is on my mind because of the film, The Painted Veil, based upon the book by W. Somerset Maugham. For a time, the writer was married to Syrie Maugham, one of the last century's most infamous interior decorators.
Syrie is legendary for creating an all-white salon at her London home in 1927. Considered revolutionary at the time, she dramatically unveiled the room to her friends at midnight, and Harper's Bazaar loved it. Like Elsie de Wolfe, Maugham rejected those heavy, dark interiors seen during the previous Victorian era.
Painted, bleached and "pickled" 18th-century Baroque style furniture is another Maugham signature. For a while she owned a London antiques shop where she sold pieces similar to the armchairs above, designed in 1935 using painted wood with leather upholstery and hobnail trim. (For details visit Liz O'Brien.)
A few years ago, the 21st-century firm, Studio Printworks, used vintage photographs and fragments to recreate a favorite wallpaper design of Maugham's that resembles a modernist tree-of-life pattern. Called "Syrie," it is shown above, second from the top, in grass-green and ivory. In October 2001, House & Garden used this pattern in a recreation of one of Maugham's famous bedrooms, seen top. This year Acanthus Press is expected to release a new book about Syrie Maugham as part of its ongoing 20th Century Decorators series.
(This is an update of the September "Syrie Maugham Lightened Things Up" post)