Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Interaction of Color

Think you might receive a few book store gift cards this year? Here's a beautiful tome that, according to Yale University Press, will be released just after Hanukkah and Christmas 2009: the new edition of artist-educator Josef Albers' seminal Interaction of Color, first published in 1963.

The foundation of the book (actually two volumes in a slipcase) is Albers' series of exercises intended to challenge the reader to really explore color. This encompasses color memory, the ever-changing nature of color, and of course the myriad ways in which colors vibrate and interact when layered or placed side by side. It's an expensively produced edition ($200) with new studies from the Albers archive but Selvedge describes the set as "essential" for anyone inspired by color and relevant to textile designers, architects, artists and other design professionals.


Dramatic Color

Serious film enthusiasts may roll their eyes at this, but until recently, the only movie adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that I'd ever seen was Baz Luhrmann's 1996 version. I don't remember Zeffirelli's 1968 interpretation ever being played late at night on TV for younger generations. It was a behind-the-scenes feature on the Shakespeare in Love DVD, during which costume designer Sandy Powell speaks so enthusiastically about Zeffirelli's picture, that prompted me to see it.

Now I understand what all the fuss was about. Renzo Mongiardino, the celebrated 20th-century designer who did such richly layered interiors for Lee Radziwill,

was the film's production designer. Emilio Carcano and Luciano Puccini were responsible for the art direction and Danilo Donati did the costume design.

Brilliant color seems all the more dramatic because it is juxtaposed with dull, rustic surfaces including lots of earthy stone, natural wood, and tarnished metallics. And as bright as some of the clothes are (much brighter by the way than they appear in these screen grabs), the hues are never exactly primary colors; the reds lean toward scarlet or persimmon, the yellows skew toward gold, and the blues are peacock or faded Prussian. A side note: I noticed cheerful daisies in several scenes and wondered if the choice of flowers had more to do with historical accuracy or 1960s fashion. Maybe a bit of both?

I think a lot of people who work in creative, visual fields -- interior design, event planning, jewelry design -- would enjoy the DVD.

A nice combination for a holiday gift would be both the 1968 and 1996 adaptations along with Shakespeare in Love. It's interesting to compare and contrast them.

Alternatively, you could pair Zeffirelli's movie with Roomscapes: The Decorative Architecture of Renzo Mongiardino.

Or the more affordable Architectural Digest: Special Italian Edition from January 1994.

To learn more about Radziwill's walls covered with lacquered Sicilian scarves, see this past post and the NY Times story.

Image four, Radziwill in the 1960s in her London drawing room, republished in Domino, April 2006; Image five © Mark Hampton from Mark Hampton: The Art of Friendship, by Duane Hampton, Harper Collins, 2001; Image six is a a Horst photograph from Horst Interiors.


After Thanksgiving

[During the swinging 60's Alexander Girard created a groovy color palette for Braniff's fleet of planes; image via Braniff Pages.]

A few days ago I received a very funny email from jet-setting designer Grant Gibson. (Remember how creative he is?) He had just landed in a beautiful place, and felt quite appreciative to be there, but didn't much care for the Christmas tunes blaring through the airport well before Thanksgiving.

[Grant Gibson photographed by Peter DaSilva for The New York Times]

He's not a big fan of holiday music to begin with, and the fact that it is played earlier each year turns him off even more. Listening to classical or jazz -- maybe something from Billy Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, or Ella -- is about as far as Grant goes in December.

He's right. Too much, too soon. It can all get so saccharin. Some of us, though (Millie, me), can't help ourselves. We look forward to the day after Thanksgiving when we can unapologetically start listening to the festive sounds. So I asked a few friends to share their favorite holiday songs and then I put together an almost hour-long playlist with the tunes that work best as background for addressing cards or wrapping presents. It's probably still too early, but here goes. (By the way, track four, The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," is perfect for anyone in a Grinch-y mood.)

Otis Redding "Merry Christmas, Baby"
The Drifters "White Christmas"
Ella Fitzgerald "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"
The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"
Diana Krall "Jingle Bells"
Joan Osborne "Santa Claus Baby"
Elvis Presley "Blue Christmas"
Ray Charles "Little Drummer Boy"
Bing Crosby and David Bowie "Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy"
Avril Lavigne and Chantal Kreviazuk "O Holy Night"
Joni Mitchell "River"
Sixpence None the Richer "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"
Ella Fitzgerald "What are You Doing New Year's Eve?"
Barenaked Ladies "Auld Lang Syne"

And here is a sampling of the individual preferences:

Millie favors The Drifters' rendition of "White Christmas" and loves Ella Fitzgerald's "What are You Doing New Year's Eve?" Jennifer Boles also likes Ella and Johnny Mathis.

Jamey Hatley recommends Otis Redding's "Merry Christmas, Baby" as well as Elvis' "Blue Christmas" (Amanda Talley and Hayley Gaberlavage love the latter too.)

Laura Casey is partial to Frank Sinatra's version of "Santa Clause is Comin' to Town" and any beautiful version of "O Holy Night" but she especially likes Martina McBride's on the White Christmas album. Kelly Robson is another fan of "O Holy Night" and she and Mark Starnes both like "Ring Christmas Bells".

Shifting to a slower tempo, Mrs. Blandings gravitates to "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and I'm guessing she prefers a classic interpretation. My friend Cameron looks forward to "Silent Night" sung by by the Vienna Boys Choir.

Whether you prefer to wait until late December, or jump in full force this weekend, I hope these tunes add a kick to your holiday prep.

Of course there are also movies that don't specifically relate to the holidays but fit right in with a season that's supposed to be magical. Sandy Powell's Oscar-winning, jewel-tone costumes in Shakespeare in Love make that film a wonderful source for color inspiration. Those vibrant greens, peacock-blues and purples captivate me every year (I know I already mentioned that back in 2007).

There's also a stately four-poster bed hung with curtains that appear to be crewelwork. The bed and the bedroom's rich paneling make me think of some of Rose Tarlow's past projects. Don't miss the lustrous pumpkin-hued bolster either.

The last two images are screen grabs from Miramax's 1998 picture, Shakespeare in Love.


Too Big for Santa's Sleigh

The warm, mellow hand-hammered brass and intricate carving drew me in...

but the canopy made me sigh. What a perfect spot for a Samarkand sighting. This vintage Indian bed, currently for sale at Hollywood at Home, is like a slightly more laid-back cousin of dramatic four-posters that we've loved in the past.

John Robshaw's German silver bed used by Michael Smith with Ankasa's embroidered canopy. (Photo by Simon Upton, Elle Decor October 2009.)

Bunny Williams' 1930s bed with exquisitely embroidered Indian headboard (Photo by Pieter Estersohn, Elle Decor.)

The circa 1754 Badminton bed, believed to have been designed by craftsman John Linnell for the Duchess of Beaufort, was inspired by Chinese pagodas not the Indian aesthetic, but it belongs to the club of bold beds that are always the star of any room. You may remember from a past post that Smith designed for a California client a high-impact piece based on the Badminton.

Photo of the Smith bedroom, above, by Michael Mundy, as seen in California Style Magazine. The interior is also featured in Michael Smith Elements of Style. The Badminton bed belongs to the V & A. (Image ©the V & A.)

And then there was the Claydon-esque bed in Mary McDonald's project for the 2003 House Beautiful showhouse benefiting Children's Action Network.

(Image above, Claydon House ©Britain's National Trust.)

Indian flair in Charleston, South Carolina. Amelia Handegan chose a turquoise sari for a traditional Western bed published in Southern Accents.

Handegan's own four-poster photographed by Pieter Estersohn for Southern Accents, 2009.

Related past post:
The Garrick Bed.

Eight More Days

If you are planning on placing a custom order for bookplates, buying holiday cards from Mr. Boddington's Studio, or commissioning a drawing from an artist such as Heather Young of The Ink Lab, December first seems to be a nearly universal deadline.

Shown at top is gift wrap paper that works for the holidays but can easily be recycled throughout the year for other occasions. Clockwise from the left: heavy weight, solid eco-friendly Nepalese wrapping paper made from the bark of the Lokta bush (30 x 40 inches and special order only) followed by red chevron from the same paper company. The brown kraft box with yellow grosgrain is High Street Market's signature wrap, and each pattern shown in the bottom row is silkscreened recycled cotton rag from Soolip. The handmade red paper with silver twigs is also Nepalese wrapping paper.

And two more: I'm in love with Rifle Paper Co.'s screen printed sheets featured yesterday over at design*sponge. A little more holiday-specific for the traditionalist.

Elum Designs recycled text weight paper with ultra-dull finish is inspired by needlepoint. So many different ribbon possibilities here.

Update: 6:30 p.m.
Below, some images that better highlight Soolip's tree-free paper. The textile-like, Fair Trade, decorative eco-papers are crafted from discarded cotton rags from Indian garment factories and a portion of the profits from sales benefit orphanages in Jaipur, India. I've added a view from spring in hopes that you can see the subtle shimmer of silver shot through the paper. (The lined envelope was one of my projects.)

Imagine using the patterned papers to make the origami ornaments or a paper chain.

Last two images courtesy Soolip.


When Textiles Ruled

Still reading A Perfect Red. Here's something to ponder the next time you find yourself gazing at an antique tapestry or a portrait of a Venetian doge.

With fortunes to be made and lost, rigid laws governing textile workers, and decrees controlling who could and could not wear bright colors, "...textiles were a matter of life and death in Renaissance Europe. In many ways, they were to the Renaissance what computing and biotech are to our own time; a high-stakes industry rife with intense rivalries and cutthroat competition -- an industry with the power to transform society." -- Amy Butler Greenfield.

Shown at top, images from silk manufacturer La Maison Georges Le Manach where equipment doesn't date to the Renaissance but nonetheless is centuries-old, via Selvedge, issue 29. Next, Suzanne Rheinstein's portraits of Venetian doges, cropped from Jeremy Samuelson's photo, House Beautiful, December 1993.

Thinking Small

After attempting to click my way through 81 pages of bookplates on Etsy, including quite a few that appeared to be inspired by Twilight, I began to think a follow up bookplate post wasn't really necessary. But I still think a set of bookplates is a lovely gift for a baby. Styles available through Etsy range from detailed, whimsical vintage looks like Oiseaux's tiger...

and Fall Into Pink's giraffe...

to simpler graphic designs, such as the silhouettes from Sarah + Abraham.

Some of the plates are designed to be used with archival glue but many are essentially stickers so read the fine print if you're worried about heirloom books.

Fine stationery shops like Thornwillow offer engraved options, and calligrapher Bernard Maisner does beautiful handmade things.

Back to the budget-friendly sets, I think these personal game labels from Ladybug are fun.

I've never met a five-year-old who doesn't enjoy putting stickers on everything.

There are plenty of color choices too. At $9 per tin, the labels would be a great gift from one sibling to another.

Shifting to toys, Nickey Kehoe carries the hand-knit Kenana Knitter Critters. The panda is pretty terrific. To see the entire menagerie, surf over to the shop and click on "accessories."