the story of the tulipiere

ECS_tulipiere

The story of the tulipiere starts with Tulipmania (1634-1637), when tulips were the new gold, costing a small fortune and bringing along with them high social status (Queen Mary II was a huge fan). It has been said (though there are some conflicting reports on this, but isn’t that the case with all good stories) that the potters and ceramicists of the day created the tulipieres so that the much coveted, outrageously expensive bulbs could be planted in the individual compartments of the vessel so as not to be disturbed or upstaged by any of the lesser flowers. Others say that the tulipiere was not made for growing but for displaying the freshly cut tulips in an artful and practical way (as you may know, tulip stems continue to grow even after they are cut and placed in water and begin to get a bit unruly, in which case the tulipiere keeps them in place). Whatever the case may be, the Dutch, of course, made them first out of their delftware and these are the ones we are probably most familiar with.

Meanwhile, the tulip has come down, you might say (all of us common folks can get them now in the grocery store). But the story of the tulipiere seems to be having a second act. They are back in the spotlight, having their moment in the spheres of interior decorating, antique collecting, and floral design. And modern day potters (like Frances Palmer and Matthew Solomon) are reinterpreting them in whimsical ways.

Edith Wharton’s elegant country style

ECS_The Mount_interior

It was in a country setting that Edith Wharton hit her stride. True, she was in a failing marriage and not yet a famous author, but it was at her country estate, which she called The Mount, where she met the love of her life and where she became, not just a writer, but a successful novelist. Somehow during these years (1903-1908) of glory and gloom, she was essentially building two houses: one real, The Mount, and one imagined, The House of Mirth.

 

ECS_The Mount

When she began designing, decorating, and landscaping The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts, she’d already co-authored a book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), about architecture and design with architect and friend Ogden Codman, Jr., so she knew exactly what she wanted (privacy, sweeping vistas, impressive gardens, European influences, and American touches, like green exterior shutters and green and white awnings).

She would not live there long, and she would have other homes, even another country home in France. Yet, one could argue that it was here where she began her singular and abiding devotion to creating—body and soul—a beautiful house and garden and a sense of place.

While living at The Mount, Wharton wrote: “Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”

peacocks and potted hydrangea

ECS_peacocks and potted hydrangea

This is what I would call an enchanting entrance, and it leads (so I am told) to an enchanting place. Who wouldn’t want to follow that dirt road?

Furlow Gatewood, in his late nineties now, was born and raised in Americus, Georgia and his cluster of houses, where he currently resides, are part of his families’ original property. There is a main barn, three houses, and several outbuildings and gardens. After some time in Manhattan and Savannah, Gatewood returned to Americus and began his work designing, decorating, and living here.

He is self-taught and often begins a project without planning but relies, he says, on his vision and instinct. His knowledge about architecture, design, and antiques (not to mention “the art of living”) is widely respected and sought after. Those who know him describe him as the quintessential Southern gentleman with an exquisite eye for what is beautiful and interesting to him. There is a touch of whimsy to his style that is utterly inimitable. (See one of his rooms in previous post here.)

What I admire so much about Furlow Gatewood’s philosophy is his unstudied, yet classical approach to outfitting a room, and his willingness to take small risks that seem to say: “Just don’t take it all too seriously.”

a Vuillard vignette

ECS_Vuillard vignette_the candlestick

Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) focused on domestic, everyday objects and moments in many of his paintings. I love his use of patterns and fabric (his mother was a dressmaker), and here, the rough brown sack hanging against the delicate floral print, roses, lace tablecloth, and simple candlestick. With Vuillard, it’s always as if someone has just left the room.

blue armoire and chaise

ECS_Swedish Country with chaise

What would you call this shade of blue? Wild cornflower blue? Or summer lake blue? It’s the perfect accent to offset the muted and spare Swedish country look of this room. And it’s got me thinking that one of the main differences between Swedish country style and French country style is that for the Swiss, less is more, and for the French, more is more, wouldn’t you say? How perfect too is the elegant upholstered chaise and the antique mirrored sconces against the faded, peeling wallpaper?

Australian country style

ECS_Justin Bishop_1

I find the elegance in the spaces designed by Australian Justin Bishop to be about what is left out. Most often his rooms are void of fuss and color, letting the architectural elements, natural light, and warmth of antiques enhance the spirit of the home (he is not afraid of a little bit of wear and tear or dust and dirt for that matter). In his book Country Style & Design he says that Australian country style “stems from the country’s beginnings, when its early settlers pioneered its rugged landscape, with bare essentials.” And that, “On the whole, the style is plain and simple.”

Justin Bishop Interior Design has recently opened a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast in Sassafras, Victoria called The Blackwood Sassafras, which embodies Bishop’s signature look.

 

 

Irish hands

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A coat of whitewashed handwoven Irish tweed designed in 1951 by Sybil Connelly, who looked to the craftspeople of rural Ireland for inspiration and collaboration. Her book Irish Hands: The Tradition of Beautiful Crafts  is a tribute and a celebration of their artisanship.

ECS_Irish linen

Connolly (1921-1998) built one of the first Irish fashion houses with her exquisite ballroom dresses and skirts made of pleated handkerchief linen, hand-crafted in cottages along the Irish countryside. She became well known for her romantic style that reinterpreted traditional Irish textiles into haute couture for clients like Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor.