Sunday, 9 December 2007

When one's own taste is enough

The apartment of the late Henri Samuel (d.1993) as featured in Nest Issue 6, Fall 1999. Article by Mitchell Owens, photographs by Christoph Kicherer. This is a must read issue not only for this article, but also for the one on Pauline de Rothschild.

The salon.

M. Samuel, cheekily described as a sturdier version of M. Hubert de Givenchy.

The fireplace wall of the salon.

Bronze console by Cesar, painting is Balthus' La Jeune Fille Endormie.

The diningroom.

A parchment desk by Duboisson (left), a Guy de Rougemont coffee table (right)

As I had mentioned in And the winner is... Monsieur Henri Samuel would have been my choice to do our house, had I not grown up in a house he had helped with. I say helped with, rather than done by, as my Grandmother was not the type of woman to be dictated to. Her tastes were very specific. And, I dare say, she was supremely confident in that knowledge. Her house in Paris was very much like her. Not pretty (she looked more like the Graham Sutherland portrait of Helena Rubenstein, than Mme Rubenstein did), but handsome and striking with an underlying sense of warmth and comfort. Much like these rooms pictured.

Peak of Chic asked if growing up in a house like this had influenced me? Initially, I would have said no. Looking at these images and thinking about all the houses I have lived in and done, my answer would have to be yes. Subconsciously, but definitely yes. I think this is where I learned how to mix different periods and cultures, and learned about balance. Though, my take is much more American, and it took living in Europe for me to realise just how really American I am.

Where there was a penchant for the 1970s and more contemporary pieces in M. Samuel's salon, my Grandmother embraced the modernism of the 30s and 40s. That was her heyday, after all. Among the Louis Quinze and Seize furniture sat pieces in chrome, steel, and hammered bronze either covered in parchment coloured leather, or topped in glass, or stone. For every luxurious element there was an earthier foil. Vermilion linen velvet covered sofas played against simple tobacco coloured bark cloth curtains. A Louis Seize commode with its ormolu mounts and marble top, was balanced with a pair of simple Chinese altar tables. There was also that love of the exotic, be it Venetian Blackamoor or Chinese Buddha. Anything that imparted a spirit of adventure was dragged back and was found a place. Her solution to a dull room was " oh, it just needs a little vermilion and a couple of blackamoors...and it will be fine, darling"
If anything did influence me it was her unwavering sense of self, her warmth, and her humor. Even now what I remember most about that house are the times we spent together. I was indeed a very lucky and privileged child.

Now playing: Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands
via FoxyTunes


Pigtown-Design said...

So interesting!

HOBAC said...

Thanks, fairfax - much longer than I intended, though.

The Peak of Chic said...

I think I would have gotten along quite well with your grandmother! I think that we can't help but be influenced by the homes in which we were raised, esp. if our homes were places of joy and warmth. I hope that you inherited some of your grandmother's pieces- they sound divine. (And I'm quite taken with the Samuel photos- why I never subscribed to Nest I will never understand!)

Mrs. Blandings said...

This is a wonderful post. The images are great, but your perspective is priceless.

Pigtown-Design said...

And the music is so wonderful.. I've always loved this song (it's about some grandmothers other than mine though!)

Cote de Texas said...

I cant imagine having a grandmother like that- one with such rarefied taste.

Mine came from Poland, never spoke English, cooked smelly food, and was a - well, an embarrassment to her American grandchildren. My cousin Joey would go visit her and sit and hold his nose the entire time because of the way her garage apt (she lived with my aunt) smelled. We all acted as if she couldn't see us since she spoke Yiddish,not English. It was only after I grew to around 12 that I saw her as a person, someone

I can see how your grandmother made you who you are today - stylish and unique. Very interesting and enlightening post.

HOBAC said...

PoC- Nest was the new Flair - a little too outre at times, but always interesting. Not surprising it could not last. I'd like to see its founder, Josepf Holtezman?, head H&G. Wouldn't that be interesting.

HOBAC said...

Mrs B - Thanks. Took ages to find my stash of Nest, I'm still going through them now.

HOBAC said...

Fairfax - one of my favourites.

HOBAC said...

CdT - I understand what you mean. My Gran's children, including my mother, were embarrassed by her too. Too concerned with what the "nice" people would think.

I would give anything for just one more game of cards (that's what we did on holiday) with her. Even though she used to cheat. She was something else.