Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"It needed very little embellishment ...

... and that's what it got.

"The color of the drawing room was buff, pale, almost not there at all. The trim was the purest white, and the floors ancient Cuban marble the color of parchment. The flooring was a near disaster: not enough marble squares arrived from Cuba to cover the whole area and there was no more. Mrs. Wood solved the problem by making a border all around of pale bleached oak. If she had planned it from the beginning, it couldn't have been more successful.

"The decoration was pared down the the essentials of beauty and comfort - an appropriate scheme for a house in the tropics, but also proof that simplicity does not age: any of the rooms could be published in a current magazine and never betray that they were designed and lived in in 1936. Mrs. Wood and the Blairs had an uncanny sense of classicism, and together they conspired to strike at the heart of timelessness.

The drawing room was furnished comfortably but sparsely. In the very center of the cool bare floor stood a great writing table, its beauty achieved at the small cost of simple pale fruitwood Louis XV frame and, for the top, a scalloped slip cover made of honey-brown leather edged with common white carpet tape. Grouped around were chairs covered to match. Several upholstered chairs were slip-covered in Elsie de Wolfe's famous leopard chintz; sofa covers and curtains were made of a simple heavy-textured beige cotton from Sweden. A pair of Adam cabinets of palest stripped pine stood at one end of the room, and scattered throughout were small tables and a few old wood-framed chairs, all of English origin, all upholstered in quiet no-colors. To light the room, there were the simplest possible white porcelain lamps, plus four carved wood torcheres in the shape of palm trees. 

"At intervals down the length of the room, tall white lilies, (from Cuba, since there was a general laziness in Florida about flower growing) nodded in wonderful big tubs. These washtubs were imported in their natural galvanized state from a hardware store in West Palm Beach, then coated and recoated with white lacquer. 

"To the left of the staircase in the entrance wing was the library, a personal sitting room facing the sea where the Blairs could be alone or with a few intimate friends. The library was beautifully proportioned, cool, and tall. The walls were painted and glazed the color of bone - very white, but very soft; the carpetless floor was contemporary parquet in a beautiful rich chestnut. For the curtains and most of the furniture, Mrs. Wood used an English chintz of rather strong bright-blue flowers on a white background. By the window stood an extraordinary scarlet lacquer desk, an eighteenth-century meuble; Mrs. Blair had bought it years before from Elsie de Wolfe herself. "

From Billy Baldwin Remembers. 

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