Without wanting to sound boorish, I must tell you I cannot abide Art Nouveau and it is entirely possible that my detestation will leak out as I am writing about Vincent Fourcade's Bridgehampton house. I've tried to like it for thirty years and still I don't. Perhaps the odd bit of Art Nouveau jewelry is interesting but, beyond that, the entangled sliminess of the style repels me. Just wanted to get that off my chest!
Vincent Fourcade, though not unknown today, is possibly remembered most by those of us who, like chickens scrabbling in the dust, pore through old magazines, and get together over a dining table to yack away about what fascinates us the most - decorating, decorators and the juicy, often salacious, stories attached to their names. Yesterday, for example, over lunch with a friend, she and I talked about Fourcade with the chef/owner when he came out of his kitchen to say hello.
The house, as you see from the first photograph, is a Long Island Shingle/Colonial, a house so ordinary from the outside that the inside is totally unexpected. Not unexpected, surely, of Mr Fourcade, but such a facade might imply an interior of momentous East Coast antique furniture disposed in a rather studied manner over patinad floors alongside hand-loomed rugs and carpets, bolstered all with suitably rarified paintings and prints.
Not for Vincent Fourcade, anything approaching a pallid evocation of waspish middle-class gentility. He installed his, and seemingly ship-loads of it, family furniture from France in a deeply buttoned agitation of Art Nouveau furniture, Second Empire upholstery, Pompeiian panels, Empire mahogany beds, Directoire chairs, all atop needlepoint rugs, bounded by brocaded walls betwixt marbleized pilasters and moldings.
Despite the remembrance of things past, as it were, in the decor Fourcade created, together with his partner, Robert Denning, during the 1980s - years when vast fortunes were quickly made - the celebrity nabobs of the time, like their predecessors at the end of the nineteenth century, required visible proof for themselves and their pals that they were the new aristocracy. How better to do it than evoking a fiction of the golden, olden days at the Chateau de Ferrieres during the Second French Empire?
Fourcade and Denning, decorated in a manner only to be described as le gout Rothschild, and it certainly was so described in the 1980s, a time when that other exemplar of the Rothschild Style, Geoffrey Bennison, was working. It will be interesting to compare Fourcade's version of this style to Geoffrey Bennison's, which in my eyes has a lightness of touch, serious certainly, but not pompous.
Vincent Fourcade died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 58. Robert Denning survived Vincent Fourcade by 13 years.