One of the pleasures of being given lots of old magazines, as I was last week by friends who are moving house and needed to downsize a magazine collection, is renewing acquaintance with rooms long buried in files which for the life of me I cannot find. Gone, no doubt, the way of the family bible ...
So it was with great delight I found Billy Baldwin's salon for Mr and Mrs Harding Lawrence at La Fiorentina - which of us doesn't know it, especially to those of us who own Billy Baldwin Decorates? Of course, it was the blue that caught my eye way back in 1999 when the room was already nearly thirty years old, and it has become a treasure image lodged at the back of my mind since. Once I had a clipping and now I have the whole article again.
Since I began blogging it has occurred to me a number of times that one's collection of magazines should never be disposed of – squirreled away if necessary in a dry basement or stored on bookshelves, but never thrown away. Of course, that presupposes that there is room for more bookshelves, and in my case the increasing number of shelves has not kept pace with the books or magazines coming into this house. My collection of The World of Interiors, begun in the early 1980s, takes a remarkable 112 linear feet to shelve. I ask you, who begins a collection of magazines? Like husbands, they just mount up. The number of other design publications arriving in the mailbox has dwindled without really causing torment, and will dwindle further if Elle Decor doesn't try, even a little, to be interesting.
We are both readers and that means that we have a never-decreasing library that ranges from the obvious interior design and architecture, thru Western art both fine and decorative, to cookery books, books on genetics, history, novels both trashy and inner-landscape, biographies, to curiosities such as Our King and Queen and the Royal Princesses, and Hill's Manual on Social and Business Forms: A Guide to Correct Writing, Showing how to express Written Thought Plainly, Rapidly, Elegantly and Correctly.
And it was such a correctly, if not terrifically plainly written, biography Billy Baldwin: An Autobiography, picked over again during the deepest pout of my weeks-long bloggers block last weekend, that led me to remember the name of someone I'd wanted to write about for a while - the man described by Baldwin as "a man of most remarkable taste" - Roderick Cameron. Son of Lady Kenmare and friend of Van Day Truex who apparently also "was absolutely smothered with taste."
A subject quite absorbing, Taste, and I shall return to it in a subsequent post.
Roderick Cameron began as the subject of this post but has almost been demoted to a footnote, so I'll try to remedy that by quoting Billy Baldwin one more time and by saying I intend to write more about Cameron later this week.
"His mother, Lady Kenmare, was an Australian beauty and twice a widow when I first met him. Lady Kenmare and Rory with a combination of American and Australian money had bought a property on the Riviera which was a wreck due to damages done to it during the war. This remarkable building was known as "La Fiorentina," and it certainly did have, for one thing, the most beautiful views and sights on all the Riviera. It was clinging on to the tip of Cap Ferrat, and surrounded by the perfectly fantastic gardens, terrace upon terrace, most of which had remained in pretty good condition in spite of the war.
"The restoration began and it was lucky for everybody because Rory was a young man of enormous taste, great enthusiasm, and plenty of money. Together with his mother, they bought a great deal of the furniture for the house and turned it into the most beautiful house on the entire Reviera. The restoration was by no means an exact copy of what it had been before the war and before the bombing; instead, Rory brought the whole thing into the present time with a remarkable clarity, a great feeling for textured materials of the day, a lovely absence of color in that most of it was rather bony or very pale, and the introduction of contemporary French furniture, most notably tables by Jean-Michel Frank, who was the last great cabinetmaker in Paris."
Photos by Durston Saylor for an article written by Aileen Mehle for Architectural Digest, January 1999.