"With all the architectural details, including the floor, painted white, the drawing-room becomes an intriguing limbo for a graphic collection of furniture. The colours are limited to black, bright red and a small amount of pale grey, so with this visual discipline the choice of objects in the room has to be precise and unerring. Some people might imagine that this is a very elemental solution to the problem of decoration and against the drama of a plain white background almost any object will be enhanced. In fact the reverse is true. Any flaw in design or proportion will show up immediately. The great pitfall to be avoided when placing things in a space like this is temptation to make small 'groups'. Although charming in themselves, if unrelated they give that restless showroom-like atmosphere, with every precious object pleading to be looked at. It is far more difficult to compose a balanced room so that the gaze can move about unmolested, taking in everything. Selecting the right pieces and putting them in just the right place to achieve this takes a great deal of skill."
Undeniably beautiful, and equally beyond doubt designed to be photographed, these rooms have such an intense cerebral quality that makes one think they may well be haunted by the ghosts of brainstorms past. Indeed, it is precisely that cerebral vignetted quality that pervades the rest of the oevre of the husband and wife team René and Barbara Stoeltie – where their own residences are concerned, that is. Shortly after this article was published the Stoelties took control of their own image, as it were, and she wrote the text to his photographs. For years I have disliked everything they have done even to the point of not buying books on which they have collaborated – so strong has been my prejudice (I can call it nothing else).
Having said that, yesterday afternoon I watched a video on youtube in which Barbara and René Stoeltie were interviewed and I began to understand not only their point of view but something I thought I already knew – the quicksands lying in wait for us all within our own language. The video is in Dutch but for those you who might be able to understand the link is below. The Stoelties are not unsympathetic people and I was both glad and nonplussed to find that.
I'm not beyond appreciating a decent vignette or two but, nonetheless, given what I see in the blogs et al, I feel we are on a downward slope – like once-chic macarons on sale in a cart at the mall, vignetting has become a tool for anyone with a rainy afternoon, a pile of junk, some books, an iPhone and internet access to hand.
Previous generations deforested whole continents, captured Sabines, established cities on hills, conquered a colony or two, swaggered across oceans and planted vines in new lands ... but what do we do? We arrange our books according to color, we style our shelves, arrange pretty objects on tabletops, and then, not knowing our
More of that next week.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, democracy is a good thing but it ain't for everyone.
Quotation from text by John Vaughan and photographs by same, The World of Interiors, June 1984.