Monday, October 6, 2014

The Interiors of Chester Jones, a recommendation


"It is neither realistic nor desirable to see homes in terms of antique or modern, classical or rationalist. For one thing, in this age of eclecticism there are so any styles. Is it right, with regard to the design of interiors, to believe that only one style is valid, given the proliferation of architectural and fine-art theories? The only judgement that is valid is to avoid the strict historicism in which every effort goes into the recreation of a single moment in time past. It is disheartening, for example, to see people awkwardly occupying Louis XVI-style rooms, accessorized to the last period detail, in a New York apartment of completely inappropriate proportions, but it happens. Likewise, the taste for English eighteenth-century-style rooms, often with very good furniture – in new houses is still prevalent. It is just as disappointing to see apartments fitted out with mid-twentieth-century furniture, fittings and artifacts designed by Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand, along with light fittings and accessories by the best designers of the day. Driven by nostalgia, this is little more than the same problem but with focus on the twentieth century. The impulse to assemble the contents of rooms within a narrow historical tradition continues. However, such an emphasis on a limited range of ideas, as brilliant as they might be, sits uncomfortably with today's interest in personal, idiosyncratic expression.

"This is not to suggest that eighteenth-century fauteuils, English Georgian furniture or even the great modernist pieces should not be used; they obviously should, and should be enjoyed. It is rather that the various pieces are better used as a counterpoint in an interior, or to perform a function, rather than to conform to the static programme of some period tableau."


Until Friday afternoon when I walked into Barnes and Noble I had not known of this book's publication. Of all that was on offer, this book was the only one of interest to me. I have written about Chester Jones before (see side bar Labels) and he belongs in my own pantheon of erudite designers. 

The first paragraph of this post, a quotation from the book, introduces the man and his work very well, I think. The book, simply entitled, The Interiors of Chester Jones, gives beautiful examples of his interiors, furniture designs, design philosophy and his method of working. Hitherto, his interiors were only seen in the pages of The World of Interiors and I am very thankful to have an expanded and thorough collection of Mr Jones's work to hand. I cannot recommend it more highly. 

Chester Jones's own sketch for a table inspired by Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International 1919 (below from Wikipedia Commons. See photograph above by Andreas von Einsiedel from an article written by Chester Jones, The World of Interiors, December 1995)


Photograph by Fritz von der Schulenberg, from The World of Interiors, October 2005.


 Hand-drawn floorplan and elevation from The Interiors of Chester Jones 
The type of illustration that illumines the process of interior design 
and gives life to the design of a book and to the reading of it



Nota Bene: I received nothing for this recommendation except the enjoyment of making it.

15 comments:

  1. "It is disheartening, for example, to see people awkwardly occupying Louis XVI-style rooms, accessorized to the last period detail, in a New York apartment of completely inappropriate proportions, but it happens."
    This sentence reminded me of the apartment of the late Joan Rivers, done up in full Louis-quelque-chose. "This is how Marie Antoinette would have lived, if she had money," Joan frequently assured interviewers. Probably not, but her apartment made me laugh as much as her comedy, bless her heart. Way over the top, but I bet her parties were fun.
    Mrs. S.
    P.S. My coffee table creaks under the weight of your wonderful suggestions hand-delivered by my dreamy UPS man.

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    1. Anonymous, thank you. I recently saw a photograph of one of her rooms and it was spectacular. Not to my taste but quite spectacular.

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  2. Sadly, such advise seems like common sense but so often it's forgotten! This mixing isn't new...my grandparents lived in a modern house they built in 1949 and although it had all of the then 'new' furniture from herman miller, it also contained family heirlooms, family portraits, and the odd pieces of furniture that they liked even if it wasn't what we refer to now as 'mid century modern'. Isn't this really just how most people live, except in this world of 'high style' where one can afford to create a 1 dimensional fantasy.

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    1. ArchitectDesign, thank you. Your grandparent's place sounds splendid and great fun.

      If people furnish and decorate in a way suitable to them and the way they live then, yes, I think something as interesting as what is visible in the pages of this book is entirely likely. It has to be personal.

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  3. Chester Jones is one of the great ones---so to learn that there's an entire book on his work is very good news indeed. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Toby Worthington, thank you. I was so pleased I almost paid full price but thanks to the agreement with the USPS and Amazon I had my book by Sunday lunchtime.

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  4. In the illustrations presented, I see "function" fulfilled, but possibly not "counterpoint," as I would have desired it. His sense of counterpoint is evidently that of one piece to another, not to the space. The effect, while not in poor taste, feels to me like a defiance of the contribution of unviolated space, especially in the mobilization of art and light fixtures in the second frame. But how many of us can afford to resort to explanation?

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    1. Laurent, thank you. I'm not entirely sure I follow what you mean.

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    2. Yes I don't blame you. The concept of counterpoint, undeveloped in that text, found me guessing.

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  5. I always think recreating a room in a single style, (even Georgian) is rather like creating a room for a museum. It's so unimaginative, and very impractical too. A good mix is a dream.

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    1. columnist, thank you. The other day I was telling someone about the "Painted Ladies" Queen Anne Revival Houses in San Francisco and how some as part of their restoration had been furnished and decorated as if it were still 1880. Very self-conscious and very uncomfortable.

      I would only add one word to what you say and it is "personal" – a good personal mix is a dream.

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  6. Glyn Philpot: I wanted to tell you I've seen one in the flesh, in a public place-opposite the bar at Annabel's-a very fine pencil drawing of a seated black man- I think its the study for Negro sitting- Back View.
    Have you come accross the National Portrait Gallery's catalogue on Philpot, Edwardian Aesthete to Thirties Modernist by Robin Gibson pub. 1984/5. Gibson mentions Allerton and I think he remained on good terms with Philpot. B T W, Philpot's niece's collecton of her uncles' work is featured in London Interiors (Flammarion) 2014 by Mr & Mrs Stoeltie !!!
    Best,
    Herts

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    1. Anonymous, Herts, Thank you. I have come across references to the NPG's catalogue on Philpot but not the catalogue itself. I need to get on to it and to the Stoeltie book as well. I'm off to New York and Washington DC in the morning for a week so will have a good look in the bookshops though I think the Gibson will be better found on Amazon or the like.

      Glyn Philpot drew and painted his assistant, a black man, many times I think and maybe what you saw was one of those studies. Next time i'm in London .....

      Again, thank you.

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