Petit Trianon: billiard and guard's rooms.

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In my second in-depth look at the Petit Trianon, we'll continue to explore the ground floor.
The billiard's room is adjacent to the grand stairhall and in the time when the trianon was first built, was intended for the male guests of Madame de Pompadour. King Louis XV himself supplied an ornate billiards table for the use of his guests: You see the room on the floorplan below in blue.

However, when Marie Antoinette was given the PT for her own private use, she had Louis XV's pool table moved up to the main level (1784). She then gave the billiards room over to the officers of the guard (who were stationed across the stairhall) with a more ordinary billiards table, probably similiar to the one found there now. A kind gesture on her part in my opinion, as it gave additional space to her guards that also occupied a prime corner room with views of the garden.
The room has a bust of Marie Antoinette on the mantel, beautiful herringbone floors and 'high' painted paneling. The jib door connects to the warming room, a sort of butler's pantry, where some of Marie Antoinette's personal china is displayed today.
This detail shot of a door shows how beautiful the gilded bronze hardware is. I especially love this shade of green paint.
Across the stairhall from the billiards room is the guards room, seen on the floor plan above in the darker green shade. It was inexpensively finished with plaster walls fauxed to look like stone and wood cabinets with fauxed-marble tops. The window and door in this room look out into the main entry court. The room would have been filled with cots, tables and chairs for the guards as they would spend most of their time here; I can only imagine how boring that would be!
On the opposite side of the guards room from the grand stairhall (seen in the light green on the floorplan) is an unfinished stone passageway. This sits under the main terrace off the dining room on the floor above. It provided passage from the service courtyard, servants lodgings and carriage house with the kitchens behind the grand stair.
Through this roughly finished space, servants could pass un-detected from the kitchens to their own dwellings without disturbing Marie Antoinette and her guests in the gardens. The guards would also use this space and could patrol who was coming in and out of the kitchens.
I love these hewn limestone walls and exposed timber beams. This unfinished roughness was the complete opposite look of the very finished spaces found elsewhere in the Petit Trianon, but one that is very popular and copied today. Join me next week when we explore the main level occupied by Marie Antoinette.
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Petit Trianon: the grand stairhall

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I'm about to start a comprehensive series of posts on the Petit Trianon utilizing drawings and my photographs; not all at once, mind you! What better place to start than the stairhall where any tour begins. Like many grand houses, the Petit Trianon is designed on a Piano Nobile layout. The ground floor is relegated to servants quarters (with the exception of the stairhall, guards room and a billiards room which all flank the courtyard to the bottom of the drawing). Above you see the ground floor plan.
The stair wraps the grand 2 story space and brings you up to the main floor above, which contains the entertaining areas as well as the primary bedroom and boudior.

This section shows the relationship a little better in blue. The main kitchen is the area on the ground floor with the large fireplace and the salon is above. The top floor were guest and servant bedrooms. I think the building is best understood here in section as it contains numerous floor and ceiling levels: not handicapped accessible!
The view above from the guards room, through the stairhall and into the billiards room shows the beautiful marble floors in the hall as well as the enfilade. The light was amazing in this space reflecting off the limestone walls, as it was within the whole house.
Stepping into the stairhall (along with the other tour members, it was crowded!) you notice the beautiful limestone staircase with gilded iron handrail. The symbols in the center portion are the monogram of Marie Antoinette. The low doorway (see the gentleman ducking) steps down into the kitchen.
The lantern crowns the space: I would love to see the room in the evening lit by it!
The doors and shutters are painted a light blue which adds some color to the neutral space.
I loved the juliet balconies and windows into the space, much like a courtyard. This one straight ahead opens into the private dressing room of the master bedroom.
A closeup of the railing where you can see the gilded monogram of Marie Antoinette.
A detail of one of the limestone brackets which decorate the room.
I'll end this first tour with some elevations, you should recognize them after the photos!
Next up, the billiards room!
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What goes around comes around.

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Just think of this as the Eames chair of the eighteenth century!

From the book by fashion illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme, The Cultivated Life, published by Rizzoli
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All in the family

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Recognize these easy chairs? No, they're not from your local thrift store! These are the chairs of Archie & Edith Bunker (Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton) from the long running tv series, All in the Family (1971-1979). These items join the list of hundreds of important artifacts of American Culture at the Smithsonian's American History Museum
What I love most about this museum is the mix of low & high brow. Archie Bunker's hat and the original Kermit the Frog in the same collection as the Gunboat Philadelphia and the Star Spangled Banner. All a part of our history and something to interest everyone: Even Julia Child's kitchen! It's worth a visit (or two or three!).
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Mary E. Stewart mansion

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Directly across the street from The Lindens is my favorite house in DC still in private hands, the Mary E. Stewart mansion, designed by Paul Cret.
Cret started work on the house for Stewart, the daughter of a lumber baron, in 1938 and it was completed the next year in 1939. Stewart's sister, Devore Chase, lived next door in a (slightly smaller) grand Louis XV style mansion designed by William Bottomley in 1931. The design was meant to compliment that house but transition to the more sedate Georgian style house (the Lindens) on the other side of the property. Above -Stewart's sister's house, the Devore Chase mansion. photo courtesy of robinsoneditions It currently is the dc residence of the Sultan of Oman and looks only slightly different these days - lucky man!
I think this house sums up all of the charms we Americans have with French style. All of the romance is there: creamy limestone, a tall slate roof, charming balconies and the seemingly random placement of decorative round windows and other sculptural elements. Stewart probably went to Cret with this grocery list as he was an architect born in Lyon who studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts before moving to America.
The house is large at nearly 12,000 SF and nearly fills the lot entirely except for a small brick entry drive and the planting bed you see here along with a small side yard. As she built the house after her sister, I can't help but wonder if she wanted to slightly out-do her: nothing wrong with some sibling rivalry! Kalorama is a tight neighborhood against Rock Creek Park with very few roomy lots for yards: The grand houses tend to max out the property here in the heart of the city.
One nice feature is that the house contains 2 garages off the side street by the service entrance. While the house might look a bit odd slid up against its neighbor like this, I assure you most of the grand residences in this part of the city do the same. The house would look lovely on a large piece of land but with this much style and a primo location, you take what you can get!
I first was made aware of the property years ago when it was featured in the AIADC magazine in the summer issue of 2004 as a home of note, and it became a part of my clipping files -the article is scanned in below.

The complete drawing set for the Stewart house by Paul Cret is located at the Athenaeum library in Philedelphia along with hundreds of other drawings from his estate. As you have to pay $40 to access them online (sorry, but no thanks!!!) I'll have to make a trip up to Philly to view the documents in person someday soon!
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The Lindens

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The oldest house in DC is not the White House, and interestingly enough, did not start life out in 'the district' but rather north of Boston! The Lindens (also known as the King Hooper House) was originally built in 1754 as a Georgian styled country retreat in Danvers, Massachusetts. The house was dismantled and moved to Kalorama in 1934 by George and Miriam Morris who bought the house for $14,000 and had it moved to showcase their collection of early American furniture.
The key architect from Colonial Williamsburg's restoration, Walter Macomber, was hired to oversee the rebuilding with some revisions: noteably a concrete and steel foundation and a small addition to accomodate modern plumbing. The house retains its' original name, based on the Linden trees that lined the driveway back in Massachusetts. I love the colonial fence which surrounds the large property and the lush plantings: but where are the linden trees!
Read more about the property's history at the Washington Post or the NPS.
Photos taken with my new camera which I will review later this week -not too shabby!
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Congratulations EEE!

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The inestimatable Emily Evans Eerdmans of the eponymous blog, has recently been married and the bloggers on her blog roll have decided to throw her a wedding shower! As she is an Art Historian, I thought she would appreciate the history (as well as craftsmanship) of commissioning fine works of art from jewelers, a royal tradition.
Cartier has been accepting comissions from European royalty, maharajas and jetsetters for generations. As Emily is so entirely fabulous, she and her hubby are definitely worth of 'Le Flamboyant', a tableclock made by Cartier,Paris. The round clock is perfect for the center of a library table, so Emily won't forget a date with her husband while busy researching for one of her well-known books! The clock is formed of gold and silver and set with 1,540 diamonds, 1 ruby, 12 emeralds, 230 green tourmalines, 230 iolites, 140 pink tourmalines, 160 citrines, and much mother -of-pearl, lapis lazuli and onyx. As the name suggests, the clock is certainly bold and ornate!
Congratulations to the happy couple as they make their way home from a honeymoon in Hawaii to start married life!
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A cozy retreat

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We have a long holiday weekend (in reverence of Martin Luther King) and the weather here in DC is decidely cozy: Cold and rainy. One of my favorite past-times is taking an evening walk. Everything looks so beautiful in the dark and you catch private glimpses into houses (nothing voyeuristic, I just want to see the house!). While in Paris one evening , we caught a glimpse into this cozy retreat in St. Germaine. I love the very rustic interior (those old beams!) paired with the very refined exterior of the building (that balcony and carved head!).
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Interior gardens

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Long stretches of cold weather like we're having help me realize why people have decorated the interiors of their homes with flower images for centuries: reminders of warmer weather! This exuberant wallpaper panel is all you need: I feel warmer already! It is paired with 18th century painted furniture which bears more of the same fruit. Hopefully this will help warm you!
photograph taken at the Louvre's Musee des Arts Decoratifs, 18th century floor, click to view in detail.
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A very Vervoordt stair

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In the heart of Antwerp lies a 16th century warehouse which now bears the Vervoordt stamp. Not Axel, but his son Boris.
The former coffee warehouse, from 1577, was one of many in Antwerp owned by the family. In 1995 Boris moved in and slowly took over, floor by floor, turning it into his private home. A feature which most caught my eye, the staircase from a 1970s renovation, is a pre-cast concrete structure with chunky wood treads seen in the top photo and through the dining room above. While I don't think the staircase would meet code here in the US, I would be tempted to try. This is a seriously sexy stair.
Boris, while having his own eye, is still very much his father's son: see his living room above. Time worn finishes, oversize sofas, natural linens, rough wood and honed stone: all similar to a space by his father, Axel, but with a new twist. I hope to see much more of Boris in the future and that staircase is just a divine inspiration!
photographs by Andreas Von Einsiedel for British House & Garden, January 2010
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storage with style

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I'm loving this image from the kitchen of Safia Bendali, as captured by Marie-Pierre Morel for the Oct. 2009 issue of Elle Decoration. Her collection of beautiful china (i spy wedgwood jasperware!) is elegantly housed alongside of cookbooks in a practical but beautiful storage application. If I could only have shelves like that! The table from Astier de Villatte is unusual and I'm not sure what I feel about it -what do you think? Too bulky or just right? I can't help but think it looks like a flat topped pool table!
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Learn your Louis.....

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Do you know your Louis? If not, this wall at the Louvre's Musee des Arts Decoratifs might help. Talk about reference library! The colors against the dark backdrop take my breath away.
Click the photo to get a closer view.
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Beachhouse blues

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This frigid weather has me thinking of warmer climates and the beach: What about you? In the October 2009 edition of Elle Decoration is a beautiful house on the water in Normandy.
Look at that view from the terrace! Would love to have a glass of iced tea on this terrace and soak up the sun.
The interiors focus on the magnificent views as well, thanks to the gracious color scheme which does not compete for attention. I think this lends a very relaxed atmosphere. It's not fussy but you know a lot of care and planning went into this decoration.
I especially liked the white washed wood walls found throughout the house. The seagrass carpets help make some of the more formal antiques feel casual. The simple treatment of the interiors throughout adds to the vacation 'aire' of the house.
The living room has ample seating for a large group of friends. I can imagine sitting around the fireplace on chilly nights with a few bottles of wine. Even the artwork fits into the color scheme which generally I find a little forced, but works in a beach house such as this for me.
The kitchen continues the gray and mirrored surfaces. The space looks small and efficient with some interesting storage ideas. I love the all glass cabinets which seperate the cooking area from the breakfast room. Check out the interesting glass ventilation hood.
The house seems to have a great flow to it. Very few doors and lots of big windows.
The small den looks like a great place to curl up with a book on a rainy day. I think the high placement of the sconces is unusual, but helps to bring the high ceilings down a bit for a less formal feeling.
The master bedroom is an ocean of white and blue which is so inviting!
Even the master bathroom has a cozy nook to curl up onto with the built in bench. A lot of thought was obviously put into how this house is used daily. Quiet private areas as well as more gracious entertaining zones coexist in a grand but informal style without sacrificing the flow of spaces.
I hope this house reminds everyone of warmer days to come!
House of Sophie Seguela as photographed by Nicolas Tosi.
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