A grand stairhall

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While reading 'The private world of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor' by Hugo Vickers, recently, I was struck by the lush details in their stair hall in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. I know a lot of people dislike the Duke and Duchess (and let me know why every time I post on them!), but they were incredible tastemakers in the mid 20th century, hiring the best of the best. This house was primarily decorated by Jansen and I think we can all agree to admiring them if not these particular clients! They supplied the sconces seen above, which incorporate the Royal Arms of the Stuarts.The incredible faux marble walls caught my attention first. I think I like them more than the real marble floors! The Louis XV desk in the entry hall is very useful, especially for hosts who keep a guest book, such as the Windsors.The faux marble commode was probably made for the couple in the 30s by another 'great' of the 20th century, Syrie Maugham. Isn't the stair railing gorgeous?
The trompe l'oeil painted ceiling is suitably grand for the house, much more appropriate than plain white! The lantern incorporates the Prince of Wales feathers and was brought to the house by the Duke from his house Fort Belvedere as was the banner which was brought from Windsor Castle.
Beautiful photography of the house in the book was by Fritz von der Schulenburg
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The Inn at Phillips Mill

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Nestled in Bucks County, PA, just outside of New Hope, is an old charming inn that I was lucky enough to stay in while visiting the Mercer Museum & Fonthill.

The Inn at Phillips Mill has been entertaining visitors since the 1750s when it began life as a farmhouse with attached barn. Numerous outbuildings are on the site which house a community center, an architect's office, gift shop, horse barn and a house or two.
The actual mill has been a community arts center since 1929 - one of the old mill stones rests in the garden, seen above.
The area has a rich history dating back to Aaron Phillips who constructed the original buildings. In 1894 the artist William Lathrop purchased the buildings and began an art colony here which would become known as the New Hope Group.
But back to the Inn. While it does have a few guest rooms, it primarily is a well-known restaurant with DELICIOUS food. You don't come here just for the food however, but for the ambiance. Romance and history pour out of every corner -everything lit by candle doesn't hurt. The service isn't exactly amazing but the ambiance and food more than make up for that fact.
The rambling inn has another darker history though, which I didn't find out about until I left. I've been debating writing about this since I got home. I don't want to be seen as the crackpot blogger and loose any of the little respect I may have earned. I suspect many of you have stopped reading by now though and are just looking at the pretty pictures!
Apparently the Inn is haunted. Allegedly. Two weeks ago, I might have scoffed as you just did, but I had an odd experience that has really put me on edge since my return. I'll share it with you now.I've never been one to believe in ghosts; I wasn't raised that way, but I never DIDN'T believe in ghosts. Truthfully, I never gave the topic much thought. I'll tell my little story matter of factly, as my experience unfolded and let you judge for yourself.
After a delicious meal and a trip into New Hope to walk around and see the sights, we returned back to the Inn as things were winding down for the evening and went to bed.
Around 3am (I think), I was woken by a loud noise, a rocking chair. Now, you might think a rocking chair isn't that loud and how did I know it was a rocking chair? I'm not an idiot and thats what it was! The inn is out in the woods along a small country road and only a few of the other guest rooms were being used that evening: it's dead silent and completely dark. Relaxing you might say. So I lay there trying to get back to sleep but the rocking seemed to be getting louder. I figured it was because I was annoyed and singling out the sound but I could not fall back asleep for 10 minutes. After this I started to get really angry: some other thoughtless guest was ruining my good nights sleep! The odd thing was, our room was out in a wing over the kitchen, with windows on all 3 sides and an upper dining room outside our door. As I contemplated getting up to knock on the rockers door and ask them to stop, I felt heat on my face and sensed light - like a candle. I opened my eyes and saw nothing -this went on for another 5 minutes -back and forth. I was confused. Did I have heartburn? Was I imagining things? Thats when my irrational thoughts began - "I'm in a 250 year old mill in the woods.....ghosts, yada yada yada".

By this point I was convinced the rocking was from our room. It was too loud to be in another guest room and I just KNEW it was from closeby! At this point I shook awake my roomate and said 'do you hear that rocking'? THE ROCKING IMMEDIATELY STOPPED. He hadn't heard anything, and without the annoying sound, I quickly fell back asleep. Yes, I tend to move on and forget things quickly. Blessing in disguise?I thought nothing more of the incident while photographing the inn the next morning or indeed till 2 days later when I thought I would write a post about this beautiful inn and recommend it. Some of the first hits that came up with my google search made mention of a HAUNTED Phillips Mill. Well, thats odd, I thought. It wasn't until I opened those websites and saw that they mentioned an old woman in a long dress who had been seen in a rocking chair that my experience came back to me and I really freaked out. Seriously freaked out. I questioned everything I had ever believed or not believed. I wanted to distance myself from the experience (and feelings) so I've waited a good 10 days to record my experience.Do I believe in ghosts now? Well, I suppose I do but I won't be thinking about it much. I am utterly convinced that I DID NOT imagine this. I hadn't seen any mention of a haunting or rocking chair before my visit. Indeed, I knew nothing at all of the Inn's history so I know it wasn't my subconscious. I just wonder if one of the previous guests, Charles Schultz had a similar experience. Was it a simliar experience that led him to repeatedly pair the peanuts gangs with ghosts? Now I'm grasping at straws so I'll leave you with the drawing he left at the inn which hangs in the foyer. He simply writes: Great Food, Great Lodging. I agree, but I won't be returning!

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This past weekend held one of my favorite annual events, the Georgetown house tour. While photos are understandably not allowed of the tour, I was snap happy with plenty of inspiration around me! I always associate Georgetown with gas lanterns, I especially loved the contrast between this white painted stone and black metalwork seen above. I noticed a lot of houses (not on the tour) were for sale, a sad testament of the times. Many of the homes featured this year held unexpected surprises: be it ultra modernity or amazingly grand spaces behind sedate exteriors. The lineup was superb and varied. Don't miss the tour next year, it never disappoints and supports a great cause.
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weekend cheer

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I hope everyone has a great weekend! Picture taken in Bucks County last week. MORE concrete!!
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The fantastic Mercer

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Nestled in adorable Doylestown, PA is an enchanted castle. Ok, maybe thats only the first impression, but this fabulously eccentric building in the heart of a small town feels as if it was picked up from the German countryside and dropped into Bucks County.Henry Chapman Mercer completed the museum in 1915 to house his collection of pre-industrial tools and relics which were largely disposed of in the whirl of early 20th century technology. Many pieces were rescued from the trash or bought for pennies at auction. In essence, Mercer created a museum to show how life was lived in the 18th & 19th centuries before industrialization took over.
This interest of Mercer's made sense: while a renaissance man of epic proportions, he was by trade an arts and crafts tile master who founded the Moravian Tile and Pottery Company. These tiles were (and are) made by hand -a craft that the industrial revolution was quickly stamping out.
Examples of Mercer's tilework are found throughout the museum. I loved this 2 story fireplace (above) in a sacred feeling space devoted to his hundreds of beloved stove plates.
Why concrete? Besides the fact that it was fireproof (a great concern of the time period) it was incredibly inexpensive and able to be formed into any shape or form imaginable. Mercer developed many interesting concrete techniques in his experimentations in building that amaze to this day. Above - his signature high on the exterior walls.
Admittedly, I came for the building. Can you blame me? Most of the interior is open to an incredible atrium, flooded with natural light and full to the brim with all nature of antique objects.Objects as diverse as a whaling boat hung from a railing (seen above on the right), baby cradles attached to the ceiling and pre-industrial tools in stalls surrounding the walkways educate the viewer in 'how did they used to do that?'.
The building is essentially a fascinating maze. I'm not sure if Chapman was a madman or a genius, but I like the results. He built without formal plans and the spaces are higgly piggly with little rhyme or reason. This shows in the exterior, which in many ways, ties it back to the ancient castles Mercer so loved. Above - dormers (yes - EVERYTHING is concrete!) were completed, then another roof built over them enclosing the space. Tim Burton would LOVE these buildings.
A view over the roof shows the extensive use of concrete. The very window frames were poured concrete which were built from forms molded on traditional wood windows. These were inexpensive, fireproof and low maintenance. There isn't a single piece of flamable material in the entire building except for the collections.
Please visit and support this fantastic museum, heralded as a masterpiece from its opening. As a side note, one of the quirks that Mercer loved to include in his buildings were the pawprints of his beloved dogs. Rollo was around while building his 2 castles (Fonthill and this museum) and his prints are proudly displayed. One of many inventive and ingenius ideas to be found!

Visit the Mercer Museum website.
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Marie Antoinette's desk

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You may remember an apartment I featured awhile back that belonged to my friend Henry, HERE. Henry is interested in the age of enlightenment and in the arts of the time period; remember his visit to Versailles where he shared some of his pictures of the beautiful woodwork? He was kind enough to put together a post for me about a recent piece he saw that he thought we would all enjoy. Here is a delightful Louis XVI writing table I discovered at the National Gallery of Art. Superstar cabinetmaker Jean Henri Riesener made the table for Marie Antoinette in 1785. The table was at the Tuileries Palace, where the royal couple lived three years until their guillotine visit in 1793. The table is a perfect example of the Louis XVI style. It is symmetrical and rectilinear; and outlined in gilt bronze rope beading. A parquetry trellis pattern covers the tabletop, fenced three-quarters by a gilt bronze gallery.On the table’s sides, gilt bronze bas-relief putti play musical instruments in the clouds, flanked by “grills” of alternating palmettes and fluting. Two-toned parquetry echoing the tabletop edge lends depth to the tapered legs, which terminate in gilt bronze leaf-cast sabots. In a candlelit palace, the elegant table would shimmer in delicate golden outline. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette idealized virtue, simplicity and reason. They associated these ideals with the ancient Romans. In furniture design, Roman motifs like fluting, putti and acanthus leaves symbolized these ideals. The symbolism was ironic in the context of the controversially lavish royal lifestyle. Marie Antoinette’s writing table (Widener Collection 1942.9.407) is on display in Basement Gallery 11 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
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The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.

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This past weekend, I visited one of the most amazing group of buildings I've ever seen. Located in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, these buildings are inventive, quirky and beautiful; I'll start with the Moravian Pottery and Tile works.Known as the home of 'Mercer Tiles', the factory was booming in the early 20th century producing arts and crafts handmade tile for fireplace surrounds, floors and anywhere you could imagine. I blogged about the tiles and you can read some of their interesting history and places they've been used, such as in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in my post HERE.The founder, Henry Chapman Mercer, was an amateur architect, intellectual and artist obsessed with castles and poured concrete. He created 3 amazing buildings: the tile factory seen here, his home, Fonthill (on the same grounds as the factory that I'll feature later this week), and the Mercer Museum in nearby Doylestown which houses his collection of American tools.Parts of the factory remind me of an ancient cloister, others of a small cathedral and yet from other angles it appears as an ancient aztec villa. Of course, the Moravian tiles are prominently featured throughout on the roof and as decorative features.Notice the random assortment of windows above the wisteria. Some are panes of glass cast directly into the concrete (more on that later this week) while others are more traditional wood windows.
Some closeups of the gorgeous tileswork. So colorful!This tile proclaims Chapman's motto "Plus Ultra", Latin for more beyond. It's seen throughout the estate.

I loved the embedded tiles and random windows. Chapman believed in the architectural forms of the past but used in a more modern vein: a belief I can get behind! He used lots of large windows for natural sunlight, seperating these 'castles' from their dark inspirations. I think this is especially important in a factory where people are working day in and day out.
I hope this whetted your appetite for the next 2 AMAZING tours and hope they inspire you as they have inspired me!
The tile works is still up for business and produces amazing tile for flooring, backsplashes, fireplaces and other installations. I wasn't able to find their website or a catalog online, but as soon as I do I'll make sure to post it here.
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