Chandeliers can be traced backed to medieval times (1066-1485) where they would be found in churches, monasteries, and other gathering halls. These earliest chandeliers simply consisted of 2 hand carved wooden beams connected in the shape of a cross, perhaps in deference to Christianity. The beams would have a spike on each end upon which candles would be secured. Once lit, the whole assembly was hoisted from it’s center lashing to the desired height by a rope suspended from a hook in the ceiling. This “fixture” provided greater light than the usual candle-lit wall scones which illuminated just a small, specific area of a room. The internet abounds with examples through a long history of geographically specific chandeliers; iron armed milk painted Gustavian chandeliers from Sweden, elaborate multifaceted crystal chandeliers from France or Russia, or hand forged and polished brass chandeliers with flint glass shades from American just to name a few. Candles were the source of illumination until approximately 1840, when many chandeliers were converted to gas and the hybrid “gasolier” was born. In 1890 Nikola Tesla invented the AC generator, and modern electricity was born, paving the way for the chandeliers current incarnation around 1910.
Having dispensed with a little history, lets talk about one of my favorite chandeliers on the market today. While Holly Hunt represents several lighting designers, I vote for the “Paris Round” chandelier from the eponymous Holly Hunt Studio collection. Eight squarely extruded arms radiate from a simple central sphere and are capped by small urn shaped candelabra bulb holders set within an uber-clean wagon wheel. Quite simply, it’s a study of circles and squares in juxtaposition, and it’s masterfully done. The entire hardware armature (visible only from below) is surrounded by a rice paper shade with evenly spaced exposed metal struts for stability. Typically, I dislike an exposed bulb, so I opt out of the chandelier category; but here it’s the best of both worlds. Ambient, soft overhead lighting that highlights beautiful metal work, and bulbs hidden by a diffusing shade… perfect. It’s available in polished nickel or antique bronze, with a variety of drop lengths. Holly Hunt is a “to the trade” only resource, but the sales staff at any given showroom can connect you to a designer/architect familiar with HH’s signature style. In New York, the Design and Decoration building at 58th street and 3rd avenue has it’s own designer referral service which is also very helpful.
Holly Hunt 979 3rd Avenue New York 10021
Crewel (the earliest examples of which are 1000 years old), refers to a basic broadcloth textile embroidered either by hand or by machine with a yarn to produce a pattern in relief. Thought to originate in the Mesopotamian crescent, crewel made it’s way into fashion among the privileged in England and France by the 17th century and was brought to the United States by settlers. Today, most crewels are produced CAD looms in India or China. Wool was the earliest fiber used to make the embroidery thread; while cotton, silk and rayon are also employed in modern versions. From my point of view, some of the anglophile examples with floral motifs are a bit stuffy. That said, there are many designs with flowers, animals and incidentals that are fresh and exciting.
Exactly 10 years ago this month, P. Kaufman announced the purchase of Clarence House. Many in the interior design industry expected a routing of the brand by the considerably “lower brow” parent company. Quite to the contrary, a decade later, Clarence House remain a destination for the discerning decorator. My favorite crewel in their collection is “Polly” #34434, a vividly colored aviary of primitively rendered birds on a background trellis of branches. The design is witty, fresh, and exuberant. Use it as an accent, or draw the theme for a room from it; this fabric reminds me not to take myself too seriously… something I need to be reminded of.
To the trade
As a resource, Maharam Fabrics (for decades a “go-to” source for contract textiles) is often overlooked by residential designers because they are generally used by the hospitality design community. I have long been an advocate of their unique and lustrous designs for home applications. Contract fabrics are specifically tested for their ability to withstand wear and tear, and are often treated for stain resistance or to make them fire retardant. Why then, if the design and weave of an individual textile is suitable for a movie hotel or restaurant, would it not be an excellent choice for the sofa in a child friendly living room? In these economic times, don’t we all endeavor to select products for our homes which provide high style and longevity? What does it matter that it was designed to withstand abuse if it’s beautiful?
For me, Maraham’s most appealing group of fabrics are in The 20th Century Collection. Here you will find glorious re-editions of enduring designs from some of the twentieth century’s most noted visionaries; from Gio Ponti to Charles and Ray Eames, and many in between. Some stayed and sedate, others bright and whimsical, there is something for everyone. While many designer fabrics carry a significant price point, Maharam’s fabrics are in the moderate range; which allows everyone the opportunity to access remarkable design. You can navigate their user friendly website to view all the fabrics in the collection easily, and order samples upon request.
My personal favorite from The 20th Century Collection, Design 9297 by Josef Hoffmann. shown in 005 Scarlet, and 007 Peacock
The first slipper chair dates back to the Queen Ann era—the first half of the 18th century. The chair featured an upholstered seat and back and cabriolet legs, which are curved and typically feature a pad foot. Originally defined as a small bedroom chair, the slipper chair has slowly made its way into the rest of the home, evolving from a fussy boudoir decoration to a contemporary accent chair. Perhaps the most famous re-boot of the slippers design came from Billy Baldwin in the mid-1950’s for his client Pauline de Rothschild. Mr. Baldwin’s cut-out at seat height allowed for a loose cushion to be recessed into the back, a tailored and masculine touch.
The tasteful eye of the curators at 145 Antiques in New York City have a marvelous example of how 19th century French designers saw the iconic piece. Beautiful cut velvet, long multicolored bullion fringe over turned and castor caped legs, and an elegantly scrolled high back make this chair elegant, and functional. If (as legend has it) this chairs original function was for putting on and removing shoes, I for one would welcome it bedside, or near my front door.
27 West 20 Street
New York, NY 10011, USA
This is the living room of my cottage upstate, in Claverack NY.
I decorated my house with 76 different fabrics, all shades of green. The sofa (which I also designed and built) was covered in a wool boucle from Unika Vaev, the plaid pillow fabric is also my design (gros grain ribbon on linen). Perhaps the best find in the room was the dyed burlap I used for the roman shade, from Rosebrand supplies in NYC, it was $6.00 per yard!