Fireplace Mantels

The holiday break is over, the new year has begun and we’re back at it at the WKD Ranch. I have projects going into construction and new ones on the boards. Sally has completed designing several little and one large decorative gems and has new ones in the works. The year is starting off well.

To start 2016 on the blog, I want to circle back and complete the Elements of French Style video’s. I had posted the first in mid December and then ran into technical difficulties that prevented me from posting the remaining three before Christmas.

In this segment Sally and I will discuss the building blocks of classic French Style interior architecture. We both feel strongly that you you need to get the bones right. (Video 3 explores the French Style’s decorative elements and video 4 covers today’s modern interpretation of the style, of which there are many.)

I’ll post a few pictures and let the video “do the talking…”

Starting in the foyer, you need a black and white checked marble floor, a beautiful wrought iron stair with a curb concealing the stairs treads and rises and a lantern for lighting. The lantern is a must…

Look carefully at the proportion of the black checks in relation to the white squares. The checks are often too small.

French Style, Black and White check floor; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

From Petite Trianon. Fear not, the stair does not need to be this ornate with gilding.

French Style, wrought iron stair; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

Interior room floors are typically wood. Versailles parquet in formal/public front rooms and less formal patterns in the private spaces. This is the entry to the hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Note the other classic architectural element seen in this image – large windows, allowing maximum light into a space.

French Style, Versaille parquet; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design,

And the far less formal floor here…

French Style, wood floor; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

In the above photo you see two other critical elements of French Style. The large mirror over the mantel and the coved ceiling.  The mirror is intended to reflect light and expand the room visually. Curved crown molding and coves are used to either visually bring the ceiling down to the wall as above, or extend the wall up and out on to the ceiling, as below. We also see the beginnings of another very critical component of French Style, the chandelier and lighting. Note how it is reflected in the mirror…

French Style, crown molding; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

Many times, there is another large mirror on the opposite wall, and the chandelier and candelabra are placed so light would be reflected back and forth to infinity, as in the image below.

French Style lighting; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

In the midst of this, I dare not forget door hardware. In our travels, I thought I would find very orate and fancy hardware and I did on occasion. But, surprisingly, more often than not the hardware was very unadorned and simple.

French Style, door hardware; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

I’ll close with the same image that concludes the video because it shows many of the basic components of French Style (and it’s beautiful). Large mirror over the fireplace, large windows, chandelier, cove/crown at the ceiling, etc. It also expresses the masculine/feminine dynamic I felt in many of the rooms Sally and I visited. The strength and weight of the fireplace mantel balanced by the softness of the tapestry for example. What other examples can you find?

French Style summary; photo by wilson Kelsey Design

Enjoy the video…

Just a reminder, you don’t have to replicate the ornate details and gilding. That’s just stuff. What is important to remember are the ideas and concepts and their relationships one to the other.

Have fun French Styling…

John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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I’ve found another favorite – A Sense of Place Houses of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. In the WKD library, it’s tucked right next to Axel Vervoordt’s Timeless Interiors. Both books speak the same language.

Mark Hutker, founder of Hutker Architects, has been practicing architecture on the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and environs for over 30 years. His second book, A Sense of Place Houses on Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, showcases 13 homes from his large body of exceptional work. Mark is a Modernist whose work draws from the history and vernacular of Cape Cod architecture and it’s communities. In doing so, his work is a 20th/21st century extension/expression of the region. The book is a wonderfully written and visually rich narrative that illustrates how breath taking and beautiful modern residential architecture can be when it draws from a region’s historical vernacular, creating homes that are “beautiful, personal, authentic and unique to their sense of place.”

You could dive right in and look at the photographs of the 13 homes in the book and believe me, it is beautifully illustrated.  But to truly appreciate those 13 projects, you must read the introduction and the ensuing pages that precede the homes.

In the book’s introduction Mark discusses his philosophy and approach to design. He talks of Purpose as being more than his client’s aspirations of home. The home needs to have/contribute meaning to where it is built. He speaks of Collaboration as having three components – Narrative, Meaning and Pattern of Use. He poses several very simple and profound questions. “What is the specific family story we are trying to interpret, and how does that narrative come out in each of our homes? What is the meaning of that narrative to our clients? How will the house anticipate the needs of it’s residents?” Other key notions Mark refers to are Cultural Context, Stewardship, Beauty and Craft – taking you from the larger scale question of how does the surrounding community and/or nature influence one’s design decisions to the equally important expression the littlest detail thru using the right material and the right way.

Let’s take quick look at the residence on Grey Barn Farm, a working organic farm in Chilmark. I’m going to pull words and phrases from the book’s description of the home.

“A new building designed to appear as though it began life as a 19th century barn and was repurposed as a contemporary residence.”

“…language and strategies of adaptive reuse.”

“… a muli-layerd architectural composition…”

“…livability from the best of history and modernity.”

“…reaching back in time to regional values and giving these values a freshness and relevance that is appropriate to, and at home in, the present day.”

Now the images, remembering the words…

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth.

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

Grey Barn Farm, Hutker Architects; photographer Eric Roth

From a personal perspective, having grown up in farm country of upstate New York, I easily see the story being told of blending old and new in the architecture. I can appreciate the honest straight forward use and expression of materials. Maybe this is why I am so drawn to Belgian Style which also artfully dances with old and new and whose story is of drawing from and reinterpreting their history and architecture for today’s modern lifestyle.

Cheers,

John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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This weekend Sally and I (with the good help of our son Drew) performed one of our Fall rituals – dismantling and saying goodbye to our screened porch until next spring.

screened porch; photographer John Kelsey

screened porch; photographer John Kelsey

If I’d had my druthers, I’d have spent the weekend at the Kemble Inn in Lenox.

Kemble Inn in the Fall

Leisurely exploring the grounds.

Kemble Inn, Lenox, Ma

Appreciating the fall flowers.

Kemble Inn, looking back toward the terrace

And savoring the fall foliage from the terrace.

view from the terrace

Or from my bedroom window.

view from the terrace

Even though the fall leaves in the Berkshires are past their peak colors, there are many attractions to make the trip worthwhile. This summer, Sally and I stayed at the Inn while we spent a wonderful weekend visiting her brother, who was hiking the Appalachian Trail. We took in two concerts at Tanglewood and visited two lovely Trustees of Reservations properties, Ashintully Gardens and Naumkeag. My blog post about our visit can be seen here.

Another nearby Trustees of Reservations property of interest is The Mission House in downtown Stockbridge. Finished in 1642 for missionary John Sargent, it remained in the Sargent family unit it was purchased by Mabel Choate who relocated the property to it’s present location. She then worked with landscape architect Fletcher Steele to design the Colonial Revival garden you see today.

Mission House, Stockbridge, MA

The Norman Rockwell Museum located on the Linwood House estate is must. Linwood was designed in 1885 by Stanford White for the Butler family.

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

Peering thru the glass at the front door…

Linwood House; photographer John Kelsey

The Norman Rockwell Museum, designed by Robert Stern in 1993. (Classic design ages so well, doesn’t it?) has all of Rockwell’s iconic paintings including many I had never seen before. I was amazed to learn how carefully he constructed his paintings.

norman rockwell museum

His studio.

Norman Rockwell Studio.

So carefully preserved.

Norman Rockwell Studio.

Equally fascinating is Spring Lawn, immediately adjacent to the Inn. Designed by John Alexander in the classical Beaux Art style. It appears to be slated for future development as an inn and spa.

Spring Lawn mansion; photographer John Kelsey

Spring Lawn’s interior stair.

Spring Lawn, Lenox, MA

On the other hand, should you just want to lounge around the Inn, the accommodations will not disappoint. From the moment you step thru the front door you sense the Inn’s graciousness and history. This is the main lounge, which over looks the Inn’s terrace and grounds.

Kemble Inn, Main Lounge

Grand Foyer

Kemble Inn, Grand Foyer

The Piano Bar is the perfect place for coffee and dessert after dinner.

Kemble Inn, Lounge/Piano Bar

I returned home with several ideas for cabinet door glass.

Kemble Inn, Window detail; photographer John Kelsey

Kemble Inn, Window detail; photographer John Kelsey

We both loved the details in the dining room. Actually quite restrained for a Victorian Era home.

Kemble Inn, dining room; photographer John Kelsey

Couldn’t get enough of the ceiling light fixtures…

Kemble Inn dining room light fixture; photographer Sally Wilson

Or the bar cart… A little Art Deco perhaps?

Kemble Inn  bar cart; photographer John Kelsey

Which of course leads to my favorite part – the food and wine… The Inn is blessed with a wonderful menu (beautifully prepared) and wine list. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

OH yeah! Breakfast!!!

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

Very cool wine chiller idea!

Table Six at the Kemble Inn; photographer John Kelsey

We could linger on the front stoop and continue chatting…

Kemble Inn front door; Photographer  John  Kelsey

You get the idea. Sally and I would go back in a heart beat.

Cheers,

John

To visit our website, click here.

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If you would like our assistance on your design project, contact us here.