The Rosettes of Blenheim Palace

The Rosettes of Blenheim Palace

Having just returned from 10 days of vacation in the UK I am so inspired to share some of the wonderful onlays and plaster carvings we saw on our trip.

The goal of this vacation was to wander the English countryside looking at mansions that not only had great plaster and art, but a connection to history. Designed as a his and her’s trip it ticked off every box.

One of the grandest places we visited was Blenheim Palace, Among other notable tid bits for Blenheim Palace is the birthplace fo Winston Churchill. Built by the 1st Duke of Marlborough John Churchill, it is still in the Marlborough family today. Abet as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Notable st the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained  when the 9th Duke, (by all accounts a rake) Married American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. The marriage was later annulled because her mother had forced her into it… but the funds remained and saved the day for the palace.

Blenheim Palace

One of the best rooms is the library. ( the entire north wing)  contains a floor to ceiling bookcase and hand-made plaster reliefs… Ah…. the rosettes of Blenheim.


Caio for now

xoxo Lydia


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Stacey’s Patina Tour

We mentioned in our post “Doorway Patina” earlier this week that our friend Stacey Christensen, of Faux Studio Designs, was headed to Florence to study patina. Well, Stacey has landed, and the first stop on the patina tour has brought her to Milan. Home of high fashion, fast tires, and some stunning patina.


In a quick phone conversation, Stacey mentioned that of all the places she saw yesterday in Milan, “The Chapel ‘Della Torre’ spoke to me the most. Not sure why but anyway….”

Attached are some lovely pictures showing you the beauty of Milan. We will cover more next week but for now as we head into a holiday weekend – enjoy the photos.









A Coup d’état in Sweden… lead to a remarkable style

A Coup d’état in Sweden… lead to a remarkable style

Gustavian Style

Gustavian Style began with King Gustave III. He only reigned for 20 years (1772 – 1792) yet his patronage of the arts started a major design style.
After visiting the French courts of Versailles in 1771 he returned home as King, staged a quick coup d’état and quickly developed a style that was heavily influenced by the French. Instead of focusing on Rococo Sweden developed a style concentrating on symmetry, straight lines, columns and Greco-Roman motifs which sets it apart from the French.
While early Gustavian is a restrained interpretation of the French Louis XV and Louis XVI style, the Late Gustavian style is closely identified with Italy after engravings inspired by the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum began to circulate in Sweden.
The more ornate furnishings were reserved for royal palaces and the upper class. Downstairs the receiving rooms were filled with rosewood and gilding while upstairs even the kings bedroom was painted. The style is distinctive in its clean, hand-carved lines and cool color palette of blues, grays, and weathered whites.
The style quickly gained popularity with the average citizen. The average manor house in Sweden could not afford the gilded estate furniture found at the royal houses. Therefore, local craftsman recreated these designs from materials and methods more readily available to them. Techniques such as faux marbled surfaces, using Swedish “massive pine” instead of mahogany, and painted murals on the walls in place of wallpaper, were used to achieve the same stylistic effects. The light painted finishes provided a reflective quality that was desired during the long dark winters.
Gustave was an enlightened leader and in fact was the first neutral head of state in the world to recognize the United States. He was a strong patron of the arts and took Sweden to a level of architectural and cultural sophistication never known before. He transformed this once remote European country into the “Paris of the North,” setting a standard of style for Swedish society that continued well into the 19th century.
His most notable building projects include the Royal Opera in Stockholm and the Haga Echo Temple.
Haga Echo Temple Sweden
In 1792 Gustave III attended a masquerade ball at the Royal Opera house. He was shot in the back by a malcontented nobleman, at his Opera house. The assassination inspired Verdi’s 1859 opera The Masked Ball.
The popularity of Gustavian style has continued to grow over the years inspiring designers to this day. The style we are familiar with tends towards the distressed grey, soft blues and off-white. It still maintains a distinct look that is less ornate than other parts of the world.
4 Kings 1 Palace – Versailles

4 Kings 1 Palace – Versailles

The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles started as a small hunting lodge in 1624. The Hamlet of Versailles was known as a fertile hunting grounds when King Louis XIII went there as a boy.  By the time his great grandson was guillotined in 1793 it had a population of 60,000 and was the home to the government of France.



From a small slightly gothic hunting lodge grew a micro study of the history of architecture. Versailles has the best examples of Baroque and Rococo interiors still in existence. This one palace started building and decorating trends that would appear from Sweden to London, to St. Petersburg and finally America. It started interior styles still popular today.

Imagine all because The Sun King repurposed his father hunting lodge! Above is a slideshow showing a brief chronology of the building of Versailles.

Louis XII

1- The small hunting lodge of Louis XIII morphed into a small chateau.

Louis XIV – The Sun King

2- The Sun King Louis XIV started a three-part building spree which lasted his lifetime, It included two major architects, interior designers and the most impressive garden and garden innovations the fountains, ever built.

Phase 1 – Envelope the original hunting lodge into a massive winged structure.

Phase 2 – Add two more massive wings, make the outdoor patio into the Hall of Mirrors, add staff quarters and stables.

Phase 3 – Add a small palace for yourself (The Sun King needed his privacy) The Grand Trianon and the Royal Chapel.

The population of Versailles had grown to 10,000 and included all the members of government and places to house them

Louis XV

3 – No slowing down on the building spree fro 15. Louis XV built the Opera house (for the marriage of Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Petite Trianon and the Orangerie, to house the botanical gardens. He also added a few hamlets because after all they needed somewhere to house the staff.

Louis XVI

4 – Finally, Marie Antoinette completely refurbished the Petite Trillion – a gift to her from King Louis XVI – with new gardens and a small theater. All because she wanted some privacy. After all, Versailles had grown to 60,000 residence.

Today, thanks to the French government, Versailles is preserved as a monument to French history. It is also a monument to 175 years of architectural and interior design.

Architectural History Part 2.

Architectural History Part 2.

Architectural History

The Renaissance and The Baroque

Architectural History is always fun. I love imagining the people who lived in these buildings and their lives. When we started this series last week we suffered a small but irritating technology issue when we changed formats on our blog.  Our geeks are working on it but for today, we are back to our standard format. We left off at the Gothic period full and scary forms and towering cathedrals.

The Renaissance: 1400 – 1600

The word Renaissance comes from the term re-birth and truly signifies an emphasis on the orders of ancient Greece. After the overly elaborate almost scary forms from the Gothic period, it really was a rebirth. Spanning two centuries this period reflects the substantial changes in the world that were occurring with a growing importance on mathematics and art.

The Renaissance began in Italy and was the growth of arts of all kinds, paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. The early part of the period brought us probably the most important architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) whose influence is still felt worldwide today.

Villa Rotonda, Andrea Palladio

Palladio’s Villa Rotonda

Building exteriors were full of pediments, columns, and arcades. All building had symmetry, proportion, and geometry.

It was a time of great learning. Artists like Da Vinci were more than painters they were architects, artists, inventors, and mathematicians.


De Vinci’s Vitruvian man is an example of his use of the golden rule in studies of proportion and has set the use of ratios in art and architecture forever.


It is in the renaissance that decorative motifs come into their own. Urns, grotesque figures, foliage shells, vases, and cartouches were carved and eventually molded out of plaster on many buildings.

In England, the great Inigo Jones who studied Palladio’s work placed a great deal of focus on symmetry. Covent Garden, and developed the muse in the back of the apartments in London. (a feature still found only in London)  and Queens house in Greenwich


and Banqueting House in Westminster built for James 1 in 1619-1625 are all great examples of his work.


Baroque 1590 – 1760 The Origins of French Style

Following the Renaissance The Baroque coincided with additional developments in science and mathematics. In Italy, the Baroque style is reflected in more opulent and dramatic churches with irregular shapes and extravagant ornamentation.

While in France, the highly ornamented Baroque style combines classical restraint with opulence drawn from the reign of Louis XIV who built Versaille (1682-1789). Note this whole building could be a period unto itself.


Russian aristocrats were so impressed by Versailles that they  incorporated Baroque ideas in the building of St. Petersburg.

All of the Baroque architects took classical motifs and then created a stronger  sense of drama.

In England substantial building occurred after the fire of London especially the Greenwich Hospital.  Pictured below this building was  designed for King Charles and then expanded by Christopher Wren for Queen Mary II as a seaman hospital and home.

Greenwich Hospital England

Part of the design of the building came from Mary herself when it emerged that the original plans for the hospital would have blocked the riverside view from the Queen’s House designed by Ingio Jones. She ordered that the buildings be split, providing an avenue leading from the river through the hospital grounds up to the Queen’s House and Greenwich Hill beyond

Next week we will cover the Rococo and Neoclassical Period and hopefully, technology will be on my side by then. Caio, Lydia

Seven Elements of the Classic Paris Apartment

Seven Elements of the Classic Paris Apartment

The Classic Paris Apartment

The elements of a classic Paris apartment have an interesting historic story. On today’s blog were doing something a little different. First we’re showing you what the seven style elements in the apartment are, and then telling you the story behind how they came to be lining the boulevards of Paris.

The 7 Elements of the Parisian Apartment


1 – High ceilings with floor length windows that run to the ceiling with draperies to the floor. They are always light and airy.

Haussmann Apartment For Sale

2 – Second floor wrought iron balcony with views to the boulevard.

3 – Open plan spaces with double doors leading into the public rooms such as the dining and living rooms.

4 – Ornate moldings.

5 – Chandeliers.

Marble Fireplace in Paris Apartment

6 – Herringbone parquet floors.

7 – Marble fireplaces.

We found it very interesting to learn how the classic Paris Apartment was developed. The history of these magnificent apartments is in fact the history of Paris as the city we know today.

The Paris we see today was designed by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. The long, straight and wide boulevards edged with trees and stone buildings were designed to visually connect the key points of the city.  The magnificent open spaces and elegant façades that are everyone’s image of modern Paris only date from the 1800’s and arose from the ashes of overcrowded slums.

Emperor Napoleon III hired Haussmann in 1853 to reconstruct the city from the medieval alleyways into a modern capital.  His goal was to improve public hygiene and wipe out epidemics by creating a clean water and sewage system and ease traffic congestion. It was the first attempt at planning a large city on a grand scale. In doing so he became very unpopular and was fired by Napoleon in 1870. The building continued on without Haussmann until 1927.

Early scene on the Pace Vendome

View looking at the Place Vendôme in Paris 1900 © Brooklyn Museum

The Haussmann Apartment

As part of Haussmann’s plan he not only built roads but also designed and had built many of the magnificent buildings lining the boulevards. Rather than design each building, Haussmann dictated that every structure had to conform to a strict plan. Even the monuments had to fit themselves into the uniform cityscape, as they were used to emphasize the most important points of the city. Architecture in that period was quite variable and styles were chosen to suit the function of each building. The civilian buildings were predominantly neoclassical.

For almost a century Paris building codes had strict rules about the height and the number of floors for buildings. They even specified the construction materials to be use depending upon social status and use. Apartments for workers were less ornate than the apartments for the upper class on the boulevards. His goal was to have a harmonious cityscape using certain basic elements with subtle changing details depending on the end use of the structure.

Through these regulations he defined a style for the bourgeois apartment buildings that lasted through the end of the nineteenth century.

Early Paris Picture

Paris from Arch of Triumph 1915 © OSU Special Collections & Archives

Haussmann established a standard ratio between the height of the buildings and the width of the streets. He decreed that buildings should not be more than five stories high and roofs should have a 45-degree pitch to allow daylight to reach the sidewalks. This is the first major use of the Mansard roof.

His regulations also standardized how the façades should look. Haussmannian buildings are constructed of massive cut stone blocks and above a ground floor and basement. They all typically have:

▪ A first floor for shopkeepers and stores

▪ A second floor with a wrought iron balcony and elaborate cut stonework around the windows. This floor known as the étage noble (noble floor) and has the highest ceilings and most elegant rooms in the building.

▪ Third and fourth floors, with or without a balcony and possible less decorative stonework.

▪ A fifth floor with a single, plain balcony.

▪ A mansard roof with attic rooms lit by dormer windows for staff.

Mansard Roof

Each block had to form a unified whole and features such as balconies often continue in alignment the length of a block.

Of course it is from these rules that we get our five classic style elements of the Paris apartment. Going forward we will look at more of how these buildings and their apartments have developed and the style that carries on today has developed.