5 Great Movies….

5 Great Movies….

                         ……..Where the house stole the show!

Chatsworth House - The Duchess

The actual home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire Chatsworth almost needs no introduction. Chatsworth House is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape and hospitality, and it has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions and interests of succeeding generations.

Fun Fact: The duchess from the move helped shape politics in the 18th century and the most recent Duchess of Devonshire was one of the fabulous Mitford Sisters who helped shaped politics in the 20th century.

Highclere Castle

Since 1679 Highclere has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon.  While we loved the house in Downton Abby.

Fun Facts: The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was the money and the driving force behind  the archeological discovery of the tour of Tutankhamen in 1922.

Rosecliff - The Great Gatsby

The only non-english entry Rosecliff was commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899 to showcase her families wealth to other wealthy New York society matrons.

Fun Fact: architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles.

Hatfield House - The Kings Speech

Dating from King James 1 times, Hatfield House is the home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury.

Fun Fact: Robert Cecil demolished three-quarters of the original building. The remaining wing survived as the stables for Hatfield House for the next three centuries, until it was restored by the 4th Marquess in 1915.

Ploskovice Chateau, - The Royal Affair

This classic film about the English Queen of Denmark is one you must see. For big house love!  The chateau was  was finished in 1725.  In 1764 it was altered to the Rococo Style. Apart from the main hall, the most significant room is the sala terrena underneath. The grottoes connecting to the garden on the ground floor have fountains with sculptural decoration in the shape of Hercules, water deities, sea monsters and angels.

Fun Fact: The Duchess, after the death of her first husband married the Tuscan Grand Duke, Gian Gastone III, the last male descendent of the Medici family.

Knebwoth House - The Shooting Party

Knebwoth House is owned by the Lytton family. Every generation of the Lytton family has left something of its style and taste, making Knebworth an extraordinary walk through 500 years of British history. Stories and heirlooms reflect the family’s contribution to literature, politics and foreign service and visits by characters as diverse as Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Noel Gallagher.

Fun Fact: because of the turrets, domes and gargoyles silhouetted against the sky the house is often used as a stand in for Balmoral in The Kings Speech and The Crown

Kedellston House

My favorite house of the bunch because it was designed  by the famous architect Robert Adam, Kedleston was built for Sir Nathaniel Curzon in 1765 as a house to rival Chatsworth. Intended as ‘a temple of the arts’ and as the location for grand entertainments.

Fun Fact: The main house was never meant to be a family home, but a canvas on which to showcase the finest paintings, sculpture and furniture.

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.
5 Shades of Grey

5 Shades of Grey

Classic Architectural Embellishments

….always in fashion

Classic Architectural Embellishments are always in fashion. So is the color grey. With a large fog bank covering the coast of Maine this morning I thought it would be fun to share some classic embellishments and architecture with a grey colour palette. From ceilings to sofas, there is always a sophisticated way to use the color grey. Some are highly embellished others are decorated with simple moldings and rosettes. All are true symbols of style.

Enjoy a little Sunday eye candy.

Classic Architectural Embellishments From Harewood

Robert Adams from Harewood House in England.


Simple Gustavian Grey Sofa Bed

Classic Architectural Embellishments from Paris

Sophisticated entrance hall in Paris

Classic Architectural Embellishments Harewood Entrance

The entrance at Harewood


Grey green ceiling in the bedroom at Harewood.

xoxox Lydia

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

Architectural history & a story

Architectural history & a story

Architectural History part 1, but first… a story

My first foray into repurposing a building occurred when I was 4.  My parents were stationed at a naval base in Europe and I decided to take a self-walk. My adventure took me to an arched structure out in the hills behind the base. There I proceeded to rebuild a live bomb shelter into my doll house. I happily moved grenades and small bombs around stacking them to make walls and rooms. Yes, my parents were appalled and no I did not hurt myself!

The point of the story is that I love building, fixing, and doing anything associated with architecture. So it’s really not surprising that for my retirement career we make decorative moldings and repurpose furniture. With the rapidly expanding Efex decorative line of historically accurate moldings, I continually find myself reading about architectural history especially interior embellishments.

We thought it would be fun to outline the different architectural periods and a brief explanation of how embellishments have grown over the years. A cheat sheet of architectural styles if you will.

It is important to note that many periods overlap. As the world evolved from caveman increased communication and travel blurred the time line. Below is part 1- Neolithic times (the late stone age) through the middle ages and gothic architecture.

Neolithic 10000-2000BC – Late Stone Age

Architecture included cliff dwellings, thatch huts and mud structures, stone circles and megaliths like Stonehenge.

Decoration was restricted to available materials, tools and technology – timber, stone, animal skins, and bone. Color came from charcoal, chalk, clays, and vegetable dyes.

Mesopotamian 4500-2000 BC

Between prehistoric and historic times the written language expanded communication and began the sharing of designs. Temples were made of clay and complex forms of stacked mud brick. The use of stacked brick led to the early development of columns.

The walls were brilliantly colored and sometimes plated with zinc or gold. Frescos on the walls were developed and painted terra-cotta cones for torches were also embedded in the plaster.

Egyptian 3000-900 BC

The Egyptians focused more on tombs like the pyramids than palaces and temples. Due to the lack of wood mud, brick, and stone were the most common building materials. Interior walls and columns were covered with hieroglyphics for decorative purposes as well as to record historic events. Pictorial frescoes and carvings were painted in brilliant colors.

Many motifs of Egyptian ornamentation are symbolic, such as the scarab, or sacred beetle, the solar disk, and the vulture. Other common motifs include palm leaves, the papyrus plant, and the buds and flowers of the lotus.

Ancient Greece 900 BC -100

The ancient Greeks formed strict rules about balance and symmetry known as classical orders. The triad of columns, ionic, doric, and corinthian are some examples. Marble was introduced as a building material by the Greeks.

The predominant decorative motif was the use of the human figure especially those from mythology. Marble sculptures decorated the inside and outside of buildings.

Roman 1050 BC – 500

The Romans developed newer technologies such as the arch and the dome to create structures. The use of concrete was important to the strength of the structure and lead to a more open floor plan.

The Romans added baths, waterways, and sewage to the design process. Interiors and exteriors were sculpted with mythological characters.

Romanesque 600 – 1100

Romanesque meaning “from Rome” was the first distinctive style to spread across Europe. There is no hard date, but it is thought to begin around 600AD. In England it is often referred to as Norman Architecture.

The style is highlighted by massive quality, thick walls, round arches, large towers, decorative arcades. and strong symmetry. Most of the surviving buildings are churches and castles, many still in use today.

Doors were heavily decorated usually with wood carvings. It was thought that the motifs especially scenes from the bible would inspire religious furrier as patrons entered the structure. The massive Abbaye Cerisy la Foret in Normandy is a great example of Romanesque style.

Gothic Architecture 1000 – 1450

Gothic architecture is where buildings become both interesting and highly decorated. From about 1000 man had the ability to build grand structures. Mathematics and engineering allowed cathedrals to rise taller than ever. Sharply pointed arches, spires, flying buttresses, and massive amounts of stained glass were a few of the innovations that led to taller, more graceful architecture.

The various elements of Gothic architecture emerged in France particularly in the highly ornate Cathedral at Notre Dame in Paris.

Next week, History of Architecture Pt. 2.