I have always loved a pineapple, it’s part of my sur-realism kick, it tickles my fancy and makes me smile to see them. They have a long design history, inter-twined with the pine cone, and potent symbolism. Plus basically they are a great shape with a precise, geometric decorative form.
Pineapple fabrics and wallpaper leave me unmoved. I like the contrast of sunny tropical fruit cast in cool stone, china or shiny metal. Two things kick started this, a pair of gracious pineapple stone finials in a regular London street. A pair of lamps at the Pruskin Gallery which evoked immediate lust.
Pineapples are right up there with chinoiserie, pagodas, bamboo and fretwork as an exotic ray of sunshine in western design. So it comes as no surprise that the ‘greatest pineapple’ of them all was designed by William Chambers who brought Londoners the Kew pagoda in 1759. His creation is a place I would like to stay (through the Landmark Trust). That is, if I ever made it north of Edinburgh, it is the extraordinary Dunmore Pineapple. It rises 14 m into the chill Scottish sky, a chinoiserie-gothick gem, precision engineered to withstand the Scottish climate, I love it. It is pure folly on top of measured Palladian architecture. Commissioned in 1779, several years after the original hot houses were built. The Earl of Dunmore returned from a stint as Colonial Governor in Virginia, where pineapples were uber-chic, it is a flamboyant symbol of colonial wealth and, in this case symbolically apt, the hothouse below contained pineapples, note the Grecian urns on the roof line which conceal the 4 required chimneys.
The Dunmore Pineapple
Pineapples were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, on the Caribbean islands.Exotic and costly to produce in European hothouses, they were therefore extremely rare and aspirational, they became symbolic of power, money and hospitality- and maybe, I like to think, a certain ironic humour. The Earl of Dunmore must have chuckled each time his folly came into view?
The pineapple remains a chic, tongue in cheek piece for this generation of uber-decorators. In WOI December’s issue there is a tabletop shot of Chateau de Goejeonnerie’s dining room, decorated by London’s design trio of Les Trois Garcon’s fame:
WOI describes it as a ‘decadently decorated tabletop’ – pineapples, parrots, soft pink roses and crystal shimmer against the mirrored surface.
The Rug Company’s shot for its fretwork rug is appropriately styled with pineapples packing a punch.
Tempted,… 1st Dibs offers easy pickings, from chic mid-century Maison Charles lamps (yes they are often copied) to an 18th century console which manages to include a greek key trim AND a pineapple finial- heaven. So far my collection only boasts a scaled set of mid century brass ice buckets, but I am working on it.
So there it is, the pineapple; symbolic of adventure, gracious living, flamboyant wealth and innate hospitality. All rise.
pineapple sconce: caravan @ caravanstyle.co.uk, pair of pineapple lamps: The Pruskin Gallery, 2008.
Dunmore Pineapple shots: front facade: Tiny Pineapple, North Elevation engraving: treasured places.org, the palladian entrance: Grandaddy Flash Flickr, Gothick door-rear view: Tambo 2008 Flickr, Entrance close up: Northern Xposure flickr, close up of stonework in pineapple: drookitagain.co.uk, historic buildings Falkirk and Lothian.