Home is where the Heart is

John Wayne (Duke)

Hubert de Givenchy

Mario Testino

All have something in common… they can make houses into homes that echo who they are, where they have come from, their passions … all in a way that invites you to kick off your shoes and enjoy the space.  US vogue features Mario’s house (naturally with super-model in place). Architectural Digest featured Duke and Givenchy in the 1970’s.

Duke’s sitting room is below, Natural tones and textures predominate, I love how they are punched out  by red and ochre yellow : the lacquer red coffee table and  picture,  the floral armchairs and carpet.  A Thai buddha dominates the rough stone wall, paintings appear casually  arranged, yet the picture light identifies it has all been carefully thought through.  It’s a clever mix of cultures and eras,  I love the horses racing off either end of the coffee table, a bonco buster and pony express rider – homage to the Westerns that made his name.

It’s elegant, homey and witty all at the same time. The largest room in the house appropriately is his study, it features the ’50 years of hard work wall’ culminating in a ‘tablescape’ to match David Hicks, his ‘best actor’ Oscar is bang in the middle (where it belongs, right). AD describes it as warm, generous, comfortable and most definitely a man’s room due to panelling, fireplace and a small collection of guns (I think it’s the guns myself).

The interesting thing (for me) is that his down time was antiques, he searched them out whenever he was on location and took treasured pieces with him to “dress the place up, make it seem more like home'”. His attitude is: “I find things that appeal to me and I try to blend them in. I don’t give a damn if anyone else likes them or not.” An attitude share by Givenchy and Testino.

He brought home Jardinieres from Honolulu, sculptures from Bali, furniture from Madrid, Alaskan art, American Indian artefacts, figurines from Kyoto and, and, and.  Duke was a self made man,  who acquired  the knowledge and  developed the taste to become a serious collector. AD’s current website features an interview with his daughter accompanying a photoshoot from 1962 in another fab Duke house, see here, (to complete the ‘Duke’ salute).

Givenchy’s Paris apartment is extraordinary: ornate Baroque masterpieces meet streamlined 1970’s head on, it’s powerful stuff. Boulle marquetry furniture was made for Louis XIV  to dazzle his courtiers and assert his authority. The Boulle armoire and desk are amplified against bronze glass walls, reflected onto lacquer, hessian, leather, fur, velvet with the odd Narwhal tusk, Rothko and Miro.

Givenchy grew up in a cultured  aristocratic household, his father was director of the tapestry works at Beuavais; founded by Louis XIV.  His couture apprencticeship further refined his knowledge and vision: studying, sketching antique fabrics and trends in Paris museums he was struck by how interiors and costume’s evolution were a direct reflection of each other.

His fashion-mastery is married to his appreciation of France’s decorative arts, unifying both is his delight in craftsmanship and design. He chooses France’s most visually complex and sophisticated pieces – by Boulle –  to anchor his  modern scheme.

The Boulle armoire and bureau above were made between 1680-1720, Boulle is considered the finest cabinet maker in history, he developed  a form of marquetry work with amazingly complex decorative motifs. He applied brass marquetry onto  turtle shell with an ebony carcass, If you look very closely at a Boulle piece, you can see tiny serrations made by  the fret-saw.  In each production 2 pieces were created as cutting out the  delicate ‘premier-partie’ produced a  heavier ‘contre-partie’, see below:

Worthy of centre stage really.

I love how Givenchy’s interior came about. He says: “When I moved in, it was a time when heavy mahogany furniture and elaborate silver were popular… All I wanted was comfortable and charming… I remembered Jean Cocteau “To be in fashion is to be already passe”. This spurred him to look at what he loved and during this process 2 things happened which forged his interior vision –  1) the Boulle cabinet (above) became his 2) He visited the Agnelli’s rome apartment  – ‘ a perfect mixture of the sumptuous and the simple’, Their blend of materials and styles struck him: simple cotton, bronze doree, Regency, metal garden furniture and the most contempoary paintings.  It taught  him that Boulle did not need to be surrounded by damask, a damascene moment?

His bedroom feel almost monastic. The floating bed, controlled artwork, subtle geometrics, neutral palette are offset by the overflowing bedside and opulent marquetry commode.  The right side’s lacquered doors are cupbaords, the left side’s conceal windows.

The dining room is entirely lined with bronze mirrored panels, simultaneously reducing the architectural details  and amplifying his decor statement. Givenchy’s beautiful pieces: fireplace(architectural feature), jacob chairs in gentleman’s leather (furniture)  and artwork (accessory) really stand out in this mirrored space by simplifying the other components: plain tufted carpet, honest tableware on check cloth, diffuse lighting.  Givenchy’s fashion break-through came when he made couture pieces in raw cotton previously used only for client fitting, doesn’t  his apartment  reflect this?  the standout quality of the ‘couture pieces’ is highlighted by the ‘simple chic’.

So …. Testino. 

A happy childhood in Peru: rambling houses with dark 17th century style furniture, mid-century design, silver plate and niaf inca-inspired pieces are all re-assembled in LA with his fashion photographer’s eye for proportion, colour and style.  He say’s ‘It looked like a Peruvian house, I loved its energy from the moment I walked in’.

I love his colour dictum, he banned fiesta colours: “In London, it’s all about colour because the weather is so grey and in that cold light they look beautiful, coming here I was inspired by rusts and browns and greens and ochers.  The light is so bright, all of a sudden bright colours become garish; they look like bubble gum’.  A choice which perfectly complements the architecture and honours his Peruvian heritage. He was obsessed in the decoration process: sourcing door handles in Venice, rugs in Marrakech, colonial style furniture from Peru, artwork from LA, handwoven Peruvian ponchos for upholstery.

Like most things which look ‘just right’, there’s a precision underpinning it.  The white background, the matching tonal values of the core palette, the layered textures in white/brown/black flowing from rugs to wainscotting to furniture, the naif textile patterns echoed in the naif pottery.   Tribal meets gentleman’s club.

In summary he says “I like the idea of things that show your travels around the world – show your life. And I enjoy the idea of all cultures meeting here… total integration of cultures.  I guess it’s the future, no?’

I think that Mario, Hubert and Duke have something in common, no?

There’s a thread that unites all these spaces: the emotional response they create.   Entering any one these homes, 2 positive emotions would occur: ‘wonder’ – your curiosity is stimulated by the collector’s pieces – promoting engaging chat, secondly the balanced structure of the design is relaxing (one of the ‘joy’ responses’).  For the owner, coming home  links them to positive experiences – their childhoods, personal journeys and interests which are all harmoniously represented.  So in psycho-terms, these are the finest examples of home interiors.  In design terms they are inspirational for all those who seek to make a house a home.

Image Credits:

John Wayne and Hubert de Givency, Architectural Digest – Celebrity Homes II, 1981

Mario Testino – Vogue USA March, 2012

2 thoughts on “Home is where the Heart is

  1. Pingback: True Provence = Van Day Truex | adecorativeaffair

  2. Pingback: Stella and Issy’s Gilded Borders | adecorativeaffair

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