There is a return to tradition in the decorative arts with many interior designers looking to the past for inspiration and updating these design flourishes to create rooms for contemporary living. A trio of new books dedicated to traditional craft and creativity will just make you want to re-do your home.
In de Gournay: Hand-Painted Interiors, we are treated to page after page of lush interiors with walls wrapped in various iterations of the company’s signature chinoiserie wallpaper. Peonies flourish, birds and butterflies are aflutter, pagodas and lattice bridges invite meanderings, in homes designed by the likes of Miles Redd, Jeffrey Bilhuber and Kelly Wearstler who are all fans of de Gournay. The book showcases the many types of wall coverings de Gournay’s highly skilled artisans hand-paint in studios in China; from scenic Chinese countryside landscapes to Art Deco style gilded swirls and rays with cranes in flight, from glorious elephants and temples in India to striking and bold geometric shapes like those used by designer India Mahdavi in her Paris showroom.
Of course a book about de Gournay requires a historical account of how the company started. Its founder Claud Cecil Gurney shares the story of how he started de Gournay in the early 1980s inspired by the chinoiserie wallpaper he would see in great British estates. With his dream of reviving this kind of decoration, he set out to visit China before the country opened itself up to all manners of trade and industrialization. There he met agents who led him to artists, and after many trials and errors, he was able to establish his wallpaper business.
De Gournay: Hand-Painted Interiors is as much a lavish photography book about beautiful rooms as it is about how an inspiration and one man’s vision came to be the height of chic.
All manner of rattan and wicker furniture have become all the rage in interior design of late. A rediscovery of vintage rattan furniture and several contemporary companies elevating the material to au courant styles have made it a coveted material. And pieces made from it – Instagram gold.
Soane Britain, owned by Lulu Lytle, is one such modern-day company that is churning out incredible furniture pieces made of rattan. You only have to see their console tables and sofas with undulating bases reminiscent of the folds of haute couture skirts to make you want a rattan furniture right this moment. It is only fitting then the Lytle has penned a book dedicated to the material.
In Rattan: A World of Elegance and Charm, she takes us through the history and rediscovery of rattan. (But first a clarification of terms: rattan is the raw material. Wicker is the product resulting from the weaving of rattan). In the book are pictures of royalties lounging in rattan chaise lounges, passengers of the Titanic in a room decorated in rattan, taste maker and wicker lover Bunny Mellon at home with white washed wicker chairs and Impressionist paintings of seaside sojourns with rattan furniture highlights. There is a section devoted to rattan chairs created by titans of design like Mies Van Der Rohe, Jean-Michel Frank, Arne Jacobsen, Jean Royere, Marcel Breuer and many more.
The book also makes a case for rattan being at home in town and country with photographs of interiors featuring rattan pieces that take readers on a journey from New York City to Mustique to Provence to Malibu and back.
The artist and photographer Robert Polidori, who is best known for his majestic and haunting photographs of Versailles under renovation and abandoned Cuban mansions, lends his eye to the supremely beautiful book from Féau & Cie. The French company is famous for its boiserie and panelling dating back to the mid 1800s. In the book Féau & Cie: The Art of Wood Paneling. Boiseries from the 17th Century to Today, we are treated to sumptuous photographs by Polidori of the house’s archives of intricately carved wood panels and architectural remnants.
The book also showcases how interior designers of today like Michael S. Smith, Robert Couturier and Brian J. McCarthy employ these boiseries in their works. These include penthouses in New York, tony apartments in London and Monaco, chateau-style homes in Atlanta and San Francisco, and a suite at the Crillon Hotel for the late Karl Lagerfeld. This book is a true must-have for lovers of the decorative arts.