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Posts from the ‘elsie de wolfe’ Category

Beautiful Things are Faithful Friends

January 15th, 2010

Daniel Pontius


I have a penchant for kitsch and like my own ten minute video called, “Drinking and Sewing with Daniel,”
clever editing may be of benefit. That said, I have watched “ME” on the life of Elsie de Wolfe
several times and still find them quite amusing.

Much of the narrative is taken directly from Elsie de Wolfe’s, 1913 book The House in Good Taste.
You may recognize some of the passages. If you have studied photographs of Elsie like I have
you may also find references from the character’s costumes cute.

Don’t let yourself be shocked by the gratuitous penises if you make it through the first 5.40 minutes
to Part II. These videos may be too irreverent for a reader in Beverly Hills who sent me a question
asking why so many interior designers, “…have sticks up their asses.”

In response to that question, I think the simple answer is, Furniture Don’t Talk.
Perhaps a more complete answer is to be found in video. If you have any questions
to ask us here at Be Bibelots please do not hesitate to send them our way.

Styled by Elsie

March 31st, 2009

Daniel Pontius



What could be better than pictures of Elsie on a Wednesday morning? I’d love to have that first dress–to make into pillows.

From Jan. 2009 Elle Decoration UK Edition.

Elsie and her Bibelots

March 10th, 2009

Daniel Pontius

Above is a much published photo c 1890 of Elsie de Wolfe in her Turkish Room at 49 Irving Place, NYC. This is the essential before shot; before she became a decorator; before the new century. It was the ending of the Victorian Age and she was at the end of her acting career. She was going to have to do something. Check SpellingIn this before picture, she had not yet decorated 49 Irving Place, which helped to jump start her path (nothing new is what she said of decorating; woman have always done it). In the before photo she is in her late 30’s and living the Sapphic life and by 1905 at 40– she had received her first commission and off she went– and that, as they say, was that.

Bibelots has attempted to get permission to use a photo of Elsie de Wolfe by Cecil Beaton taken in the 1930’s. It is the quintessential after photo. Elsie de Wolfe at her most personal reinvention. Bibelots was told that “in theory” permission could be given for a fee…Well, enough said. You Dear Reader can see the image on your own at the National Portrait Gallery Website at this link: AFTER.

Elsie, I’m almost overwhelmed with a lack of words to describe this image. Elsie, the gilt! Never again will this be done so well. Is this your in-town home at 10 Avenue d’Iena or is it Villa Trianon, Versailles? 

I would like to imagine it is your Paris apartment, although I think it is Trianon. You were enraptured in the new found social status of your mariage blanc to Sir Mendl. You had stepped out as the newly fashioned Lady Mendl, New York behind you, it is at Avenue d’Iena that has always felt to me the culmination of your career:

“Throughout this period, the decorator became identified with conspicuous connoisseurship through the adoption of extravagant bibelots, particularly crystal obelisks and miniature jade and crystal animals. Her embrace of these, rather than Giacometti sculptures and Neo-Romantic paintings, further served to distance her from the interiors du jour of her contemporaries.

These treasures–including a small 18th-century gold-and-diamond coach and a magnificent crystal ship in full sail–were frequently used as centerpieces on her dining table”(257, Sparke).

Mnemonic Monday: To Green or Green

May 26th, 2008

Daniel Pontius

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Of course, I’m not talking about Greene & Greene’s Gamble House nor even our ever ready eco friendly green. But just green, the color. I woke up this morning with the green beyond the chain link fence, in this case scaffolding, out my bedroom window. It still reflects the sunlight and of course a lovely counterpoint to the sky blue. I think Green Gartside of Scritti Politti once said that he took the name Green (to paraphrase) because he once woke up and that’s all he could see.

1. Farrow & Ball Arsenic my favorite color for the week–could be a fun play with Isaac Mizrahi’s “Extra silk” for S. Harris.
2. The dining room at Biddesden in Wiltshire. Lunch Green from from Farrow & Ball’s “Paint & Color in Decoration.” A must read for painting techniques & brushwork–something to study in our spray on orange peel on dry wall world.

3. Lutyens Green at Lindisfrane Castle, on Holy Island, also from P & C in D.
4. Teal greens in the mosaic work in Raymond Isidore’s, La Maison Pique-Assiette. Monsieur Isidore was for a while a caretaker of the Saint Cheron cemetery near Chartres. He began his life’s work embellishing his home and gardens in 1938 collecting bits of pottery and incorporating it into his interior–he completed it in 1962 then dying 2 years later.
5. I rip things out, this inspiration for my future country garden.
6. Rip out inspiration: subtle green on the walls with a dense arrangment of furniture.
7. The ever present, Elsie de Wolfe and her pale blue green walls and mauve printed chintz upolstery & curtains in her 1910 showhouse, 131 East 71st Street, NYC.
8. The brilliant green sofa in David Hicks’ Suite at the St. Regis.
9. The crisp white glazed chintz inner drape a wonderful contrast to the outer printed greens and the slightly more blue green of the side chair.
10. Ashley & Allegra Hicks’ country home. The green walls painted to look like sewn panels of leather. Further notice the floor in the kitchen which is a striped cherry and walnut veneer.

Beauty and Good Taste

March 21st, 2008

Daniel Pontius

My own personal style is a thoughtful editing of early and mid-century furniture and vintage pieces—a layering of textiles, patterns and art with a focus on reuse and reinvention.

Suitability; Simplicity; Proportion are the principles which guide me and can guide anyone to finding and enjoying beautiful objects and developing their own sense of good taste. These are Elsie de Wolfe’s guiding principles of good taste which developed from Edith Wharton and Ogeden Codman’s clasic, The Decoration of Houses. Let’s review the applicability of SSP today.

Suitability: pertains to the function of an item as in it should fulfill what it is meant to do. A table should function as a table. Further one could ask does it represent the personal style of the owner (or what they want it to be?) Can the owner understand it; relate to it–does it have a connotation that the owner can relate to beyond it’s utility? For example, is the object sustainable, ecologically sound, or will it be thrown out at the first whim or does it have an inherent value which can be traded on?

Simplicity: Is the object extraneous? Is it trying to be something that it is not? Is it trying to be clever or novel or does it have a substance of it’s own?

Proportion: Does the object work within the limits of the room that it is in and do the objects as a whole in the room work together to create balance?

In Elsie’s own words: “How can we develop taste? Some of us, alas, can never develop it, because we can never let go of shams. We must learn to recognize suitability, simplicity and proportion, and apply our knowledge to our needs. I grant you we may never fully appreciate the full balance of proportion, but we can exert our common sense and decide whether a thing is suitable; we can consult our conscience as to whether an object is simple, and we can train our eyes to recognize good and bad proportion… a woman’s environment will speak for her life, whether she likes it or not. How can we believe that a woman of sincerity of purpose will hang fake “works of art” on her walls, or satisfy herself with imitation velvets or silks? How can we attribute taste to a woman who permits paper floors and iron ceilings in her house? We are too afraid of the restful commonplaces, and yet if we live simple lives, why shouldn’t we be glad our houses are comfortably commonplace? How much better to have plain furniture that is comfortable, simple chintzes printed from old blocks, a few good prints, than all the sham things in the world? A house is a dead-give-away, anyhow, so you should arrange is so that the person who sees your personality in it will be reassured, not disconcerted.”