Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winterthur Weekend - Part 1: Chic it Up!

Do you remember when I blogged about our fantastic June trip to the du Pont Estates in the Brandywine Valley? It was a trip that I knew would be the predecessor for many many more, and when I was invited in August to attend the highly informative, and extremely engaging conference series: "Chic it Up" last weekend, I knew Scott and I would have to make the trip.

Because Winterthur is so lovely, and because this conference was so jam packed with information and extremely knowledgeable speakers, I've broken this into posts that will last all week, and culminate with a Vignette Friday inspired by Winterthur. Today, Part 1: The Conference! (or most of it ...)
So, I know you're thinking, Chic it Up and Antiques - what do they possibly have in common? Well, truth is - a lot. It's incredibly easy to "chic up" your home or vignette with a piece of previously loved furniture hand crafted to last centuries ... but the phrase "Chic it Up" didn't come from discussion about antiques. Instead, (it's rumored that) it was H.F. du Pont's cavalier response to a nosey neighbors insulting quandary: "H.F., why ever did you plant those bright red azaleas within a bed of lavender azaleas?" "Well," he answered, "to Chic It Up!" (Now there's a man after my own heart!)
So, the conference, loosely formatted around the design ideas of the 1950's was a full day, beginning with a welcome and introduction from Winterthur's Historian, Maggie Lidz. Maggie's Winterthur research has been published in books, magazines, thesis, and more, including most recently her book: "The Du Pont's: Houses and Gardens on the Brandywine" which came out this fall, and is on my Christmas list. Maggie has a way with words. Her calm and composed way was a wonderful introduction to a day filled with exciting design based thrills.



She introduced master architect, historian and author Robert Raley, who has lived all over the world, had homes published in major design magazines, and worked with the likes of Sister Parish for the Kennedy's, yes - as in Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Hearing him talk about his period of work with the Fine Arts Committee in the White House, his constant ideas about the clever and inventive qualities of design and architecture, and always making space for man's best friend was a true delight. This is someone who has worked hand in hand with some of America's most elite, and made them incredibly happy, not just satisfied, but happy. That's talent!

Periodically, Tom Savage, Director of Museum Affairs at Winterthur stepped in to introduce our conference lecturers. His position at the lectern was one so comfortable, I am still in awe. Perhaps, it was his smooth southern accent, or his very deliberate speech - making sure to have the most impeccable pronunciation and resonance, I could have listened to him read a phone directory for the lower Delaware counties ... luckily, though, he had much more interesting things to discuss - and rightfully so, after a life richly submerged in the arts, including tenure as the Sen. VP of Southeby's Institute of Art, Curator for numerous museums, and author of books to include "The Charleston Interior".



He introduced Bradley Brooks, director and assistant curator of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He had everyone in awe of his many photos of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. About ready to open to the public, the Miller House is a supreme example of 1950's modern architecture and design.

One of my favorite lectures came from Winterthur Curator of Textiles, Linda Eaton, who introduced me to the name of Ernest LoNano, a prominent and talented decorator and textile manipulator who worked often with H.F. du Pont to pull his vision of Winterthur together.

Joyce Jonas, Historian and Jewelry Appraiser, gave a wonderful lecture on the separation of the French Crown Jewels and their eventual purchase by American Royalty, like the Vanderbilts and Barbara Hutton. Truly fascinating photos and information.

Later, Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture of the Museum of NYC talked about photographer and set designer Cecil Beaton and the Influence of Set Design on the interiors of the 1950's ... now, that was fun! Along the same lines, Sam Watters, Independent Historian from Los Angeles spoke about Hollywood at Home, and the progression of what I like to call "today's magazine photography." It was so wonderful to hear someone share my same opinion of staged photography in shelter magazines.

Finally, Thomas Jayne, decorator and scholar, spoke about his new book: "The Finest Rooms in America." Here's where we end today, and tomorrow we'll pick back up with an Inspiring Spaces post that catalogs the influence H.F. du Pont has had in decorator Thomas Jayne's designs of today. You're gonna love it!

All in all - I learned more in 8-hours than I have in months of Design School, and it came with a great lunch and tea! I highly recommend making it a point to attend next year. I'll make certain to keep you posted, and you can bet that I'll be there - with bell's on!