While preparing last Saturday’s post about an old friend’s apartment, I was flipping through The Finest Rooms by America’s Greatest Decorators, a wonderful compendium given me back in 1967 when I was fourteen. (Yup, the die was already cast.  Someday I’ll tell you about the silk neckerchief I affected that same year.  But be kind when I do.)
Pictured in the book is this wonderful stair hall designed in the 1930’s by Billy Baldwin, the master of edited chic.  The interplay of stair carpet runner, the sensational patterned floor , and the wonderful fabric on the chairs is nearly perfect.  Looking at the stair carpet, I think it is safe to guess that Baldwin was familiar with the grand circular stair of the Kersey Coates Reed House in Lake Forest, decorated by Frances Elkins. The interplay of scale between patterns is masterful.  The photo caption gives a hint of the color scheme: “Lacquer, a black and white still modern stair carpet, Dutch in quilted beige linen, a remarkable beige floor in patterned stone, brilliant emerald glass sconces”.  Wham! Pow!

The only mystery remaining is what color was that amazing barometer on the wall?  It looks as if its faceted frame is eglomise glass (gilded in reverse), but what color glass?  Black?  Green?  I’m hoping green.

Despite the caption, written 25 years after the hall was photographed, I find myself wondering if the inlaid floor isn’t actually Zenitherm, once a favored flooring material of decorators and architects like David Adler, who often used it to stylish effect.

Apologies for the lousy photograph of the sconces–they were on a table top, not on the wall, and I was still figuring out my first primitive digital camera and the concept of resolution, ten years ago. Bad case of old horse, new tricks.

As my seven or eight regular readers know, I enjoy connecting the dots.   It happens that I once owned a pair of those snappy emerald green sconces.  They were sold to me as Victorian, and the seller’s idea was that they had perhaps once been arms to a chandelier.  Later, I chanced across an identical pair in clear glass, which were positively known to be Steuben, from the 1930’s, making it most likely that these were also.  Their very Vogue Regency style would support the latter. thesis.  Whatever their origin, what really matters in the end was that, like the room above, they were GORGEOUS, and I hope the person who bought them from me is still enjoying them.

Still to come at Down East Dilettante:  My focus returns to New England with ‘The Third Mrs. Astor,’ ‘A Favorite House’, ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good Houses’, and ‘Shelter in New England Gardens’

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