Running on Car Batteries and A Prayer!

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Just  a quick note to tell everyone that we survived intact! We're fine!  I'm writing a longer post and will hopefully get it online in just a little bit. 

 

Thank you, everyone, for all your prayers and thoughts and well wishes.  Your prayers worked, that is for sure! I can't thank you enough.  

 

Joni

Hunkering Down With Ike!

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Greetings from Ikeland!   I've gotten so many great emails today with well wishes from you all,  that I thought I would do an update on "Life Spent Waiting For A Major Hurricane."   I hope to be able to answer all of your emails, but until then - here's the story of Cote de Texas under siege.  I must say that I have the sweetest readers in blogland.  I'm going to design an award and pass it out to each of you:  Bestest, Most Sweetest Readers!!!   Seriously, a person can get really spoiled from all the love.  Thank you, all of you, for your wonderful, caring, emails.  They are very much appreciated.

 

Evacuations  and Hurricane Ike:    There was a mandatory evacuation called for Galveston and outlying parts of Houston that border the Ship Channel.  We don't live in those areas and so, we aren't under a mandatory evacuation.  Because of that, Ben, Elisabeth and I decided to stay put in our house in Houston.    The last big hurricane that passed through Houston was Rita.   It came just days after Katrina so everyone here was terrified and just about the entire town  (except us, of course!) decided to evacuate Rita.  There was a traffic jam the likes of which have never been seen before.   The death toll of evacuees on the road was over 100.  The death toll from the storm was in the single digits.  Statistically, you were better off staying put and "hunkering down" than leaving.    This time around with Ike, there hasn't been that massive evacuation from Houston, and it seems like the majority of people have stayed, including my entire family.  

 

Preparing for Ike:   How did we prepare for the storm?  I have a hurricane fascinated husband, so we already had a lot hurricane preparedness items in the house.  Every time he sees a sale on batteries, he picks up more, so batteries and numerous flashlights we have.  We also have small, battery powered fans to help cool the house when the electricity goes out.  We have weather radios and battery powered flood lights for inside.  We even have a battery powered television - this purchase brought much personal happiness to Mr. Hurricane Man.  I took out all my old laptops, of which I have a few, and charged up the batteries so that I'll be able to use my computer for a while at least after the electricity goes out (hopefully it won't be off for days - or else I'm checking into a hotel with a generator).     We have lots of candles, unfortunately they are the scented, expensive kind, but that's alright - at least the house will smell good. 

 

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The eye of Ike - kind of looks like the head of a baby duck here.

 

What To Eat During A Hurricane:    Yesterday Mr. Hurricane Man announced he wanted to go the grocery store and look around for more batteries and other hurricane gadgets and get the last minute food items we would need.   Stupidly, I agreed to let him go.  He came back home, all excited about the food he bought that's going to sustain us after the refrigerator is off:  sliced turkey, assorted cold cuts, and cheese!!!!!    He was so proud, poor thing.  When I asked him about canned  goods like tuna and salmon, he had a blank look on face and wanted to know why would we need that?   hmm.    Don't worry though, I went to Wendy's and bought a few days worth of Caesar salads.  Plus our stove is gas, so we'll be able to eat noodles and soup and macaroni and cheese, lots of nice, fattening foods.  I'll probably come out of this hurricane with a 10 pound weight gain.

 

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Galveston, around 12pm this afternoon.  The waves are crashing up over the seawall which is 13' tall.  Imagine what will happen when the eye hits and the surge is over 20 feet.

 

News Updates, Always Updates During the Long Wait:       The storm is now just reaching Galveston.  It's 3:30, Friday afternoon.  The island city is going to flood, there is no doubt about that.  The water is now over the 13' seawall.   Ike is a Category 2 and is expected to be Cat 3 when it lands.  The Galveston Mayor just announced that 40 percent (2o,ooo souls) of the people who live there did NOT evacuate and are still on the island.  The city is going to be completely underwater  and these people will be forced up into their attics by tonight.   Wow.  That 40% figure shocks me and everyone else too.  The police chief from Galveston just announced that the last emergency calls they will take today are at 9:00 p.m.   Then they will be "hunkering down" at the San Luis Resort Hotel and everyone is on their own then.  "Hunker Down" is code word in a hurricane for being scared to death inside your home while the storm rages outside.    The chief also said a house just burned to the ground on the West End because they couldn't reach it to put it out.  Things are getting bad in Galveston.    They have opened a Shelter Of Last Resort for people who get too scared to Hunker Down and change their mind at the last minute.      At this point, I'm really glad that Houston is 50 miles away from the Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico. 

 

Humor in the  Face of a Hurricane:   My best friend just  instant messaged me with this - her last will and testament: 

GOD FORBID - I WANT TO BE BURIED AS CLOSE TO MY MOM AND GRANDPARENTS AS POSSIBLE- I THINK STAN WOULD CHIP IN FOR IT AND WHEN IM GONE -  - ALSO- THANKS FOR ALWAYS BEING THERE FOR ME AND SO MUCH AND I LUV YOU AND ELISABETH AND BEN!!     SO LONG TO GEORGIE AND SAMMY (my dogs) AND RALPH AND BETTY RAE  AND CATHY (my parents and sister) =  GOD BLESS!!!!    OK ==  SO LONG--FAREWELL-- YOUR BEST FRIEND----LISA----

(I'm just relieved that apparently Stan and Marcia are being asked to pay for her funeral - not me!)

 

Major Worries and Fears In a Hurricane:      It's the windows everyone is worried about.  Tornados and high winds accompany hurricanes and with that comes broken windows.  My parents are in a high rise and they've been instructed to go to their bathroom in case their windows start breaking.   Us too.  The only room in our house without a window is the powder room.  We'll go there if our windows start popping.  At least there's new wallpaper in there.  Very pretty wallpaper, Colefax and Fowler  Chinese Toile in brown and cream:  so I'll be happy. 

 

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My Powder Room with the Colefax and Fowler Chinese Toile Wallpaper - Refuge in the Storm.

 

Our biggest concern though, is that our huge oak tree will crash through the house as the tree  is "in stress"  and is weak.  That's our main worry.    Now, my personal main worry is coffee.  Starbucks closed last night for good until God knows when.   I  made a pot using premium coffee beans, but it's just not the same.  I even have a little apparatus that whips hot milk into foam.  Just not the same.  I've decided its the flavored coffee beans that are so terrible.   Why didn't I get just plain Folgers?      Pray for Starbucks, people. 

 

Hunkering Down and Other Boring Things:    At this moment in my house, we're all hunkered down.    Elisabeth is upstairs on the computer.  I'm still on the patio with my laptop.  It's not raining at all, just a little windy.  My neighbors are even BBQ-ing steaks on the grill outside.  Smells soooo good.    Mr. Hurricane Man is, of course, laying on the couch, monitoring the news, with a migraine.  He got one this morning - his eyes weren't focusing and he lost his peripheral vision - so he knew the  migraine was coming and managed to take his medicine correctly - before the migraine becomes painful, and it seems to have helped him a bit.  I'm hungry from smelling the steaks and can't decide if I should eat the famous turkey and cheese or just make a peanut butter sandwich.   I'm saving the salad for tonight.  SO exciting!     The storm will hit at 9:00 tonight.   Mr. Hurricane Man  just announced he thinks it's not going to be that bad.   He's "watching it" on the news  - "keeping an eye on it" -  and thinks he can see something in the radar pictures that the professional weathermen do not see.  He thinks that the storm is breaking up.    Help me, please.    It's going to be a very, long weekend.

 

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The eye of the storm is still hours away and look how flooded it already is near the Cote de Texas, or in  English, the Texas Coast. 

When It Rains.....It Pours!

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LILIBET IN LILAC SILHOUETTE COLLAGE

Annechovie's Queen Elisabeth Series

 

Sweet Anne Harwell, artist extraordinaire and blogger of  Annechovie was kind enough recently to showcase moi,  here.  I'm not sure what I've done to garner such niceness, but - hey, I could use a little "nice" in my life.  Anne and I go way back in blogger world, I started in May 2007 and she in July the same year.  We connected early on and have remained in touch through many emails and a few phone calls.  Early on in our friendship, Anne painted an area of my living room and more recently, my two dogs.  She's always been there for me when I needed her and hopefully she feels the same of me!   I was thrilled when she sent me a list of interview questions and said she wanted to include me in her Artist's Portrait Series.  I guess being an interior decorator can be like being an artist, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to call myself that!! 

 

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Anne's famous Courtney Barnes chair

If you have a moment, click here to read the interview with me  and be sure to take a look around her Etsy store.  She does fabulous paintings of house decor and - my favorites are her chair series.    You can probably even buy portraits of my dogs if you want! 

 

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Anne's adorable painting of my springer,  Georgie!

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Courtney's Favorite Things by Annechovie

 

Anne, thank you again so much - this means the world to me.  Here's looking to many more happy years of blogging!

 

Joni  aka Cote de Texas

What A Dump!

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Webb Design Headquarters - What A Dump!

What a delight (not!)  to open up someone else's blog and discover your own messy, unorganized office plastered for all the world to see.   Today, I had that lovely experience!   Now, imagine that this is the office that you hide, not only from your family who live in the same house, but also from the clients for whom the office is intended.  So, it's not exactly a pleasure to share it with total strangers.   My office started it's life as a guest bedroom, but it proved too small for anything larger than a twin bed.  For several years my husband officed out of this space - his desks consisted of wall to wall banquet tables bought from Office Depot.  Once he came to his senses and realized he needed a true office with its own address - not our home address - he moved out and left me with this miniscule room to use for Webb Design's headquarters.    I promptly tossed out all the banquet tables and folding chairs.  For a desk I went to Pier I and bought a 6' dining table with an X base, stained dark brown.  The table has proved to be a wonderful desk:  with its  large surface, I can spread out floor plans and fabric samples and still have room to work.    Perhaps the best advantage to buying a dining room table instead of a desk is price.  For some unknown reason, put the label of "desk" on a product and the price goes up. 

 

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The red console, which should be painted black!

 

Next to go in the office remodeling was the wall to wall carpeting which we had installed over the hardwoods to muffle my husband's office noises.  I then polished up the once hidden floorboards  and put down a large seagrass (naturally) rug.  For a console, I chose a red wood piece.  Today, about 8 years later, I would pick out something different, and definitely not something  in red.  But this was a choice made when the color red figured heavily into my decorative scheme.  It no longer does.  I know, I know, I can hear you!   Paint it black!  Isn't that what I tell all my clients to do with wood stain they no longer like?   I probably will, someday.

 

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The antique map of Rome.

The bamboo window shades came from Target, and the antique wine rack that holds files came from Chateau Domingue.   The sconces were once in my dining room, bought at the wonderful shop, Schors, during a summer vacation on South Padre Island - the best beach in Texas.    The focal point of the room, is, of course, the map.  A copy of an antique map of Rome, it is my favorite thing in my office.  The map is oversized and is pasted onto  a heavy, wooden board.  It weighs about a ton and I had to hire movers just to bring it upstairs to my office, it was that heavy.   I bought it - used, of course, from Antiques and Interiors on Dunlavy, and the map, made of paper,  is far from pristine, which only adds to its charm.

 

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My sample closet:  wire shelves hold wicker baskets which hold fabrics and more fabrics.

My sample closet started out very organized, with  baskets for all the fabric cuttings.  But over the years, I've slowly outgrown the space and seriously need more storage room.  The overflow is now taking over my garage and my sweet mother-in-law came last weekend to help me reorganize it so that hopefully, we can get a car or two parked back inside.   She's promised to come back this weekend to finish the job, but I'm afraid it will take more than just one day;  creating storage room where there is none is an almost impossible task.  Until I can get more storage space and thus organize, my office is off-limits to everyone but me.  That was, of course, until now and Ms.Whitney English and her blog. 

 

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Using a dining table for a desk means no drawers.  I get around the problem by stashing the staplers and tape and scissors, etc. in this large, antique biscuit tin from England.

A few weeks ago Whitney English Kolb, of Whitney English, wrote me to ask if she could highlight my office on her company's blog.   gulp.  Why, I wanted to know, horrified at the prospect of showcasing my awfully messy office?    I explained to Whitney that my true office is really my laptop on a table, set up in my courtyard, where I tend to spend the majority of my time.  Undeterred, Whitney was very persuasive explaining that her company was highlighting bloggers and their workspaces as a tie in to her business.  Before I knew it, the article was written and there it was - my desk in all it's glory for the world to see.   Oh well, there is such a thing as truth in advertising. 

 

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My "real" office - outside, Starbucks and all.

The more interesting part of the story though, of course, wasn't my office,  it was Whitney herself.  A young, beautiful blond from Tulsa and Dallas, she owns Whitney English, a paper goods and stationery company she started in 2002.   The inventory is classic, sophisticated with just a touch of trend to make it exciting.   This March,  Whitney was honored by Country Living Magazine, when she was named one of their Top Women Entrepreneurs of 2008.  A few years ago, Whitney expanded her company by purchasing Hicks Paper Goods, a leader in the stationery world.  Young and full of energy, Whitney has a very bright and exciting future ahead of her.    My favorite factoid about Whitney?  Hailing from Tulsa, she is a relative of that city's uber talented interior designer, Charles Faudree, who was named to Cote de Texas' Top Ten Interior Designers list.   While in college studying interior design, Whitney spent a summer interning for Faudree, which she writes about in detail here.   I can imagine she learned more in that summer than in four years of school!   Be sure to visit her web site and read her blogging series on Bloggers and their Offices, including moi among others.

Lastly, many thanks Whitney for including Cote de Texas in your Inspiration Series.    I am very grateful, and excited to be included, despite my utter humiliation!!!!    You are so sweet and I appreciate all your efforts so very, very much!

 

 

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Examples of stationery from Whitney English.

 

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The beautiful entrepreneur, Whitney English Kolb.

Don't Fence Me In

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In Houston, Sunday driving is best done in our nicest neighborhood, River Oaks.  Home to most  of Houston's who's who, it was founded in the 1920s by philanthropist Ima Hogg (yes!) and her two brothers who hired the architect John Staub to build its original speculative homes.  The wealthiest of Houston  still live in the neighborhood and there is really no better place to cruise around and look at gorgeous houses and lush landscaping.  The center of the neighborhood is the grand parkway, River Oaks Boulevard  with a high school at the beginning of the street and the private, exclusive country club located at the end.  At Christmas time, the streets are filled with cars from all over the city who come to ooh and ah at the spectacular light shows many of the residents put on.  I should know, I've been driving through River Oaks looking at Christmas lights since I was just a babe.   My family would load up the station wagon with blankets and pillows and we'd slowly make our way through it's winding streets, admiring the huge estates almost as much as the glorious twinkling lights, and giant candy canes. 

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They say not much changes in life, and many years later, I still like to drive through River Oaks, looking at the palatial homes, though mainly I do it now for inspiration from  both the old and new construction.  And, as always, its the French inspired architecture that attracts me, like this beautiful house, in the midst of getting a new roof.   The stucco with its walls damp from a light rain, is a soothing shade of creamy yellow, it's wood shutters a weathered, natural gray.

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And then there is this French stucco home, with its rustic, wooden shutters and slate roof.  I especially like the alcove with a bank of french doors on the very left of the house.   It could use some landscaping, even though it's more authentically French to have none.

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This light pink stucco with its pale, blue shutters has long been a favorite.  I love the portico at the entrance - it looks like a little gate house - just charming.  

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This southern colonial is an original.  It's been here longer than most houses in the neighborhood.  Right on River Oaks Blvd., next to the country club, you can't get a better address than this.  I could tell you this was a plantation in Louisiana and you would probably believe me, so authentic looking is it.   Yes, driving through River Oaks looking at houses is always exciting.  Just driving along, admiring the view, all the while hoping the unmarked security cars that sit parked outside houses like this don't radio the police to come arrest you as a potential house burglar.   Yet, it's all worth the risk to get a glimpse of  the beautiful houses.....

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Beautiful houses like this.  Oops!   Can't quite see this one.  But the locked gates are really beautiful.  Stucco with finials,  The gates are French looking too.  Judging by them, I would say the house is creamy stucco, French inspired.  New construction.  I'll never know for sure though. 

What is interesting about this gate and the others like it in the neighborhood, is just how many houses are now hidden behind these gates.  While people tend to think of a gated community as one where there is a set of gates that keep non residents out of the neighborhood, slowly yet surely, River Oaks has become a gated community of sorts without anyone realizing it.  Instead of the  one set of gates leading into the neighborhood, house after house is located behind their own iron gates now.  Until my latest drive through, I hadn't realized how many houses were gated in what was once a more accessible neighborhood.   In America, we tend to think of gated communities  as being far away, out in the suburbs, a place where people take flight against a rising crime rate.  But here, in River Oaks, in the heart of the city, in the shadow of our downtown, this community has chosen to hide themselves behind formidable walls,  and thus, have changed the look and atmosphere of one of our treasures.  Not that I blame the owners for putting up gates, I don't at all.  But still, it's sad to see that this is what it has come to.    Not everyone in the neighborhood lives behind gates.   The smaller houses that surround the heart of the neighborhood are left gateless, and thus, vulnerable to crime.  It's the estates on the larger acreage  that are now increasingly gated.   Driving through River Oaks just admiring the houses, is not quite as easy as it once was and I suspect it will be get harder as the years go on.

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Here's a beautiful southern colonial, hiding behind a rather unattractive gate.  The house is barely visible now, but I would think the low hedge would be easily scaled by a ne'er do well.

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Wait!!!!  These  gates are actually open!!!  This house must be really special, there are several historical markers on the gateposts.    Very southern, and very romantic looking, these gates mimic the design of the house.   I love the long, gravel driveway.   OK, now I'm reduced to commenting on driveways.

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This English styled new construction has a very attractive wood and iron gate.   The best thing about it is you can  sort of see the house!

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It even has a little door for deliveries that matches the bigger gate.  Isn't this cute?

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Hi!!!!!  You open for visitors?  I'm here!!!!  

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Oops.  I guess not.    The gates quickly closed as soon as they saw my camera.  This house is a quite a complex.  I've actually been inside it, not as a guest, but as a paying person on a house tour benefiting some charity or another.  The house backs up to the golf course and the lot is immense.  There are several different buildings on the estate, a main house, a carriage house, and a pool house with his and her dressing rooms, among others.  It's a Mediterranean design and it's very unique and quite fabulous.  The gate's unusual design reflects the owner's artistic sensibilities.   This is the gate on the east end of the property.  See the little manned guard house with the red roof just inside?

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In the middle of the property is the front gate for visitors without cars.  Not sure in Houston how many people would actually come visit without a car, but if they do, they have their own gate. 

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And on the west end, a matching drive in gate.   The property has never been published, but the owner's Aspen vacation house was recently shown in Veranda. 

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This is a beautiful gate, with elaborate yet tasteful scroll work.  You can just glimpse the matching pink stucco home inside with black and white awnings.  

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Here is an unusual contemporary styled gate:  an art nouveau inspired design, with gold leaves, and a wall  made of limestone blocks.  The large speaker on the left kills the beauty though.  Most gated houses tend to hide the security speaker under a cover of ivy. 

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Another unusual wood and iron gate with limestone fence.  Impossible again, to even glimpse anything of the house except it's red tiled roof.

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This gate allows an expansive view of a newly constructed Georgian styled home.  The wooden gates, though, don't do justice to the elegant stucco white house. 

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Limestone and scrolled ironwork - a sure bet this house is a newly constructed, French design.  You can glimpse the garage at least.

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This is a more unusual gated estate in River Oaks:  an original home.  The rather plain gates seem to say they have been here for quite a long time.  The house, a red bricked colonial styled home is not nearly as flashy as it's newer neighbors.

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OK!  We can take a hint!    These people really want their privacy.    I would suspect the gate was added on after the house was built as the approach to the house is so wide open - hence, the rather austere design of the gates.  Unattractive and overbearing, these gates are certainly not inviting.

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Now this is a pretty gate - stucco limestone, with a rather plain, but elegant design.  I like the large gas lanterns and the way the fence is gently curving.  The landscaping is nice, too.   Who am I kidding?  The landscaping is gorgeous.  Behind these gates I would guess is an elegant, stucco home built to the highest of standards.

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Open for visitors, except the two rather scary birds of prey on top of the gate posts which are not exactly inviting.  The brick fence is handsomely covered with creeping ivy, the drive way is long and curving.   Again, a beautiful, brick house most likely lies at the end of the curving drive.

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And lastly, this house takes a different approach to the gated issue.  Their front door itself is gated, as are the driveways on the left and right of the house.   At least you can see the house and enjoy its beauty.  For the other houses hidden behind gates, they are for the enjoyment of the owners alone.    I wonder if one day soon these owners will add a gated fence around the home, as well. 

                                               

All in all, it wasn't a great drive-by day for pictures in River Oaks, though it was an eye opener to what is going on in the neighborhood.   On the streets I drove down, the majority of houses were hidden.  I'll have to go back on another day to  admire the houses on the smaller lots where there aren't a lot of gates.   If you are interested in reading more about this historical neighborhood, there are several excellent books available at Amazon:  here and here.  Both are about John Staub the famous architect who developed River Oaks and built many of its most beautiful homes.   

Gustav - The Good

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I received a thoughtful email the other day from a reader in  Sweden who is very amused by what Americans consider Swedish design.  She wrote me that the Gustavian interiors we create in the states bear little, if no, resemblance to actual homes in Sweden.   Further, she said that while Americans think Gustavian is Swedish design, it actually represents only a small part of true Swedish style and it correlates to only a short period of time in Sweden's history.    True Swedish design, the reader told me,  is about using the materials that come from the land - the stones, the  dark granites, the green marbles, the wood from the trees - the oak, beech, maple, pine and spruce.   The mines produce the tin and iron and other metals that influence authentic  Swedish style.  True Swedish style is wood floors and brick tiles, simple lines, and touches of nature everywhere - as in paintings of flowers and branches.   Tile stoves are an important part of Swedish style and clay in its natural color is often seen in the home.  Crystal and glass also represent Swedish design, but it always come back to nature, nature truly defines Swedish design.   The Swedish  people have a great love of their land and its landscapes and this is always reflected in their homes.  Put simply - my new friend said - Swedish Style is about simplicity, light, and natural elements. 

Since the Gustavian period that Americans hold up to be the "true" Swedish style  actually lasted for such a short period of time, my new Swedish friend finds it amusing that this is what we Americans think of as Swedish.   But, truly, in defense of Americans, can't that be said of each decorative period, in each country?    For how long did Empire stay fashionable in France or Louis the XV or XVI?  And the same can be said for Hepplewhite in America or George III in England.  Each significant part of historical design usually lasted as long as the ruler did.  Perhaps Americans are so enamored of Gustavian design, because it is so beautiful - the pale colors, the white washed woods, the crystal chandeliers, the mirrors, the delicately painted murals of sprigs and vines.  And since it is so beautiful, we long to recreate the look, to emulate it and  make it our own.  Surely American lovers of Gustavian style realize that this is not the only style of Swedish design, but apparently, it is the style we love.    And since we do love Gustavian, perhaps we aren't as interested in other aspects of Swedish interior design.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Just as the rococo period, among many others,  is largely ignored, Gustavian is a period that we Americans choose to celebrate.   And while we are on the subject, just what exactly is Gustavian?

 

Named after the Swedish King, Gustav (yes that name again!) III, Gustavian refers to the decorative style that began after the king first saw Louis XVI or Neoclassical interiors in France where he had lived for a short time.  Gustav was so enamored with the French court at Versailles that he wanted to recreate it in Sweden when he returned home to rule.  Gustav lived in the late 18th century and was a great lover of the arts, both decorative and theatrical.  His love of not only the arts but the sciences too,  prompted Gustav to form the Swedish Academy and the Royal Swedish Opera.    The sophistication he brought to the court pulled Sweden into social prominence and it's royal court became known as the Paris of the North.  Long rumored to be homosexual, he did marry and produce two heirs, though their paternity was always in doubt.  He was an advocate of the European Enlightenment movement and his patronage of the arts secured his place in history as one of the most beloved Kings of Sweden.  His passion for the Neoclassical style he had seen in France was infectious and the style swept through the upper classes who sought to favor their King.  Gustavian was a reaction against the excesses of the previous Rococo period and the wealthy were eager to emulate the King's love of all things Neoclassic.  Gustav built a number of palaces and country homes in the Neoclassical style for himself and his brothers and other members of the royal court.  His interpretation of the Louis XVI style was light and elegant, with columns and pilasters,  gilded ornament and laurel festoons.  Tall wood framed mirrors graced the Gustavian room as did crystal chandeliers and urns and vases.   The woods of the paneled walls and furniture were painted in light grays and pale blues and greens.  A popular decorative shape was the oval backed chair with straight fluted legs.   Later in his reign in 1783, after a visit to Italy and the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, an Italian influence can be seen, especially in the popularity of the Klismos styled chair and in other decorative motifs such as gargoyles.  This Italian period is referred to as Late Gustavian.  Gustav III ruled for only a short period of time and was killed in 1792 by a group of assassins, attacked while watching one of his beloved operas.   His influence in  Sweden today can still be seen in the many Neoclassical palaces and country homes that dot the Swedish landscape.    And he remains one of the most admired of all the Kings of Sweden.

 

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Gustav III, 1746-1792

 

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His wife, the long suffering Sophia Magdalena of Denmark.  The couple were promised to each other as toddlers, yet Gustav mother's never liked his wife and she was behind much mischief making in the marriage.  They had two sons, one who died in infancy and the other who followed Gustav on the throne.  Gustav's mother never accepted that he was the father of these children.

 

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Count Hans Axel von Fersen, a Swedish diplomat, was one of two rumored lovers of Gustav.

 

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The Gustav III Museum in Stockholm was created to display statues Gustav bought in Italy during his tour of the ruins.  Here is a view of the museum, all in shades of beautiful gray and white, traditional colors of the Gustavian style.  Other statutes were scattered about the English Garden at the Royal Family's castle that Gustav created.

 

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Haga Park is the base of Gustavian design in Sweden.  The park was developed by Gustav III for himself and his family.  Plans for a grand palace were commissioned by Gustav but he was assassinated before it could be built.  The building above, pictured in the dead of winter, is known as the Gustav III Pavilion and is where he lived for just a few years.  The famous Hall of Mirrors is located in the one story section to the right of the building, above.  Haga Park is considered the oldest city park in the world.  It is a large complex  with several mansions and follies commissioned by Gustav.  Located on a bay of the Baltic, Haga Park is a very popular tourist destination.

 

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The Gustav III Pavilion photographed in the summer.  The Pavilion overlooks a bay on the Baltic and is reflected in the waters.   The Hall of Mirrors is inside the one story portion facing the waters.

 

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An early, romantic  photograph of the Pavilion, showing the Hall of Mirrors.

 

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Michael Perlmutter took this hauntingly beautiful black and white photograph of the Hall of Mirrors inside Gustav III's Pavilion.  Decorated in the Gustavian manner, the room has all the elements of the style:  columns, pilasters, crystal chandeliers, mirrors, Klismos  styled chairs and settee, urns, and painted walls.

 

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A view from the outside in, you can see the furniture just inside.

 

 

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Another view of the inside of the Hall of Mirrors.

 

 

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This photograph, by Michael Perlmutter shows the pale blue bedroom of Gustav.  Most notable is the beautiful, diminutive columnar fireplace topped by a candelabra.  The walls are covered in silk damask, which was also made into curtains and is covering the furniture.   The chairs are Louis XVI inspired Swedish.  The interiors  were created by Louis Masreliez who became a trendy interior designer of his time.  The trees captured by Perlmutter outside the window look almost like a beautiful , hand-painted mural.  Perlmutter, an American architect, is also a noted photographer now living in Sweden.  Many of the photographs pictured here are his, taken from a book he recently published.  (More information about Perlmutter is at the bottom of this blog.)

 

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Haga Park is home to several buildings designed for Gustav III.  Here, The Temple of the Echo was built for Gustav to enjoy meals outside.     Today it is a popular site for weddings.

 

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The grounds of the park are frequented by the Swedish people.   Haga Park is also one of Sweden's most popular tourist destinations.   The yellow painted Pavilion can be seen just to the left, above.

 

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The most unusual buildings in Haga Park are the three copper tents built for Gustav III's guards and their horses.  Today, one houses a museum and another is a restaurant.  In this picture you can plainly see the middle tent while the left and right tents are just barely seen.   The vision of Gustav III was that the tents would represent an encampment in the park.  The tents were designed by noted architect Louis Jean Desprez.

 

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One of the copper tents gloriously photographed in winter.

 

 

The restaurant inside the copper tent.  This must be a freezing place to be in winter!

 

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The Turkish Pavilion, pictured above, is also on the grounds of the park, along with a Chinese Pavilion, both erected in Gustav's vision.

 

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The model of Gustav III's palace that was to be built in Haga Park.  Only the cellar was started before his assassination.  The remains of the cellar today are still visible and are called the Ruins of Haga.  Gustav commissioned Louis Jean Desprez to design the building in his beloved neoclassical style.

 

 

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Tullgarn, the summer palace of the Swedish royals.  Gustav III gave this palace to his brother who redecorated it in the Gustavian style.  Notice the large clock tower on the roof.

 

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The long approach to the palace, beautifully captured on a balmy, sunny day in Sweden.

 

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The back of Tullgarn faces a lake.

 

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The interior of Tullgarn, as photographed by Michael Perlmutter.  Through the doors on the left is a long enfilade.  As always, there is a beautiful Swedish crystal chandelier and a tiled fireplace.  Notice the intricate painted wood floor.

 

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Another view of the same room at Tullgarn, this time showing the furniture and a decorative screen.

 

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Another room at Tullgarn is much less decorated.  Painted a pale shade of pink, portraits of the royal family line the walls.  Notice how the gilt wood frames are topped by a crown.  Silk damask covers the gilded furniture.  Damask is the fabric of choice in homes of the royals and upper class. 

 

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Svindersvik was a private home built in the Rococo manner.  The interiors have been preserved and the home is now part of the Norvistic Museum.   The interiors transcend the end of rococo  period and the beginning of the Gustavian style and are considered among the best preserved interiors of the Gustavian period.

 

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Svindersvik is located on a bluff overlooking a lake.  A simple home, it is comprised of just seven rooms.

 

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A door in the vestibule at Svindersvik is flanked by two columnar faience tile fireplaces.  Except, one fireplace is fake!  Symmetry is an important element in the Gustavian style and fireplaces were often used as an end to that purpose.  Rather than have two expensive fireplaces, one would be made out of painted wood.  Can you tell which is the real one?   The tiled fireplace on the right has retained its colors, while the painted wood fireplace on the left has faded over the centuries.  It is used as a storage cabinet.

 

Svindersvik again, a room outside a bedroom has a painted ceiling, along with painted canvas  walls.    The gray Swedish Gustavian chairs are covered in red and white checks.  A beautiful clock made of gilded wood hangs on the wall.  The secretary is made of walnut.

 

 

 

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Svindersvik:   A beautiful Gustavian room as it was decorated several hundred years ago.  This room is a pavilion that was added to the property by the owners to entertain Gustav III.  Fluted pilasters  with lighted sconces line the walls.  The floors are plain, unstained wood.   Gustavian chairs and sofa share the space with the ubiquitous crystal chandelier.

 

 

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A beautiful blue and white tiled fireplace at Svindersvik's pavilion.

 

 

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Svindersvik:    This room is famous for its chinoiserie styled handpainted wallpaper imported from China.    Also in the room are mirrors and crystal chandeliers, along with a set of silk damask covered  neoclassical furniture signed Jacob of Paris.   Another gilded wood clock hangs on the wall.  The floor in this room is polished with a painted pattern in the middle.

 

 

 

Another important Gustavian home, Sturehof is a summer manor house remarkable for its faience tiled fireplaces.  The owner of the home, Johan Liljencrantz, Gustav III's Minister of Finance, owned the Marieberg faience factory which constructed the 20 tile stoves here, one for each room.   The fireplace tiles were made in bright colors and shiny glaze.  They became the focal point of each room and served as the inspiration when decorating the interiors.    Sturehof was designed in the Gustavian style and artisans such as Lars Bolander (the original!) and Louis Masreliez helped with the decor.

 

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Sturehof  has  not only its unique collection of 18th century Swedish tile stoves but also, lovely preserved Gustavian interiors.  Here, a pale blue bedroom looks into the dining room and another room past that.  The decor at Sturehof was very costly, from the parquet floors to the stoves, to the furniture and chandeliers.  This fireplace is a columnar style in blue and white tiles.  The chairs are styled after Louis XVI.

 

 

 

A close up view of the the blue bedroom above.  Here you can see a jib style door hidden in the molding and painted canvas.  Through the door you can see a typical Swedish style sofa. 

 

 

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A guest room at Sturehof, this tiled stove is considered one of the most magnificent ever made.    The walls of the guest room were handpainted, though it is believed because there are gilded wood moldings around the sections that silk was intended to be hung instead.

 

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Sturehof:   This corner stove has lovely deep pink flowers on the tile which in turn set the room's decorative theme.

 

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Sturehof:   In a green room with silk damask wall hangings, the stove again is decorated with deep pink flowers.  Sturehof with its 20 fireplaces has the largest collection today of the tiled stoves that came out of the Marieberg factory.

 

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Bjorkslund, another Swedish neoclassic manor house, photographed by Michael Perlmutter.  Notice the clock on this house, just above the center windows.

 

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At Bjorkslund, an elegant, columnar fireplace, placed inside an oval space.   The walls here are very plain which is unusual for the Gustavian style.

 

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Bjorkslund:  This library has the green walls associated with Gustavian design.

 

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Maltesholm, a great Renaissance castle built surrounded by a moat.   One redesign of the interiors was completed in 1780, in the middle of the Gustavian period.  The year the castle was built is noted in giant numbers on both sides of the house.  And in the center section, is the ever popular clock!

 

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One room at Maltesholm features this lovely red and white faience tiled fireplace with red and white toile and upholstery.  Charming!

 

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When Gustav III first visited the newly built castle Ovedskloster, pictured above, he said it was  "suited for a King, not a nobleman" and turned his back in anger.  What a baby!    Built in 1771-76 by the famous architect Carl Hårleman, it is said to resemble the castle Drottningholm where the Royal family of Sweden still live today. 

 

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Michael Perlmutter captured the drawing room at Ovedskloster, which is still a private home.  I'm not sure if both of these fireplaces are real, but it appears they are.   The colors in this room are just beautiful  Rich red silk damask covers the walls and the furniture.  The floor is an elaborate parquet pattern.  What I especially love are the blue and white garden seats being used as tables! 

 

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Stora Vosby, an 18th century  manor home remarkable for its absence of an exterior clock!

 

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At Stora Vosby, the fireplace sets the tone for the decor in blue and white.    Here the fireplace is set in place to balance the double doors.  It would be interesting to see if there is another fireplace across the room.  The tiles of the fireplace are somewhat different here - they comprise an overall design, rather than each tile being the same.   Notice the large oval paintings over the doors. 

 

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This gorgeous room in Hasselbyholm is a vision in gold and white.   The walls have been faux marbled.  Notice the great symmetry at play in this room.    There are cameos facing each, again in symmetry,  above the two doors.  The fireplace is quite different than most others, combining both the columnar  and rectangular shapes.  It is truly a piece of art. 

 

 

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Heby, a manor house.  Beautiful in white, the house has a red tiled roof.  The ever present clock is set into molding.  The facade is a lovely symmetrical design.

 

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The same house many, many years earlier.  Notice the house isn't white and the roof looks completely different.   The center part of the facade is both dark and light. 

 

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The white exterior of Heby matches the interior here.  Notice there isn't a crystal chandelier!  The furniture is all stained wood also as opposed to painted wood.

 

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During renovations at Ekensberg Manor, the wallpaper was removed to reveal the rather plain wall decorations of the Gustavian era.  The portrait is of Gustav III.  The bust is of his brother Carl XIII.  The furniture is neoclassic.

 

So, how DO the Swedish  live today, those who love Gustavian design?  We have seen lots of examples of how Americans do Gustavian in Veranda and Southern Accents magazines.  But how do the Swedish do Neoclassical?

 

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This home is an original Gustavian era home that is still lived in.  It is not a museum, although the decorations have been very well preserved.  The furniture is not strictly Gustavian, rather there are reproductions of both Swedish and country french design.  It is a comfortable looking room and appears well lived in.  Rugs cover the plain, unstained wood floors.  This house is a good example of how you can mix 18th century design and take it into the 21st century.  Just  beautiful!

 

 

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How do the Swedish live who can not afford period Gustavian antiques or who live in a newer home of the 19th or 20th century as opposed from the 18th?   In other words, how do "regular" Swedish people do Gustavian?   This modern day room is Gustavian in feel with it's light colors and painted and gilded furniture and unstained wood floor.  It has the crystal chandeliers and the Louis XVI styled chairs so important to the Gustavian look.

 

 

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This modern day Swedish interior boasts a lovely tiled fireplace and lots of painted wood furniture.  Crystal chandeliers add to the  Gustavian mood as does the pale, wood floor. 

 

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A neoclassical styled bed brings a Gustavian feel to this Swedish bedroom.  The canopy is made of Chelsea Editions embroidered fabric.  Small mirrors with lighted candles are typically Swedish.

 

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The younger generation of Swedes love white and gray interiors.   Here, this dining room reflects that love of the Gustavian style.  An ancient, plain white tiled fireplace warms the room, while an antique Swedish table is surrounded by painted neoclassical styled chairs with flouncy white slips.  As always, there is a crystal chandelier and mirrored sconces and pale wood floors.  Lovely!

 

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Another dining room from Sweden, with Gustavian elements - white washed floors, crystal chandelier, gray painted furniture.  The chairs though are not Gustavian, but rather OKA Direct catalogue orders from England!!  The look is effective though.  I like how the Swedish cover their tables with two white tablecloths so that the legs of the table are hidden.   I use this trick to when entertaining.

 

 

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And finally, one last Swedish room with traditional gray painted authentic Gustavian designed chairs and table.

 

As these modern day interiors show, the Swedish can enjoy the Gustavian look without spending a fortune unlike our counterparts in America.  There are a number of companies who make fine reproduction Swedish furniture, Chelsea Editions, for one, comes to mind immediately.    The look is fresh, light and youthful.   The mirrors and crystals of the style add just a touch of elegance and bring light into the room, something the dark Swedish winters needed.   The Gustavian  style lends itself to inexpensive fabrics such as checks and white linens.   The pale blues and grays and greens are a soothing  alternative to the warm colors of the Tuscany look once so popular, but which now seems suddenly dated.   Amazon has several wonderful books on Swedish style and if you are interested in reading more about the subject, go here.

 

And lastly, I could not have completed this blog without the kind cooperation of the photographer Michael Perlmutter who so graciously agreed to lend me his gorgeous images of the Swedish tiled fireplaces and houses.   I happened upon his web site and was overwhelmed by the beauty he had captured in the many 18th century manor houses across Sweden.  An American architect now living in Sweden with his family, Michael practices architectural photography.  His images seen here and on his web site were published in a book, “Swedish Tiled Stoves from the Eighteenth Century,” which was nominated in 2007 for the prestigious August Prize for best non-fiction book of the year.  The book was three years in the making, and is based on over ten years research by the author Susanna Scherman.  Unfortunately the book is only available in Swedish, but you can find it under this name  Den svenska kakelugnen.    To visit Michael's web site and see more of his images, go here.   Thanks, Michael for everything!