Interior Designer Juan Pablo Molyneux’s 12th century French chateau, surrounded by a moat.The cover story of the new issue of WSJ magazine is about the restoration of Juan Pablo Molyneux’s 12th-century château at Pouy-sur-Vannes in France. Molyneux is one of those designers whose clients are all on either the International Best Dressed List OR the Forbes 100. For instance, his last client was the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Suhaim Al-Thani of Qatar in Doha for whom Molyneux designed his 40,000 sq. ft. palace – every square foot. There is nothing minimal about Molyneux – the more the better is his trademark.This view is from Molyneux’s chateau of the former stables which is now an academy for the artisans who are working on the restoration. And beyond is the indoor pool – in what was once the orangery. Connected to the pool, unseen, is the tennis court.Although Molyneux’s chateau is not nearly as large as the Sheikh’s, it does have 14 fireplaces. It is believed to have been built by the mysterious Templars in 1145. Molyneux has hired a small army of artisans to restore the palace in record time, but it was still a massive job. Every room that has been completed by the artisans is decorated with walls and ceilings in either leather, faux marbling, murals or whatever else Molyneux either dreamed up or borrowed from the old masters.Inside the former orangery where Molyneux installed an indoor pool. Notice the gorgeous beams and rafters and the massive stone walls. I love how he painted the doors blue to match the pool.In the entry – the painting is Venetian from the 17th century. Notice the ceiling – painted by the artisans.The artisans created the faux marbling on the walls of the dining room. The chairs are rare Louis XV - signed by Jacob.A serene guest bedroom in French blue. Notice the bed alcove’s mural which mimics the chair fabric. I love the lone painting on the wall.One of the cozy bedrooms in a turret – with an antique French day bed. This is a look Molyneux uses in bedrooms – he likes red and blue toiles.And now we come to the original question asked – the living room. When is a good thing too much?The living room was designed for either one or many to feel comfortable in. The fabric is silk velvet tiger print – and no, it’s not the famous Scalamandre velvet. It’s Bevilacqua from Venice.Silk Velvet Tiger is a real luxury. The Scalamandre is the most popular and one of the most expensive – retailing up to $2,000 a yard, wholesale is less – of course. You can find yardage on Ebay for a large discount, but it probably will not be not enough fabric to cover a large sofa. Still – would you want to?When is a good thing too much? It’s rare to find such a large piece of furniture covered in this velvet because of it’s cost. But – regardless of cost, is this just too much of a good thing?Yes? No?I vote Yes - too much of a good thing. I really dislike this room, I hate to say! I think the molding on the walls, the red ceiling, the curtains, the rug, the ottoman all clash with the sofa. And just because it’s a silk velvet tiger doesn’t mean you have to like it. Even the Scalamandre! I personally like the Brunschwig & Fils, yet you may be different. You need to look at the color – some tigers are either too yellow or orange or both, like above! Some are too dense, some not dense enough, like above! Be sure to pick the exact tiger velvet you prefer, don’t follow the crowd.And think about the frame the velvet will go on. I think this sectional sofa frame is just too big, too bulky for the busy tiger.Yes, this is way too much!!!Here is a bedroom designed by Juan Pablo Molyneux. He covered two gorgeous Empire style chairs in the velvet – but left the back of the chair -plain. The fabric is so much more effective here than in his living room above. The tiger looks elegant here.
Here Molyneux mixed a chair in the tiger velvet with red and yellow toile. To me – the velvet blends in too much with the toile – it seems a waste to use it here.In another example of too much or not enough - in this NYC townhouse, Jeffrey Bilhuber used silk tiger velvet on the sofa’s cushions – I don’t really understand this – either use it or don’t. This is a Brunschwig and Fils tiger fabric. For some reason – I feel like Bilhuber should have covered the entire sofa in the velvet.
Here’s another view of the room – it certainly could have handled a tiger velvet sofa. The room is supposed to look busy and lively and fluid – and the entire sofa would have fit right in.
Perhaps – a sectional sofa in tiger velvet is just too much – but a sofa in the tiger is just enough?
In the same house Bilhuber used a green Christopher Hyland silk velvet tiger and even paired it with a trim! I love this!
Anne Getty used the green tiger velvet – mixed with the deep blue – stunning! And yes – too much, but still not enough! The sconce! The objets d’ art on that sconce!!! Gorgeous!!!! So much prettier than new accessories bought from catalogues. Save up for antique accessories – they are so much finer!!! Search EBay. I just bought a fabulous antique Blue Opaline vase on EBay for just $86!!!!
In his French country house, designer/owner Charles Spada covered his antique French canape in the silk velvet tiger. He used Brunschwig and Fils as opposed to Scalamandre. Again – the antique frame is perfect for this velvet and paired with solid chairs and plain walls – it is stunning.
Miles Redd used two slipper chairs. These look so stiff – not all good on these chairs, but he didn’t ask me!!! haha!! Sorry Miles. (hiding)
But look here – at this French antique chair. Doesn’t the velvet look gorgeous here? So perfect!!!! The frame!
Again, an antique English frame – looks fabulous mixed against the stark stone.
Kelly Wearstler used the tiger velvet in pink on an entire sofa – and somehow – it looks perfect for the space and the contemporary design.
This shows how perfect the tiger is in pillows!
Here Miles Redd used the tiger velvet as pillows.
This just all clashes with the tiger. Sometimes it looks good with a blend of patterns, but other times it just falls flat.
Here Tory Burch used it in pillows around her NYC living room.
The other side of the living room with more lumbar sized tiger pillows – just the right amount? Such a gorgeous room!
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Here Palmer Weiss used a tiger pillow in a room that is reminiscent of Tory Burch’s.
I first became obsessed with tiger velvet when Shabby Slips owner and the very talented Renea Abbott starting using the fabric in her store and on her projects. The tiger print looks beautiful mixed with the white linens and black accents that Renea likes to use.
Mixed with leopard velvet. Another Renea Abbott creation. The throw!!! Gorgeous!
Here Renea covered two chairs in this living room. Stunning use of the fabric. I love how she mixed the striped pillow in with it.
I love this living room- with just two tiger pillows!!
Good frames – but just way too much of a good thing here. Looks like Las Vegas?
This gorgeous apartment by Valentino partner Giancarlo Giammetti that was designed by French great Jacques Grange. He used two silk velvet tiger fabric by Le Manach on the armchairs and they both look so cozy and enveloping. I absolutely love this room and yes that IS an Alexander Calder sculpture. If you can imagine!!
This is another living room with the same color scheme as above but here the tiger velvet doesn’t blend in as well. Not sure if the tiger is too yellow? Or is the beige too light? Can’t compare to how the tiger looks with the fabric in the living room above this one!
Jenny of the famous blog Little Green Notebook found the Scalamandre velvet on Ebay and recovered her industrial styled desk chair with the tiger fabric!
This isn’t tiger – but you don’t have to spend a fortune on the velvet to get the look. This was from Calico Corners and it looks great.
Lewis and Sheron HERE for just under $20!!!
Amazon!! Just click on the picture to order.
Which all brings me back to this famous silk velvet tiger sofa. It might just be the most famous silk velvet tiger covered sofa ever.
It starts like this:
1966. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s sister, Princess Lee Radziwill, married to a Polish prince, lived for the first part of her marriage 4 blocks from Buckingham Palace. She had her long, narrow “bowling lane” drawing room designed several times – but she was never happy with the results.
Here, Jacqueline Kennedy dances with her clothing designer Oleg Cassini while Princess Lee Radziwill looks on. The décor is decidedly French.
I wrote an extensive article about Lee Radziwill’s houses – rather than repeat it on this blog, if you are interested in reading it, go HERE.
After several tries at decorating, she hired the maximalist designer Renzo Mongiardino who created this masterpiece. He used lowly cotton bedspreads which he hung from the walls installed within plastic gold frames. The room became iconic and remains so today – it has been copied many times since including by the famously chic Michael Smith. Here Lee sits with her son Anthony.
The other side of the room – where Radziwill sits on basically a bed – with her daughter Tina.
Last year, Architectural Digest published this floor plan of this iconic room.
Michael Smith’s room where he paid homage to Lee and Renzo using bedpreads on the walls and curtains. Love this guest room!
Lee worked with Renzo again on her country house and her NYC duplex. She says she first discovered him and recently she wrote about him in glowing terms, but was quite blunt when talking about their later relationship:
“I adored working with him. Later when he became very well known, and started getting very large commissions, he became more serious and lost a bit of his warmth and simplicity, which had so attracted me.” OUCH!!!
The courtyard at Turville Grange, the country house of the Radziwills. The outbuildings and barns around the courtyard became toile filled guest rooms.
Turville Grange’s front hall is flower filled. The entire house was designed by Renzo to be as if you had stepped inside a garden.
The knockout room at Turnville Grange was the dining room which Renzo created by gluing (much to Lee’s regret when she had to move) silk scarves to the walls.
After President John Kennedy was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy convinced the Radziwills to move to NYC to be closer to Jacqueline. They moved to a duplex off Central Park on Fifth Avenue. Renzo was brought in to design the living room which he did by offering a cherry red fabric, a Bessarabian rug, and lettuce green silk taffeta curtains which have never been seen since. This was the last of the Renzo/Radziwill collaboration. It has never been revealed who finished the apartment, but perhaps Lee did herself.
Living in NYC, the two Kennedy children and the two Radziwill children became as close as brothers and sisters, rather than cousins. John Kennedy and Anthony Radziwill became extremely close and remained so throughout adulthood.
The double sofa in the cherry red living room. Over the fireplace is a mirror that is in her NYC apartment today.
In her dining room – she put silk velvet tiger fabric on the chairs.
But more important on the sofa – she used the tiger velvet along with the stools. Those medallions on the wall are in Lee’s NYC dining room today.
But what happened to this sofa?
The Radziwills divorced and Lee sold this duplex and moved to Park Avenue to an apartment with a terrace. She reports that what she missed the most was that her two children had now moved out. Perhaps the sofa went with one of them?
The Park Avenue apartment used most of the same furniture as Fifth Avenue, but the feel was totally different. Lee said it reminded her of Turville Grange with all the flowers. Here, the living room opens to the terrace.
Another view of the living room with the flower strewn wallpaper and fabrics. It does look so much like Turville Grange. No sign of the tiger sofa?
The dining room looks completely different even with the same furniture. Her botanicals followed her from Turville Grange to Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue – and now they are in her Paris apartment, below.
Lee Radziwill’s Paris apartment, today. Filled with pink – her collection of botanicals looks gorgeous over her sofa.
Eventually Lee’s son Anthony met and married a fellow journalist, Carole DiFalco, who admits she grew up on the other side of the railroad tracks from the blueblood royal Radziwill family. John Kennedy lovingly teased Anthony over his title, calling him “The Principe.” Here, at Anthony and Carole’s wedding, John Kennedy is his best man and Caroline Kennedy’s husband and son are also shown – at the very left.
Anthony was a testicular cancer survivor and he had a recurrence right before his wedding. He was again diagnosed with cancer right after his wedding. Carole felt what turned out to be a cancerous lump on Anthony during their honeymoon.
Some time after the Radziwill wedding, John Kennedy married Carolyn Bessette and the two couples became a foursome – best friends, forever.
I’m sure you know the ending of this sad story – but for those who don’t, Anthony’s cancer was terminal, and he spent the entire five years of their marriage fighting it – with numerous surgeries and treatments. Carolyn and John Kennedy stood by Carole and kept her strong, taking over some of the duties of caring for Anthony. They went to the hospital and sat with her while she watched over Anthony helping to keep her and Anthony’s spirits up.
As Anthony got sicker and death was approaching, John talked to Carole about discussing the inevitable of the illness with Anthony – hoping it would help him deal with the finality of the situation. Anthony and John never had had a chance to have that conversation. Instead, fate took a cruel turn.
While Anthony slept on Martha’s Vineyard, Carole sat up one vacation night, waiting for John and Carolyn and Carolyn’s sister Lauren to join them – flying in from NYC on John’s small private plane.
While the world watched stunned, Carole and Anthony were in shock. Anthony was the one who supposed to die – not John and certainly not Carolyn. At once, they each lost their best friend.
While John’s ashes are put out to sea, Anthony sits, leaning on his cane, too weak from his illness to stand for long periods of time. Anthony died just three weeks later, leaving Carole completely bereft and on her own.
Carole was alone – within three weeks, she had lost her two best friends and her husband – where there were once four, there was now one left – Carole. Four years after the deaths, she wrote “What Remains” which is a stunning book of grief and friendship and cancer. It’s not a pretty book, and it’s heartbreakingly sad. Honestly, I was scared to read it, but I did and it remains one of the better books I’ve read. I highly recommend it. Double click on the image above to order it.
So what ever happened to Lee’s tiger sofa which was last seen in her Fifth Avenue duplex’s library?
The sofa makes several appearances in Carole’s book – here is what she wrote about The Sofa:
On the subject of her and Anthony’s new apartment – Carole writes: “We disagreed immediately on the décor. He has a couch covered in tiger velvet that doesn’t quite seem to fit in the living room and he has mismatched chairs.”
Of course – the tiger velvet sofa is her new mother-in-law Lee Radziwill’s old sofa – and one of the mismatched chairs is a clumsy rocker that was once Anthony’s uncle President John Kennedy’s. Needless to say – the rocker and the sofa both remained. After Jacqueline passed on, the family had an auction at Sotheby’s and one of the President’s rockers goes for over $400,000. Carole and Anthony, watching the auction, are stunned. They arrange for their rocker to go to the 2nd highest bidder – Prince Albert of Monaco. After taxes and fees, they use the auction money to renovate their new apartment.
Carole writes of the new apartment “A friend who works at Ralph Lauren arranges a deal that allows us to buy furniture at cost, if we let Elle Décor do a photoshoot when the apartment is finished – highlighting the RL Collection. We order two leather chairs and a dining room table and chairs. I go to DeAngelis on 95 St. for our couches because it’s where Lee goes for hers.”
Further, Carole adds how her mother-in-law Lee influenced her style in the early days “I picked up a sheaf of good paper at the stationers and a leather case and set it by the phone with razor point felt tip pens – because I noticed this in Lee’s house.” I want to do this too!!
And this “I put fabric on the walls of the TV room, like Lee, with a matching Roman shade. They came out all wrong – but there isn’t time to care. To finish (before the photoshoot) is the thing. I furnish the apartment all at once, like a showroom.”
Most important to this story, she writes – “The tiger couch for instance is not just a couch – but one Lee had custom made at DeAngelis. It has been photographed for fashion books. People in certain circles know this couch.”
Yes, Carole, people in certain circle DO know this sofa.
There is one quote that is often cited on the internet that Carole said about the sofa. I couldn’t find where the source, but it goes like this: “ I have received offers for the sofa that would fund a summer home in France.” A slight exaggeration, I’m sure – but at $2,000 a yard and needing around 25 yards – you can do the math.
After Anthony died, Carole quickly moved to a new apartment. She quit her job and then a few years later started writing her book. She recently just wrote her second one – about dating. Carole is good friends with Andy Cohen who runs Bravo TV and two years ago, he begged her to star on his hit show “The Real Housewives of New York” – ok ok ok – another Bravo show that I watch!
Bravo Real Housewives of New York – Carole Radziwill is on the far left, seated.
Carol is the classiest of the bunch on this show – probably the classiest of all the housewives on the network. She is smart and chic in a very casual way and she seems so honest and appears to be a real friend. But, this is reality TV so who knows what she is really like? But, in my humble opinion, she does appear to be the real deal.
And her apartment? It is a knock out! She recently renovated it some – so here, take a look at it:
Here is the BEFORE of Carole’s entry. The long hall is very narrow – and it ends with the kitchen, which is behind Carole. The room was very plain – but chic with a narrow console where she lit candles.
AFTER: The entry has been wallpapered in dark brown – with Phillip Jeffries gorgeous – “Rivets.” At the end of the hall is the newly renovated kitchen with its black and white striped floor. This paper is just stunning and so sophisticated – exactly what the apartment is.
And her is the AFTER of her living room – it has a double height ceiling. And here is the famous Lee Radziwill sofa. Now – think about this, Lee moved into the Fifth Avenue duplex around 1964 – this makes the sofa around 50 years old!!! Amazing! It is faded, which only adds to its charm. There were some torn pieces on the arms – but it looks like her interior designer bought new fabric and added it over the two arms. Smart! In the throw-away society we live in today – to have a 50 year old sofa still look this good, is amazing! Her renovation was subtle - the rug was added, and the two cream covered chairs are now green velvet.
Looking down – there is a loft in the apartment. Here, you can see the layout. In the mirror you can see the stairs that lead to the loft.
Renovation by Wayman Robertson
AFTER: Notice the Marilyn Monroe photograph. Carole keeps a turntable on that console, along with her collection of vinyl records! I would love to still have a record player. What a great idea. Before the redecorating, she had two antique Chinese elm chairs – but they are now gone! Why?????
Carole talks about the photograph: “It’s an original Bert Stern photograph of Marilyn Monroe. He's a fashion photographer who took 2,500 pictures of her shortly before she died. It was a shoot for Vogue magazine at the Bel-Air Hotel in Hollywood and the collection is very famous now, it's called "The Last Sitting." I went to a furniture show one day looking for dining room chairs but instead brought home Marilyn. I'm still sitting on the floor”
Here is the sofa – 50 years ago in Lee’s Fifth Avenue Library.
Here is a BEFORE shot of the apartment – you can see one of the Chinese chairs – there is another one on the other side of the console. Actually, the console table there now is new – it’s smaller than this one and there are two tall lamps that act as focal points along the back wall. You can see here how the sofa is well worn, especially on the arms and cushions – before she recovered the arms.
Carole, now 50, on an interview. You can see how torn the velvet was especially on the arms. This is where it was restored with new fabric.
BEFORE: You can see how the stairs lead to the loft. Before there was just a ladder, but when Carole moved in – she had these stairs built. Stunning! Notice the small landing. At the loft – there is a small office and her closet. She wants to move her office to the kitchen (yes!) and turn the entire loft into her closet. Here – you can see there was once a baby grand under the stairs. That was moved out to make room for a new seating arrangement. And – you can see how beautiful her dark hardwoods are.
After: Under the stairs – the piano is now gone and a gold velvet sectional was added, along with leopard velvet pillows and a contemporary sunburst mirror. I would have loved an antique sunvurst instead, but no one asked me! I think it would have been a great authentic touch in her apartment. The designer copied the fabric wrapped legs of the velvet sofa here on the sectional.
Carole, publicizing her new book: The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating – A Novel.
Order by clicking above!
Two vignettes – notice how good the sofa’s arm was fixed!!!
A nighttime view of the apartment.
Her bedroom – two closets flank a vanity and mirror. She keeps her intimate and fancy bedwear there! Also – the pillows say “Sleep” on one side and on the other they say – well, it starts with an “F” – she certainly has a sense of humor. She says part two of the renovation will be her bedroom – but I’m not sure if this is the After or the Before?
BEFORE: Originally, Carole wanted to redo this room making it her office – only. The decorator talked her out of this for resale purposes. Carole says she never cooks – she has never once turned on her stove – and calls this the secret of Manhattan – no one eats at home! Her refrigerator was really a bar, just filled with drinks. Carole said she wasn’t concerned about resale – she says that even if she remarried – she would always keep this apartment as her bolthole. I can’t say I blame her. So instead of making it all her office – they turned half of it into her office.
Carole sits on the cabinetry which was turned into the office part of her kitchen.
Here is the after! The black and white stripes really signal a change. Half the cabinetry on the right side was removed – and a desk was added on the right side, under the window. The appliances were replaced with much smaller ones – a tiny sink, stovetop and two refrigerator drawers – which is a brilliant idea. Notice the backsplash – mirrored subway tiles which help expand the space.
Upstairs is her office/closet. This was turned into a closet.
Her two Emmys for her news reporting. One Emmy is missing!
Carole’s instragram – showing the renovation. Everyone leaves comments about her sofa! It is such an iconic piece of furniture!!!
The fancy lingerie closet.
The family that dresses together – stays together.
Gossips have always tried to make trouble – and there is plenty of gossip about Carole and her mother-in-law. When Carole joined the Bravo show – there were newspaper headlines of how angry Lee was with her. Sometimes a picture speaks a hundred words – just a few months ago, the two were pictured at a play – very much together.
So – when IS a good thing too much?
Too much? Yes, way, way too much.
Just enough of a good thing? Yes, especially with its provenance – it’s a good thing!!!