Time flies, that’s for sure. When you are 18 and you hear your parents say that, you scoff. Sure. Time flies. A school day lasts FOREVER….A school year is INTERMINABLE. But, you become a parent, if you are lucky, and you then start dreading your own birthdays, and suddenly it dawns on you….time does flies.
And so, it seems like just yesterday when I got a call from someone I highly respect, though in honesty, I don’t know personally. She was kind enough to ring me up and ask a favor: would I mind writing a short article for her soon to be launched magazine? She was, of course, Pamela Pierce, one of Houston’s finest designers, who was switching gears and becoming an Editor of words and photographs.
After talking with her about her goals for Milieu, I realized it was to be like her – elegant, tasteful, and original.
And in the end, Milieu has proven itself to be all three. With its heavy paper, dreamy photography, and a mix of interiors from all over the world, Milieu has quickly become a favorite of readers starved for intelligent design and words. The politics of so many other titles seems missing here. If your project is on its pages, it’s because it is good – not because you are a friend of a friend or because you bought a few ads.
The cover of the first Milieu issue, FALL, 2013
Three years and twelve issues later, this Anniversary issue is a good one, one to keep upon the coffee table long past when other design magazines have been tossed. And because Pam Pierce was so sweet to ask me to be a part of her first issue, I’ll always be grateful for her generosity and I have a special place in my heart for Milieu - even though I fretted over my assignment for months and worried about it so much that I wanted to refuse her kind offer a million times. Even today – I can’t read what I wrote for that first issue, it’s too embarrassing. I’m not a professional writer, I’m just someone who started a blog for her best friend’s enjoyment.
And so, Happy Anniversary Pamela Pierce, and Milieu. Here’s to all the future issues to come!
My Last Page article in the first Milieu.
Rather than talk about myself or my blog, I tied the story into Mario Buatta’s new book. I was tortured over this assignment and didn’t want to let Pam down or make her regret choosing me. Did I ever mention how I suffer terribly from severe insecurity?
Looking back, as good as that first issue was, the magazine continues to top itself. Each issue is eagerly anticipated and never disappoints. The Anniversary Issue is as good as it gets with several to-die-for houses - but my favorite, without a doubt, is Carolina Irving’s Parisian apartment.
I thought Carolina lived in New York City and had a summer house in the Hamptons that she shared with her husband.
Well, I am TRULY out of the loop. Time marches on. Have I mentioned that?
Apparently Carolina and her husband Ian Irving divorced more than a few years ago. So long ago that he is now very happily remarried and living with his new wife in that Hamptons house. T Magazine, of the New York Times, did a long pictorial on Ian, Sotheby’s former fine silver connoisseur, and his new life with Emelie, showing the summer house which looked vaguely familiar, filled as it is with many paintings and pieces of furniture that we have long associated with Carolina and her iconic New York apartment.
First things first.
Carolina has been a huge star of the blogosphere – maybe one of its first stars and certainly one of the more respected ones. I remember when we were all so starved for photos of her fabulous apartment that Style Court found a video of it on the French magazine Interieurs’s web site.
How many times did you watch that video? I’m laughing now at how young we were back then and how naïve, and how much things have changed. My, how fast time flies.
It wasn’t long before a new apartment was discovered, thanks to the Little Augury blog.
Little Augury found the Irvings’ first apartment, published in House & Garden in 1993. A few years later the Peak of Chic discovered it too.
The rooms were stunning to fans who were used to a more casual, eclectic, and cluttered Irving aesthetic. It remains true today, these high ceilinged, elegant, bold spaces are quite different than the rooms we associate with Carolina. Located in the former ballroom of the Pulitzer Mansion, their main living room was dressy and dramatic. It was interesting, and even fun, to find possessions that they moved from the ballroom and still owned. For instance, the red and gilt lantern came to their new entry hall, along with prints of urns. Other than these, it seemed that very few pieces from the ballroom made the move.
In explanation, Carolina who is Venezuelan but grew up in Paris, said that at first she had a hard time feeling at home with her English husband’s antiques and art work. She made him sell much of it in favor of her beloved French sensibilities, only to realize later that she had made a mistake after she came to love his English style!
Today Carolina is much more sure of her likes and dislikes. In the Milieu interview she says she always decorates the same, with dhurris and skirted tables, and you can see that she was using fabric covered tables even back in 1993.
In another interview, she once said how much she loves Turkish houses with their low divans that encircle the room. She told Mark Sikes HERE that this is the best layout for a sitting room. And in the 1993 photos, she has an armless banquette that is hugging the wall ala Turkish design. She still uses armless banquettes in her sitting rooms. It’s a decorative element that has followed her for at least 25 years now.
The 1993 entry hall, which connects to the ballroom, doubles as a library, another must-have decorative element that Carolina insists on. Books. Her books follow her wherever she moves and she is very attached to them; loving the “cozy atmosphere” they lend to a room. In the above living room, that console table was later seen in their new green felt entry hall.
A beautiful red & white striped slipcovered sofa cradles their baby girl.
This sofa was never seen again. The young couple lived at the 1993 ballroom until their daughters were born, then moved to a more “normal” apartment. They didn’t stay there long either and eventually landed in what we now all think of as the “Carolina Irving Apartment.”
It is this apartment that set the blogosphere on fire. We all loved it, to say the least, and most still do. The couple’s friend, the architect Daniel Romualdez – reworked its three enfilade rooms to make one 50’ long saloon. The three rooms were divided into areas that are separated now, not by walls, but by short bookcases. No wonder the apartment is so wonderful. Daniel Romualdez? Think of this when you are curious about him:
Ramuoldez’s own house – his master bedroom.
Here, the apartment was seen in Vogue, with a darling Carolina shown in her living room. Initially the apartment was also seen in World of Interiors. Later many other magazines came to call.
The entry to the apartment has green felt walls. Two columns flank a Renaissance tapestry. The red and gilt lantern, the console table, and the prints of urns all came from their previous ballroom apartment.
Close up of treasures sitting on the gilt console.
A better photo of the entry. This potpourri vase will later end up in the Hamptons house.
The 50’ long apartment has three areas in the living room that are divided by pony walls - there is the dining/library, the living area, and the third sitting area. A blue and white striped rug anchors the middle living area. The oversized Robert Kime ottoman acts as a focal point.
Two armless chairs flanked the banquette on the left. In different photos, the dining table wore either white table cloths, a pink suzani, or was bare.
Here, the apartment is hard at work with rolls of fabric and the dining room table covered with books and samples from Carolina’s businesses. Red curtains hang in the two end sections.
Here, the gateleg table is covered by the pink suzani and the large oil painting hangs on a piece of tapestry. Today, this oil painting now hangs in the Hamptons house.
The entry hall hides behind the curtains. For a while a terra cotta figure stood on the gate leg table.
Across from the middle section – is an antique chair and antique bench with textiles piled on it. Later this bench moves to the end sitting area and the chair goes to the Hamptons house where it will be recovered.
The view towards the end sitting room section. The middle of the back wall is anchored by a skirted table and mirror, while a huge oil hangs to its right.
Another view into the third sitting area. The blue and white lamp will later sail overseas to live in Paris.
The skirted table holds a collection of the silver that Ian Irving is one of the world’s expert on.
And here, an antique card table with more silver sits in front of the window. Rugs are layered everywhere. Gorgeous painting. Later, this beauty goes to the Hamptons. The rug is lucky, it gets to move to Paris.
A view with two vases of flowers. This is another beautiful photograph.
To the left of the skirted table is an antique French daybed covered in red fabric.
Closeup of the daybed. Such a beautiful piece – today it is at the Hamptons house.
Carolina posed on the piece. The silver sconces moved overseas to Paris along with the art work. Such a gorgeous day bed. One of the prettiest that I’ve seen.
Later, after the French daybed moves to the Hamptons – it is replaced with a u-shaped banquette piled high with pillows. Very few photos are published of this room without the French daybed.
The dining room/library – with the pretty pink suzani. Such a pretty tapestry. To the right is a beaded top table that Ian Irving collects.
And later, a new, modern table appears.
In the master bedroom, a view of the closet doors flanking the bed lined in a shell fabric. Above are silhouettes of the daughters – these now are in Paris.
Across from the bed, a green tufted settee and vivid blue silk curtains. The wallpaper is a Madeleine Castaing.
Close up of the bedroom chair.
From the Interieurs Video, a rarely seen view of her chest and Oriental chair.
The bathroom – with the perfume tray and classic mosaic floor.
The NYC apartment was sold a few years ago and the pictures from the real estate ad are still on the internet. Most interesting are the floor plans showing the original layout and the newer plans drawn up by Daniel Romualdez.
The changes turned a chopped up apartment into one with a beautiful, large salon. I do think the one smaller sitting area would have made a better library instead of having it in the dining room. But maybe that smaller area was used for the children?
When Carolina and Ian Irving were married, the ceremony was held in the garden at Ian’s country house in the Hamptons. The house was filled with white wicker and Carolina said she quickly redecorated it. They soon moved to another house in Springs, East Hampton, where Ian still lives today with his wife Emilie.
The Hamptons house was also featured in magazines and their friend, Hamish Bowles’ Vogue book.
The Hamptons house - decorated by Carolina with a heavy dose of reds, yellows, and blues. Both the sofa and rug remain at the Hampton house today. Friend Christian Louboutin found the suzani tapestry and the mirror is from Madeleine Castaing. Le Manach chintz. The French settee was from another friend Peter Dunham. What talented friends!!! Incredible! I love this photo. So many of the photographs of Carolina’s houses have become classics.
From another photoshoot showing an array of Carolina Irving Textiles. A small view of the living room in front of the fireplace, with a skirted table set for lunch.
The skirted table, in linen, behind the sofa which faces the fireplace. Over the mantel is a mirror framed in lime green – the mirror remains there today.
The bedroom painted black with white trim was decorated with Carolina’s pink suzani and blue and white rugs. The cabinet door is reminiscent of the closet doors in the NYC apartment with the same shell fabric.
Another view with the settee in an Irving fabric, French chairs, and more art work.
The garden was completely landscaped – driven by Carolina’s vision. Here, live willow forms a room.
Last year the Hamptons house was photographed by T Magazine for the NYTimes. Emelie Irving collects and sells antique and vintage tapestries and fabrics and she has a beautiful store Xenomania in NYC and an Instragram, filled with images that showcases her original aesthetic.
Xenomania, as seen in Vogue Magazine. Love the look of the shop.
See how the painted floor looks like a striped dhurri. I would love to look through the fabrics!!
T Magazine: The handsome and ultra chic couple, Ian and Emelie Irving in their Hamptons house. Right off, you spy the chair that was once in the NYC apartment. And behind Ian, is the large artwork that once hung on the tapestry.
The sofa and chair are slipcovered in Fleurons d’Helene chintz from Tissus de Helene HERE. Love this fabric.
Another view of the living room, a portrait of Ian as a boy by Matthew Carr. The same lime green mirror hangs above the mantel.
In the living room, the once red sofa is now covered in Batik Raisin by Le Manach. The rug remains from earlier days. Fabrics and tapestries cover every surface. The bar is on the side table in the English tradition.
The oversized 18th-century faience potpourri vase looks familiar. It was once in the green felt NYC foyer.
The kitchen with a Kurdish rug that Emelie likes and sells in her shop. The country house has these small fluffy rugs in every room. The windows and ceilings are high here – and in the dining area. Marble counters and a farmsink. So charming!
In the master bedroom, Le Manach fabric on the bed and curtains. The spread is a 19th century curtain. White walls and white floors – love!!!!
The drawings are by Eugene Berman. I find it so interesting that out of all three – Ian, Emelie and Carolina – none design symmetrically! They are all asymmetrical designers.
If you are a strict symmetrical designer, this will drive you insane (which it does!!! haha!!) Their type of asymmetry is especially noticeable in the way they hang pictures and display lamps. I just find it so interesting that none of these three prefer symmetry.
To explain – I am strictly symmetrical. So – above, there are three drawings – with the fourth in the set off to the left. I would have hung two by two – then matched up the others drawings in different sections of the walls. I just find it so interesting – even when you look back at the 1993 ballroom, the couple still used asymmetry when designing it.
In one guest bedroom, the beautiful Louis XVI daybed is now covered in Le Manach fabric.
And in an Instagram photo, another picture of the fabulous bed. The fabric is a bit of a surprise compared to the plain red, but it actually looks great with the painted frame – which takes on a hint of a green tint.
In this guest bedroom, the Gothic revival chair wears a vintage Madeleine Castaing fabric. Another small rug by Emelie, and a vintage bedspread.
Before, the Hamptons house was a mix of French and English decor – today it wears a more Bohemian look, with its vibrant fabrics and textiles and furniture from every era.
In this guest room, the walls are now painted white, where before they were black. The bed remains from its previous life as does the lamp. Another Emelie rug. I’ve been noticing these types of rugs in all the magazines. Remember when we made these with hooks and bales of thread that shed like mad?
BEFORE: The same room, with Carolina’s rugs and textiles. While I love the white walls and floors – the black was very effective in this room.
With the Milieu photoshoot of Carolina’s Paris apartment, it’s obvious she must also have a small landing spot in NYC since she is the Creative Director of Oscar de la Renta Home. She also travels the world for her textile businesses. Her two little daughters are now grown women, time marches on.
I can’t imagine the pace Carolina must keep with all her interests and work, but – it does seem that Paris is home again.
Her apartment was recently twice photographed by the incomparable Miguel Flores-Viana - once for the new Milieu Third Anniversary Issue and once for Cabana Magazine. The images from both photoshoots are mixed below:
From Milieu, tall red doors open to a tapestry covered table and settee. The rug here made the trip overseas from the NYC apartment. Lamp and shade from Irving & Morrison, as is the curtain fabric.
From Milieu: The apartment has two main rooms – the living room and through the French doors – the dining room/library. Large doors with iron Juliet balconies overlook the boulevard. The sofa is deep pink, next to the pink suzani that should be very familiar!! A Turkish divan is covered in Carolina Irving Textiles.
Flanking the French doors are silver sconces from the NYC apartment. Below, is another blue and white rug – a staple of Carolina’s aesthetic, along with skirted tables and books. The pillows on the sofa were once a blazer that Carolina cut up. Curtains are from Irving & Morrison.
From Cabana: The pink sofa faces the marble fireplace, above which are the giant gunnera leaves which Carolina pressed almost two decades before. Once green, they are now fabulously brown. Notice the ottoman – made from a rug and camel bones that Carolina bought in India. Lamps and shades are from Irving & Morrison, as is the skirted table fabric.
Instagram: close up of the coffee table which is made from a rug Carolina brought home from L.A. rolled up in her suitcase.
The gorgeous mantel holds a collection of rocks and stones hand collected during travels.
An instagram photo of the gunnera leaves taken at night. Some of the worlds largest leaves, this is just fabulous and is definitely the focal point of the living room.
A moody daytime shot of the apartment with the original coffee table, now replaced with the rug/camel bone ottoman.
I love the lamp – from the NYC apartment. The table holds a collection of Carolina’s favorite small items. The silver sconces also came from the NYC apartment.
A view of the balcony.
And an instragram photo of the Cabana magazine resting on the same table showing in the magazine.
The skirted table – in Irving & Morrison fabric. The lamp and shade and curtains are also all from Irving & Morrison.
A behind-the-scenes of the Cabana photoshoot from Instagram. Olympia Irving takes the photo of the nighttime view. I’m loving the coffee table.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous made out of a zebra rug too? You can really see the scale of the living room and its beautiful moldings in this photo.
The dining room/library in Milieu. An incredible room. The books are all from NYC and are arranged by subject; Carolina does not like her filing system messed with! The chairs are oak, 1940s Jansen, covered in a Carolina Irving Textile. In the mirror, the plates above the French doors are seen, along with the gunnera leaves over the mantel.
A night time view from Instagram. So romantic. What a great idea – tea votives on the plates!
Just gorgeous! The table set for Easter.
During the day, the dining room is used as an office. Carolina says they entertain quite a bit.
From Cabana: A tree of life tapestry in the master bedroom. The silhouettes of Carolina’s two daughters are from the NYC apartment’s master bedroom. Such a pretty niche.
From Milieu – Carolina’s bedroom with Carolina Irving Textile wallcovering and Irving & Morrison curtains.
From the Irving & Morrison Shop – the curtains, here in blue and cream are like the ones in the living room.
Carolina’s daughter’s bedroom is done in fabric from India. The walls are Farrow and Ball Green.
And a banquette with the same fabrics and a mix of Irving & Morrison pillows.
I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane and into the future with Carolina Irving. I know I have!!
Are you inspired? I am! I want to bring out my blue and white dhurri and layer it over the seagrass. I want new dishes ala like the ones that Carolina gets in Portugal. I want more books and gunnera leaves! psst. I want to be Carolina!! As long as I can still be symmetrical though.
Irving and Morrison HERE
Carolina Irving Textiles HERE
Subscribe to Milieu HERE.
HUGE OKL LABOR DAY SALES. CLICK ON EACH PICTURE TO SEE SALES:
And even more sales HERE.