Monday, May 31, 2010

The Ultimate Beach Bungalow

In celebration of Memorial Day and the arrival beach season today’s post is an antique postcard view of Ocean House, an immense Santa Monica beachfront mansion built in the 1920’s by media tycoon William Randolph Hearst for longtime mistress Marion Davies. Designed by Julia Morgan the architect of Hearst’s famous castle at San Simeon; the Georgian Colonial style Ocean House with its long columned veranda reminiscent of Mount Vernon on steroids had over 100 rooms, two swimming pools, and three separate guest houses each a Mansion in its own right. From the 1920’s until the 1940’s Hearst and Davies; whose love affair of over 30 years began when Hearst spotted Davies as a Zeigfeld Follies chorus girl; entertained the Hollywood elite at Ocean House in grand scale.After the Davies era the mansion was converted into a hotel and the pool into a private beach club, which remained in operation long after the hotel was closed and the mansion demolished. In the 90’s the site served as the beach club set for filming of the original 90210 television series, and just recently underwent a complete renovation by the Annenberg Foundation into a public beach facility. Now known as the Annenberg Community Beach House the site still retains one of the original Georgian Colonial guest houses now fully restored to it’s original 1920’s splendor.Image courtesy of Annenberg Community Beach House site.

Click here for a tour of the interiors of Ocean House.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At Home with the Romanovs

Our previous post on the Yusupov Mansion has me thinking back on my visit to Russia and all the sites I would love to see again as well as those I hadn’t the chance to see.
The most intriguing of these perhaps is one that may never be seen again as it was one of the lost private interiors of the last Tsar and Tsarina Nicholas and Alexandra. The Maple room of the Alexander Palace; so named for the lavish use of maple wood in it’s decoration; was conceived in 1902 as a private sitting room for the Tsarina and her children in the then very modern Art Nouveau style.
Among the most unique features of this space was an elaborately carved balcony spanning the room, which allowed Alexandra access to her husbands study across the hall while creating cozy nooks for her and the children around the tiled fireplace. In one of the opposite corners stood a massive custom designed semi-circular sofa surrounded by a ledge for displaying objects d’art and surmounted by an elegantly carved Maplewood cabinet which once held the Tsarina’s famous collection of Faberge eggs. Surrounding this comfortable nook are framed family portraits reminding us this was indeed a family room, albeit for one of the wealthiest and most powerful families on earth.
One of the most spectacular aspects of this eclectic gem had to be the incredible ceiling treatment of realistically detailed plaster roses concealing a then cutting edge indirect lighting system that would bath the ceiling in a soft green light. Perhaps one day this unique work of interior design will be restored to enchant visitors once again with its one-of-a-kind style. Anyone interested in more information on the Maple Room, the Alexander Palace, or the Romanov family should be sure to visit the incredible website Alexander Palace Time Machine.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Eclectic European Art Pottery

European art pottery, lushly hand painted majolica in particular, holds a special charm so different from it's finer porcelain counterparts. This long cabinet-top display ending with a huge Italian ceramic serving bowl includes a varied selection of art pottery and majolica items culled from our online shop along with select pieces from our own private collection.
The large wildly detailed platter is a contemporary piece from Portugal that makes a rich backdrop for three vintage Italian floral plates interspersed with a charming set of antique white Italian ceramic pitchers in a modeled grapevine motif. The rose garland apothecary jar to the right is a unique vintage German piece that perfectly compliments the delicate floral motifs of the platter.
An unusual owl tureen sits surrounded by Portuguese and Italian majolica pitchers; while an equally unique white platter peeks out from behind. The matching pair of old Italian bowls flanking the group have especially rich detailing and lavish hand painting.

Photos and styling by Knickerbocker.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Antique Window Glass

With our love for all things old, unique, and beautiful it will come as no surprise that we at Knickerbocker are completely enamored by old window glass. These ancient handmade panes are awash with swirling imperfections capable of softening any view into a mesmerizing impressionist painting. The view pictured here of course isn’t just any view. In fact we shot this image at the Capitoline Museums in Rome where the entire complex; including that dreamy balcony just beyond the doors; was designed over 400 years ago by none other than Michelangelo himself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Russian Rococo Restored

After revisiting Rio’s Lage Mansion in a previous post I wanted to share another inspiring residence encountered on my travels.

I first came upon the Yusupov Pavilion several years ago on a tour of St. Petersburg and it’s environs. The long neglected structure was undergoing a complete restoration and my group was invited to witness craftsmen fashioning plaster into the froth of Rococo scrolls encrusting the exterior.

Built in 1856 by architect I. Moniguetti, this exuberant Rococo fantasy was inspired by the great palaces designed a century earlier by the Italian master Bartolomeo Rastrelli, including the nearby Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. For wonderful artistic images of the ruined building before restoration see numbers 13 and 14 in the gallery here.

The beautiful summerhouse seen here in a period photo was built for Princess Zinaida Yusupova to house her collections of fine art and rare minerals. It's said the Princess was originally offered the mansion by the Tsar himself in exchange for her participation in amorous endeavors. Being one of the wealthiest women in Russia she chose instead to decline his advances and simply have the plans constructed herself. The Yusopov family is perhaps best known to history for Zinaida’s great grandson Prince Felix’s involvement in the assassination of Rasputin at one of the Yusupov’s St. Petersburg palaces.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Old Oak Sideboard

Even with plans to change the pale gray wall color you can’t help but notice how beautifully the color complements the golden oak of this antique Mission sideboard. The clean lines and simple hardware give the piece a decidedly Asian influence perfect for a collection of Asian porcelain.

The large and elaborate porcelain figure represents the ancient Chinese wise man Sau, seen here watching over the charming figure of a baby with gilded koi fish. The elaborate floral and butterfly ginger jar, beautifully crafted in the cloisonné enamel technique, adds another luxurious dose of color.

Along the top ledge are four blue and white Chinese porcelain cups with intricate bird and branch designs clustered around the portrait of a young eighteenth century lady. This elegant hand colored print overlaps a larger fragmented eighteenth century print chosen at the flea market in Rome for it’s unique subject matter. This romantic work of art centered on an enthroned female was framed shadowbox style to accentuate the ravages of time on the 250 year old paper.

The image of an elegantly seated female is echoed by an unusual old cast metal sculpture depicting a regal noblewoman seated with an anchor. Light from the beautifully carved antique lamp of polish Carrara marble plays off the gilding of an unusual hand carved Italian Rococo scroll mirror, as well as a realistic pair of cast brass antelope antlers and the softly aged patina of a finely detailed brass wall sconce.

Photos and home staging by KS&D.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Architectural Accessories

You may have noticed in previous posts we have a penchant at Knickerbocker Antiques & Vintage for elaborate birdcages as decorative accessories. People often assume we must keep birds as pets, which isn’t the case at all, my interest in these fanciful structures is purely an aesthetic one. The miniature domes, columns, and arches utilized on these thoughtfully designed pieces make them something like a classical architectural model.

Pictured here is a lovely example crafted of Indian rosewood and iron with gilded details featuring a wealth of classic architectural design elements including a row of columns surmounted by urns and an intricate copula atop the dome. This beautiful piece including the elegant stand is to be auctioned tomorrow at the Christie’s Interiors sale in London.

Also up for sale in the Christie’s auction is what may very well be the ultimate architecturally inspired home accessory. This show-stopping conversation piece is actually a cupboard designed in the form of an English Palladian townhouse complete with brick detailing, fluted pilasters, individual window mullions, and a columned entry beneath an arched fanlight.

Images courtesy of

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opposites Attract

One of the best aspects of the eclectic aesthetic is the limitless freedom to mix and match pieces culled from various backgrounds, cultures, and styles. A great way to draw attention to special pieces is by pairing them with unlikely mates as illustrated here by a collection of fine porcelain displayed on the bare wood shelf of this rustic cabinet.

The intricate detailing of these elaborate porcelain Rococo candelabra is somehow more evident when contrasted against the natural graining of the surrounding beadboard. Not only does the raw wood throw the lavish candelabra into high relief but the porcelain also serves to ennoble the rustic nature of the simple cabinet.

Filling out the elegant china collection are several pieces of fine French Limoges including a beautiful hand painted pink and gold antique bowl, a floral Haviland biscuit jar, a fancy footed compote dish, and a charming pair of antique scallop shell saltcellars. At the center is a wonderfully realistic Italian majolica fruit pyramid adding a touch of whimsy. The blue and white china plates round out the display nicely while contributing a subtle hint of pattern to the mix.

The porcelain and china has been limited to the center shelf allowing for stacks of art books and a handful of unique accessories including a classical bust, an antique horse sculpture, and a fanciful birdcage of wire scrollwork holding a potted vine.

Photos and styling by Knickerbocker.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Palace for Art

At the foot of Rio de Janeiro’s Corcavado mountain, home of the famous Brazilian monument Christ the Redeemer, there stands a high wrought iron fence surrounding a lush patch of rainforest. At the center of this tropical garden, down a drive lined in towering Imperial palms, stands this ornate stone palace.

The Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage is a school devoted to the fine arts in Rio de Janeiro. Since 1975 the institution has been housed in a spectacular 1920’s stone mansion built for shipbuilder Henrique Lage by the architect Mario Vodrei. An exuberant work of eclecticism this opulent structure cites influences from various styles and historical periods.

The grand arched entry leads into a lavish courtyard surrounding a rectangular stone pool. The dramatic architecture leads your eye up and away to the sweeping view of Corcovado and the distant figure of Christ the Redeemer. That first dramatic glimpse into the courtyard is captured here in a painting I completed after a visit several years ago.

After visiting and falling in love with the mansion I’ve recognized it in various television spots ranging from a fabric softener commercial to interiors and exteriors for the Snoop Dog video “Beautiful”, from which these images are taken. The interior shot is a grand room to the left of the entry with spectacular black and white veined marble lined walls and an intricately coffered ceiling.

This romantic location is both a masterpiece of eclectic residential architecture as well as a truly inspiring palace for the arts.
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