Monthly Archives: September 2012

Then and Now…Marjorie Wollan’s Apartment in NYC

You choose an object that you really love and everything else falls into place.
-Marjorie Wollan

I knew there was another reason I had been hunting for this particular issue of Elle Decor from 1996 featuring Marjorie Wollan’s New York apartment. Back in the spring I had noticed it was for sale – but totally redecorated with only a vestige of the old furniture and design. It was so different I almost couldn’t believe it! What also made the difference stand out so strongly to me is that the real estate listing photos are so bad. Their goal is showing practical information such as square footage and layout and have absolutely no styling in comparison to the magazine shoots.  So I am going to pull a mini-Joni and play a little decorator detective here. As you read, think about which way you prefer it – you’ll have no doubt of my opinions!

So as I mentioned in that last post, this was one of the first “undecorated” decorated spaces that caught my eye and it influenced me tremendously. Wollan, who worked for the French perfume company Annick Goutal at the time, had such a Gallic flair that Goutal herself said “Whatever you want to do with my company, I trust you,” upon walking into the apartment. Nothing felt planned or stagey, it was just a group of beautiful objects, some precious, some less so, arranged for comfortable living. It didn’t hurt that the large two bedroom was surrounded by a wraparound terrace on all sides with gorgeous old-fashioned French doors everywhere either!

The living room had great bookshelves with molding and sconces and well read looking books stacked and crowded in. Yes, the yellow is dated now, but was the height of fashion at the time. That being said, it was used as a neutral and not to create a particular color scheme, which was a very modern choice. Click the photo for a larger detailed view – you can even see the cute tassels along the bottom of the settee.

The close-up shots are much better. I think this might be the first of those marble-topped French bakers tables I love so. The giant clock and puddled draperies struck me as very European at the time.

Here’s a better view of the ticking stripe Chesterfield – you’ll note Elle Decor reversed the image for the front cover. There is a full length mirror on the back wall with a crystal sconce overlayed on it. I love the worn leather cushion on the painted antique chair.

The dining room was just dreamy with its polished pedestal table and unusual Thonet bentwood chairs – even the cushions and the bows – and that amazing trumeau mirror. Fancy but casual at the same time. I still love this dining room to pieces!

The master bedroom had a wonderful exposed metal canopy bed, long before the Anthroplogie one was available to everybody. Painted Chinoiserie screen paired with an antique American quilt. Ruffled sconce shade against stripey wall covering. Loved the mix!

While boasting nothing significant, the guest room had a play of color and texture.

The bathroom was all about this little shelf vignette – a perfect piece of jewelry. Brown and white aesthetic movement soap dish and toothbrush holder – all the details are there. And note the vintage style brass faucets which are the height of popularity now. Wollan was ahead of her time.

A later tear sheet from a 1999 House & Garden lists Wollan as working at Guerlain and shows a later version of what I believe is the same bathroom.  Look closely at the sink and fittings from the photo above and below – I think they are the same. But the bathroom has been redone with white marble lining the walls.  The jewelry effect has been kept with this Italian gilt mirror, exposed brass fittings and animal print chair.

A similar vignette to the one in the earlier photos has been created on this vintage marble washstand. Just so pretty without appearing staged.

And now on to the February 2012 real estate listing – 16 years after the Elle Decor spread.  The living room is structurally unchanged – the bookshelves remain and the apartment has been painted a very au courant grey. I do love this new color and with all the natural light from the many windows, I bet it works very well. The settee is gone from in front of the shelves and a flat screen TV lives there now. A leather-covered bergere sits where the bakers table used to, between the window and the french door. The Chesterfield is in the same place but has been recovered in a plain light blue fabric. Waaaah!!!! No more ticking!

Looking the other way in the living room, the large mirrors remain but just about everything else has changed. Graphic Hicks-style rug, Mies van der Rohe Barcelona cocktail table, and an animal print stool mixed together are again very “undecorated” and eclectic but very different from the original version. It is all still trés chic!

Need I say anything about the dining room? Table and chandelier are the same but everything else different! I would not have traded the gilt and marble sideboard that was there before for this mirrored armoire and more particularly the chairs! Waaaah! At first I thought no more trumeau mirror but…

…found it here on the other side of the dining room now. This entryway photo gives a good sense of how the rooms relate to each other and a view of another modern icon piece, a Le Corbusier chair, added to the living room.

I can’t tell which bedroom this is from the listing and it is the only one shown, but my suspicion is that it is the master. While charming, I think this newer version looks way more dated than the blue and white iron campaign bed version above. I do spy our old friend the giant clock from the living room hanging over the dresser.

If you are as crazy as I am and want to see more photos, including the kitchen and terrace which were never featured in the original Elle Decor issue, check out the listing at House of the Day in The Wall Street Journal. And now dear readers, which way do you prefer Wollan’s apartment and why? Do you like these posts tracking the evolution of a space? Do you change your spaces often? And how? By rearranging gently? Adding over time? Or completely re-doing all at once?  Do you follow interior trends or buy with an idea of ownership forever?

Ticking Takes The Stuffiness Out

Ticking stripes have been on my mind for a while – actually for at least 15 years if not more – but it was only with the unearthing of this great back issue of Elle Decor that I could finally complete a post on it. It contains photos of Marjorie Wollan’s apartment that had lived in my mind as one of the first great “undecorated” spaces I had seen at the time. I am happy to report that the entire apartment lives up to my memories, but more than anything else, it was always this ticking stripe Chesterfield sofa on the cover that blew me away.

Humble ticking, traditionally used to cover mattresses, is tightly woven to keep feathers and straw inside where it belongs. As a result, it is also great for upholstery projects. My favorite use is on formal furniture like that Chesterfield, and more particularly on those pieces with a wood or gilt frame, such as Louis XV and XVI or Sheraton style pieces. The ticking makes “important” furniture look more casual and approachable and thus more modern. Designer Jan Roden does it here with another of my influential old tear sheets, using ticking on the French chairs, lending a relaxed feel to the room. You can see another favorite of mine – a Bennison roses print – on the chair in the corner.

Imagine this ornate piece without the casual stripes…

One of ticking’s biggest successes was in this hugely popular photo of the Odette Sofette from Mitchell Gold that Good Bones, Great Pieces author Suzanne McGrath used in her daughter Lauren’s first apartment. I think every blogger out there has it saved in their files. I think I was extra partial to it because I already have two Odette chairs in my living room!

I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to moody blue libraries, but I think this one designed by Nate Berkus is by far my favorite! The gallery wall yes, and also the white frame sofa upholstered in blue and white ticking!

And to quote House Beautiful directly: “Natural linen on the tufted sofa and ticking stripe on the settee keep the living room of this New York apartment from being ‘too stuffy or precious,’ says designer Ashley Whittaker.” You can just see the ticking stripe peeking out on the framed sofa on the right. This is one of those spaces you just know would be comfy to live in.

Another incredibly relaxed space from the late Chessy Rayner’s Southampton home has a stripe covered settee among an eclectic variety of furnishings. More photos from this lovely home can be found here.

Ticking is also great at balancing ethereal whites and florals in the bedroom. Here it anchors a Louis XVI style settee in this dreamy bedroom.

And it looks fabulous scalloped with the stripes playing off the curved edge – either directionally with the stripes or against them. In this Jane Moore designed space the scallops on the coverlet run in the same direction as the stripes – which by the way, play off a Bennison floral once again. I know I have another great image of a scallop edged coverlet that runs in the other direction, but no matter how much I have looked for it I can’t find it. Bummer!

In this bedroom by Lars Bolander the narrow ticking stripes trace the curves well – like giant scallops!

The closest piece to Marjorie Wollan’s sofa that I ever came across is this Ralph Lauren Mayfair tufted chair. But I think it would be relatively easy to find a vintage tufted piece and have it recovered in ticking.

See! Ticking really does take the stuffiness out!

I loved this regency chaise with its tiny ticking stripe – another one of those things I wanted to buy but had no room for!

Camille over at The Vintique Object just had great posts on the Odette Sofette and on ticking too – take a look!

Related Posts:
A Windsor Smith Revival…Camel-Back and Sheraton Style Sofas

Image credits: 1. Elle Decor Feb/Mar 1996, 2. House Beautiful December 2003, 3. House & Home October 2007, photo credit: Virginia Mcdonald, 4. Traditional Home, photo credit: Max Kim-Bee, 5. Elle Decor March 2010, photo credit: William Waldron, 6. House Beautiful February 2010, photo credit: Francesco Lagnese, 7. via One Kings Lane, photo credit: Thibault Jeanson, 8-9. via Cote de Texas, 10. Country Living, October 2012, 11. Elle Decor March 2008, photo credit: Kang Kim, 12. via Chiarabelle’s  Flickr account, 13. credit unknown.

Those Not-So Ubiquitous Church Chairs

So of course, the usual selective perception thing has kicked in, and having mentioned those vintage church chairs so popular in antique stores around Tokyo in my last post, I have stumbled across a few new images of them being used in interiors.

I had long admired the painted ones in photographer Paul Massey’s English home, admired the entire kitchen and the incredible quality of light it has, as well as the wonderful patina found on much of the furniture and accessories.

It’s hard for anything to look bad with those windows! Massey’s space is used in photo shoots all the time and you can see pictures of the rest of his house on his website here.  I know all my Aussie readers and going to love this one!

But just yesterday I found these images of a Georgian manor house in Oxfordshire renovated by Michaelis Boyd Associates and decorated by Sarah Delaney. Again, note the incredible windows and that line up of chapel chairs.

This is my favorite view, interspersed with modern white molded plastic chairs. The contrast is great.

It is no surprise that these houses are all in England. Here’s a photo of the warehouse of a large UK architectural antiques shop. I think churches all over Britain are decommissioning these and moving to modern alternatives – like plastic – how sad!

I haven’t noticed them much in the US, but they are bringing them over in containers to Japan. Their small size and light pine and oak are perfect for the casual country look that has become so popular here. They mix and match easily, both with each other and other kinds of chairs. And the bible pockets in the back are perfect for holding place mats and napkins, keeping things orderly.

And perhaps the best juxtaposition? The So Tired cafe designed by  Ichiro Katami and Uichi Yamamoto, over in the business area of Marunouchi. The modern stained glass is meant to evoke a church like atmosphere, so what better to use for the seating than retired church chairs? I hear they serve good Cantonese style food and dim sum, so now its on my list to visit.

I have a major chair dilemma myself coming up – more on that soon!

Related Posts:
Shop Talk, Or Better Yet, Shop Walk…Mid-Century Modern and Other Antiques Along Meguro-Dori
On Dumbwaiters and Butler’s Trolleys…Non-Japanese Antiques in Tokyo at The Penny Wise and Found

Shop Talk, Or Better Yet, Shop Walk…Mid-Century Modern and Other Antiques Along Meguro-Dori

I think it has been more than a year ago at least that I promised to do a full shopping guide to the vintage and antique stores in the Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo. Commonly referred to as Interior-dori, it stretches along both sides of Meguro-dori (dori meaning street), south-west of the Meguro train station from just past Yamate-dori, all the way down to the central post office. After my last post mentioning the lack of furniture available here, I got a few kind complaints as to the truth of that statement and thought it time to fully investigate and report on this unusual cluster of stores. These adhere to that “car dealership synchronicity” adage I have talked about elsewhere (here and here, for example) and numerous people, mostly couples, were browsing on the public holiday earlier this week. With a complete lack of parking and the train station a bit of a walk, the density of shops is needed to bring the public.

My tour starts at the intersection of Meguro-dori and Yamate-dori and heads along the south side of the street walking. I stop in at most of the shops on both sides, although there are a few I missed, so the list is not exhaustive.  There are also stores tucked away in the back streets near by, such as the lovely Found, but those are not on this tour. Many of the merchants are listed on the MISC (Meguro Interior Shops Community) webpage and the shopping map to the area that can be picked up at participating stores. Both for those really looking to furnish a home to those just looking for small gifts and Japanese styling, it is a fun outing.

While most of the stores are channeling that mid-century vibe or at the very least European shabby-chic, one of the first stores on the south side of the street is Chapter, featuring Japanese antiques.

One of their specialties is repurposing, so antique ranma (transom panels) are turned into consoles, dining tables and wall dividers. There is quite a collection of them at the back of the shop. They have great vintage milk glass fixtures too.

I thought this was ingenious – tucking a hard to use small tansu into a larger modern piece of furniture.

Brunch + SC was one of the first of five or six different Brunch outlets (Brunch Branch, Brunch Works, Brunch Time, etc.) all selling their modern versions of furniture inspired by the mid-century. You can see on their logo map below that they stretch all along the street and line both sides.

Each shop has their own particular pieces, but this photo gives a general sense of the style.  There was a western couple shopping here and the sizes of the furniture seemed normal and comfortable. Much of it is teak and order made. Really great chairs (think Wegner Wishbone) at these shops – and they are currently having a chair fest through September.

Brunch Branch nearby had charming garden items.

I had to go into chambre de nimes just based on that stacked luggage in the window.

Everything inside the shop seemed to be imported from France and the place had a real les puces vibe. This was the first of many places that also stocked vintage church pew chairs with a pocket in the back for prayer books. They are super popular here in Japan and I’ve seen them often elsewhere, particularly at the Penny Wise.

And the first, but not the last of the day, of the sewing machine base consoles. New Jersey to Japan – they are everywhere.

The next shop AMS seemed to be different owners on different floors, but the ground floor was full of vintage chandeliers and country-style antiques, including windsor, ladder back and the ubiquitous church chairs.

Next was Junks featuring all kinds of great vintage goods, mostly from the USA, including some favorites of mine such as wooden delivery boxes, printers drawers, old globes, authentic mid-century furniture…

…and this fabulous bottle drying rack for 39,800 yen ($509), which might seem expensive but…

…a similar one was for sale on OKL for the same price on the very same day.

And Becky at Buckets of Burlap just recently put her vintage zinc bottle dryer up for sale for $500.

Gallery S featured a combination of vintage and new furniture, but seemed to specialize in hats. Yes, hats. Love the wooden and painted iron desk and chairs on the right out front.

Tucked away upstairs across the small side street is Point No. 39 which looked promising just from the sign alone! And the word repair was quite intriguing as that is hard to find in Tokyo.

It did not disappoint, being stuffed full of great lighting, furniture and decorative pieces.

I loved the giant sunburst mirror. And by the way, it is also a bicycle store. Go figure!

File Home and Interior was full of gorgeous housewares and also boasted one of the prettiest kitchens I have ever seen in Japan.

Turns out there are a few more File shops across the street including one that actually designs and installs kitchens.

After File, things petered out and before reaching the big Meguro post office I decided it was time to cross to the north side of the street. Anchoring the end on the other side of the street is the giant four floor Geographica. The second floor is home to a charming Italian restaurant Il Levante where I stopped for lunch. There are not many choices for food along the main drag, so I recommend it for a rest or meal.

Geographica was stocked with English antiques – they even carry Sanderson’s line of William Morris Fabrics – and at times felt a bit like a gentlemen’s club. Lots of dark wood, bentwood chairs and framed engravings. One really useful thing they stocked was a full line of knobs and pulls and other hardware. And I love these brass train racks – how great would one of these be in a bathroom? They also have a Yokohama factory shop where they do their restorations.

Pour Annick had more of the golden wood mid-century inspired furniture as well as some fun quirky items.

What about one of these bright stools for the teen bedroom project I am working on?

Since the previous shop that involved climbing stairs was such a success, I made sure to go up to Blackboard.

I was rewarded with industrial chic and some real mid-century pieces.

The curated display of found objects was inspiring too. I forgot to check if they are actually for sale. Blackboard also had some great English language design books.

Roughly across the street from Junks on this side is their sister shop Moody’s full of more vintage furniture and lighting. Many of the pieces had big signs advertising their origins, whether it be Heywood-Wakefied or Eames. It felt like there might be a great find lurking in here.

Meister is one of the leading stores on the street carrying modern versions of those same mid-century design icons, including Nakashima style wood slab tables.

This Eames molded plastic rocker is available for order in a full range of colors and was about $650.

A new Eames rocker in the US is $549 at Herman Miller or Design Within Reach.

I didn’t go into Stanley, but just the idea that there might be somewhere to have custom upholstery, rehupolstery and slip covers made here in Tokyo was revolutionary. If anyone goes in to inquire about a project, I’d love to hear about it.

The De Mode shop felt the most American of all the shops, channeling the rough luxe thing. Check out those industrial light fixtures! They have Tolix style chair too. If you click into their website, they seem to have a number of other fabulous locations, including a warehouse. Definitely something to explore next!

I found it oddly reassuring to see that I can buy glass Ball jars here although I forgot to check the prices.

Lewis specializes in Danish modern.

And at the very end of the tour, almost back to Yamate-dori are three outlets of a recycle shop called Sone Chika. Japanese recycle shops are akin to thrift stores in America and are hit and miss like you would expect. There are definitely finds to be made, although no luck for me that day.

Most of the stores are open from 11am until about 8pm and Wednesday seems to be the closure day for the area. You might want to call ahead if you are interested in a particular spot. Be sure to click the Shop Talk tab in the category list on the right side of the blog for more store reviews and neighborhood strolls.

Related Posts:
On Dumbwaiters and Butler’s Trolleys…Non-Japanese Antiques in Tokyo at The Penny Wise and Found
Shop Talk…Discovering Antique Treasures in Nishi-Ogikubo

Teenage Wasteland…Bringing Life to Bridget’s Bedroom

Right now I am working on a really fun project, quite different from my usual style. It is a bedroom for a teenager with a strong sense of what she likes without knowing how to make it get that way. Rather than giving me a list of furniture or a design style, her inspiration photos, sourced by her on Tumblr, communicate emotion and personality – a distinct mood. Take a look….

What do these all have in common? A dreamy feel. Obviously little white sparkle lights, perhaps even with tiny lanterns are an absolute given, as is a collage wall of photos, ephemera and other goodies.  She is already at work collecting pictures and images she likes. The de-riguer Apple lap top which is a requirement for high school she already has. What these photos also have in common is what they don’t have, i.e. there is no significant or important furniture or art, which bodes well for the budget. On the other hand, the room needs to be more than just some sparkly white lights. It needs to be functional and practical and perhaps able to mature along with its owner.

The room itself is absolute Tokyo standard – small, with ugly off-white wallpaper and carpet and no interesting architectural features. Tracy the bear has to stay.

Her other dictates are also quite clear:

She loves bright pink.

She doesn’t like “Asian”.

And her mom’s dictates are clear too:

She needs the room to grow with her.

This needs to be done on a budget.

My additional inspiration photos for desk and orderly display include quite a bit of white and pink, containers for order, cute desk lamps and a mid-century modern chair. (From here, here, and here.)

Our resources here in Tokyo are limited, particularly on a budget. I know readers in the US and elsewhere think of Japan as a design mecca, but when it comes to reasonably sized furniture (as in not miniature) at reasonable prices, the selection here is very small. We have IKEA, shrine sales for an occasional find, IKEA, antique stores, IKEA, some sweet boutiques and mail order for accessories, and IKEA. We can’t paint or change anything and arguably can’t even put holes in the wall.

That she doesn’t love “Asian” can’t really go over well as that is one of our only pools of choice. I think it requires a bit of trickery – choosing things Japanese that she doesn’t consciously read as Japanese. For instance, one of the key pieces in the design is this hot pink shibori silk kimono obi for a window valence bought at a shrine sale. Quintessentially Japanese, but to her it reads as funky tie-dye. It has her pink and a soft accent of turquoise, which we will also be using.


While an absolutely amazing resource, we don’t mean for the space to end up looking like one of the little sample rooms at the store. That being said, items from IKEA will be the backbone of the design, in particular this black and white Stockholm Rand dhurrie rug.

We have pulled this living room photo as a working tool. The black and white rug grounds the pink and makes it more sophisticated and eclectic. It also allows for later changes and updates. My theory on these Rand rugs is that we should all buy one and put it away. Some day soon IKEA will stop making them and we will all be reminiscing about them for years.

The brand new issue of Lonny also had a perfect inspiration space for this project. Here the striped rug is actually a zig zag, but it has just the kind of bedding mix we want to put together – white background and pink and turquoise accents. Note the mid-century chair here too. (You need to look left and right here as it is the same room in this screen shot.)

For bedding ideas we can turn to the internet, especially since the sizes of local linens doesn’t match the US standard sizes, and order things to be sent to a friend’s house in the USA and shipped here. We will stop into some cute local design stores here that aren’t a fortune too, like Franc Franc and Afternoon Tea, for throw pillows and other accessories like desk lamps and organizers.

I am still on the hunt for the perfect duvet cover, but this Nile cover from West Elm on big sale for $24.99 might do. I’d really rather find something more like the Roberta Roller Rabbit duvet in the Lonny photo above.

We are all loving this long accent bolster from Pine Cone Hill.

Perhaps a splurge on a special elephant pillow from John Robshaw or Jonathan Adler. The choice depends on which way we swing the mood.

And we definitely plan to add some turquoise with either a quilt like these – the Amanda or Big Cata from Roberta Roller Rabbit

…or a little turquoise trellis, quatrefoil or zig zag in a pillow or two, like this one from Urban Outfitters.

The desk and chair combo needs a little modern sleekness mixed with vintage style. Although the room could use a little brown wood to weight it and keep it from being too child-like, we’d take Carla Fahden‘s exact set-up as-is – vintage white wicker desk with hot pink bentwood chair and turquoise peanut lamp. The lamp is on sale at Pier One right now, so maybe we can order it along with the little white string lights and add it to our box coming from the US.

We are likely to look for a good mid-century desk that could travel with her to her adult life, like this one via Houzz. And I really continue to think the room needs some wood to warm it up…

There are plenty of vintage bentwood chairs at the shrine sales if we want to go that direction, whether in wood or painted pink!

Here’s a mid-century desk + plastic Eames type chair from a great Etsy shop – too bad they can’t ship to Japan.

We could use the IKEA Snille in white (or pink!) and shop Meguro-dori for a desk to get the look above…

We are planning on hunting up the more unique accessories at shrine sales in the coming weeks. I’ll let you know how this develops and hope to have a full reveal quite soon – teenage clients are very impatient!

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