Books I Want: Visite Privee by Francois Halard

Francois Halard is perhaps the interiors photographer of which I am most jealous. He's the guy who takes the pictures that make me go, damn! I wish I had made that. It's not just that he's a gifted seer of light (the most important aspect of any good photograph), but that he also has taste and style. He takes interesting projects in interesting places, and renders them with a unique painterly touch. I can almost always spot his work without knowing beforehand who took the picture. Check out my favorite home from his new book, Visite Privee:

Carlo Mollino was a mid century architect, a photographer, a novelist, a furniture designer, and apparently a decorator. He worked on his home in Turin over the course of eight years, but he never even lived there.

Filled with antiques, an avant garde collection of photography (featuring works by Man Ray, among others), and decorated with a contemporary spin on classic design, it could easily pass for the current work of a very eclectic and talented designer.

Hello Stejnar chandelier, Japanese lanterns, and Saarinen dining set -- plus there is a giant clam on the wall. What's not to love?

And is the leopard wallcovering not insane (in a good way)? Other details include:

A peeping butterfly in a portal between rooms.

Wallpaper reminiscent of offerings by Zuber et Cie.

A Mollino designed chair set atop Italian ceramic tiles.

I want this book. Chock full of amazing homes occupied by extraordinary people -- Cy Twombly, Julian Schnabel, and Robert Rauschenberg, just to name a few -- it has a respect for the handmade that I find very refreshing.

Let me get arty on you for just a second (sorry in advance): famed philosopher Walter Benjamin pointed out that photography's most important quality was its mechanized reproducibility, its sameness, its democracy, but Halard appears to employ antique photographic processes to create images as intimate and one of a kind as Twombly's paintings.

Of course the only way to access the images is through the internet or the book, which takes us back to the whole reproduction issue, but that's besides the point. Mostly.

Forget the lecture and buy the book. It's pretty.

No Mercy

I just finished watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a movie about the former editor of Elle magazine who was paralyzed by a massive stroke at the tender age of 42. It was such an amazing film, so luminous and unexpected, that I was curious about what other projects director Julian Schnabel might be currently involved in. I already knew he was a famous painter and respected film maker -- having seen Basquiat I was expecting great things from his latest movie and I was wholly undisappointed -- but I didn't realize that he had also extended his creative pursuits to interior design. Now I know hotels are usually Karly's forte, but since I'm nursing a mental crush on Schnabel, I thought I'd check out his take on the newly renovated Gramercy Park Hotel in New York:


Is it just me, or does the (grand) entryway look like it belongs in a Harry Potter book? I think it's the script on the custom designed carpet... I have to admit I've always wanted a checkerboard floor, though.


Here's a better look at the hotel's art collection which rotates some pretty heavy hitters. Although I'm not familiar with the particular pieces, I'm pretty sure that's a Warhol on the left and what must be a Cy Twombly on the right. Schnabel also included several cast bronze pieces he made, including that creepy Beetlejuiceified lamp.


There are plenty of bars in the hotel, which suits the decor well since bar design seems to lean toward the theatrical anyway. Of all the rooms, I think these two are my favorite. The Damien Hirst spin art painting on the left is a great counterpoint to that amazing pendant light display and the red curtains, and I love the pink walls with the gold Warhol Rorschach painting on the right. The Beetlejuice bronze definitely looks better as a chandelier than as a floor lamp.


The rooms themselves are a little... different. Instead of relying on art as decoration, they almost look like paintings themselves. This suite is very Vermeer, I think.


The penthouse is similarly jewel toned, with extremely bold color choices. I wonder what it would be like to actually sleep there, not that I'll ever have cash enough to find out.

When talking about his paintings and films, Schnabel claims that he's "aiming at an emotional state, a state that people can literally walk into and be engulfed." It's funny that his movies, not tactile in the conventional sense, do exactly that, but that his hotel seems superficial in comparison, despite its obviously tactile and luxurious environs. I think it's a little cartoonish, sort of like Disney meets the Whitney Museum, and that it misses much of what makes his films and paintings great: a sense of scale and proportion, a willingness to mix real with surreal, and enough grit to take the shine off the decorative.

What do you think? And I being to hard on my new hero? Does adulation always doom the adored?