Friday, February 24, 2017

Style Profile: Joan Carl, Owner of D. Porthault

Last fall as I was writing about the history of the the luxury linen house D. Porthault, I became intrigued by the company's incredibly chic and elegant owner, Joan Carl.  In 2005, Francophiles Joan and her husband Bernard purchased D. Porthault with a vision to preserve the venerable 90 year-old French company. As a loyal client for over 30 years, Joan combined her her passion for Porthault with her background in fashion to expand Porthault's global reach. In 2009, she was awarded one of France's most prestigious honors, the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, in part for her work in restoring the house of D. Porthault.  Today I am thrilled to welcome Joan to The Glam Pad for a Q&A!

Q:  When did your love of D. Porthault begin, and what do you love most about the brand?

A:  My love began as a young child when my mother first taught me that making my bed could be fun and a chance to mix and match the flowers on my sheets!  (My mother was a gardener and she loved the prints of D. Porthault.)

Perhaps what I love most about Porthault is threefold:  the color and whimsy of the prints – be they florals or not;  the quality of the materials and workmanship;  and now, knowing and working with the craftsmen and women who create the products – all by hand – in France.  The artistry, workmanship and personal connection to Porthault touch me deeply and make me extraordinarily protective of the brand.

Joan's cats nestled upon Porthault.

Q:  What inspired you to purchase D. Porthault?

A:  My introduction to and developing friendship with Marc Porthault (the son of founders Madeleine and Daniel) inspired me to purchase the company.  Marc knew me first as a client and trusted that I would honor and grow the legacy of his parents’ business. For me, it was a natural fit.

Q:  Please tell me about your love of all things French.

A:  My love of France probably goes back to my childhood days when my father spoke of his travels to France and I began my instruction in the language, which I find beautiful.  (I have been on the board of the Alliance Française de Washington for over 15 years.)  My first trip to Paris was with my sister in 1966, and everything about the city captivated me – the lights, the architecture, the food, the fashion, the parks and the museums.   For someone who is visual, a romantic and interested in history, the elegance, refinement and art de vivre of Paris was intoxicating.

Q:  I understand you and your husband are restoring the Château de Champigny and its 200-acre walled grounds in Champigny-sur-Veude, in the Loire Valley. Please tell me more about the château and how the renovation is progressing.

A:  Yes, a little history of a property I am passionate about –

The Château de Champigny rises from the site of a second century Gallo-Roman camp (the derivation of Champigny) and rests too on the foundation of a medieval castle built in the 13th century.

In 1508, Louis I and Louise de Boubon-Montpensier laid the first stone of their late Gothic, early Renaissance style château, joined by a royal chapel and a U-shaped building for the property’s concierge, guards and royal stables. (The spectacular stained glass windows of La Sainte-Chapelle de Champigny) are thought to have been created by the same atelier responsible for the windows of  La Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité in Paris.)

In 1626, a wedding was arranged between Marie de Bourbon, the remaining heir of the Bourbon-Montpensier family, and Gaston d’Orleans, the son of Marie de Medici and King Henry IV of France, and the brother of King Louis XIII.  Cardinal Richelieu officiated.  One year later, Marie died at the Louvre, giving birth to her only child, Anne Marie Louis d’Orleans, Duchesse de Montpensier.

A power struggle caused Cardinal Richelieu to wrest the property in Champigny from baby Anne Marie’s hands, despite his being her godfather; Richelieu subsequently destroyed the Renaissance château, but the other buildings survived, and Anne Marie reclaimed her ancestral home after the Cardinal died.  Instead of rebuilding the original château, however, Anne Marie renovated (re-purposed!) the royal property’s Renaissance stables, or ecurie, as one of her homes outside of Paris. This is where we live today.  (Only tower remnants mark the outline of the former 16th century château.)

Anne Marie is celebrated in French history as La Grande Mademoiselle.  (Her younger cousin would become King Louis XIV.)  My daughters and I have enjoyed  reading Anne Marie’s Mémoires – especially her personal reflection that “I am never bored by anything … I am very brave … I have great courage and ambition.”

In addition to King Charles IX, King Henry IV, King Louis XIII, King Louis XIV, Catherine and Marie de Medici and Cardinal Richelieu, visitors to the château and chapel over the years have included Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Dwight Eisenhower.  At least two Popes have held Mass in the chapel, and the French expressionist painter Chaim Soutine found refuge in the château during WWII. When we are in Champigny, a sense of history is palpable.

Q:  Your personal style is so incredibly chic. Where do you find your inspiration, and what are five timeless staples in your wardrobe that you could not live without?

A:  Thank you!  Perhaps my background in couture and my constant travel, with its need to edit (!) my selections and to be prepared for many varied events, has defined my look.  I tend to start with clean, solid color palates – black, white or camel – both in pants and tops, and accessorize from there.  Hermes scarves are my go-to accessory, and I often look at them to inspire my day’s wardrobe. I’ve also learned that dresses make me happy, so I always pack one or two when I travel, and rely on them to add a punch of color and pattern to my mix of solids.  A basic blazer and a good coat that can go over it all are also essential!   (Footnote:  when I was the couture buyer for a store in Washington, D.C., I bought my first Chanel suit in Paris.  I chose a bright pink suit.  My boss wisely told me to buy black… it would serve many uses for many years and always look as elegant as the day I purchased it.  I never forgot that lesson.)

Joan Carl assisting Nicky Hilton prepare her nursery. 

Joan with Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Catrall, and her daughter-in-law, Alex Carl.

Q:  When you are not at D. Porthault, how do you enjoy spending your time?

A:  Visiting with my family and friends, traveling, gardening and reading.  I would like to start painting again, but I have not had the time. (Because I have always loved to draw, my family has given me colored pencils and books to work on when I travel.)  My husband collects vintage cars, and we love to go on small car tours around the world.  I am my husband’s co-pilot, and we have had many adventures on the back roads of Scotland, Italy and France!

Joan's artwork

Joan's home in the Hamptons with flowers for her son's wedding. Image via Serena Crawford.

Q:  My friend Jessica Chaney tells me you are an avid and accomplished needlepointer. When did you begin to needlepoint, and do you have any favorite pieces?

A:  I have always worked with textiles – having learned to sew, tailor, make buttonholes (!) and cross-stitch at an early age.  But interestingly I did not learn to needlepoint until about 10 years ago when my daughter taught me on a flight from NY to CA.  She had been taught by her grandmother (my mother!) and patiently took me through the steps.  It has become one of my favorite pastimes when I fly or listen to the evening news – a restful and enjoyable opportunity to work with colors and designs.

One of my favorite needlepoint pieces is one I designed and gave to my son in honor of his winning an award for his book on Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo. Other pieces are those I designed for my grandson’s nursery, for my younger daughter who wanted to introduce brighter colors into her apartment, and for my husband and myself – reminding us of our several trips to Venice.

Q:  I can hardly wait for Porthault’s new book to be released next fall. Can you tell me a little about what it will contain?

A:  The book will be the first of its kind for D. Porthault.  It will tell the story of Porthault’s history and illustrate its unique production – from its design atelier in Paris to its weaving, finishing and printing factories in Cambrai and Normandy; and it will showcase Porthault’s products in homes and gardens here and abroad.  We have photographed linens in the dining room, bedroom, bath and nursery, as well as on the balcony, terrace, lawn and around the pool.  We are thrilled that so many of our clients and designers were excited to be a part of this venture.  It has been a joyful and wonderful collaboration among the D. Porthault team here and in France, the author Brian Coleman, the photographer Erik Kvalsvik and all of our loyal and enthusiastic clients.

Aerin Lauder, an avid Porthault collector, released a sneak peek of the new D. Porthault book via Instagram. Image by Erik Kvalsvik.

Q:  Anything else you would like to add?

A:  Of course I could go on (!), but perhaps at a later time.  I am fascinated by art, history and textiles, I am motivated by design and color, and I am an avid researcher and restorer.  This has all drawn me to D. Porthault and propelled me to preserve, grow and share the brand’s unique qualities with others.

Thank you so much Joan for letting us into your magical world! You are truly an inspiration! When she isn't in France or the Hamptons, Joan and her husband reside in Washington, D.C. To learn more about D. Porthault's fine linens, please visit their website, and click here to read my post on the history of the company.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Pretty and Preppy Home in Greenwich, Connecticut

Greenwich, Connecticut has some of the most incredible homes in the country. I love perusing Greenwich real estate listings, and I fell in love with this beautiful architectural gem built in 1927. Nestled on over four manicured acres, this home is just so very pretty... a true timeless classic.

With just under 10,000 square feet, this traditional home features six bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The asking price is $11.5 million, and additional details are available here. I'll take it! :)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Melissa Rufty Transforms a 1936 Georgian Home

Located in Monroe, Louisiana, I have admired this gorgeous 1936 Georgian-style house ever since originally seeing images of it designed by the legendary Mark Hampton. So when I saw it featured in the March 2017 issue of House Beautiful, transformed by designer Melissa Rufty, I took note. This was the childhood home of the late American novelist and playwright Speed Lamkin, sometimes known as “the poor man's Truman Capote.” After establishing his career in Manhattan, Lamkin returned to the family home and commissioned Hampton to decorate. There was another homeowner between Lamkin and the current owners, Rufty explains, "so I didn't have to perform the sacrilege of taking Mark Hampton's rooms apart - they were already gone, except in pictures." Here it is today, via House Beautiful with photography by Kerri McCaffety...

The front of the house from the Mark Hampton days, as featured by The Peak of Chic.

Click here to see this gorgeous home featured in the March 2017 issue of House Beautiful, and here to read an interview about the transformation with designer Melissa Rufty. To see this house as designed by Mark Hampton and featured in the September 1981 issue of Architectural Digest, please visit The Peak of Chic. It is also featured on pages 52-55 of one of my favorite books, Mark Hampton: An American Decorator.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Blue and White Beach House by Phoebe and Jim Howard

During our last move, I got rid of most of my issues of Southern Accents... a decision I regret. Now defunct, Southern Accents is still my favorite interiors magazine. A friend lent me her July/August 2008 issue, and I loved revisiting this stunning blue and white beach house by Phoebe and Jim Howard. Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the beach house was designed to reflect their clients' nautical interests and Charleston roots. Jim Howard oversaw the interior details from the moldings and the mantels to the floors and fixtures, while Phoebe was responsible for the furnishings. Using understated details, the Howards created a classic and comfortable home that is fitting of its surroundings without resorting to clichés.

"You can capture the feeling of the beach without direct reference to it," Phoebe said. "You can do it with casual rugs, comfortable overstuffed furniture, less formal curtains, and mirrors, which keep things light and bright." She saturated the house in a variety of blues reminiscent of the sea while Jim's use of paneling and elaborate moldings pays homage to the antebellum homes of Charleston, creating a classic setting to complement the antiques.

For the daughter's bedroom, Phoebe selected shades of turquoise "to make it younger, fresher, and a bit more whimsical," she said. Reproduction sailors' Valentines serve as a reminder of the beach just beyond the veranda. Fabrics by Quadrille. 

The bath adjacent to the daughter's bedroom features a custom mosaic floor and hand-painted mural. "We're all about creating details that are different and unique," said Jim. 

French mahogany chairs and a black lacquer table add weight to the color palette. 

The dining room walls were painted robin's egg blue and incorporate darker blue and white murals. A subtle blue diamond pattern by Brunschwig & Fils covers the chairs, and a Venetian glass chandelier hangs above. 

China is displayed in arched niches, each topped with a rococo shell. The murals are by Bob Christian Decorative Art.

Phoebe saturated this "frothy" bedroom in shades of pale blue. "The chandelier is beautiful, like a piece of ice hanging in the air," she said. 

The bedrooms received wall treatments, such as specially milled tongue-and-groove wall paneling and stick molding, to establish them as cozy, private respites. 

So beautiful, I could move right in! Photography by Roger Davies via Phoebe Howard. Captions and quotes via Southern Accents. You can see more of this beautiful beach house here.

And if anyone has any extra issues of Southern Accents they would like to part with, please message me. I would be happy to take them off your hands! :)
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