Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Leta Austin Foster Revitalizes Virginia's Historic Milburne

If I had to list on one hand my favorite designers, Palm Beach-based Leta Austin Foster would definitely be included. Her traditional approach to decor is simultaneously fresh and timeless, and her attention to detail is second to none. I love every single project in her portfolio, but historic Milburne in Richmond, Virginia is one of my favorites. And today we are in for a treat, because Leta is going to give us a personally guided tour!

Completed in 1935, Milburne is considered to be architect William Lawrence Bottomley's finest work. Commissioned by Walter Robertson, head of the China Lobby, it was frequently used to entertain government leaders and heads of state including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who stayed there on an American visit. Many original pieces of furnishings remain in the Georgian Revival mansion, original paint colors, specified by Bottomley, were closely replicated, and original architectural details were carefully preserved. Leta and her daughter Sallie Giordano painstakingly preserved the past while expertly refreshing the classic grace of Milburne for the 21st century.

All photography below, unless otherwise noted, is by Edward Addeo from the book Farrow & Ball: The Art of Colour by Brian Coleman, published by Gibbs-Smith.  All designs are by Leta Austin Foster and Sallie Giordano of Leta Austin Foster & Associates.  Notes in all caps below are directly from Leta... Such a treasure!! Now let's begin our tour! 

Image via The Richmond Times Dispatch
Milburne by William Lawrence Bottomley. Bottomley is considered to be one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. 

AN INTERESTING DETAIL IN THIS ROOM IS THE FASCIA ON THE STAIRCASE--NOT ONLY DID BOTTOMLEY DESIGN THAT, BUT HE DESIGNED THE HANGING LAMP TO MATCH THIS FASCIA. THE WALLPAPER IS FROM WATERHOUSE WALLHANGINGS AND THE CURTAINS ARE MADE FROM A FABRIC BY BRUNSCHWIG AND FILS. 

THESE ARE THE RATHER GRAND CURTAINS IN THE DRAWING ROOM--THEY DIVIDE THE ROOM INTO TWO, AND THEY ARE THE FIRST THINGS YOU SEE AS YOU ENTER THE ROOM FROM A MATCHING DOORWAY ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ROOM.  ALL OF THE ANTIQUES ARE QUITE FINE AND THEY WERE EITHER IN THE FAMILY OR I FOUND THEM.  THE RUG WAS DESIGNED BY BEAUVAIS CARPETS TO MATCH THE ANTIQUE CHANDELIER VISIBLE IN THE NEXT PICTURE... 

HERE IS ONE HALF OF THE DRAWING ROOM, THE HALF CENTERED ON THE FIREPLACE.  ALL OF THE COLOURS WERE IN THE "BOTTOMLEY PAINT BOOK," A NOTEBOOK KEPT BY BOTTOMLEY, AND OUR GREAT LUCK WAS THAT FARROW AND BALL HAD A MATCHING COLOUR FOR EACH OF THEM.  YOU CAN SEE THE RUG AND A BIT OF THE CHANDELIER MENTIONED ABOVE.  THE BLUE DAMASK ON THE WING CHAIR WAS A NEW WEAVE OF THE SAME FABRIC WHICH WAS ORIGINAL, AND WAS MADE BY LE MENACH IN TOURS.  THE PRINT FABRIC IS A BENNISON SILK TUSSAH CALLED "CHINESE FLOWERS." THE SPORTING DOGS PAINTING IS AN ARMFIELD, AN ANCESTOR OF THE HOUSE'S NEW OWNER.  THE SECRETARY WAS IN THE FAMILY.

THIS IS A DETAIL OF THE DRAWING ROOM FIREPLACE.  BOTTOMLEY CARED SO VERY MUCH ABOUT THE DETAILS AND THEY JUST MELT THROUGH THE HOUSE--NEVER JARRING, ALWAYS PERFECT.  

THIS IS A VIEW FROM THE DRAWING ROOM, THROUGH THE DINING ROOM, INTO THE BREAKFAST ROOM.  ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS ABOUT THIS HOUSE IS THE USE OF WONDERFUL MAUNY WALLPAPERS.  WHEN WE FIRST SAW THE HOUSE, I LOVED THE WALLPAPER IN THE BREAKFAST ROOM--I KNEW IT WAS BY MAUNY. BUT IT WAS BEYOND REPAIR, SO WE HAD MAUNY, NOW PART OF ZUBER, REPRINT THE PAPER.  THEN WE CHOSE ANOTHER MAUNY WALLPAPER FOR THE DINING ROOM (AND FOR OTHER ROOMS UPSTAIRS).  WE HAD GREAT FUN DOING THIS. 

THE INCREDIBLE OVERDOORS (A MATCHING PAIR FACING EACH OTHER) ARE JUST ONE DETAIL IN THE BEAUTIFUL WOODWORK OF THIS ROOM.  
THIS IS THE DINING ROOM; NOTICE THE INCREDIBLE  FIREPLACE EXTRUSION--EVERYTHING IS ORINAL EXCEPT THE WALL SCONCES WHICH REPLACE CANDLE SCONCES--THERE WAS NO ELECTRICITY IN THIS PART OF THE HOUSE, AND ALTHOUGH SHE WAS FILLED WITH GUILT OVER DOING SO, I PERSUADED THE OWNER'S WIFE TO HAVE THE CANDLE SCONCES REPLACED BY THESE BEAUTIES BY ISABEL GLOVER.  THE BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL CHANDELIER I FOUND AT MR. ALEXANDER'S IN THE BOTTOM OF THE MANHATTAN ANTIQUE BUILDING ON SECOND AVENUE.  HE ALWAYS HAS SUCH BEAUTIFUL THINGS.

THE TABLE AND THE SIDEBOARD AND THE OVERMIRROR WERE FAMILY PIECES;  THE PAINTING OF JANE ALSTON HANGING OVER THE FIREPLACE IS AN ANCESTOR OF THE OWNER'S WIFE, AND ALL OF THESE ARE SET OFF BY THE MAUNY PAPER, "LE FAISON ET LE BLE."  ALL MAUNY PAPERS ARE OLD BLOCK PRINTS SO THEY ARE PERFECT IN HOUSES LIKE THIS ONE.

MORE OF THE LOVELIEST WOODWORK IMAGINABLE--USED TO SHOWCASE THE CLIENT'S MOTHER'S COLLECTION OF ENGLISH PORCELAIN.  THE HORESEHAIR ON ALL THE DINING CHAIRS WAS A GREEN AND CREAM ONE FROM CLARENCE HOUSE.

THE PLASTERWORK IN THE HOUSE, USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE WOODWORK, WAS EXTARORDINARY.  BOTTOMLEY HAD PLANNED THAT THE CORNICE RAIL AT THE VERY TOP WOULD BE IN GOLDLEAF ON THE WHITE, BUT MR. ROBERTSON WAS GETTING QUITE TIRED OF ALL THE EXTRAS ON THE HOUSE, SO HE VETOED IT.  BOTTOMLEY USED GOLD RADIATOR PAINT INSTEAD, WHICH WAS QUITE CHEAP, BUT IT ATE AWAY AT THE PLASTER, THUS THE DENTILS ARE MISSING.  WE SUGGESTED HAVING THE PLASTERWORK RECAST, BUT THE CLIENT SAID SHE WANTED TO KEEP IT THAT WAY AS A LITTLE "HISTORICAL MOMENT."  NOTICE THE INCREDIBLE WORK DONE BY THE PAPER HANGER.

THIS IS THE BREAKFAST ROOM WHICH IS ALMOST A MINIATURE OF THE DINING ROOM.  THIS IS THE WALLPAPER WHICH WAS REPRINTED FOR US BY MAUNY, A REPLICA OF THE ORIGINAL.  THE CHANDELIER WAS ANOTHER OF ISABEL GLOVER'S WONDERFUL PIECES.

AS IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM, BOTTOMLEY USED BUILT IN CHINA CUPBOARDS. THE YELLOW CHINA IN THE CUPBOARDS WAS THE CLIENT'S MOTHER'S BREAKFAST CHINA.

THIS IS THE BUTLER'S PANTRY WHICH LEADS TO BOTH THE DINING ROOM AND THE BREAKFAST ROOM--HERE WE KEPT THE ORIGINAL CABINETRY AND REPAINTED IN THE SAME BRIGHT CHEERY RED THE FLOOR.  THE LIGHTS ARE FROM ANN-MORRIS ANTIQUES IN NEW YORK CITY AND THE HOOKED RUGS IN THE HOUSE ARE ALL ANTIQUES FOUND BY ME.

OFF THE TERRACE LEADING TO THE OFFICE IS A MEN'S LOUNGE AND POWDER ROOM.  THE WONDERFUL STANDING LAMP INSIDE IS FROM ANN-MORRIS ANTIQUES, AND THE SCONCE IS FROM PAUL FERRANTE.

THE WROUGHT IRON PLANTERS AND THE FURNITURE ARE ORIGINAL TO THE HOUSE, JUST REPAINTED.  AS YOU CAN SEE BY THE LEAVES ON THE FLOOR, IT IS FALL, SO NOT FERNS ARE IN THE PLANTERS.
A CLOSEUP OF THE SCONCE IN THE MEN'S LOUNGE.  THE BEAUTIFUL WALLPAPER IS A "TILE" DESIGN IN AN INDIAN TREE PATTERN IN TONES OF RED FROM ZUBER.  THEY HAVE BEAUTIFUL NON-MURAL WALLPAPERS.

THIS IS THE ANTEROOM OF THE CLIENT'S OFFICE.  IT HAS A LIGHT AND AIRY WALLPAPER FROM FARROW AND BALL TO TONE DOWN THE DEEP BLUES AND BROWNS OF THE RUG. THE PAIR OF ANTIQUE CHINESE CHAIRS WERE BOUGHT AT MRS MC DOUGAL WHICH WAS PART OF HINSON, NOW SADLY DISCONTINUED.

THIS IS A WALL IN THE MASTER BEDROOM DONE IN A WIDE AND INVITING BED WHICH WE BOUGHT AT LOUIS SOLOMON AND HAD REPAINTED.  THE HALF CANOPY AND THE PANELS WERE PLAIN DOTTED SWISS BUT WITH GREAT HEMS AND HAND-SMOCKING AT THE TOP.  THE BED UPHOLSTERY IS PIERRE FREY, AND THE LOVELY LITTLE BERGERE HAS A LE MENACH FABRIC.

A CLOSE-UP OF ONE OF THE PAIR OF CHAIRS SHOWS THE LE MENACH FABRIC AND THE TINY WELTING CORD AND TAPE TRIM FROM PASSEMENTERIE IN NEW YORK. THE DETAILS OF THE DOTTED SWISS-TYPE SHEER UNDERCURTAINS SHOW HOW WE DO A DEEP HEM WITH A TINY RUCHE EMPHASIZING IT. THE OUTER CURTAINS WERE MADE FROM ANOTHER PIERRE FREY FABRIC WITH ANOTHER TRIM FROM PASSEMENTERIE. THE LOVELY ANTIQUE HOOKED RUG WE FOUND FOR THE ROOM, AND YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE WONDERFUL SHEPHERD AND SHEPHERDESS WALLPAPER FROM MAUNY, OF COURSE.

THIS GUEST ROOM, WHICH USED THE ORIGINAL CANOPY BEDS FROM THE HOUSE, IS ANOTHER MIXTURE OF MAUNY IN BOTH THE WALLPAPER (WITH A WHITE GROUND) AND THE CURTAIN AND UPHOLSTERY FABRIC (ON A LIGHT BLUE GROUND).  BECAUSE THESE WERE DONE ON THE OLD LOOM AND BLOCKS, THE FABRIC IS ONLY 22" WIDE--FORTUNATELY THE WINDOWS WERE TALL AND NARROW.

THE BED CURTAINS WERE DOTTED SWISS AS WERE THE DUST RUFFLES.  ALL OF THE LINENS AND ACCESSORIES SUCH AS WASTE PAPER BASKETS CAME FROM MY BOUTIQUE IN PALM BEACH.  THE SILHOUETTE IS THE OWNER AS A LITTLE GIRL IN RICHMOND.

HERE IS A CLOSE-UP OF THE MAUNY FABRIC.  NOTICE HOW SIMPLE IT IS--THESE WERE FABRICS MADE FOR BEDROOMS AND THE LIKE.  NOTICE THE NATURAL COLOURED MATCHSTICK BLINDS IN THE WINDOWS--I USE THESE EVERYWHERE AS SUNLIGHT IS A TRUE ENEMY OF FABRICS, WALLPAPERS, FURNITURE AND FLOOR FINISHES, AND RUGS.  BUT WITH THEM, ONE CAN STILL LOOK OUT THE WINDOWS.

ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL PIECES OF HARDWARE USED IN THE HOUSE.  ALL OF THE DOORS HAD THEM, AND LIKE THIS ONE, MOST OF THE DOORS WERE PAINTED IN "POINTING" by FARROW & BALL.

A VIEW IN THE CHILDREN'S NURSERY WHICH HAS AMAZING APPLIQUÉD CURTAINS (ALL THE FABRICS ARE LE MENACH) AND THE APPLIQUÉD LITTLE CHAIR FROM A. SCHNELLER IN NEW YORK (GENIUS UPHOLSTERERS!)  THESE FABRICS WERE APPLIQUÉD TOGETHER TOO, A TRICK WE USE A LOT AS IT MAKES AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FABRIC.  ALL OF THESE WERE MADE FOR A ROOM AT THE KIPS BAY SHOWHOUSE, AND WE SOLD THEM TO THE CLIENT AT COST RATHER THAN THROW THEM AWAY.  THE WALLPAPER WAS FROM BRUNSCHWIG AND THE RUG WAS FROM STARK. THE ROCKING HORSE WAS THE CLIENTS' WHEN SHE WAS A CHILD.

Thank you so much, Leta for this incredible tour! What a masterpiece!! You can read more about Milburne in the book Farrow & Ball: The Art of Color. It is also featured in Leta's book, Traditional Interiors, which I reviewed here and can be purchased here. To learn more about Leta Austin Foster & Associates, please visit her website and make sure to visit the Leta Austin Foster Boutique the next time you are in Palm Beach!

6 comments:

  1. What a treat! Thank you for the tour of the historic Milburne House with Leta Austin Foster's amazing update! How terrific that her knowledge, skill and contacts allowed her to revitalize this historic home, while preserving the timeless beauty of a masterpiece!

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  2. Beyond beautiful - I would just move in and take my sterling teapot!

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  3. No one does beautiful details like Leta Austin Foster. I love her new book.

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  4. Thank you Andrea for writing this post, I love her work and this house!

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  5. Thank you for recommending her book, which I have enjoyed immensely. This house is heavenly! Everything pitch perfect, of course. I want to move right in.

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  6. I am a huge fan of Leta Austin Foster, her work is fabulous!

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Thank you for your lovely comments. They absolutely make my day!

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