Monday, September 7, 2009

The Alt-Rock Aesthete

The influences of the Bloomsbury Group appear in the most unlikely of places. Who would have thought that a former Smashing Pumpkin would commission a painstaking reproduction of hand-stenciled paisley patterns from Charleston House on the walls of his East Village apartment? Yet guitarist James Iha did just that. 

And it's glorious.
(Photograph by Joanne Chan)

I love that given Iha's sturm und drang-fueled, goth-rock musical style, his design sensibility extends toward a muted palette, antique furniture and a sedate country-house vibe.
(Photograph by Joanne Chan)

Here's a photo of the original room in Charleston House, decorated in the 1920's by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Fabulous, no? The undulating pattern of apostrophe-shaped paisleys has a soft lyricism that still feels modern today. Even the curtain panels have a indie craft sensibility to them, and despite all the patterns on patterns, the room still reflects a sense of peace and tranquility. 
( Photograph by Alen MacWeeney from 
"Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden.")

If you admire the lushness of those muted hues but don't fancy the idea (and cost) of having it hand-stenciled, don't despair. I think Cole and Son's "Egerton" wallpaper, seen below, shares a strong emotional resonance to the work of Grant and Bell. 
(Photograph by Max Kim-Bee)

I used it in my own bathroom and find it imparts a gentle awakening on those mornings in which my brain feels like a slightly dented gourd.
(9/6/09)

21 comments:

Jane said...

What a lovely room that is. I love the contrast between his music and his private space. But then although SP are pretty thrashy and can grate they have always had that yrical and poetic streak. It shows he is a complex many layered creative person and that we all subconsciously sometimes make judgments about musicians and their taste.........

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Jane: So true! I love their music, and assumed his tastes would run more to goth, but how mistaken I was!

Giner said...

Several members of SP were very supportive of the Chicago art scene, as I remember from my days living there. These are not simply "pop stars" but actual artists. Love this - thanks for sharing!

laurakitty said...

I went on a few dates with James a few years ago and when I went back to his apartment after dinner one night I was totally bowled over by the decor. It was gorgeous- really, really gorgeous. It totally wasn't what I was expecting either, and it made me really wish I was as into him as he was into me, since I could really see myself getting used to spending time there. Guess I will have to do my own re-creation of that style.

Vanya @ Endless Inspiration said...

Lovely post. Egerton has long been one of my absolute favs, I have been carrying around a sample in my look book for years, waiting for my own house........ I want to have it in the entrance hall.

Ahhh one day

A Super Dilettante said...

I love the patterns. I love the fact that he hangs his paintings in salon style! I wonder what Lytton Strachey has to say about goth-rock music! Quite possibly the same response he gave after reading Virginia Woolf's To the lighthouse: "How on earth does she make the English language float and float?"

miss cavendish said...

I now heart James Iha. Charleston is one of my favorite places on earth.

Angie Muresan said...

Gorgeous wallpaper and enchanting room. I completely adore any room where I can see the depth of its inhabitants.

Style Court said...

Brilliant post as always Lisa.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Giner and laurakitty: Thank you for sharing your personal recollections...soo interesting! :) My husband worked with them as well for a time and always remarked upon how brilliant they were.

Vanya: How funny that you have been carrying Egerton around...it would look gorgeous in any room. Vogue did a style piece on Plum Sykes apartment a while back, and she used it in her dining room.

A Super Dilettante: I can always count on you for an apt quote! And yes, the "salon style" hung paintings are tres chic, no?

Miss Cavendish: See laurakitty's comment...she's got the scoop on Iha!

Angie Muresan: I SO agree.

Style Court: Just trying to make you proud. :)

Laura [What I Like] said...

Oh I knew there was a reason that Mr. Iha was my favorite of the Pumpkins! His sense of design is so fabulously poetic. My boyfriend worked with him for a time on some of his solo projects and had the most wonderful things to say, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the beauty of his home.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Laura (What I Like): There seems to be quite a "six degrees of separation" connection from Mr. Iha and the commenters so far...I am increasingly enthralled...!

Jessica said...

Wow really nice collection of Furniture Stores…..

Jeremy09 said...

Those pictures are so inspiring

Scott Fazzini said...

I'm actually surprised that it's so soft and sedate. (James Iha's room) It's perfect and beautiful, but I imagined that it would be very modern-Victorian-over-the-top -something reminiscent of that BEAUTIFUL video of theirs with the hot air balloon.

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I envy your harp! It is so beautiful! I haven't seen one in shops. Hope to stumble on it one of these days.

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I'd like to getting a room like that because I like so much the privacy, besides I'd like to see a creative person too because that's show us that people have imagination, and they can be proactive.

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