Monday, August 20, 2012

Shhh...A Super Special House Tour


What if the style progeny of Sir John Soane and Tony Duquette were alive and living in Hollywood? 
Left, Sir John Soane (1753-1837).     Right, Tony Duquette (1914-1999).

Well, such a person exists and I am incredibly fortunate to count him as an acquaintance. He possesses Tony Duquette's passion for fantasy-baroque interiors and John Soane's devotion to art and antiquities...and I'm not even joking.
(Left, a John Soames room. Right, one by Tony Duquette.)

You will never meet him (no names, he values his privacy), but he is allowing me to take you on a very private tour of his magnificent abode. The most I can tell you about him is that he is exceedingly elegant, erudite and in his eighties. And oh, the places he has been. (Think Morocco in the 1950's with Truman Capote and Paul Bowles, among a dizzying number of other glamorous destinations.) Oh, one other thing: he is not a professional designer which makes the whole thing all the more jaw-droppingly remarkable.

Here's a sneak peek of one of his conversation salons:
(All photos by LBG, 2012.)

When I visited him recently, I was so overwhelmed that I almost couldn't contain myself. You just don't expect to walk into a house like this on an otherwise normal day. Thank God for the internet because I immediately knew you would get it. (Lots of people won't --and that's fine. Minimalists, run now.) But I'm betting that you will be as moved as I was by my friend's journey to make his home a kaleidoscope of his soul and a visual history of his well-travelled life. 

Consider this the one and only world premiere...

Entering through the front gate, we pass through this walled garden of pastoral bliss. See the concrete sheep grazing next to you? And the cherubim on pedestals surveying the circular maze of boxwood? It's all slightly overgrown and if you ask me, way-more-than-slightly romantic. I love me a shaded garden. There's always a place to read or talk -- and the decreased risk of sunburn doesn't hurt either.

Look. Over in the corner, tangles of ivy and Spanish moss give tree branches a Southern Gothic air. It's like we've wandered into an Eudora Welty story. (My gardener keeps telling me I can't do this to my trees as it will eventually strangle them, and I keep telling him that if I keep a vigilant eye out, I really do think I can. Ahem. Point proven.)

Let's go inside. Okay, stop here. Tight shot, I know, but you can see how grand the entry foyer is, made all the more so by hanging paintings salon-style up the circular staircase.

Over on this wall is an assemblage of landscape paintings my friend has collected over the years. The mirror turns the room into an endless reflection of itself. And don't you love the marble maiden? She has such a pursed moué.

This next room is one of my favorites. If only Oscar (Wilde) were alive to see it -- he would get it too. Note how the Chinese lacquered screen sets the stage for the rich red sofa in front of it. And how genius is that ceiling? When I rhapsodized over it, my friend chuckled. "It's just inexpensive molding," he said. "And then I put wallpaper between the squares." Of course he did.  

I die for a little wit. This fierce bust in the kitchen is made less imposing bedecked with beads and ribbons.

Same goes for this carved head. That exquisitely needlepointed hat from Central Asia gives him an (almost) friendly air.

Doesn't the dining room have such a Michael S. Smith elegance to it? I think the President could definitely eat here.

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The dining chairs are upholstered in tribal textiles (or "huipiles") from Guatemalan villages that my friend has visited. Each pattern is unique and specific to a certain group of people.

Here's the master bedroom. Isn't it fantastic? The drama of that gilt canopy? The startling tension of those white pillows? It's a Baroque fantasy steeped in elegance and humor. 

This guest bedroom is such a lovely example of how to mix colors and fabrics. Every element is deep in conversation with each other: the vaguely Liberty-ish wallpaper and matching curtains, the Indian kantha quilt, those two long silk pillows and that fabulous painting of the upstairs of a London double decker bus. If I was young enough to run away, this is where I would come and hide.

This tiny powder room is upholstered in a luxurious woven fabric which has the effect of making the room seem much bigger -- the pattern diverts your eye and renders the corners invisible. And the gorgeous Old Master paintings on the wall make you feel as though there should be a docent hovering around somewhere.

Upstairs, this enormous map hanging above the bathtub is pinned with all the places my friend has traveled in his lifetime. What a life, right?



Here's a close-up of the wallpaper surrounding the map.  It's a cheerful Indian printed cotton -- would you expect anything less chic? (Probably best confined to those who practice controlled splashing.)

Lastly, the back garden is as much a revelation as the home itself. It's so chic and welcoming. Everywhere you look there is a cozy upholstered seat or a café table or a statue or even a lampshade (can you spot it?). When you stand here, you inhabit a private world. The surrounding houses disappear completely. You can be anywhere you imagine: on a rooftop garden in Ravello, a secluded island hideaway, a tropical fantasy in London's Cheyne Walk. Or even Hollywood, California.

ONE LAST (AND VERY IMPORTANT) THING...
I want you to know how warm and wise and witty my friend is. He is so self-effacingly kind and such a wonderful force of positivity to all those who know him. He's having some health problems right now and I wonder if you wouldn't just send a positive little ray of light to him? I'm going to make sure he reads this and I know it would lift his spirits to think that there are kindred souls out there.

x/Lisa

71 comments:

helen tilston said...

Hello Lisa

This is one of the most superb houses I have ever seen. The occupant sounds most interesting and how interesting and fascinating he must be. To hear the stories and tales of his journeys would be so wonderful. I hope he writes his memoir.
Thank you for sharing this, I must say Good-Night but I know I will be back many times again to view this splendour.

Helen xx

The Swan said...

A Ray of Light...in all it's COLORS too Bless your Sacred Friend!! Style one is born with, Blessings WE earn, and he deserves many.

Kelly said...

WOW.ZA. How very lucky you are to know this fascinating man, and to be allowed into his sanctum. My favorite? Hands down, the map with all the pin. Oh, the tales each pin could tell. I hope there's a secret memoir stashed somewhere!

Meribeth Wulff said...

To your secret friend, Lisa ... in thanksgiving for a treasured few moments:

I send you great energy, Mr. Friend. Squeesh your eyes now ... can you feel it?

columnist said...

I tend towards the minimalist I must confess, but it is easy to see the talent applied to this confection of a house. I particularly enjoy the differently covered dining chair seats. The patterns are almost northern Thai hill tribe in their style. Probably your friend has been there too. I hope this post has the desired effect of cheering him up, and easing his poor health.

The Silver Bunny said...

Although it is not really my kind of house, I am grateful that there people who can create such splendid environments. Lucky you to know such a person and thank you for sharing !

Shelley said...

All that whimsey and memorabilia make it a very personal place. I feel I have a sense of his life having just been shown some photos with a bit of narrative. It must be very powerful indeed to witness in person. It was very kind of him to let you share his home with us. Please do give him my thanks and best wishes for his health.

pigoletto said...

I adore it when a house reflects the owner's character - that sort of thing is getting rarer and rarer. Your friend sounds like someone you could talk to for hours and hours, just looking at that wonderful house. My very best wishes to him!

Barbara said...

What a splendid home in every single excruciatingly perfect detail. And I know that, good as they are, the photos cannot possibly do it justice. There is not one single thing you have shown us that doesn't make me just yearn to replicate it in my own home. Your friend is an absolute original with an unerring sense of style and originality. I envy you knowing him.

Carol said...

I'm dying to know who it is! The stories he must have. I had to pin his dining room chairs to my Pinterest because I just inherited a very similar dining room suite and I had no idea what to do with the old staid needlepoint seats. Thank you Secret Person for this fabulous idea. Whoever you are you will soon have an inspired room in Toronto (I didn't see a pin in Toronto - you must come for dinner!).
Thinking good thoughts for your recovery,
Carol

Lily said...

Such opium daydream decadence!
A place to wear turbans & silk robes while composing an epic poem or hosting a dinner party for Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Edith Sitwell and Nancy Cunard...
And oh that garden of Eccentric Eden!
Lisa, you were given a rare glimpse at a private paradise, and how fabulous that you let us peer through the telescope too. Do thank your lovely friend for letting us be in on the secret of his world and tell him there are candles being lit and prayers being murmured for his health.
xx Lily

Sharron said...

This home reflects a life well lived, travel well enjoyed,a soul with the creative spirit in him and a love for all mankind. Best wishes for good health so your journey to adventure can continue soon!

kathy peck said...

Wow! I tend to be a minimalist in my clothing, but not for homes - I love them colorful, cluttered, and full of charm and whimsy - which these rooms all have. That salon with the red sofa is glowing and I'd love to spend a night in his guest room. All so gorgeous and a reflection of him, I feel quite sure.
I hope his health problems improve and am sending love and light his way.

bkmcneil said...

Thank you to your magical friend for sharing his sense of decadence, humor, and adventure. Simply a breathtaking environment. I am sending very sincere (and colorful) wishes for his improved health, as the world definitely needs to retain such souls.

lollingabout said...

This house is absolutely delicious! Definitely worthy of running away too. That map alone is capable of producing dreams for years. What a life of adventure!
Sending prayers his way.

Emily said...

It's posts like this that make me feel so privileged to be reading your blog. I send sincere wishes of good health to your friend Lisa.

ABG said...

Best wishes, good tidings + positive energy to an individual who is truly gifted. This style takes vision and confidence and sadly, cannot be taught. Lisa you reference throughout the ability to incorporate disparate elements. An individual might have good taste but you need vision to be able to create a truly exquisite space like this. What a treat! Thanks for posting!
ABG

Lene LN fra Tyskland said...

Rays of Love and Peace to the World! And a lot of energy to this old soul. Thank you for sharing your house :-)

Lene LN fra Tyskland said...

Rays of Love and Peace to the World! And a lot of energy to this old soul. Thank you for sharing your house :-)

Melinda said...

A-MAZ-ING!!!! Truly! What a jewel box! Sending many positive and healthy vibes to your friend! xx Melinda

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

TO EVERYONE:

Thank you so much for your HEARTFELT comments. I can't WAIT to read them to him. You are ALL very special.

WIth gratitude,

x/Lisa

helen tilston said...

Hello Lisa

I have returned to feast some more on this incredible and dreamy home.
If and I hope he does accept your reader Carol's invitation to Toronto, I want to meet him too and I am sure Carol will be kind enough to have him sit between us. Of course Lisa the joy would be even greater if you came along....dinner is on Carol and me!!

Helen xx

Bonnie said...

I fell more in love at each turn. I adore the eclectic collections and the rich colors. I have always believed one's home should be a reflection of who they are, not what is trending at the moment. How wonderful you had the chance to tour. Thank you for sharing.

Pimm's and Lemonade said...

Will keep your dear SF (Secret Friend) in my prayers. I couldn't stop "ooh-ing" and "ahh-ing" as I moved from room to room. Such beauty and joy and so, so fascinating. You are blessed indeed to have such an interesting friend and he is awfully kind and generous to allow us to peek into his fabulous home. Thank you for this great treat. Made my day! (Who needs World of Interiors!)

Unknown said...

lisa,
the Stendhal effect!

you and your friend had me hyperventilating with the first look at the garden: the concrete sheep, the box hedges, the spanish moss. all of it is like a reverie of my loved places--england and france and the american south.

luckily i began to regain my senses in time to admire the guardian bust in the kitchen.
more luckily i can step away from the internet and return to look at the photos and read your captions.

how terrific it is to see a home where ecstasy is allowed.

now when will you and your friend be able to come for lunch? and what would you like to drink?

all good wishes to him -- and to you.

- Elliot in Minnesota

Camille Farias said...

What a beautiful home and life. Thank you for letting us take a peek inside!

Decoratopia said...

Blessings and health to your friend with the incredible home. He is in my prayers (and I want to be in his front garden!).

judith said...

What a house! What a life! Wish we could all here his stories of his travels and his house full of treasures. I am in
awe of his very personal colorful and elegant space. Thank him for sharing with your readers.

JudyMac said...

Wow! That's too much to take in all in one sitting. So far, my favorite is the little powder room. Best wishes to your friend. May his life be ever peaceful.

Romi said...

What a house and garden! My favorite is the little touch of humor above the bathroom mirror. I took a second look and enlarged the picture after smiling and saying, " Is that what I think it is?" Why, yes it is! Ha-ha! Thank you for sharing his heart/home with us and for your lyrical descriptions. You have such a gift. I wish him well.

Romi said...

Oops, above the painting over the sink, not mirror...

Michelle said...

Sometimes we walk into spaces where great people have lived, and say, “…if these walls could talk.” How extraordinary this home is, because these walls not only talk...they sing, they dance, they intrigue, they dream, they even make you chuckle in whimsy. From the grazing sheep in the front garden to the beautiful mirror in the back garden, I loved it all... especially that goofy goblin unexpectedly leaping up from behind the painting on the powder room wall. And that guest room with the painting of the London double-decker bus. I could dream for hours in there. Perhaps my favorite touch was the stuffed cat pillow on the red sofa in the conversation salon. If that room doesn’t stir up some rousing conversation, I don’t know what will. Thanks for sharing this with us and all my best to your friend. Only a beautiful soul could have such a beautiful home.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

You guys are SERIOUSLY incredible! I only just now noticed that goblin sticking his tongue out from behind the top picture above the powder room sink! And the stuffed cat pillow in the conversation salon also escaped me until you pointed it out...

I BOW to your powers of observation!


I also want you to know that I visited OUR FRIEND today and read your comments (so far!) to him and he was completely overwhelmed by your kind words and fervent wishes for his health. I bookmarked my blog on his computer so that he can read them again and again.

"I can't believe it," he said. "No one's ever appreciated the house like this before. My friends tell me it's overdone."

I replied, "Well, I think you have found your TRIBE."

You are the BEST!!

x/Lisa

home before dark said...

One of the unfortunate effects of the internet is globalizing sameness all over the world.

Love his house and his spirit and above all the grace to follow his own path in technicolor.

Megan Taylor said...

Oh, wow! I could use a conversation salon right about now! So much to say. Loved this post, Lisa. It's a foggy day here in SF and I'd love to curl up in that house! xoMegan

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Well, I've never been an minimalist, so this home certainly sings to me. And the pug painting over the master bed! Sigh.
Feel better wonderful man!

Michele from Boston said...

Hi Lisa-
I want to say that there are very few house=life photos betters than these! Do tell your friend how much I truly enjoyed a sneak peak. The patterns, textures, juxtapositions and all that fascinating art really made my day. Thanks to both of you and my best wishes for better health especially to your well-traveled friend-
M.

Unknown said...

Super duper gorgeous and cool! Love the place, and can tell a lot of love went into it.

Paul Hafalla said...

Your post is great to read. I was wondering why people have different colors of life but still I participated.

Simple Good Beautiful said...

Do you know that feeling of opening your eyes really wide so you can see as much possible but also wanting to move and look around really slowly so you can take in as much as possible? That's what this post made me feel like, as if I was inside your friend's house too... Before I saw all the pictures, as soon as I read your title, I found myself scrolling down the page very slowly, to absorb the feeling of what I was about to see. Awesome! and I hope your friend gets better soon, I'm sending him my positive thoughts his way... Thank you for letting Lisa share your wonderful home and stories with us.

Melissa Kojima said...

Oh my, I'm swooning. This is a magnificent treasure. Thank you for the private tour. I'm so sorry to hear about his poor health. Send him my blessings and love. Take care and sunshine to everyone!

Michelle said...

I had to come back and revisit this house again. For some reason it really spoke to me. I am a person who vacillates between mild cases of minimalism (scurrying about discarding things) followed by cocooning myself in warm, collected treasures. But seeing this home again reassures me that it's okay to (like your friend said) be a bit "overdone."
There is a small, bohemian restaurant in the city where I live that actually reminds me of his home. The booths and tables are secluded with beads and tapestries and native American fabric. Fresh flowers line the tables in pottery made by local artisans. A neighborhood cat lingers about. I would love to take you both there. Thanks again for sharing with us.

dervla kelly said...

wow, this house is amazing. Great profile, I love the map over the bathtub, such a cute idea to keep track of all the places in the world he's been. I hope his health improves.

gorgeousevents said...

I can only dream about the fabulous places your friend has visited. What a great privledge and good fortune to have been a witness to some of the world's most amazing people, cultures and a life that is lived to its' fullest. Beautiful post. Love Margaret oxox

pve design said...

Lisa,
Sending your fine feathered friend a special ray of light and a dazzling feather to tuck in his hat.
May the force surround you both with positive light.
pve

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betze said...

This is the most beautiful and interesting home I have ever seen. It almost hurts my eyes to look at it. So beautiful and warm and inviting and fabulous!

Joanna said...

A beautiful home that reflects a facinating man. I love that lush garden. Who knew that Spanish moss can grow in Southern California?

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townhouseturnaround said...

What a beautiful house -- warm wishes and get well prayers to its inhabitant.

Jennifer said...

If your friend is anything like the home he has created, he is incredibly warm, welcoming, and nurturing. I send prayers and warm thoughts for his full recovery.

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Hollywood forever, Kevin said...

To tour this house and garden is to travel all over the world and back again, it is indeed the Grand Tour! Beautiful and inspiring and finally a place with history and soul for my eyes weary of flat and commerical environments. Thank you and please, thank him! Kevin

Jeanne @ Collage of Life said...

I totally get this Lisa and your friend is a marvel! I wish he was with me in Vietnam, travelling through the back streets, in and out of the markets for I am sure he would be excited to see it all. Looking at these photos reminds me of all that I have seen to date and I have only been living here a short time. My hat goes off to your very talented friend....oh the places he has been and seen! The quiet and very talented...American? Thank you for sharing and as always...your words and photos bring it all home. Perfect! You just made my day! Cảm ơn
Jeanne xx

Minou Bazaar said...

This house and garden are so beautiful. I want to live there. I never comment on blogs but I feel moved to show my appreciation for his lovely space. Thank you.
Meenoo

Lee Nicholson said...

Fantastic feast for the senses! Lucky girl to see & experience in person.

Hausfrau said...

I'm in love! Warm thoughts and well wishes going out to your wonderful, creative friend.

Denise said...

Some lives are not lived in minimalist mode, like your dear friend, to whom I send warm thoughts, appreciation, and the question: Did he really know Paul Bowles?

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By just looking at this home you understand what a glorious life it can be. Just marvelous!

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Chris said...

Thank you for this stunning post.
It is obviously the home of a very special person and each and every corner exudes the feeling, to me, of huge smiles, a life fully-lived and enjoyed beyond measure. Thank you so very much for sharing a little of your heart with us. I send you sunshine to warm you right back...
xoxo, Chris

Gayle said...

I just bookmarked this post as well.....I want to be able to come here and soak it in again and again. Hope all is well with this lovely man.

welltravelledbrit said...

Such a beautiful home, I hope your friend is still reading the comments and enjoying them. It's so lovely to see the love, style, thought and energy that has gone into creating this lovely space - thank you for sharing it. I can absolutely see the comparison to Soane's interiors! We have some similar things but i would never think to take an Uzbeki as and put it on a sculpture - I love it, playful and engaging throughout.

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dervla kelly said...

ok wait, he's not an interior designer? That's amazing. Tell him to do a book with me!!

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