When the Dog Bites, When the Bee Stings
David Feld staves off the winter blues with some of his favorite things.
FAVORITE PRE-20TH CENTURY FURNITURE PERIOD: Louis XV. This was a tough one. The sleeker, neoclassic lines of Louis XVI and the cabinet-making poetics of Chippendale were strong contenders, but after much hand-wringing, there is simply nothing more beautiful than the sinuous curve of a cabriole leg, the delicate carving of a foliate or floral crest rail, and the burnished water gilding of a really fine Louis XV chair. And a piece by a master such as Jean Baptiste Tilliard or Georges Jacob is art.
FAVORITE FABRIC: Silk Velvet. I am an avowed fabric junkie, so this was the hardest category for me. Oh, who am I kidding, they were all hard categories. But how could I rule out cotton, linen, or silk in their infinite permutations? Toiles, Chintzes, crisp linens, and embroidered silks haunt me still. But I have dogs, and dogs are messy. So silk velvet, a fabric that only improves with age and use, is the only possible option. I have a set of Brno chairs that have been covered for more than 25 years in a goldenrod-hued silk velvet and have survived such indignities heaped upon them from hollandaise to hairballs. Stained, threadbare, even slightly shredded, silk velvet justifies its high price with its lustrous beauty, feel, and bulletproof durability.
FAVORITE COFFEE TABLE: The Tugendhat (known as Barcelona) by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Although it is mistakenly attributed as a design for the Weimar Republic Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona Industrial Exposition, this seminal piece of modern furniture was actually designed a year later for the Tugendhat house in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Whatever. It is a 40-inch-thick square of glass placed over a cross frame of chrome steel bars that form a simple X pattern. When Mies famously declared that “God is in the details,” he could have been talking about his deceptively simple coffee table. While the chairs (or usually cheap copies) that bear the “Barcelona” name are the scourge (I am no fan – they are neither pleasing to look at nor comfortable) of medical offices and “modern” interiors worldwide, this elegant square of steel and glass is as at home in my little house as it would be in Versailles. Produced to Mies’ specifications by Knoll International, many look-alikes and “working” models are made, but they aren’t the same.
FAVORITE NAPKINS: Napkins should be oversized (preferably at least a 24 square inches) and made of either pure linen or cotton. They need not cost a lot. Any hint of manmade fibers reduces absorbency, leading to greasy hands, and that goes for meals served in the kitchen or a ballroom. I have to admit, though, that there is something sickly amusing about watching hundreds of polyester napkins fly off beautifully gowned laps during a fancy dinner.
FAVORITE GLASSES: I like glasses to be thick and substantial for barware and thin for wine and brandies. For thick, my dream would be the “thumb printed” lead crystal from Baccarat in the Harcourt pattern or any of the etched and cut pieces by William Yeoward. For thin, Baccarat Perfection or a good Eastern European crystal such as Riedel do nicely. But even my $5 drinking glasses from Crate & Barrel work. They shatter like the pricey types, but you don’t wince as much. Tiffany & Co. sells a fine champagne flute that is thin enough to feel the bubbles.
FAVORITE SHEETS: Two hundred and fifty thread count percale Wamsutta Supercale sheets in the Scallop pattern. Designed in the 1930s, they seem to have disappeared forever. These crisp cool sheets with the simple blue scallop border were my first love in what has been a lifelong affair with bed linens. They used to be available through the Neiman Marcus catalog then migrated to Garnet Hill. Do not buy the impostors that are now sold through these catalogs. If they don’t say Wamsutta, they aren’t real. If anybody knows where they can be had, please drop me a line – [email protected].
FAVORITE DECORATOR: Ha. You thought I would actually name one?
FAVORITE PAINT: Donald Kaufman. What do you say about a paint company that produces more than 20 different whites, but only two reds? I have friends in the industry who question my devotion to a man whose paint costs the earth but is as luminous as a painting by Agnes Martin or Jan Vermeer. And since Kaufman has been hired by museums from the Metropolitan to the Getty, chances are works by both are quite happily hanging atop his paint.
FAVORITE DEAD ARCHITECT: Andrea Palladio, the father of Western classicism. He gave the Greco-Roman Classic order a human scale that remains relevant today and laid the foundation on which all great Western buildings are based. Buildings from the White House to a simple wood sided, center hall shack owe their light and air to this 16th century Italian. Without him, there would be no symmetry, balance, or appropriate sense of scale.
FAVORITE THINGS TO HATE: Proposition 2 and pleather: I hold both in equal disdain.