Mad For: Pagoda Pelmets


John Fowler often advised clients to "pig it in" in a new residence before they started decorating thereby allowing time for the space to tell them what it wanted. After a year and a half in our Brooklyn Heights digs, the living room is insisting on a pair of pagoda pelmets and it's time to comply.

One of our naked windows

The pagoda, most often associated with Chinese architecture, is a multi-tiered building used as a place of worship or as a reliquary for sacred objects. Below is a replica of a Chinese pagoda in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.


It was designed in the mid 18th century by Sir William Chambers who actually visited China and adhered more faithfully to the Chinese aesthetic than his contemporaries. Today, most people associate this period of English chinoiserie with furniture maker Thomas Chippendale whose designs are unbridled confections of fantasy - rather than replications.


A mid 18th century japanned pagoda display cabinet, maker unknown, at Uppark House


Virtuoso overdoor carving, c. 176os, by the sublimely named Luke Lightfoot at Claydon House. John Fowler advised on its restoration.


Pagoda pelmets fall most definitely in the latter category and the more over the top, the better - as far as I'm concerned.

Decorator to the stars Billy Haines designed these pelmets for a client in the 1930s...




In the Lake Forest dining room of the Leslie Wheeler house, Frances Elkins installed these mustard-yellow curtains with white plaster valances in 1934....


Haines designed a modified pagoda-form here for the Garden Room at Winfield House, London for US Ambassdor Walter Annenberg in 1969. Love the detail of the tassels at the ends.


Who does OTT better than Diamond and Barratta?



Traditionalists with a twist Brockschmidt and Coleman winningly paired their pelmets with a festoon shade. I'm going to follow their lead, but with an Austrian instead!


Top Photo, a bedroom by Miles Redd - the blue walls with white curtains is so Butterfield 8