Anatomy of a Window

It seems these days I'm never without a bag full of faux ivy* and this morning was no exception.  Armed with said ivy from Center of Floral Design, NYC's best source for silk botanicals, I sped up to Archivia Books to dress a window a la Castaing.

This watercolor of a Castaing installation by Alexandre Serebriakoff was one of my inspirations.  It is the quintessential Castaing room, perfectly pairing blue and green to form an indoor-outdoor room, and fusing the refined Neoclassical with the overupholstered romanticism of Napoleon III.  

Nineteenth century wicker furniture was a favorite of Castaing as seen here in one of her storerooms located a short walk from her shop.  When I found this untouched gem at Marika's (a fantastic source) on Shelter Island for $10, I jumped.

On the Jitney it went to await the magic touch of Claudine who returned it newly dressed in forest green silk velvet.  Through gritted teeth and with hands red from picking out the thousand or so original rusted upholstery tacks, she told me how much she enjoyed working with the chair.  Professional to the end is Claudine.


Castaing was master of the art of the vignette.  She took endless pains in arranging furniture and objects so that it looked as if someone had just stepped away.  As Charlotte Moss recalled, one felt like an impostor walking into her shop because it seemed as if one had trespassed into someone's home.  This was what Castaing called breathing life into a room - and a room was nothing without love or life, as she said.

Accordingly, I gave my imaginary occupant a Limoges teacup and a booklet on Chaim Soutine, the painter Madeleine and her husband Marcellin patronized exclusively.

I was given free reign to curate the wall adjacent to my window with books related to MC, including the dishy Cafe Society.  Stay tuned for my complete recommended Castaing reading list.

For a good time and beautiful books, visit Cynthia and Will at Archivia Books.
993 Lexington Avenue
between 72nd and 71st
Tel: 212.570.9565

*Why the ivy madness?  Castaing's son Michel recalled his mother at Leves, constantly clipping ivy and artfully training it around statues and other architectural elements.  Inside, she preferred "make-believe" vines (they didn't die which saved her the depressing sight of the real thing wilting and turning brown) which she wrapped around epergnes and drain pipes alike.  Like Sleeping Beauty's overgrown forest, the untamed ivy (or simulation of) conjured up a place of enchantment, of fairy tales.