Tuesday, 17 December 2013

'Hotel style' .. or is it

Although it has been a while, today only a quick post, as my books are still packed away and I've got 3 boxes of Christmas decorations to empty.
Being 'into' curtains, pelmets, poles and all that, I always find it disappointing when designers or architects have tried, but in my view not hard enough to make these interior elements exciting. That happens, for instance, when the room cornice (crown moulding in the US?) runs in front of the curtain track, thus forming a kind of pelmet box.
In contemporary interiors this system has its valid place and can look perfectly adequate, particularly in rooms where the whole of the window wall becomes one big curtain from floor to ceiling, as is the case in most modern style hotel rooms. For example The Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul, where, although it's not my own taste, I wouldn't mind staying a night or two.

In more traditional settings, however, it doesn't work for me. An extreme example of this is a bedroom in a top London hotel, in which I, for one, would not be able to go to sleep. Not only is the cornice too deep for the room, it jumps out of the wall in several places, where it becomes not only the curtain cornice, but also the corona top of the bed hangings.
I am sure my readers of good taste will agree that this is rather lazy and just not very nice. In my view traditional pelmet boxes and bed headings should be separate things and not simply mushroom out of the ceiling like this.


Last week I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has recently reopened its doors after a lengthy restoration project and is looking absolutely magnificent (perhaps something in a later post on the background colour for the paintings). Several historic interiors have been built into the museum and one of these is a salon which was designed and put together around 1794 for a well-to-do merchant in the city of Haarlem.
It is an exceptionally fine and elegant room, which, apart form its plaster ceiling, has survived virtually intact and original. At the end of the 18th century this was the best money could buy in the Netherlands, even if the 'production' is very European. The chandelier is English, the fireplace Italian, the carpet is Flemish and the silk hangings, chair covers and curtains came from Lyon.
The borders around the wall panels and the curtains are not just mitered in the corners in the way we would do it today. In this case there is both a horizontal and a vertical version of the pattern. That's how smart it is.
The carving around the door cases and the doors themselves are beautifully detailed too. Here is the room from the other side:
And here is my own photograph taken in the Museum. Although the cornice is more ornamental than architectural in character, it clearly jumps forward above the windows, forming the curtain pelmet boxes, precisely in the way that I have just been criticising. 

So there you have it. Plus ca change. Very few things are really new. Some kind of historical precedent can usually be found; even for these 'hotel' curtains, which, to be honest, I'm still not going to be designing like that myself.