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.  


  1. Welcome back! I have noticed that refurbs of listed buildings also can't seem to truly have an identity when it comes to pellets and many fall at that hurdle and most do scratch their head wondering what is off kilter. But I am guilty of liking that cornice pellet in the last picture but not in the London hotel room which is illogical!

    1. It is a shame that any kind of slightly complicated curtain and pelmet arrangement is often prohibitively expensive nowadays. But it's like with shoes (and handbags I presume): in order to look good it's got to be expensive !

  2. So nice to have you back! Having a tall narrow bedroom myself, the one thing that makes it worth being in is the pelmets and valences above two windows which gives the room some character. The type you show does offend the eye, making the room seem cartoonish.

    1. and I haven't even mentioned the blue .....

    2. Oh yes, the blue—a color I like, but which looks garish with the cornice work and that huge pattern.

  3. These jutting cornices were perhaps not the greatest idea in the history of decoration. The blue bedroom compounds the crime by being absolutely hideous, to boot.

  4. Glad to have you back and hear your witty take on all things interior :-)

  5. Oh that blue hotel bedroom! A perfect lesson in How Not To Decorate.
    Of cornices which become pelmets I have always had mixed feelings--they are rarely successful,
    but there are a few good examples from the 1930s moderne period when it was all about sleekness
    and understatement.
    Good to have another fine post from DM.

  6. Thank you for all the 'welcome back ' messages ! I intend to fill several dark winter evenings with working through my 'subjects for the blog' list and be back with you soon.
    Happy Christmas in the meantime !