The April issue of Architectural Digest in Collecting talks about a new subset of collectors who are looking for “something that other people in their crowd don’t have or know about” and have discovered a new passion: the artistry of antique and vintage paneling, from 18th-century boiserie painted with exquisite trompe l’oeil to Art Deco leather sheathing to space-age expanses of gleaming lacquer. Paris antiques dealer Benjamin Steinitz says “If furniture gives a room purpose, paneling wakes it up.”
Hooray walls as art are In Style. See my Classical Trends for 2013 Walls Are In. I am thrilled to hear this not just because I LOVE paneled rooms, but I have been saying wall panels are a great investment for today. I am also encouraging everyone to consider creating great walls, ceilings, doors and windows. Just think we are creating todays’ rooms and walls as art. When there is no ‘stuff’ in the room it is still amazing to be in. A room with presence.
“An entire room can still be relatively inexpensive,” says Alistair Clarke of Sotheby’s, where a finely crafted George II pine library went for just $20,000 in 2011. I am thinking about all the new masterpieces that we can create with the amazing decorative artists, products and finishes we have access to today. A Beaux Artes’ Louis XIV paneled foyer with 6 panels each with hand painted canvas panels will cost $3,800 prior to installation.
According to Clarke “But prices rise considerably if the paneling is exceptional.” Two years ago at Christie’s in Paris, for example, one bidder spent a little over $3 million on a 1930s smoking room (cladding for a 13-by-20 foot space) that Jean Dunand, the Era’s high priest of lacquer, wrought as an abstract grove of palm trees shimmering with metallic leaf. Below is Jean Dunand lacquered walls covered in a goldfish pond scene for a breakfast room in 1929.
At the age of fourteen, Jean Dunand began studying sculpture at the Geneva School of Industrial Arts, where he won several prizes. After five years study, he was awarded his diploma. 1905, was elected to the Societe Nationale des Beaux Arts after completing an interior for the Comtess de Bearn. Dunand along with Angst, Fraysee and Collet worked under the direction of Jean Dampt. Few years later, he began working with Seizo Sugawara, a Japanese laquerist who had recently emigrated to France, to learn the seemingly lost technique of lacquer.
This gorgeous screen is at the Metropolitan Museum. The Fortissmo screen materials; lacquered wood, gold leaf, mother-of-pearl and eggshell.
Parchment paneling by Jean-Michel Frank, created in the 1930s for perfume magnate Jean-Pierre Guerlain.
From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, Versailles-style paneling, or boiserie, was de rigueur among international aesthetes, thanks in part to such tastemakers as Belle Epoque decorator Georges Hoentschel. I am definitely buying Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel. April 4th there is an exhibition about the book which will be opening at Manhattan’s Bard Graduate Center.
The drawback with vintage paneling are the room proportions. There is a history of paneling salvaged from English castles or Continental estates being cut down or augmented for new spaces. Consider the mid-18th-century boiserie in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Varengeville Room; originally from a Paris mansion, it was filled out in the 1960s with custom-carved elements from Jansen’s atelier.
“AD100 designer Tony Ingrao is taking the same tack with 18th century French panels he is installing in a Long Island dining room, fitting them into new stiles and rails made in the Louis XVI style. While the world’s leading specialists in historic paneling, Galerie Steinitz and Feau & Cie, both in Paris, can replicate the most delicately chiseled acanthus leaf or painted arabesque.”
The main difficulty with vintage panels is having them fit in your space and the advice is find the vintage panels and then build a room for them. For those of us that love the look, the easiest and most affordable way to achieve the look of vintage panels is to create them new and finish them to appear aged. The Annie Sloan chalk paint is perfect for this look. I do understand the desire to own vintage paneling but I’m just saying if you want that look it is possible for most design budgets.