Bernhardt's Marquesa dresser on Saxon Henry's blog.

Harmony and Proportion

Love of beauty is taste…the creation of beauty is art. -Emerson

Sketch in the book Living a Beautiful Life
A lovely Pat Stewart illustration in “Living a Beautiful Life.”

I’ve been a fan of Alexandra Stoddard since I came across the designer’s book Living a Beautiful Life in the mid-1980s. She has since become a prolific author with an insightful list of releases but Living a Beautiful Life remains the book I return to when I need a reminder that comforting rituals have a nurturing impact on our worlds.

 

Harmony and Proportion

“Creating daily rituals—making daily tasks into times of enrichment through planning and special personal details—is a way to live a richer, more satisfying life,” she writes. Sprinkled throughout the book are gracious line drawings by Pat Stewart and inspiring quotes.

There are “Grace Notes” at the end of each chapter summing up the text, which make for grounding reminders when life becomes too hectic to spend time with the chapters themselves. After 25 years of use, my book remains one of the treasures in my bag of ticks for managing a fast-paced existence.

 

Bernhardt's Jewell drawer chest and Faye mirror.
Bernhardt’s Jewell drawer chest and Faye mirror debuting at High Point Market.

The Decoration of Houses

In 1997, Stoddard published The Decoration of Houses, her expansion of the ideas first put into print by one of her heroines, Edith Wharton, who published a book with the same title in 1897 (with co-author Ogden Codman, Jr.). In her homage to Wharton, Stoddard begins her Foreword with this superb Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “Love of beauty is taste…the creation of beauty is art.”

With it she gracefully furthers her point that Wharton’s book became a revolutionary bible for professional designers and architects stateside and abroad who were determined to turn the creation of beauty into an art form.

I find it quite fascinating that the first book penned by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author the caliber of Edith Wharton was a decorating book, one that changed thinking about interior design for all time, no less. These subjects are top of mind for me because I am preparing to travel to High Point Market tomorrow.

 

Living a Beautiful Life as a Design Writer

I am thrilled to be a sponsored blogger, tapped by Bernhardt Furniture to feature their new releases debuting this month. I will also be sharing news about their products (as well as debuts by other brands) I see at #HPMkt through social media, so stay tuned. I’ll be bringing you launches by Ambella Home, my other sponsor, here and socially during the next few months, as well.

I feel fortunate to be able to publish the Bernhardt images illustrating this post because I am able to give you a first look at the elegant furnishings the company is releasing this month. A visit to their showroom is always such a treat because the vignettes they create are as close to set decoration as I’ve ever seen outside of a film set.

Their new releases this market include the Fontana dining table, the Skylar chair, the Jewell drawer chest, the Faye mirror and the Marquesa dresser—all of which carry the level of sophisticated detailing that makes this manufacturer so popular. The dresser in particular exudes the style Wharton celebrated in her important book, the first to discuss the history of the development of each room in the home as extensively as she did.

She made it her mission to impart that references to historical designs represent the pinnacle of good taste, setting the bar very high. I cannot wait to see the Marquesa and the other glamorous pieces that reflect this level of refinement within vignettes in the Bernhardt showroom on Friday morning when I visit.

Bernhardt's Marquesa dresser on Saxon Henry's blog.
Bernhardt’s Marquesa dresser, debuting at High Point Market in October 2014.

In Stoddard’s version of The Decoration of Houses, she speaks of “Home as Refuge,” remarking how, more than ever before, we enjoy shaping the mood and feelings we create in our personal havens through the elements that make up our spaces: “Through the materials we use, through space, scale proportion, and color, and through the furniture and objects we select to use as well as enjoy, we animate the things around us and bring greater depth and meaning to our everyday existence.

When we succeed, our house becomes a real and seamless extension of who we are, evolving with us as we grow to a higher aesthetic dimension.” Thanks to companies like Berhnardt, this growth and evolution can include alluring signature pieces that allow us to express the essence we crave through quality and with confidence.

Bernhardt's Skylar chair, an example of harmony and proportion.
Bernhardt’s Skylar chair, debuting at High Point Market.

As a design writer for nearly three decades, I would like to end this post by saying how grateful I am to have found my own heroines in the design-writing realm, which include both Edith Wharton and Alexandra Stoddard. These talented women have created powerful legacies, which have helped those who follow in their footsteps understand what it means to add tremendous aesthetic value and depth to the subject of interior design.

In closing her book on the subject she was so passionate about, Wharton wrote, “There is no absolute perfection, there is no communicable ideal; but much that is empiric, much that is confused and extravagant, will give way before the application of principles based on common sense and regulated by the laws of harmony and proportion.”

I’ll be seeking examples of these principles as I tour High Point and sharing the finds that best abide by the laws of harmony and proportion with you as the week progresses. If you see a favorite, would you let me know? Thanks so much for stopping by!

 

Design Details for New Bernhardt Releases

Fontana dining table: intersecting oval links in solid and tubular steel with a gold finish—54” diameter x 30” high. Skylar chair: cast iron frame in an aged gold finish; integrated Greek key arm; curved back for extra comfort and style—27” wide x 33 ½” deep x 28 ½” high. Jewell drawer chest: lacy mother-of-pearl inlays on drawers and sides; high leg cabinet of acacia veneers with a weathered grey finish—40” wide x 18” deep x 32 ½” high.

Faye mirror: light-reflecting kabebe shell tiles laid in an overscale geometric pattern; round metal frame—36” diameter x 1” deep. Marquesa Dresser: overlapping oval metal fretwork applied over antiqued mirror with sparkling rosette pulls; high-leg cabinet in white oak veneer with a Gray Cashmere finish; subtle walnut inline on the top surface—62 7/8” wide x 20 ½” deep x 39 ½” high.

The Modern Salonière and this DesignStudio entry © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and strategist. Her books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns.

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