18 November 2010

Vieux Carré Color

Splendid Doorway in the Vieux Carré
Homes and other buildings in the old French Quarter of New Orleans, are a great mix of architectural styles and famously ornate ironwork balconies and galleries. But what really struck me most was the paint colors, particularly on the Creole cottages.  Bright, saturated, pastel, or faded:  they are displayed in fearless and exciting combinations, and when you line them all up they look great together.
This is no accident, as each house in the Vieux Carré must have its paint scheme approved by the Vieux Carré Commission,  a local government body that supervises all renovation and restoration in the area and provides resources and advice to building owners on the best way to preserve  and restore their treasures.  Their site contains an excellent explanation of the popular color schemes of  four distinct periods of building in the Quarter  from 1820-1920 (and many buildings are actually older than that) as well as other regulations and guidelines.  For example:
"  ... False "graining" was often applied to doors, but, in these cases, the wood imitated was usually figured oak, rosewood or maple. The practice of applying a clear finish to bare wood with the expectation that this will adequately imitate "graining" is prohibited. Graining should be done by skilled craftsmen." 
I, and hundreds of faux bois painters,  could not agree more.

Royal St: a bright coral house with "Paris Green" shutters

Bright yellow creole cottage with cornflower blue shutters

The Society of Gilders held its conference here late in October.  We started our week in the c. 1789 building known as Mme John's Legacy;  the street level doors open to the underside of the covered porch;  a note taped to one of them read merely "Gilders Upstairs" and to my great delight, there they were,  as promised. Gilders.  But I digress... 

Mme John's Legacy sporting its original 1789 color scheme
I had a marvelous week roaming around the city,  soaking up inspiration. What a great color collection this would make.  Of course it's been done.... some years ago, Sherwin-Williams made a collection of paint colors called "Vieux Carré Colors: Reflections of the New Orleans Historic French Quarter."   The palette was based on research done by the paint manufacturer along with the Vieux Carre Commission in the late 1960s.  It was re-issued briefly in 2003 but is, alas, no longer available.   However, my Sherwin Williams dealer tells me you may still get these colors made if you know their names, like Toulouse Street Green or Pontalba Rose.
Toulouse Street:  yep, that's green

Chartres Street:  I love this sunwashed gold and sea green palette:  
the upper floor of this house is painted a shade lighter, and all of the french doors are faux bois.

A larger collection of these pictures from "New Orleans in Color" I have  posted at Flickr.

all photos in this post by Lynne Rutter, October 2010

03 November 2010

Modern Wallpaper of the 19th Century

The center hall of the Beauregard-Keyes House; reproduction circa 1860s wallpaper on its walls
This week I visited an old (by our standards) house in the Vieux Carré of New Orleans,  built in 1826, which has come to be known as the Beauregard-Keyes House, after its two most famous residents.

PGT Beauregard was the Confederacy's first and most brilliant brigadier general, and lived in this house in his post-bellum days,  from 1866-1868, while he was president of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad.   So years later when the building fell into disrepair, its famous tenant helped save the house by attracting the attention of the Daughters of the Confederacy who lobbied for its preservation. 
In the 1940s,  the famous lady novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes bought the house and restored it to its Beauregard-era glory, researching the original paint colors and having custom reproduction wallpaper made.   Keyes took excellent care of this house, wintered there for over 25 years, and eventually died there in 1970, leaving the property to a foundation.  It's now a museum to both the historic house,  and to the amazing woman who lived there later.
And of course it is now reputed to be haunted, so no doubt it is further protected by the spirits of those who came before.

I like the vivid wallpaper in the hall.   A bit odd, to see Victorian wallpaper imposed on Greek-Revival architecture but the mix does work for me for some reason.  It's scaled perfectly - this is a large print and needs to be, as the hallway is over 800 square foot with 14 foot ceilings. The caramel and teal palette, and bold design seem oddly modern to me.