Ah, blue and white: classic and timeless, traditional or modern, jaunty yet soothing. When it comes to contemporary interiors, the color combination is perhaps most associated with California designer Mark D. Sikes, who achieved acclaim early on in his design career for his use of blue and white at his own Hollywood Hills home, featured on the cover of House Beautiful in 2012 and then, after being redone, in VERANDA in 2014.
It seems only fitting, then, that Sikes would pay tribute to perhaps the most famous blue-and-white room in design history: —the living room at La Fiorentina in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France. Good news, design history enthusiasts: that moment has come, at the inaugural Kips Bay Dallas Decorator Show House, which is open to the public from September 25 through October 25 with limited in-person and virtual tour options available.
Assigned the show house's living room, which Sikes has dubbed "Casa Fiorentina," the designer was struck by how certain elements of the space's existing architecture (its sweep of French doors and the dramatic dark stone fireplace surround) recalled similarities to the iconic living room on the Côte d'Azur.
"It's one of my favorite homes of all time, not just how beautiful it is but all of the amazing designers, from Rory Cameron, Billy Baldwin, David Hicks—even Hubert de Givenchy and Bunny Mellon—who are a part of the story," says Sikes. "It was such a glamorous place."
"My interpretation honors the essence of the timeless La Fiorentina while being reimagined with a Texas twist," says Sikes. "It continues the tradition of casual ease and elegance its namesake is known for."
According to Alexandra Lloyd Properties, La Fiorentina was “built in 1917 by the Countess Therese de Beauchamp on a vast piece of land [that] occupies the extreme end of the Saint Hospice point of the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula.” In partnership with Harold Peto, architects Aaron and Gaston Messiah began the work on the Palladian-style villa; it was completed by Ferdinand Bac before being sold first to Sir Edmund Davis, then Lady Kenmare in 1939.
Lady Kenmare's son, Roderick "Rory" Cameron, was the first designer to truly put his personal stamp on La Fiorentina, from its interiors to its gardens. While he and his mother were there, the villa became one of the most glamorous destinations in the world, a must-stop for the most stylish people of the day.
In 1969, La Fiorentina changed hands once again when Lady Kenmare sold it to advertising executive Mary Wells Lawrence and her husband, Harding Lawrence, president of Braniff International Airlines, who hired decorator Billy Baldwin to revitalize the seaside villa.
Baldwin's redecoration of La Fiorentina has been the most influential of the villa's many periods, yet his touch was rather light. The iconic American decorator, who kept many of the furnishings, including the mirror over the living room fireplace, said of his work, "We have simply reshot it in color."
It was that shot of color—clear, sky blue cotton slipcovered upholstery; a darker blue-and-white checkerboard French woven rug; blue-and-white Chinese porcelains—that continues to influence designers today.
In Sikes's Dallas tribute, pleated ivory curtains with tiebacks trimmed in blue tape (all fabricated by The Shade Store) and lantern lighting (by Paul Ferrante) are pages from Cameron's style playbook for La Fiorentina, but the sky blue slipcovers, scaled-up geometric rug, Chinese porcelain collections, and French baskets are pure Baldwin.
Of course, any tribute worth its salt includes a few new elements, and Sikes's rendition is no different. Covering the walls with an Iksel wallpaper that mimics the look of blue-and-white tiles infuses a layered, and perhaps more traditional, twist into the Baldwin-inspired scheme.
Furthermore, Sikes's incorporation of antique mahogany and walnut furniture and a massive 17th-century Italian painting over the sofa lends a decidedly old-world air and a certain gravitas that stands in contrast to Baldwin's breezy, modern design.
Sikes is by no means the first designer to be inspired by the French villa, particularly Baldwin's design for its living room. One of the most beautifully executed rooms with nods to Baldwin's La Fiorentina is designer Bunny Williams's living room at La Colina, her iconic-in-its-own-right home in the Dominican Republic.
Jacksonville- and Atlanta-based designer Phoebe Howard, well known for her own brilliant command of blues, has also paid homage to La Fiorentina in several rooms, including the living room featured on the cover of her book Room by Room (Abrams, 2015).
You Might Also Like