Answer: One of my personal favorites was the refurbishing of the Blue Room in the White House. The committee for the Preservation of the White House included Leslie Greene Bowman, Wendy Cooper and Richard Nylander (museum curators), and decorators Mark Hampton and Kaki Hockersmith.
The refurbishing and renovation process of the Blue Room began in 1990. Governed by the historic French objects purchased by President James Monroe in 1817, the room was completed in 1995.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the honorary chair of the committee and was actively involved in the project. Many meetings with the curators, designers and historians were attended before the final efforts were decided and implemented.
The Blue Room is one of three oval rooms in the White House and is located on the State Floor. The room is seen by 1.2 million visitors a year and was last refurbished in 1972. The draperies and furniture upholstery had become soiled, worn and sun damaged and needed to be replaced, as did the badly worn mid-19th-century Chinese carpet which had been in the room more than 20 years.
The beautiful sapphire fabric used for the draperies and furniture is similar to that used in the 1800s. The silk upholstery fabric retains the gold eagle medallion on the chair backs, which were adapted from the depiction of one of the Monroe-era chairs in a portrait of President James Monroe. The Monroe-era furniture, consisting of seven original chairs and four reproductions and a sofa, was upholstered by Nelson Beck of Washington, DC.
The light gold wallpaper with alternating classic motifs was inspired from a design of an early 19th-century American paper in the collection of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in Boston, MA. The borders were adapted from two early 19th-century French papers in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, the Smithsonian Institution in New York, NY. The upper border paper is a blue drapery swag depiction with gold classical motifs. The lower border, along the chair rail, has a blue and gold pattern with rosettes. The wallpapers were made by Brunschwig & Fils of New York.
The color chosen for the painting was inspired from an American room of the first quarter of the 19th century. The wainscoting, door surrounds and window reveals took many hours of labor to depict and redefine their detailing. The woodwork had a white rubbed paint finish that created a "porcelain" appearance. The baseboards were painted in a faux marble, but once this was removed, beautiful white marble which had been installed in the Truman era was underneath. The acanthus leaves in the cornice and on the ceiling medallion have been gilded, as have the three lines of moulding in the cornice.
A major focus of the project was the preservation and conservation of the historic furnishings in the room and of the early 19th-century American "looking glass" which is located over the mantel. Many repairs and regilding of the items were very time consuming. Retained in the room are the French gilded bronze clock and mahogany center table (not shown in the photograph).
The hand-loomed oval wool carpet which measures 23.7 feet by 33.1 feet was adapted from an original design for a new classical English carpet of around 1815. This was the period in which President James Monroe acquired furnishings for the blue room. The design is owned by Woodward Grosvenor and Co., Ltd., in England, whose American representative is J.R. Burrows Co., Rockland, MA. The Beautiful wool carpet was made by Stark Carpet Corp. with offices in Washington, D.C.
As you can see, attention to detail, research and a personal understanding of the time and characteristics of the era you are designing for are important to putting together a successful restoration project.
Editor's Note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson which will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings, as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
Sharon L. Anderson, Associate Member, Interior Design Educator's Council (IDEC), has more than 14 years experience as a commercial and residential design professional. She has taught numerous courses at colleges and universities throughout Southern California and is a published author and frequent public speaker.