period authenticity

2014/5.1, May 7 — Artful Authenticity, Epic Gardens, Subsurface Horrors and more
May 7, 2014 ESSENTIAL Classic Persuasion More than two years of paying full-time attention…
Artful Restoration
Back in 1949, a prominent couple living in Litchfield County, Conn., decided they wanted to build a contemporary-style home that would stand out among the classically styled residences that marked the area.  After conducting extensive research, they retained the renowned Bauhaus architect and Modernist artist Marcel Breuer. The home Breuer eventually designed for Leslie and Rufus Stillman pays testimony to the stark beauty of minimalism:  The daring, box-shaped, two-level structure featured an array of contemporary elements and appointments, not least of which is a large, rectilinear swimming pool accessed by a dramatic, cantilevered staircase from the home’s upper level.  (Things worked out so well here, by the way, that this was just the first of three Breuer homes commissioned by the Stillmans.) The couple avidly collected modern art, so the home became a showplace for a number of original pieces by several of the mid-century period’s greatest artists, including Alexander Calder.  Although perhaps best remembered today for inventing the mobile, Calder was asked in this case to paint an original mural on a large block wall set above the deep end of the pool.  The results were, in a word, spectacular. But let’s fast-forward 60 years:  By 2010, the Stillman House was in need of restoration, and even the vivid Calder mural had cracked and eroded from exposure to the elements.  Happily, this proved a turning point, as the property’s new owners announced their intention to
Classic Derivations
It might be something of a cliché, but it's often said that there's great wisdom in being willing and able to learn the lessons of history. In that spirit, I recently took advantage of an opportunity to sit in on a class in the
Embracing the Past: Mark Holden’s Platinum Standard Project
Watershaping advanced by leaps and bounds from 1999 through 2004 – a journey of artistry…
Preserving History
Here in America, our idea of history goes back only so far. That's particularly true in southern California, where "older" architecture is anything before about 1960 and very few structures date to a time before 1920.  But it's also the case for most of the rest of the country with reference to architecture:  We don't have the "ancient" structures that still set the tone and architectural vocabulary the way they do in Europe, Asia and other places. For those who prefer modern or contemporary styles, this lack of history may be irrelevant.  For those who feel an affinity to older styles, however, there's a tendency to cringe every time an older house is torn down to
Classic Persuasion
For more than two full years, this project was my personal and professional obsession.  It all started in 1993, when my client, a wealthy recording-industry magnate, called on me to design the landscape for a property he'd just acquired in Bel Air, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  The Spanish Colonial-style home had been built in the 1920s and was in a sad state of disrepair.  By the time I arrived, it had been gutted to the studs, and very nearly all of the hardscape and plantings around the house had been torn out as well. What he was offering me was a tantalizingly blank canvas in a most spectacular setting. In the two years that followed, not only would we