For House Beautiful’s 125th anniversary this year, we're digging into some of our favorite spaces from our archive—including, so far, decorator Sister Parish’s New York Apartment and the West Hollywood home and studio of designer extraordinaire Tony Duquette, dubbed "the house of a magician." Here, we revisit a piece about the window treatments of Blair House, from 1989, which was first published in our April issue that year.
In the days leading up to Inauguration Day, it’s tradition for the president-elect to stay across the street from the White House, at Blair House, which consists of four Federal-style townhouses built in the 1800s. The President’s Guest House also serves as a spot for other important political figures to stay when they’re in town: Queen Elizabeth II, Justin Trudeau, and Emmanuel Macron are just a few of the notable figures who have rested their heads here.
And although vice presidents typically move into Vice President’s Residence at One Observatory Circle shortly after the inauguration, Vice President Kamala Harris (and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff) spent the first two months of the Biden administration residing at Blair House, as the VP Residence underwent renovations.
Beyond its impressive guest list, Blair House also boasts a celebrated interior design duo as its decorators: design legends Mario Buatta and Mark Hampton, who redecorated the home’s interiors in the 1980s. And, as seen in the April 1989 issue of House Beautiful, the ornate window treatments of the dwelling deserve their own spotlight, given the many luxurious fabrics and fanciful patterns they’re swathed in.
Read the original story below:
Designed by Mario Buatta and Mark Hampton, the lavish curtains at Blair House are a living 19th-century pattern book that you can simplify for your home
Blair House echoes with history: first as the home of Washington insiders, then, after 1942, as the residence of foreign heads of state and reigning monarchs. Among the visiting friends were presidents Jackson, Lincoln and Taft. More recent visitors include Margaret Thatcher and King Hussein I. Mark Hampton and Mario Buatta plunged into another kind of history—19th-century style in patrician America—when each was commissioned to redecorate half the rooms in this complex of attached townhouses. Their window treatments are eloquent, and to inspire clever amateurs who know how to adapt and modify, we are showing 10 instructive close-ups. Above left: A striped silk festoon blind—a style Venetian in origin—pulls up to disclose a beautiful view. Below: Over an arched garden door in a glamorous double parlor lined with rich green c. 1770 Chinese wallpaper, a new gilded carved pelmet board curves upward and outward to accentuate the arch. Curtains are a silk taffeta with a whimsical Chinese-lantern fringe.
A small parlor in Blair House where Robert E. Lee refused an offer to command the Union Army is now known as the Lincoln Room. In it Mark Hampton’s rich but understated curtains (far left) are a striped cotton sateen hanging from a pelmet board with bronze rosettes. They are held simply by a rosette known as a tie-back. Near left: Another painted, gilded pelmet board, this one copied from an 1850 London example, supports deep swags and long side jabots of creamy damask. Above: Swags and jabots do not have to match curtain panels. In a melon-colored dining room, the striped neoclassical valance, held by rosettes of the same material, complements melon-colored curtains. Upholsterers call this stone stone draping, because it resembles ancient Greek carving. All the Blair House curtains are backed with pretty fabrics and interlined with flannel and light-proof cloth. Like Mainbocher ball dresses, they can almost stand alone.
Editor CAROLYN ENGLEFIELD
Writer ELAINE GREENE
Photographer EDGAR de EVIA
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