Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Designer Frank Babb Randolph

Thank you to the Washington Post for including this post in your Blog Watch, July 9, 2009! 

Last week, while visiting family in Washington, DC, I made a trip to the wonderful antique store Marston Luce. I had just read the new issue of Southern Accents on the airplane ride to DC, but did not make the connection between the store and the article on Luce's beautiful home in France until the seeing the magazine in the store; when I commented on what a good issue it was, the store manager made the connection for me. Hill Country House did a wonderful write up of the article and the 'humble elegance' of Marston Luce.


I snapped a quick iphone picture of the window display at Marston Luce; the Swedish settee truly beckoned me into the store.

While I was in the store, my sister pointed out that famed Washington DC based designer Frank Babb Randolph was in the store with a client. In my world, famous designers are like celebrities. I was more excited to catch a glimpse of Randolph than I would have been to see Brad Pitt (well, maybe that is an exaggeration). Although I did not rush over and take a picture and ask for an autograph, I did surreptitiously listen in on Randolph's comments on the various antiques in the store, and his conversation with the shopkeeper.

It was quite interesting to see what caught his eye that day. This chest was of particular interest!



Randolph does not have a web site, but many of us are familiar with his work from reading magazines and blogs. These pictures of a beautiful white kitchen are perhaps some of the most popular images of his work to circulate on the blogs; I have posted them quite a few times on my own blog, as the beauty of the kitchen and the conservatory style breakfast room inspire me every time I see them. I also love the little sidelight windows on the wall next to the sink. Image via Southern Accents, photography by Tria Giovan.


This beautiful living room is from Randolph's own home, which was profiled in Washington Spaces magazine. I always think it is fascinating to get a glimpse into the personal space of a designer - it is often the best reflection of their own true style. I love the mix of antiques with new items, the beautiful French doors that fill the space with light, and of course, the contemporary art by Elizabeth Dax above the fireplace. Image via Washington Spaces, photography by Kenneth M. Wyner.


A view of the other side of the living room. I love the lines of this sofa (the Gabrielle sofa by Niermann Weeks)! The tall mirror and the exquisite sconces are my favorite elements in the room; clearly Randolph is exceptionally talented at scale and proportion, because the sconces in relation to the mirror seem perfect to my eyes. The soft, pale colors of the room really speak to me.


I am a huge fan of light floors, and clearly Randolph is too. The rich, dark color of the mahogany dining table (custom designed by Randolph) is the perfect element in this light room. Notice the feet of the table, which are nickel plated lion's heads. The symmetry in this room is so pleasing to the eye. Image via Washington Spaces, photography by Kenneth M. Wyner.


The exterior of Randolph's Georgetown home. Image via Washington Spaces, photography by Kenneth M. Wyner.


When I saw this picture on the cover of Washington Spaces last year, it inspired a post on light floors that remains one of my all time favorite posts. I recently came across a quote from Randolph about light floors; he believes that they make the furntiture really dance. This home was a 1960s Georgetown showhouse that was transformed by Randolph. I love the combination of the bleached oak floors and the luxurious melon and lime striped silk curtains. Also note Randolph's use of a contrasting fabric on the back of the chairs. Image via Washington Spaces, photography by Morgan Howarth.


The dining room of the showhouse is simple and elegant. The coral curtains and skirted table add an infusion of color. I must admit, I have a great fondness for coral silk!


Another space that Randolph decorated, this time a Georgetown townhouse from the 1800s. More and more, my taste is transitioning to chairs with straight elegant lines like these.


Randolph also worked on the Vice President's residence for former VP Cheney and his wife Lynne. "We transformed the house using a simple, monochromatic palette," Randolph said, and used antiques, art, classic upholstery, and billowing silk curtains. Image via Washington Post.


Another picture of a room from the VP Mansion, with a large dramatic piece of contemporary art by Helen Frankenthaler taking center stage. Lynne Cheney said that one of the best perks of decorating the VP Mansion was being able to borrow extraordinary pieces of art. Image via Washington Post.

When researching this post, I realized that there is a certain look to Randolph's rooms, one that I like very much. He often uses full richly colored silk curtains; a monochromatic palette punctuated with bursts of color in the art, curtains, and pillows; a mix of best quality reproductions and beautiful antiques; often there are light floors or light, neutral rugs that unify the space and provide a wonderful backdrop for the items in the room. In his own home, Randolph has a fondness for painted European furniture and beautiful chairs - go back and and look, and you will see such a variety in the number and styles of chairs. He clearly has a love and appreciation for beautifully made chairs!