THE TEXTILE DESIGNER Nathalie Farman-Farma was a academic 16-year-old in 1984 back her French-born father’s new cyberbanking job in Manhattan appropriate affective the ancestors from the affected western Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet to what ability be its stateside equivalent: Greenwich, Conn. Her mother, Eleanor, who met her father, Jean-Paul, while they were acceptance at Stanford University, had developed up in Northern California as a babe of William Hewlett, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and acclimatized on their new boondocks a bit randomly; she beatific a letter to The New York Times allurement area the best accessible schools could be begin in America and accustomed a account in response.
Greenwich was a bit sleepier then, says Farman-Farma, now 52. The town, a 30-mile drive northeast of Manhattan, was abounding of Federal-style homes Edith Wharton would accept recognized, such as the 6,960-square-foot, three-story 1892 abode into which Farman-Farma’s parents acclimatized their four children. They kept the alfresco white and the shutters aphotic green, and while they brought in a few ancestors antiques and a acceptable rug or two, they never adapted the abode with the latest kitchen gadgetry or decorating trends. Kids and dogs were chargeless to apprenticed through the ample parlors and 11 abundantly sized bedrooms upstairs, and there were lots of books to apprehend on the pillared porch.
After belief abstract in college, Farman-Farma formed as an editor at The New Yorker and, in 2000, affiliated Amir Farman-Farma, now 56, a financier from a aristocratic Iranian family. Today, the brace lives in London with their two boyish children, in a Chelsea townhouse from which she additionally runs the architecture flat of her five-year-old bolt line, Décors Barbares. (Her aboriginal book, “Décors Barbares: The Enchanting Interiors of Nathalie Farman-Farma,” was appear aftermost month.) But her mother, now in her 70s (her ancestor died in 2005), continues to alive in the Greenwich house, as bulldozers batter adjoining backdrop of agnate best to accomplish way for all-inclusive neo-Norman compounds.
While the house, on a bank that overlooks Continued Island Sound, is hardly au courant, Farman-Farma has nonetheless helped it evolve: Over the years, she has reimagined the interiors as a absorption of her ambulant claimed history and her well-researched ethnographic obsessions. With references that bend from Russian bogie tales and Uzbek ceramics to the rustic cabins of the Sierra Nevada and the soignée interiors of the World War II-era Parisian decorator Madeleine Castaing, Farman-Farma’s artful catholicism melds seamlessly with the house’s East Coast enactment origins. As she did with her mother’s ancestors acreage on Lake Tahoe and her own aboriginal 19th-century London abode and office, she has created a active class for her layered taste. In a architecture era that favors all-inclusive bottle walls and abreast abandoned rooms, Farman-Farma’s appearance seems as anachronistic as the Greenwich abode itself. “Obviously,” she says, on a backward summer afternoon, perched in a crosshatched cobweb armchair covered in her black-background Sarafane bolt beside an ottoman draped in an abstract aged bolt from India, “I don’t accept abundant absorption in the avant-garde or the minimal.”
IT WAS WHARTON, a avant-garde of architecture autograph as able-bodied as a novelist, who believed that interiors are added than aloof the spaces area a atypical happens to unfold: They actualize us. From Lily Bart trapped in the bleak Victorian bedchamber of her aunt’s townhome in “The Abode of Mirth” (1905) to the antiheroine Undine Spragg in “The Custom of the Country” (1913) affairs herself up the amusing ladder via the progressively glitzier absolute acreage of alternating husbands, adornment was, to Wharton, the true, if sometimes etched, mirror of the soul.
One thinks of that assignment in the apartment of the Greenwich house, which are affluent in history — of the acreage itself and of the cultures with which Farman-Farma has become entwined. Growing up, she spent lots of time with her father’s sisters, in “very Proustian” domiciles, acquirements to allotment her aunts’ adulation of neo-Classical Empire accoutrement in bibelot-arrayed rooms. In her aboriginal 20s, she became amorous of Castaing, the Parisian antiques banker who created amusing interiors for the artisan and artisan Jean Cocteau and the blur administrator Roger Vadim in the 1950s and ’60s. Castaing’s rooms, characterized by what Farman-Farma calls “daring nostalgia,” with trompe l’oeil moldings, black chintz and leopard-print carpets, provided a arrangement for bond patterns and eras.
But it wasn’t alone French aesthetics that aggressive Farman-Farma. As a child, her Russian aide alien her to turn-of-the-20th-century children’s tales illustrated by the Russian artisan Ivan Bilibin, who additionally advised sets for the Ballets Russes. He trekked to the far arctic of the country to apprentice about fabrics and Slavic architecture treatments that he congenital into his Art Nouveau-influenced illustrations.
In a agnate way, Farman-Farma eventually begin herself absorbed in the culture’s folklore, as able-bodied as its acceptable clothing, including the sarafan (a across-the-board jumper sometimes abstract with gold or argent threads) and the poneva (a patterned, aggregate brim beat over a long, loosefitting shirt). Farman-Farma’s own attending is additionally congenital about such pieces, in failing linen and cotton, bizarre with aerial ribboning and pin tucks. She buys the apparel at auction; in a bedfellow allowance in Greenwich, its walls and apparel fabricated from her Zénaide arrangement — an intricate paisley-and-floral calico aggressive by a fragment of an Uzbek bathrobe — three contempo purchases adhere on a 19th-century hatrack.
After she affiliated into the Qajar tribe, which disqualified Iran from backward 1794 till 1925, she additionally became bedeviled with bolt from age-old Persia and the Caucasus. (“Marrying an Iranian afflicted my centermost of gravity,” she says.) In the Greenwich house, there is a abysmal red Turkmen rug that already belonged to her French grandparents; it carpets the book-lined, 18-by-13-foot alcove still referred to as her father’s study. Such attic coverings, with their octagonal bond arrangement acquired from drifting Sunni Muslim tribes, were the acme of Russian Orientalist style, brought to St. Petersburg and Moscow starting in the 1860s, from anew colonized cities including Tashkent and Samarkand and anon award their way into genteel European homes.
The rug is additionally cogent because Farman-Farma’s bedmate is of Turkmen ancestry. This assemblage — of her interests and Amir’s ancestors history — has additionally abreast her business: Recently, she created bolt aggressive by Uzbek-style ceramics platters fabricated for consign in the aboriginal 20th aeon in Czarist factories, apprenticed for homes in Central Asia. The brace apparent them by adventitious while scouring aged shops and the internet for Russian-manufactured ceramics created for the Iranian market, busy with portraits of the shahs who were Amir’s ancestors.
The Uzbek-style plates, 10 to 14 inches in bore and anniversary berserk different, accept a crude, arresting clear signature with floral designs in coral, abysmal violet and chartreuse that actor the bleared resistance-dyed edges of ikat textiles. Perhaps alone Farman-Farma would anticipate to adhere an arrangement of them in the dining allowance of a able colonial, aloft an acute botanical wallpaper abreast a table draped in an Uzbek fabric. But it is those juxtapositions that accomplish the abode feel like it belongs to a acreage that exists alone in her imagination. “I like a home area aggregate isn’t obvious,” she says. “Somewhere that you feel at ease, but additionally about that has secrets.”
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