Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Other Swedish Style - And So Much More!

Ten Chimneys Map

Ten Chimneys:

30 miles from Milwaukee

60 miles from Madison

90 miles from Chicago

4237 miles from Stockholm

Just 900 miles from Broadway

Claggett Wilson the artist was "a dear friend" of the famed Broadway acting team, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. He designed the set and costumes for "The Taming of the Shrew" in which the Lunts appeared. Ten Chimneys, the Lunt's Wisconsin home, became the backdrop for Mr. Wilson's considerable talents as a decorator and muralist.

In case you don't know who the Lunts, Lynn anf Alfred, were, they were the premiere husband and wife acting team, some say, of all time. Married in 1922, they had a career together from the 1920's, with their greatest success in the 1930's with playwrite Noel Coward. The were still going strong in the 1940's, and actually worked into the 1950's on television and film. Their last acting appearance was in 1960.

I guess for lack of a better comparison, they were the Brangelina of their time. Except that they didn't have children.
They were party goers, and party givers.
At their country home Ten Chimneys they hosted the great and the near great.

Ten Chimneys is as personal as a diary. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne designed and decorated Ten Chimneys the same way they crafted each performance – one delightful detail building upon another. Each room was carefully dressed as if it were a stage set. Their choices were more about theatricality and whimsy than opulence. After all, why use real marble when you can tease your audience with surprising trompe l’oeil? Yet, despite meticulous planning, Ten Chimneys exudes an easy comfort.

Yes, there are ten chimneys! Lynn and Alfred named their Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, estate after the number of chimneys on the Main House, Cottage, and Studio combined. The elegant three-story Main House has six chimneys and eighteen rooms (including the: Entry Hall, Garden Room, Flirtation Room, Drawing Room, Library, Belasco Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Helen Hayes Bedroom, Laurence Olivier Bedroom, Noel Coward Bedroom, Master Bedroom, Lynn’s Dressing Room, and Lynn’s Sewing Room).

In 1914, Alfred Lunt came into an inheritance from his father and purchased undeveloped land in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin where he and his family often picnicked. He then personally designed the first portion of Ten Chimneys’ Main House as a home for his mother and sisters.

The Cottage Alfred built for Lynn

In 1922-23, after the Lunts were married, the house was extensively remodeled and the chicken coop was converted into a cottage for Lynn and Alfred to live in when they weren’t performing.

Pool House

The decor at Ten Chimneys mirrors the lives and experiences of the Lunts, with mementos from international trips, remembrances from treasured friends, pervading theatrical techniques, and countless personal references. As guests journey through the estate, they are surrounded, and often inspired, by Lynn and Alfred’s creativity, passion, and humor.
The Lunts also invited a prominent scenic and costume designer, Claggett Wilson, to visit Ten Chimneys and help them. Wilson painted murals on walls and ceilings throughout the estate, in addition to creating other unique decorative effects using intricately cut-out wallpaper and a variety of inventive stage techniques.
I found a wonderful sight dedicated to Claggett Wilson.

It is chockfull of so many wonderful things. He was a war hero, a graphic designer, an illustrator, a muralist, and a painter of the most arresting portraits . I'm planning another post just about his fabulous portraits!

Claggett Wilson magazine cover and poster

Clagget Wilson portrait of a dashing young man!

But the most exciting thing for decorators is his work on the Lunt's home Ten Chimneys, and also on their New York City apartment. It was a life's work.

The Lunt's NYC apartment

Ten Chimneys is included in this book HERE

Most of us think of the pale Gustavian palette when we talk about Swedish Style. The kind of Swedish style the we often see in Veranda magazine.

And the kind of Swedish style that Joni writes so well about HERE

Why is so much Swedish style implemented at Ten Chimneys?
A Swedish style log cabin (a folly) was assembled on the grounds of the Lunts’ estate as a studio for artistic creation and collaboration. Most of the Swedish style decor was done there.

In 1940, final additions were made to the Main House, giving it six chimneys from a multitude of fireplaces and Swedish stoves. So the main house got some touches of Swedish decor too. I guess like many of us would do, they decorated around those fabulous Swedish stoves.

The floral border on the wall is hand cut out by Claggett Wilson

When a style was referenced in the 1920's well into the 1970's, color was used much more than in the referenced interpretations we see today. The interiors almost take on a folk art feeling.

photo by Monson/Ergmann

Furniture was could be rustic or formal. Hand painting walls, ceilings, and furniture was widely practiced. Textiles were also very colorful and ethnic. Claggett also hand cut out paper for wallpaper and borders.

photo by Monson/Ergmann

Julie check out this funky turned wood chandy!
photo by Monson/Ergmann

I love the kitchen spaces, which lend themselves to some very cheery colors. So different than the SGG kitchen so universally copied and coveted.

SGG 1930's style! - Maybe this was in The Cottage
photo by

Love the old stove, the sink skirt, and of course the hand painted walls and floor
This kitchen is in the Swedish log studio
photo by

Layering lots of stuff also adds to this colorful Swedish mix. Even the antique Mora clock gets embellished with color.

Claggett hand cut out paper "wallpaper"
photo by

The murals have soft colors, but are still very vibrant. I love the way the image trails onto the ceiling from the walls.
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine were English, and I think the layering of objects and the mix of lots of furniture reflects their heritage. Ten Chimneys is a fantasy driven English country house in many ways.

The unpainted panelling in the studio is a very rustic style of Swedish interior. The furniture evokes the feeling of an English country house.

Ten Chimneys has six Swedish stoves, and even these classic pale antiques look vibrant in the setting Claggett Wilson created.

The whole over the top way they decorated then adds incredible energy to the rooms.

The antique furniture and painted walls and ceilings in the main house are wild too.

And the variety of plate collections is astouding!

OMG! Is this a white slip cover Joni?

The Claggett Wilson murals and hand cut out paper borders never end!

Don't you love the chair on the scaffold that Claggett Wilson used for ceiling work?

I am happy to say that we can visit Ten Chimneys today! Well not today exactly. They have wonderful house tours starting on May 5 and going until mid November. Go HERE to find out more. I sure would love to see this other Swedish style, and all the other crazy wonderful things in this house, and walk on the beautiful grounds.


Anonymous said...

Most of all I would like to inspect the hand painting on the walls and panels. When murals are well done, they're magical. As a kid in the 60's, I remember early and mid-century wall murals in restaurants and theaters. They made me feel cocooned yet transported. The "over the top" aspect of Ten Chimneys reminds me of the Madonna Inn which is 20 minutes north of me in San Luis Obispo.

Unknown said...

Loving all that visual dazzle!

Gina said...

Thank you for the information on the Lunts! Very interesting.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Oh wow, what a great post -this is such a fantastic place!!! I've never even considered a trip to Wisconsin, but's a possibility!

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

Great entry!

Photo # 25... I love the way he continued the clouds on the wall, up onto the ceiling. {Over the settee, in a colored photo} :-)

Aunt Amelia

Denise said...

What a fantastic post on the Lunts-!! I love the imagination and the endless energy allowed to paint muruals, cut out wallpaper, etc........and the pool house couldn't be any cuter.

Velvet and Linen said...

Thank you for the wonderful tour and the introduction to the beautiful work of Claggett Wilson.
I also enjoyed seeing the "other Swedish". Different but still wonderfully charming.
I absolutely love that bright red cottage. I might have to re-think my dream of living in a barn. Perhaps a red cottage is in my future!


Unknown said...


Karen Orr said...

This is just delightful. Thank you!

Visual Vamp readers might also enjoy the work of artists Carl and Karin Larsson:

Karen Orr said...

I should mention that the link to the Carl and Karin Larsson post is from the Loobylu blog.

The title of the post is "Creatures of Habitat: Carl and Karin Larson." The post has photographs of the Larsson's Swedish house and also paintings by Carl Larsson of their house.

Visual Vamp readers who are interested in 'the other Swedish style,' might also enjoy these books ~

"Carl & Karin Larson: Creators of the Swedish Style"


"Home: Through the Paintings of Carl Larsson"

These books and others on the paintings of Carl Larsson are available on Amazon

Fifi Flowers said...

Beautiful work... I cannot imagine painting ceilings... it would kill my arms!

Visual Vamp said...

An e-mail from Sabina:

Oooh fabulous stuff on the Lunts and Claggett Wilson. I enjoyed the link too. The Swedish folly house makes me want my old house back so I can do it up just like that! And the cut out wallpaper in the main house, brilliant. So inspiring, all of it. Yummy, great job Valorie, I love your blog.
I love being kept up on everything you all are doing. Send me a king cake mix when you get a chance. My love to Alberto and Cholo.

Topsy Turvy said...

Valorie - great post. I'd love to visit this place!


Karen Orr said...

My favorite is the third photograph - the one just above the exterior shot of Ten Chimneys.

I wonder if current designers have taken inspiration from that room. Compare and contrast it to this Miles Redd designed dining room featured in a recent Elle Decor ~