Upon reaching the front porte-cochère, there are two symmetrical entrances to the right and left. Each cast iron gate is followed by a small entry space which leads to a large coat room. These small, ellipse-shaped entry spaces are only big enough for about two individuals and consist of a niche, a cylindrical chandelier that casts a ‘sunburst’ effect onto the ceiling, and a custom rug that depicts an eagle and the American flag.
The two coat rooms that follow are similar in size and shape but include different collections. Each coat room includes a bathroom and a corridor leading to a separate space. When entering the villa from the right, the coat room is very inviting with its warm hues to the finishes and accessories. The walls are sheathed with a cream-colored wainscoting and sage trim, and the parquet floors have a unique pattern throughout the space. Breaking up the busy wooden flooring is a large, oval rug consisting of the creams, reds, and darks of the room in an oriental pattern. The entrance to the coat room is located on the northeast wall and is adjacent to the rotunda entrance. The southeast wall has two exposed coat closets and more covered closets are provided in the corridor leading to the kitchen. The same southeast wall as the corridor is also the bathroom. Instead of doors, gold drapery is used to separate these spaces. On the northwest wall is a chair and fixed table arrangement.
Collections placed in the right coat room range from 1850s German tables to Louis XV style fauteuils. The German walnut side table is located between the front entrance and the doorway connected to the rotunda. It is made up of an oblong tabletop, drawer, and open molded end supports. A Bohemian Louis XV style painted console table is placed below a full length mirror and is accompanied by two red Louis XV style fauteuils. The Bohemian table is mottled Siena marble with a pierced and scroll-carved frieze and cabriolet legs, and the Louis XV style legs match the table with cabriolet legs. Placed around the room are also a 20th-century Chinese blue and white stick stand and a Canton famille-rose cylindrical jardinière. The planted jardinière depicts landscapes in circular medallions in front of a key fret background and is set upon a simulated bamboo stand.
When entering the villa from the left, the same small entry space is used as an introduction to the interior. The left coat room is similar to but different from the right one. It uses the same cream and sage wainscoting and parquet flooring but introduces a new set of furniture and accessory collections. The rug in this room is rectangular and has cooler colors such as blue and violet. This makes the room not feel as warm as the right coat room. The orientation of the room, however, is mirrored exactly from the coat room on the right. The description of walls in the right coat room section is the same but inverted. This applies for all elements except for the corridor leading to the kitchen. The corridor of the left coat room leads to the music room.
A Louis XIV and later ebony and marquetry side table is the showcase of this room with its complex ornamental nature. Partly reconstructed, this marquetry table is inlaid with a depiction of a vase of flowers with a foliate border and a leaf carved molded edge. The frieze drawer is held up with female caryatids and is connected with an X-stretcher. Located on the wall across from the table is a fixed Louis XV style painted console table made of Griotte marble, a pierced and carved frieze, and cabriolet legs. Two late 18th-century style walnut armchairs are placed on either side of the fixed console table. These chairs have a cane back with a medallion crest, foliate arms and seats, and fluted tapering legs. There are two paintings created by Joseph Horman located on the northeast and southwest walls. Both of the paintings depict a vase of flowers and use watercolor as the medium. Placed around the room are the same Canton famille-rose cylindrical jardinière, and 20th-century Chinese blue and white stick stand. There is another 19th-century hexagonal famille-verte jardinière added to the room that, while similar to the Canton, is however slightly shorter.
As you proceed through the Villa after entering through the vestibule, right before you enter the Rotunda, there is a very special piece of furniture that is the centerpiece of the space: the Ebony and Bone Intarsia Cabinet. This cabinet has a molded top over an arrangement of false drawers and doors inlaid with two panels portraying horsemen over a pair of cupboard doors similarly inlaid and standing on gryphon’s supports. What makes this piece special is that it was known as the ‘curiosity’ cabinet, because it holds household trinkets that were specific to the house, as well as other items specific to the Ambassador. As you enter to the Rotunda you gain a new perspective because you walk into an open room that is luxurious and grand. When entering the Rotunda from the vestibule you arrive in an open space with several extravagant collections including tables and chairs from the rococo period to Chinese decorative pieces. This room displays elegance in every sense and it is a wonderful display as you enter the Villa. The first visual indication of the room’s importance is the massive columns that reflect the architectural detail the builders focused on when constructing the villa. They are composite columns that intertwine Ionic and Corinthian capitals, both of which were used by the Greeks and the Romans. The Composite column was introduced by the Romans. What makes these columns so visually appealing, and why it brings great importance to the space, is because combining both Ionic and Corinthian style capitals creates a fluted image that holds the strength of the Ionic order. The Composite column is held in high esteem by the Romans and they used it because of how it was identified with Roman architecture. It represents the decorative elements the Romans used for their capitals. Composite columns are considered as lavish and can often be seen in Baroque architecture. The other elements of the columns that make this type important is its Tuscan shaft and base. Some of the reasons I believe they use a Tuscan shaft and base is that they didn’t want to distract from the numerous elements in space. Tuscan shafts and bases reflect a more simple design from the Doric period. This type of support for the composite capital makes this column stand out in the space and brings true luxury to the space.
In the middle of the space there is a Gilt-Brass hall lantern which is of chamfered and gently serpentine square form, cast, with foliage, enclosing an eight branch light fitting. This lantern givens ambient light to the space and is approximately 80 cm tall. This lantern represents the neoclassical style which is known for its elegance, and considered a reaction against the Rococo style. This is interesting because after the Rococo Period, the Neoclassical period strives to be very different than the Rococo which was seen as playful and childish in comparison to the Neoclassical which was considered dominant and luxurious.
Since the Villa includes a large amount of Rococo elements throughout the building, the Neoclassical brings out the difference between elegance and the playfulness of the Rotunda. A few other fixtures used in the rotunda are the Louis XV style and the Ormolu and Samson porcelain wall lights. These fixtures represent two cultures as well. The Louis XV fixtures are gilt brass with three foliate cast scrolling stems emerging from a foliate cast bracket. The other one has two stems instead of three. These fixtures come in pairs and are decorative with a floral design giving off a lively visual. The other set of fixtures that are in the rotunda are the set of Ormolu and Samson Porcelain wall lights. These are pairs of Buddhist joss-stands in Chinese famille-verte style, one of each pair with a puppy, the other with a brocaded ball brilliantly colored and set on crisply-cast foliate brackets, the joss-holders fitted with three elaborate pierced and scrolled branches fitted for electricity. Both of these fixtures are roughly 118 cm overall, and are from the late 19th century.
Transitioning to the furniture side of the room, this room displays numerous cultures as well. Starting with tables and chairs some of the pieces that are displayed here are the French Transitional style king wood writing table, Louis the XV style Library chairs, Louis the XV Armchair, a Dutch Walnut and Marquetry side table, and A French Transitional Amaranth Cylindrical Gueridon. The Dutch Marquetry side table parts date from the late 17th century, the top inlaid with flowers, scrolls and birds picked out in mother of pearl and stained ivory, within a bone and ebony chequered corner molding over a similarly inlaid frieze drawer, upon a square cut ogee legs and stretchers, this table is approximately 75 cm by 118 cm. The Louis XV armchairs go along with this table. Chairs during this period normally have curved legs, floral decorations, and comfortable padded seats with backs that do not distract from the chair itself. In addition to the decorations and nature, fantasy played a large part in motifs with animals and exotic landscapes adorning all surfaces. Rare woods were also used in this time period for luxurious effects. The Walnut armchair designed in the Louis XV style has a molded back upholstered with contemporary needlework tapestry, the conforming seat upon foliate carved, and molded cabriolet legs. The last piece is the Cylindrical Gueridon. This piece was used as a side table mostly in residential settings. This specific piece was known as courting furniture and it fits well into this space. The furniture in this space is very elegant and since it is placed in the rotunda as you enter, it means that this room shows importance not only to the building but also to the ambassador who lives there.
One of the first collections that catches one’s eye would be the Chinese vases and the Chinese urn that are located in the niches of the Rotunda. What makes these special is that these intricate pieces contain images that are sacred to the Chinese culture and the baroque style. These are a great representations of how they both display meaning. Both vases are Large Chinese blue and white vases with kylin and Buddhist lion handles and with applied dragons at the neck, painted with reserves of scholars and attendants against a flower-head diaper ground. These vases are 91 cm and are pairs that are located across from each other making the room remain symmetrical. The Urn is a baroque style enameled in white with flowers within delicate floral borders, the rim of the urn has two puttis in relief. This piece stands 59 cm tall, with printed marks from the 19th century. These collections are magnificent pieces and display multiple cultures.
DSN S 546: Interdisciplinary Design Studio, Spring 2018
College of Design | Iowa State University
Preservation & Cultural Heritage Czech Republic: International Perspectives and Design Issues
Diane Al Shihabi, Ph.D.
Department of Interior Design
Mikesch Muecke, Ph.D.
Department of Architecture