Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Loving - Etched glass

I recently came across this image and was quite captivated by it. It is the living area of some impossibly groovy creative living in a petit atelier in Paris.



Sometimes I think you are attracted to a design style because it is exactly what you want in your own home.

At other times the attraction is all about admiring from afar a look that for reasons to do with sanity or money you will never have at home.

I know I will never have a sliding glass wall etched with
micro-organismes marins in my house, although the more I think about it the more I think it could work for a shower screen.

But I still love the way it works in this space. What a great way to separate the two areas. And it could have gone so badly wrong. The heavy wooden cross beam could have looked ridiculous. The carpet might not have worked with the blue lamp. And yet it all works. For me at least.

As an aside, etched glass is of course very Second Empire. I thought I would see if I could purchase some etched glass should I be so minded. The choices available in modern etched glass ranged from extremely ugly to quite tasteless to very kitch (to all those etched glass designers - I'm sorry - it's not you it's me).

However I did find these French Second Empire glass doors dating from the third quarter of the 19th century, available on Liveauctioneers.com.





Aren't they divine? They come in their original wooden door frames. I could see these as bathroom windows in the right house. They are acid etched glass featuring a classical warrior and Greek key with foliate medallion. Bid estimate is $150 to $300. You would need to arrange own shipping or be near or in Omaha Nebraska which is quite a long way away from me.

There are actually numerous examples of French Second Empire architecture in the New World, from Montreal to Boston to Australia (this architecture generally dates between 1852 to 1970 to match the reign of Napoleon III). It was obviously very influential on those building these new cities and it then developed into the more distinctive Italianate Victorian style which is all around you if you live in a Victorian boom time city as I do.

In Melbourne there are many beautiful examples but the one which moves me the most is the Federal Coffee Palace which was built in 1889 on the corner of Collins and King Streets in the city, and demolished in 1972 (it's unbelievable I know):


The very idea of a Coffee Palace is a bit thrilling and sensible at the same time. It is so foreign to our lives now but Coffee Palaces were very popular in Australia in the 19th century. They were temperance houses and meeting places and accomodation and fulfilled all kinds of other functions. They were an important part of many inner city lives.

The Federal Coffee Palace had 7 floors, an iron framed domed tower, dining, lounge, sitting, smoking, writing and billiard rooms and of course lots of etched glass. There were six 'accident proof' lifts, gaslights, electric service bells, and an ice-making plant in the basement to keep kitchen supplies fresh and cool the lemonade and ginger beer (from Museum Victoria's website).

I don't much like the Victorian interior style but these exteriors are really just amazing.

(Top Image: Elle Decor)

3 comments:

Lee said...

Hi Jane, what an amazing piece of Melbourne architecture! And I'm ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about the Federal Coffee Palace before you enlightened me. Great post!! Lee :)

Laura [What I Like] said...

I love the idea of a coffee palace...I've never heard of one until now. And I must say you have succeeded in finding the most wonderful etched glass out there. Agreed, most of it is horrid!

Joyce said...

I like the etch glass. When we redo our master bath I want to have a glass door that is either etch or some kind of design. Gives light and still privacy.

I didn't know anything either about the Federal Coffee Palace. Thanks for the lesson. xoxo

PS I came over from CT

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