12 December 2010

DIY: Gaffer's Tape




Several months ago a meeting took me to visit a gentleman with whom I serve on a board of trustees. Mutual friends said he possessed an incredible library of books about architectural and design dating back to the eighteenth century, hundreds of volumes on subjects ranging from the houses of Vanbrugh to Southern plantations to New England saltboxes. Consequently I was looking forward to cozying up with those precious volumes, pen and paper in hand: perusing, jotting, scribbling, even, perhaps, borrowing, if that would be allowed. After I arrived, however, my camera got a workout too, because to my surprise, the books were housed in a 1970s three-car garage that had been converted into a black, grey, and white pleasure dome inside, straight from the pages of Percier and Fontaine. And the primary decorating medium was matte-grey gaffer’s tape.

Yes, gaffer’s tape, the kind that costs about $3 a roll.


The pedimented plaque, one of a pair, is actually a church hymnal board.


The gentleman in question modestly took none of the credit for this trompe l'oeil transformation. Instead, he explained, as we talked late into the night, glasses of red wine in hand, it is the work of a longtime friend, Asheton Langdon (née Jay Langdon Gaiser, 1928—2010), a Brooklyn-born, Harvard-educated decorator who specialized in interiors of astonishing grandeur. Langdon, a designer I had never heard of and about whom I long to know more, also could create extraordinary special effects with common burlap upholstery webbing too, though more on that skill another day.




My host’s multitude of books needed a proper home, and since the garage wasn’t being used to its full credit, a major decorating project was born. Masses of grey gaffer's tape in two widths were purchased, and sometimes mitered, most times not, were deftly deployed, creating simple panels on walls, ceilings, and doors. The success of this stage-set paneling is furthered by the addition of pilasters made of planks of wood fastened into place against the Sheetrock walls and painted black.




Over all this have been hung mirrors, etchings, paintings, watercolors, and busts on brackets, all the components of a country-house library. Antiques and vintage furnishings in a variety of styles — Victorian, Louis XVI, Moroccan, Empire, even a boldly flowered Bessarabian rug — give the effect of having been gathered together over generations.


 

26 comments:

HOBAC said...

Now, this is the epitome of what decorating means. To me a least.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Agreed, HOBAC. My mouth quite literally dropped when I stepped into this room. Absolutely unexpected. And magical, especially at night, with candles blazing.

Pigtown-Design said...

Love gaffer's tape! It's super strong though. It was used at a historic house where I worked. They were shooting 12 Monkeys there. When they pulled it up from the wonderful old floors, all of the beautiful parquet came up. OOPS!

The Swan said...

A kindred 'Soul' who has ditched the garage for a more Fantastical setting for Books to reside within...yes, even Percier, Vanbrugh and Jones - all with some stage background - would reside within these walls...Very John Wolff meets the outskirts of Versailles...or closer yet, the carriage house of Clarendon Court in Newport!

I love a "GOOD BOOK" that is not judged by its 'COVER'!

Room Temperature said...

If Jean-Michel Frank could create an elegant salon out of straw I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that someone of great talent could create an equally sophisticated scheme using common materials from the Dollar Store. It's like the decorating version of a boxed cake mix. Just add genius!

Here's the real question: how can this kind of ability fly under the radar for so long? And what a shame he wasn't discovered by the world at large--and let's face it: if you haven't heard of this guy, you know that none of the rest of us have--until after he's already dead. But leave it to you to find him. Don't ever leave us again.

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

Beautiful... I'm heading out for some gaffer's tape now! I adore this type of creativity. Perfection.

balsamfir said...

Completely amazing. I'll never look at all those prefab garages and double wides that litter upstate the same way again. Not that this garage looks like prefab even from the outside.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Wow, the tape is amazing and completely transforms the space. I look forward to further posts on Langdon.

home before dark said...

Now that's a room that can start my engines! What a wonderful folly...did you get to borrow any books?

little augury said...

truly amazing, how could you enjoy the books? more visits. by enlarging the photographs every element and detail is just right- To do it, requires a great deal of creativity, precision, trust, and tape. pgt

Quatorze said...

Who IS this guy?!!! Asheton Langdon (née Jay Langdon Gaiser, 1928—2010 is a wonder; is there a book on him?

I have created Doric metope moldings and Corinthian columned rooms with the architecture painted onto generic wallboard, but now I see the magic of the tape! Amazing what a constrained budget and an unconstrained imagination can create to an effect often greater than that achieved with precious materials.

A Met museum curator once said that the superb 18th century French giltwood furniture was initially created to replace solid silver items melted down to pay for Louis XIV's wars, giving impetus to a wondrous industry and perhaps the world's finest furnishings.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I hate to say it, but gaffer's tape can cure a lot of ills. even let me finish a show once when I sprained an ankle.... Brilliant. Amazing. Students take note.

Penelope Bianchi said...

I can hardly breathe. Absolutely the epitome of what decorating means.

Never have I seen anything like it.

Thank you!!

columnist said...

It certainly looks terrific, and clearly a lot of hard work and serious thought has gone into the design. What a treasure trove to which to escape.

Sunny said...

More, please, Sir!

Square With Flair™ said...

Absolutely beautiful. What a charming salons have been conjured up with next to nothing. It illustrates how taste, and knowledge of style, are more important and better than money!

It must have been quite a surprise to walk in there and discover these beautifully detailed chambers.

Is the tape used here is black or grey?

I'm reminded of Van Day Truex or Billy Baldwin using simple materials like canvas and rattan to create such "pauvre deluxe."

Very much enjoyed the post. I look forward to the magical effects with webbing and burlap.

Susan S said...

I'm hyperventilating! I would have had to be dragged from there.

Penelope Bianchi said...

I forgot to say. ( I was in shock for a few hours; I must admit)

this is MAGIC. Decorating at it's best; is MAGIC.

One senses it the minute one steps in the door.

Very rare.
I am very happy it is still extant. Quite miraculous.

Brilliant!!!

Kevin said...

genius!

Reggie Darling said...

This is beyond chic!

Colette said...

absolutely the most brilliant thing i've read in a while, and so witty. love love love this man, and feel a bit embarrassed that as a Canadian (and we are serious about our gaffa tape) i never thought of this! Colette

The Down East Dilettante said...

What HOBAC said. This takes one directly back to those years in the 20's and 30's when chic was more about illusion and flair than merely throwing expensive solutions at some drywall---I'm enchanted.

Oh, hell, let me add jealous to the list. I've craved a pavilion library for years

Toby Worthington said...

The equivalent of what picture framers call French lining has always appealed to me~the power of those
two different widths of line creates an authoritative
panel by the simplest of means. But as a rule it is carried out on plaster walls with paint, and it is a hellish
task! The gaffer's tape was a stroke of genius. On the
ceiling too, I see. Oh my...pass the smelling salts, please.

Thea Beasley, formally known as Talitha Love.... said...

It is wonderfully an example of the "more dash than cash" school of design, to which I heartily belong! Brilliant! Thank you so for sharing and showing such a fine example over ingenuity and imagination trumping money and brand!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

prooving yet again that creativity is more important than money :-)

victoria thorne said...

just so merry that you are back to blogging a bit more; am loving every minute of it. thank you. happy happy wishes for the season (& far beyond) :)