The Wondrous Worldly Designs of Tom Britt – What the Magazine Won’t Show

The May/June issue of Veranda trumpeting “American Classics” is especially fab and I am tickled to have written about a house in the Hamptons designed by Tom Britt and Valentino Samsonadze because, well, Tom is an old friend and a HOOT.

Britt’s work is famously infused with a fascinating array of influences from all over the world, and I thought it’d be fun to see them side-by-side. We get to see how a (hoot of a) designer’s mind works and how he translates ideas from his travels to his own creative process… and be inspired to try it ourselves.

Tom Britt and Valentino Samsonadze
In Water Mill, New York, a house designed by Tom Britt and Valentino Samsonadze, from photo by Max Kim-Bee for Veranda.

First Britt talks about the Chateau de Groussay outside Paris…

Chateau de Groussay exterior, by Heather Clawson
Chateau de Groussay exterior, via Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic. Britt did a take on the chateau's gray and white color scheme.

In her wonderful Habitually Chic blog, Heather Clawson did an excellent  2-part series on Groussay and its extraordinary steward Charles de Beistegui.

Britt also clearly loved the Lazienki Palace near Warsaw…

Lazienki Palace, Poland
Lazienki Palace, Poland, via www.lazienki-krolewskie.pl. The architecture and reflecting pool are directly mirrored in Britt's design.

Now look again up top at Britt’s house. Got the hang of it?

The library at Groussay, with its handsome double stair and gallery, is probably one of the most admired in France (a nation of self-admirers).

Library at Chateau Groussay
Library at Chateau de Groussay, from photo by Xavier Bejot in the book Groussay, by Albin Michel.

With yet another nod to Lazienki:

The ballroom at Lazienki Palace, Warsaw
The ballroom at Lazienki Palace in Warsaw, via www.lazienki-krolewskie.pl.

And he didn’t leave out Nancy Lancaster’s famous yellow drawing room in her London house, via designer Sara Gilbane’s Travel for Design blog.

Nancy Lancaster's yellow library in Avery Row, London
Nancy Lancaster's yellow library in Avery Row, London, via Travel for Design.

It’s all cooked up in Britt and Samsonadze’s version, below. Notice the Lazienki pediment. Not that you could miss it. Britt by the way loves to say he “cooked up” something about a room. That’s something like somebody from Kansas City would say, which he is.

Tom Britt Water Mill Library
Tom Britt's Water Mill Library, from photo by Max Kim-Bee for Veranda.

Let’s keep cooking. Now the dining room. Begin at Groussay, again via Habitually Chic:

Chateau de Groussay, by Heather Clawson
Dining room at Chateau de Groussay, via Habitually Chic.
Chateau de Groussay, by Heather Clawson
Dining room at Chateau de Groussay, via Habitually Chic.

With a dollop of Tony Duquette, which you probably didn’t need me to tell you…

Tony Duquette drawing room at Dawnridge, Los Angeles
Tony Duquette drawing room at Dawnridge, Los Angeles, via TonyDuquette.com

And you get…

Tom Britt Water Mill dining room
The Britt-Samsonadze dining room with its dramatic Burmese altar piece, large niche for statuary, double rows of windows, and pictures - on an angle - hung to the ceiling.

Many rooms of the house also profit from the light and soothing interiors of Scandinavia, Sweden in particular, as Britt’s painting of floors, paneling and doors attests. Has anybody heard of Thureholm in Sweden? I have but I don’t count. I’ve actually been there on a trip organized by the Sir John Soane Museum Foundation, which does the most amazing trips. At Thureholm, Sweden meets Chinoiserie, another favorite of Britt’s, in the stunning “porcelain kitchen.” The kitchen is so-called because its purpose was to display porcelain as opposed to fry chicken. Not that they ate a lot of fried chicken in 18th-century Sweden. What they did do after Thureholm was start painting a lot of walls, instead of papering or covering them with leather or fabric.

Kitchen at Thureholm
The porcelain kitchen at Thureholm, from Johan Cederlund's Classical Swedish Architecture & Interiors.

I can’t even believe I found this hastily scribbled sketch of the kitchen by yours truly on the spot, in 2006. My notes say we were greeted by the noble family who owns it, but don’t quote me on that. Everywhere are racks and brackets for porcelain.

Sketch of Kitchen at Thureholm, by Frances Schultz
My quickie sketch of the porcelain kitchen at Thureholm, done on a visit in 2006.

The kitchen and breakfast room a la Britt is a worthy compliment.

Tom Britt Water Mill breakfast room
The breakfast room's paint treatment continues to the adjacent kitchen. Thought you'd like to know that.
Tom Britt with Charlotte Moss and Thom Felicia
Tom Britt, center, with Charlotte Moss and Thom Felicia. You can see the twinkle in his eye from here. Photo via designintuit.com

Since you cannot possibly read this without wanting more, Veranda’s website obliges with Tom Britt’s Decorating Tips. There is also a nice post at HouseCrush.com. But for the full story, for your life to be complete, you’ll have to fetch the magazine itself. Moreover, you will be completely and Habitually Chic after reading about Groussay and oh so many other topics on Heather Clawson’s blog, a claim I cannot make straight-faced for my own.

11 comments

  1. I love it Frannie! Brilliant. Why has it taken me so long to “discover” your blog. I can now toss those old Veranda magazines, which reminded me of your exquisite taste, and have been hanging onto for more than 10 years!!

  2. Blue and White–love it! The Swedish kitchen is stunning and Britt’s interpretation in the breakfast really makes my heart sing. Thank you for such a wonderful post-as always.
    xo, Lissy

  3. Frances
    Love the post today! Thanks for the tip on
    on Joe’s blog. Have plates from my grandmother begging to be hung.
    Becky
    south Georgia

  4. Frances – I love your blog and am so glad I found it. I also love, love, love the Watermill library – how happy! We missed you at Alex’s luncheon last week – Come visit soon!! Wynn

  5. Hi Frances, Greetings from London. I have been obsessively looking at Tom Britt’s article in this month’s Veranda. I think it is so beautiful particularly the sitting rooom and the main bedroom. Have you any idea what paints he used for both. Only just discovered your very interesting blog…..look right up my street…. Mike

    1. Dear Michael, how very nice to hear from you, and thank you for your kind words. I asked Tom the same thing about those paint colors and he verily scoffed at me, albeit good naturedly. “Oh I mix’em all,” he said. I’m sure you thought of taking the magazine to the paint store and having go at it there… Good luck. Let me know how it goes. Best, Frances

  6. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Many thanks!

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