Messel was a contemporary of Cecil Beaton, Stephen Tennant, inter alia and made his name as a set and costume designer for the Royal Ballet and other London stages. In addition to his interiors, many of these sets and their costumes are colorfully exhibited in this book, as is his later work in the eastern Caribbean.
Proportion. Color. Proportion. Ornament.
It's quite possible to open Home Sweet Home and assume that Oberto Gili is a designer, so consistently are these interiors visually narrated in happy dialogue between architectural proportion and decorative application. In fact, Gili is a photographer whose work in this book has been featured in publications from House & Garden to Town & Country and Vogue. These are very candid, honest interiors that capture the spirit and often bohemian character of their creative owners such as Isabella Rossellini, Milly de Cabrol, and Jacques Garcia, without even faintly sacrificing taste in favor of kitsch. Of course, good taste has its kitsch, and such a balance is again as evident as the fundamental dialogue between proportion and decoration in these rooms.
As sensitive as Gili's lens is to the foundations and moving parts of decoration, the camera and his photography is an extension of those visions he captures. His framing and his light are impeccable. And coffee tables or work surfaces aren't arbitrarily gussied up with a stylist's heaping of plus-size photo-books for the sake of relaying some sense of life to otherwise soulfully denuded environments. None of the walls have the hideous glare of cheap paint in an eggshell finish; none of the ob-jets emerge from an up-to-the-minute "Hot" list. As at home in modern spaces by Richard Meier as in a Tuscan villa (one see the fluidity of golden rules), the pages turn with an engaging rhythm of styles and influences.
This would be a beautiful companion to Gili's The Luxury of Space, which is tellingly more interested in the inspiration behind execution rather than the outcome or lived environment itself. They're two sides of the same lustrous coin.
The Hamish Bowles certificate of authenticity is provided in his forward. His is an increasingly ubiquitous presence in the publishing world, but still maintains an unequivocal discernment, certainly warranted here. The Hollywood pitch would read: Renzo Mongiardino resurrected. Of course, the past is never dead; It's not even past.