Friday, October 2, 2009


It came on innocently enough. A simple idea of moving the furniture around. Soon after, the obsession set in. And then came the need.
The living room was too heavy with two sofas. Project: open up the living room so it flows once again into the dining room by removing one of the two sofas. Easy enough, but this also means changing the television from its nice unobtrusive corner position to throne in the middle of the room facing the entrance. That's right, a cocky rectangular presence is going to be the first thing you see on walking into the living room. How's that for a decorating dilemma? And out with the grandfather clock given by Grandmère. But where is the piano going to go now that it can't be backed up to old big and bulky?

So I thought of using a folding screen in the middle of the room to nestle its leaves against one wall then to project out providing a backdrop for the telly's wide screen on one side and for the piano on the other. Its folds don't have to hide the TV but they should help to work it into the room more gracefully. Ideally it wouldn't go higher than 30 cm past the top of the television so the windows on the living room side and the dining room side would still be visible. An extra half wall, but better. The search began and I soon realized they were everywhere.

Mine would be a very utilitarian use of a screen. Come to think of it, how are screens usually used? In fact, they may be one of the most curious articles of furniture we have because they are constantly pirouetting between their useful role and that of objects of art. Any piece of furniture can be appreciated for its pure decorative qualities, but a desk is for writing, a chair for sitting, a table for eating. Whereas a screen . . . is all about limiting, hiding, revealing, showing off . . .
a screen . . .

*Dedicates a space to a particular purpose faster than any other means. This screen and bed were designed by Hubert Le Gall in the tradition of fine lacquer work.
photo: Jerome Galland, AD
*Hides what we don't want to be seen. A work area/office space, pipes, a sink or some unsightly but necessary element is tucked away from the general view. This Suttecliffe print work screen hides a stereo ...
*Provides an additional wall and protection from drafts. The French name for screen is paravent, indicating a shield from dreaded courrants d'air. This one also serves as extra
gallery space.
photo:Jacques Dirand
* Stands on its own as an artwork.

*Replaces shutters as mobile window dressing for windows that don't cry out for curtains.
photo: Franck Bel

*Gives a bit of privacy to a dressing area. Think of all those titillating backstage moments in old films where an actress changes behind a screen, flinging one piece of clothing after another across the top all the while talking to her visitor. Nothing could illustrate better how a screen hides from and beckons to our attention at the same time.

Sometimes we aren't sure why they show up in an interior. They just happen to be
kicking around.
photo: Guillaume de Laubier

A screen...
*Creates a special place, a backdrop and a focal point. Cezanne used this one that he made with Zola when they were young in his Atelier des Lauves in Aix-en-Provence.
photo: Christine Soler, Maison Francaise

*It furnishes lonely corners and balances out a decorative theme.
Jean Michel Frank's straw marquetry screen illustrates one of his master stokes in the transformation of simple materials into precious surfaces. The first ever exhibit of his work in France opens today at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.

photo: Jacques Dirand
My explorations don't stop here, but in the meantime I have bought a simple folding screen frame and pinned fabric to it.The game of permutation has begun whether the ideal solution has been found or not and the room feels better already, but I'm fully hooked on screens now.
To be continued...

top photos: Serge Korniloff, Décoration Internationale 17TH century Japanese;


  1. the first image is fascinating me-I would love to see more of the room! I have a screen post (hidden)-going in famous screens directions. GT
    (gorgeous images)

  2. I love that picture too and was considering posting more pictures of the apt which belongs to designer Anne Marie Beretta, but they don't come out so nicely with the positioning on the double page spreads. The other side of the room is spare,a group of Koloman Moser armchairs placed before the fireplace and a Prinz floor lamp under Louis XVI woodwork. Each object in it seems meaningful.

    Screens! I can't get them out of my mind. I have at least 3-4 more posts to come about them. It will be fun to compare with yours!