May 29, 2008

Maison Jansen Lecture Notes, Part I

I was lucky enough to attend the House Beautiful (not the magazine) Lecture at Evergreen, given by curator James Archer Abbott, author of Maison Jansen and Jansen Furniture. He's a delightful man, as I've said before and his lecture was witty and entertaining. I will share some of the stories he told us, with you all in my next post. First, here's some history.
Maison Jansen (MJ) was one of the first global companies, having been founded in Paris in the 1880's and then opening branches in Buenos Aires (1905), New York, Cairo, Havana (1920s), and Rome in the 1930s. Jean-Henri Jansen created interior design in France. He and his designers were the social equals of their clients, much like to day. His shop at 9 Rue Royale was lit with electric lamps and had huge plate glass windows. He redefined French design by reaching into the past.
By the 1930s, their workshops employed more than 700 people creating ironworks, textiles, and boiserie in the various locations. In fact, their boiserie was so well-done, that experts had a hard time telling whether it was newly made or original.
During WWII, MJ's history was sad. Within hours of Paris falling, the German generals were at MJ's door, demanding their wares. The staff said they couldn't give them to the Germans because they were being worked on. For the next four years, they stripped and refinished, re-upholstered and redid the furniture over and over again. Many staffers were Jewish and were put in camps in Germany. That story did not end well.
Among MJ's clients were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Nancy Lancaster and Ronald Tree, Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy, William and Babe Paley, Harry Winston, Coco Chanel, Leopold, King of the Belgiums, and many others. In the red book, there are chapters about many of these residences. MJ worked for one client, Lady Baillie, for more than 40 years at her homes in Maidstone, Kent and on Hog Island in the Bahamas.
Even though the Duchess of Windsor is from Baltimore, many people do not think highly of her. Mr. Abbott said that she basically bartered with MJ to get them to do her work, something that wasn't too surprising. Each new client she introduced to MJ, garnered her a design credit so she could redecorate her house in Paris.
Stay tuned for more Lecture notes in the next day or so...


  1. Meg - what a treat to be able to be there. We're lucky that you are passing this along - thanks!

  2. I've always been fascinated by the duke and duchess :-) Wallis was such a character and so driven -i love reading about her and about him!! I have many books on both of them that will NEVER go to the bookthing!!

  3. This is really great... I almost feel like I was at the lecture! Interesting tidbit about old Wallis too.

  4. Thank you for passing on the notes. How lucky to have been there. Looking forward to more!

  5. you have a beautiful blog - great posts!
    xo alison

  6. As you sayed, Jansen established in Buenos Aires in 1905 and decorated the most important palaces form our city. Among them, the most important was the Paz Palace, that was all decorated by Jansen between 1910 and 1912. Here you can see some amazing pictures form the interior rooms. All the ferniture was sold, but te rooms were preserved:

  7. my grand father was head of jansen bsas during 1950ish till they closed it in 70's


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