Normandie Interiors Today


Joe Russo

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Does anyone know where much of the interior fittings from the Normandie ended up after they were removed when she was being converted to a troopship? In particular some of the glass and wood wall panelling and light fixtures.
I've heard of the Normandie Restaurant on the Celebrity ship, but this looks like just two of the panels.
 
Jul 23, 2008
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Joe, you might want to ask Jim Kalafus about this - he has posted many times on this site and has an extensive knowledge about the Mormandie (and the French Line in general).
 
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bob cook

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Four golden lacquered wall panels from the First Class Smoking Room are in the Normandie Restaurant on the Summit, and the statue of La Normandie is in the Cosmopolitan main dining room.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Much of the interior artwork ended up aboard Ile de France and Liberte~ if you look at publicity photos from the 1950s, of both both liners, you will recognise Normandie fragments. Some Normandie furniture was recycled as well, but quite a bit of it was auctioned off in New York City and occasionally turns up. The Norman Knight is in the Normandie Court apartment building in New York City. At one time artwork from the Smoking Room was in trendy Mr. Chow's restaurant in the West 40s, and it may still be there. The late Louis-rene Vian had am amazing collection of furniture and fittings but I do not know what became of them upon his death. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a lounge fragment on display and, frankly, it is hideous. Back in the 1980s, a portion of one of the small bars off the Grill Room was found for sale in a salvage shop on the Bowery in New York City. One of the bas-reliefs from the Dining Room was exhibited in Italy two years ago- the first I have seen to have survived the fire.
 

Joe Russo

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I've seen something about the "Normandie Lounge" at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, but can't find any interior pictures of this on the internet. Maybe someone from the midwest knows about this.
 
Feb 7, 2005
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Back in late 1999, John and I went to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, to see the gilded lacquer bas-relief panel entitled, "The Chariot of Aurora," which had originally been a decorative facade surrounding two sets of sliding doors situated between the Normandie's Grand Lounge and Smoking Room. This panel made its debut at the Carnegie Museum in the fall of '98. It is quite large--and breathtaking!

Here is a link to a picture that shows some of the detail of the panel: http://www.cmoa.org/collections/popup/kkbig.html

Here is a link which has a picture (not as good as the above) and a full description of the panel and its history: http://www.carnegiemuseums.org/cmag/bk_issue/1998/novdec/feat5b.htm

And--last but not least!--here's a link to a more expansive article about the Normandie's decorations and the Carnegie's acquisition of "The Chariot of Aurora": http://www.carnegiemuseums.org/cmag/bk_issue/1996/sepoct/feat4.htm

Denise
 

Jim Kalafus

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Here are two views of the lounge, one in black and white and one in true color:
phil_greenbook2a.jpg

phil_greenbook_1a.jpg


One of the paradoxes of the Normandie's interiors (and this may sound like heresy....but) is that, for the most part, they exist in people's minds in black and white format. The black and white photos allow one to imagine a somewhat more 'placid' composition than was actually the case. Quite a few of my non-liner friends, upon viewing the color photo of the lounge have commented on how garish and 'busy' the color scheme was and, to an extent, I agree. Having Gilt and Red as the dominant colors invites comparison with certain catering establishments of the 1950s and 1960s (the sort with fountains in the bathroom and where the mashed potatos are dyed with food coloring to match the bridesmaid's gowns) that strove to seem rich and "classy" and missed by a Yonkers mile. Yet, with the colors taken away and viewed in black and white the room has a sedate elegance that it, in fact, lacked in real life.
 
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Jon Meadows

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Don't you think that the colors in reality were slightly different than what is represented in photos? When looking at old photos compared to how things look in reality, color film of the time most definitely intensified colors (unless I'm wrong, and everything DID look a tad Technicolor back then).

Art deco color schemes, however, were not exactly tasteful by today's standards. Otherwise, the bathroom that I recently had gutted (with mint-ish plastic tiles and lovely beige asbestos floor tiles with green, red and blue flecks) would be da bomb and would never have needed to be put out of its misery.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Don't you think that the colors in reality were slightly different than what is represented in photos? <<

Maybe, if only to look a bit too intense, but probably not that much different. The colourized photo Jim hurt my eyes just to look at it. Garish was the way a lot of liners went one way or another in a lot of eras, and the French weren't the only ones guilty of it.

Still, I suppose it's a lot better then some styles that have come and gone. Remember the pastels that were all the rage in the '70's? There was one shade I tend to refer to as "Execution Chamber Green" because it looked like the same green used for the inside of California's gas chamber. It was used in kitchens everywhere. I shudder to think at the pain to the eyes if the designers with that sort of taste had been let loose on some cruise ships.

Or were they?

If there are some revolting examples of that, I'll bet Jim has a few photos stashed somewhere.
 

Jim Kalafus

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No-the colors are, unfortunately dead-on accurate. Have seen, in person, some of the chairs in this photo, and even allowing for some color fade over the last 66 years, they are far from subtle. When new they must have been....breathtaking.
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The famed glass panels relied too heavily on a VERY odd shade of pink that one usually associates with medical text books (check out the one displayed at the Met in NYC to see what I mean) as well as other surprisingly gloomy color choices. The two smaller lounges, port and starboard and just forward of this one, were worlds ahead of it in good taste. Particularly in France, some of the initial reviews were not good and some (quoted in Queen of the Seas) bordered on scathing....by 1935 this sort of over-the-top design was falling out of favor, and one frequently noted design anomaly of Normandie was that the best "modern" room aboard her was the Third Class Dining Room, while much of First Class was redolent of 1925. Nieuw Amsterdam and portions of Conte di Savoia were, overall, better representations of good late period Art Deco.

nieuw_amsterdam_2.jpg


(Nieuw Amsterdam)

>Or were they?

But, of course!

>If there are some revolting examples of that, I'll bet Jim has a few photos stashed somewhere.

But, of course! However, my dweeb-like 12 year old persona is cluttering up most of them, so the interal horrors of the Oceanic and Doric and refurbished Statendam will not be seen here.
 
Jul 9, 2004
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I'm actually a huge fan of the Salon colors - but then again I am renowned in the family as the one that likes burnt orange and avacado green!

WARNING: the following ramble is a large, speculatory THEORY!

I actually think that colors were a bit different back sixty or so years ago. This is probably partially due to the fact that dyes and inks have changed over time through chemical composition and manner of application, etc. Every time I see something old in brand new condition and in color I am taken a bit by surprise because all of my conceptions of what the colors of - say the 1910s - end up being completely different from the fact.

Each decade, in my eyes, has a different color pallet I associate with it. Normandie and other examples make me think of the popular colors of the 1930s having a yellow base for the majority. The exception being the Electric hot pink Schiaperelli made famous in 1936. Normandie is a catalogue of thirties colors - in retrospect this is a stupid statement, because Normandie was a product of the thirties, but ANYWAYS...

In the Forties I think you have a move toward the blue based colors, but things were still being manufactured with the yellow base. I've seen two kinds of greens in the 40's: A deep, vibrant emerald green that I would call "50s green" due to its widespread popularity during the next decade - and you get a kind of yellow, deeper grass green... sort of. Perhaps you know what I mean. In my eyes, the perfect 1940s Red is an exceptionally vibrant and rich color because of its blue base. Fifties colors are a bit different.

Late H&W Union Castle Liners are perfect examples of 50s color combinations. You get the flat Dove grey with the vibrant, almost electric blue and that is paired with the aforementioned 50s green and a flattish pink, provided by the carnations and the garish neoclassical landscape mural on the far wall...

I'll stop before I go further! I think perhaps now that all that stuff I wrote in the paragraphs now was a bit of stupidity, BUT, whatever. It makes for interesting discussion I suppose.

BTW: This doesn't mean I prefer garish colors over most, BUT I did just buy a shirt today that was the kind of color that one would see on a picnic blanket from the 60s. Hmmm....
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>When new they must have been....breathtaking.<<

Jim, your talant for understatement is impressive to say the least. My bet is that they were far more then breathtaking.

>>so the interal horrors of the Oceanic and Doric and refurbished Statendam will not be seen here.<<

You mean, they did use "Execution Chamber Green"???? (Or worse?) The horror of it all!
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Jim Kalafus

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Hey Brandon! Avocado and burnt orange? The Brady Bunch kitchen? I'd never have guessed.

As I said, I find that much of Normandie's first class works best in black and white, where one can fill in the blanks with any color one wishes. It is part of her romantic allure, I guess. When one tours the Queen Mary one is immediately struck by the fact that her designers seemed to have been influenced by bodily functions when choosing their color pallet (bile- dried blood- etc) whereas when one looks at the true color photos and surviving furniture and artwork from Normandie one gets the distinct impression, in first class at least, that the designers were having trouble selecting a pallet and so opted to use ALL colors, simultaneously, with a result that wasn't always happy. The "new" second class lounge, of 1936, was a far better example of current shore-side design trends than was that of first class. Knowing you as I do, I am confident you'll get the following analogy~ I think of the two theaters at Rockefeller Center when I think of Normandie's interiors. On the one hand one has the (surviving) Radio City Music Hall, which was about as excessive as Art Deco got, and on the other hand one had the (long demolished) Century Theater. It was only slightly smaller than the Music Hall, but was of more sophisticated design and an infinitely better example of "Cutting Edge" (to get 1990s about it)style than was her more flamboyant and better publicized companion. Normandie's supposed "show piece" interiors are often overshadowed by their lesser equivalents in tourist and third class.

Here is a link to a favorite piece of late 1930s design
http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Finnish_Pavilion_1939.html

>>When new they must have been....breathtaking.<<

>Jim, your talant for understatement is impressive to say the least. My bet is that they were far more then breathtaking.

Thanks! The chairs from the first class lounge, with their oddly colored needlepoint applique set against a background of bordello red, did induce a slight gasp the first time I saw a surviving example of them - similar to a gasp I emitted Christmas Eve circa 1985 on which I was given a sweater of azalea pink with randomly applied dots of 80's electric turquoise, green, teal, red and black. However, I did not have to be polite about the chair
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>You mean, they did use "Execution Chamber Green"???? (Or worse?) The horror of it all

Tastes change, but in the mid 1970s I remember being impressed by a cabin aboard the Volendam that was actually done in that color. One of the 1970s liners that survived unrefurbished into the late 1990s (I think it was one of the "Song Of...." ships) was an almost museum piece example of 1970s Happy Resort Design...and it was like a (fondly remembered) flashback to step aboard into a world of canary yellow, primary red, and gloss white. Rather sad that a design era that began with the incomparable Arras Room aboard the Leonardo DaVinci ended so tragically...

nieuw_amsterdam_3.jpg


Third Class aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. Aside from the ceiling treatment, which was "done to death" in the late 1950s and early 1960s in department stores and catering facilities striving to appear "smart," the room still works. Likewise, the 1936 second class lounge aboard Normandie could make the jump into the present without seeming too much like a period piece.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>However, I did not have to be polite about the chair <<

You have my condolances on the sweater.

>>Tastes change, but in the mid 1970s I remember being impressed by a cabin aboard the Volendam that was actually done in that color.<<

There must have been some quality to that cabin which made it work then. I've never known you to mince words about calling bad taste exactly what it is. (Can't see any reason why you should either.) That rendition of the Nieuw Amsterdam's dining room doesn't look all that bad aside from the overhead you mentioned and even that still works out well in that context. I remember 1960's department store looks and quite a bit of that is still en vogue today with the supposedly "finer" stores such as Belks and Saks Fifth Avenue. Personally, I think they try a little too hard to look modern but since I rarely have reason to go to such places, I don't have to deal with it.

>>Likewise, the 1936 second class lounge aboard Normandie could make the jump into the present without seeming too much like a period piece.<<

Treu enough. It's amazing how fashion trends tend to run around in circles with the old suddenly being seen as new again...and with people being none the wiser to the fact that some of the "new" trends went into and then out of fashion half a century ago or even longer.
 

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