Everything Old is New Again: Sanssouci Edition

Everything Old is New Again: Sanssouci Edition

Anna Hoffman
Feb 3, 2011

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Berlin, a city that thoughtfully and gracefully mixes past and present. In Potsdam, not far from Berlin, is Sanssouci, the summer palace that Frederick the Great built in 1744. That was 267 years ago, but it was pretty much on-trend for 2011, right down to the very "now" combination of yellow and grey on the facade!

Sanssouci means "without care" in French, the language of Frederick the Great's court. Frederick built Sanssouci as a warm weather retreat from Berlin, where his court was and also where his wife was (let's just say it wasn't a great marriage). He loved inviting friends over to stay and engage in intellectual discussions and intimate musical performances. Voltaire stayed for three years.

Unfortunately, Frederick was not particularly easy to get along with. He had a miserable childhood of terrible psychological abuse by his father, who was a despot both at home and as king. Frederick was much more enlightened a ruler than his dad, but got more and more eccentric and antisocial as he aged. Voltaire wasn't the only guest who stopped coming to Sanssouci because of Frederick's difficult personality. By the end of his life, the king spent most of his time with his beloved greyhound.

Okay, so he wasn't Prince Charming, but he did know how to hire a great decorator! Let's take a look at some of the inspirational rooms in his summer palace.

One color we've seen a lot lately is greige, that dreamy grey-beige-taupe that is on the walls in this gallery at Sanssouci, where it's paired with pink damask upholstery. The almost rustic finish of the walls is offset by the asymmetrical gilding, a hallmark of Rococo interiors. The crystal chandelier and the white marble bust on the mantel could easily be found in a current house tour on this website.

Sanssouci was a summer palace, so the emphasis was on uniting the interior with the gorgeous gardens of the exterior. In this room, that unity was accomplished through the whimsical ceiling decoration: a spiderweb and garden trellises! While I've never seen a gilded spiderweb on a contemporary ceiling, we have discussed putting wallpaper or contrasting paint colors overhead, for a modern version of the drama of Sanssouci.

King Frederick was a little more restrained in the decoration of this guest bedroom, which is accented with painted and gilded chinoiserie designs.

The artwork on this wall includes famous works by Watteau, among others, but I'm stuck on the fabulous blue-and-white striped wall itself. The white wainscoting and white-legged chairs in matching blue-and-white striped upholstery give the room an almost Swedish breeziness alongside its formality.

This bedroom has a similar decorative scheme to the previous image, but you can see more here. For one, that striped art wall is actually one of two accent walls — the main wall (with the bed) is all simple white paneling. Then, of course, you have the alcove bed. How cozy! I love the idea of curtaining off a bed with fabric that matches the accent wallpaper!

Do you see anything at Sanssouci that you could use as inspiration for your own home?

Images: 1-5 Anna Hoffman; 6 Tachinrn on travelpod

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