I really love tortoise shell. It’s a rich and luxurious, masculine and very rustic chic material, but it’s not politically correct to use real tortoise shell today. So many designers and home furnishings companies do the next best thing – faux tortoise shell.
For the library of former New York Giants football player, Michael Strahan, I commissioned a faux tortoise shell wallpaper. I cut it into large squares and had it applied to the ceiling and then lacquered to a high sheen. Along with the woven straw wallpaper and sisal carpet, the room became rich and warm and very rustic chic. As you will see from the photos, this room had a very deep coved ceiling which extended a good bit down onto the walls. To have painted this ceiling white or cream or even lacquering it a solid dark color would have just brought the ceiling down around your ears.
So I had the ceiling itself painted a rich brown and gave an antique tortoise shell tea caddy to decorative artist extraordinaire Nels Christianson of Christianson Lee Studios (www.christiansonlee.com) and asked him to make me rolls and rolls of tortoise shell wallpaper. I then personally cut the wallpaper into large squares and had a wallpaper installer put them up randomly but spaced 1/8″ apart so as to give them the appearance of being inset. The ceiling was then lacquered and the effect was incredibly rustic chic.
Here are some other great rustic chic tortoise shell items – from Carolyne Roehm’s tortoise shell handle cutlery made from resin and Barneys New York’s tortoise shell sunglasses to a pair of blown glass tortoise shell lamps from the 1960’s.
Room photography by Pieter Estersohn