Meet the Designer / Craftsman:
Richard Hooper’s career is a winding path from fine art and woodworking to rare books, history, dogs and equine sports.
After studying painting and art history at VCU, Hooper moved to California. While there he took up woodworking, with a particular interest in finish carpentry and cabinetry. His skill and precision led to numerous projects, including working on structures designed by famed California architects Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan (architect for the Hearst Castle).
It was also in California that Hooper first began dealing in rare books, honing in on those relative to equestrian sports and dogs. He later expanded his expertise to include art and antiques. The knowledge gained from over 35 years of experience can be seen in “Then & There,” a monthly column he writes for Middleburg Life.
In Virginia, Hooper has had shops in Middleburg and Leesburg and worked with private clients in expanding their collections of rare books and art. While on
buying trips to London and Paris, he became acquainted with refined furnishings for dogs tracing back to the 18th and 19th centuries. An exhibit at the Musée de la Chasse, in particular, piqued his interest. Using these furnishings and their history as inspiration — in combination with his skilled woodworking abilities, knowledge of dogs, and sense of design and aesthetics — he is now creating a selection of elegantly appointed beds that will delight those who love fine furnishings.
A Short History of Dog Niches:
Creating elegant furniture that serve our canine pets and add charm to decor is not new. As early as 1328, pieces are found listed in the inventory of property belonging to Clemence de Hongrie, Queen Consort of France and of Navarre. Her 99 page inventory lists two silk cabinets for dogs. Examples began to appear more frequently in the 17th century and reached the zenith of popularity in the 18th and 19th. One inventory from 1721 lists no less than 19 niches that housed 26 dogs. Some of these were in the form of longer benches with multiple openings and chambers: something of a duplex, triplex or quadraplex.
Original examples are rare. What is probably the largest collection is housed at Chateau de Vendeuvre in Normandy. Closer to home the Metropolitan Museum has one that possibly belonged to Marie Antoinette. It is in the Wrightsman Galleries of French Decorative Art and bears the stamp of her furniture equerry. A particularly fine pair of French giltwood niches dating from about 1765 (re-upholstered in 1987), in the form of tabourets, or stools, were sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 for $86,500.
Link for Chateau de Vendeuvre – http://www.vendeuvre.com/nw/niches_en.html