There’s nothing quite like that French insouciance when it comes to decorating a space. A bit of this, a dash of that - et voila! - a decadent room seems to appear from nowhere. Here are our favorite pieces to create the Parisian pad of your dreams.
While Emile-Jaques Rulhmann had a relatively short life, he persists as a most important figure in the evolution of early 20th century furnishings, and especially the Art Deco movement. Although he had no formal training, his most notable talent was in translating neoclassical elements into modern sensibility and proportions, and his very successful works embodied a simple, cleansed style and organized, unified structure that suggested an architectural design. A perfectionist, he would not accept during the process of making a piece of furniture a design detail that could not be executed.Born in Paris, France in 1879 to Alsatian parents, Emile-Jaque Rulhmann had a head start in the business of decorating. His father owned an atelier which specialized in painting, gilding, mirrors and stained glass, and general decorating. After his father passed away in 1907, Emile began managing the family business himself. Propelled by the idea of creating furniture for his own apartment, the newly married Rulhmann began creating drawings and changed the workshop’s production to more modern and elaborate designs. When these designs were shown in 1910’s Salon d’Autumne, it began the launch of his career, garnering Rulhmann his first commissions.
By 1919 he began a collaboration with Pierre Laurent, and opened Établissement Rulhmann et Laurent, offering luxury design, wallpaper, furniture and lighting. He later opened a woodworking shop on his own, and although he never created furniture himself, the great precision and focus in his drawings as well as a step-by-step interest in the crafting process allowed him to express his designs quite successfully. At 1925’s Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industrials Modernes, Rulhmann’s pavilion, built for his friend, architect Pierre Patout, was the most visited. His firm by 1927 employed over sixty craftsmen-- cabinetmakers, finishers, upholsters, and draftsmen.
“Nicolle” card table, 1928
Restaurant panel, 1925
1920s gilded rosewood armchair
Rulhman had fondness for luxury materials, and their use in exceptional wood furniture became his trademark. Exotic woods such as rosewood, Macasar ebony, amboina burl, precious metals, gold and silver leaf, scrollwork, lacquer, ivory inlays and accentuated curves were all part of the repertoire for what he called “his precious pieces”. Indeed, the use of these materials rendered his designs prohibitively expensive to most, and he had an innate sense that the public at large would not understand or appreciate his aesthetic. However, a wealthy class had emerged in Paris post-World War II, and his patronage was greatly sought after by the newly leisured. His career skyrocketed, and during this era, he designed entire rooms as well as their contents. When questioned in a magazine interview in 1920, he stated his case for his high-end home goods: “A clientele of artists, intellectuals and connoisseurs of modest means is very congenial, but they are not in a position to pay for all the research, the experimentation, the testing that is needed to develop a new design. Only the very rich can pay for what is new and they alone can make it fashionable. Fashions don’t start among the common people. Along with satisfying a desire for change, fashion’s real purpose is to display wealth.” He also sais: “Whether you want it or not, a style is just a craze. And fashion does not come up from humble backgrounds.” His passion for perfection did come, however, at a price, but not without a hint of self-awareness. He estimated that “each piece of furniture I deliver cost me on average 20 or 25 percent more than what I charge for it. The reason for me to resist, to persist in creating furniture that costs me money instead of being profitable, is that I still have faith in the future, and that I run another business with safe return, and whose profits fill up the holes that I am digging in the moon.”
Work desk, 1922
While early his designs were associated with the Art Noveau movement, they eventually and subtly metamorphosed into the geometric forms and stripped-down aesthetic of the Art Deco movement. During this period, his client list and requests continued to grow, and in and around 1927 he designed a hall and meeting room for the Paris Chamber of Commerce, a tea room for the liner Ile de France, furniture and interiors for the Elysee Palace, the National Assembly, and the mayor of Paris’ fifth arrondissement, as well as the interior of the Marignan cinema.
Lit Soleil (Sun Bed), 1930
Sadly, the worldwide economic crash of 1929 brought a halt to the luxurious lifestyles of Rulhmann’s patrons. When he became terminally ill, he dissolved his operation, completing only orders in progress. He died in Paris in November, 1933. Jacque-Emile Rulhmann’s work is shown at the Brooklyn Museum, and he was the subject of a 2004 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The designer was able to carve a place for himself in the world of early 20th century design, and he has been characterized by the New York Times as “Art Deco’s greatest artist.”
Elsie deWolfe (1859—1950) is credited with the “invention” of interior decoration, a statement not entirely true. The profession of interior decorator existed as early as 1900, several years before she received her first commission, The Colony Club in New York. Prior to that, interiors were largely done by architects, who employed upholsterers, woodworkers and artisans to flesh out their commissions and by the late 19th century, design firms such as the Herter Brothers were decorating for well-heeled clients. Elsie deWolfe however, the most famed art of interior decoration during the opening years of the 20th century, in some part due to her commercial and social contacts in New York, Paris and London.Elsie deWolfe, 1944 The Colony Club, New Yorkshe was privately educated in New York and in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she lived with some relatives. She was introduced to London society in 1883, where she was presented at Queen Victoria’s court. She referred to herself as “a rebel in an ugly world”, and deWolfe’s preeminent talent was aptitude allowed her to gain favor with rich clients such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Amy Vanderbilt by transfiguring dimly lit, heavily curtained and darkly furnished spaces into more intimate once rejecting the Victorian esthetic of her very unhappy childhood while employing fresh colors, a penchant for 18th Century French-style furnishings and accessories, and the use of mirrors to visually expand and sparkle the living spaces, and the elimination of extraneous clutter, and the inclusion of more relaxed fabric patterns in her designs. Chinoizerie, chintz, stripes, animal upholstery and fake finishes were important components of her pallett. “I opened the doors and windows of America, and let the air and sunshine in”, said she. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Colony Club, a social gathering space for women located at 120 Madison Avenue in New York, a 1905 commission which de Wolfe secured with the help of architect Mr. White. Using an outdoor garden pavilion as inspiration, the club had a very very feminine esthetic, employing pale walls, lightweight window coverings, tile floors and white wicker furnishings. The Colony Club launched de Wolfe’s career and she became more or less a household name through articles which appeared in Good Housekeeping, and some other magazines. Over the next couple of years she designed interiors for fancy homes, clubs and businesses, and her statement was “I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint, comfortable chairs with lights beside them, open fires on the hearth and flowers wherever they ‘belong,’ mirrors and sunshine in all rooms.” In 1913 de Wolfe published The House in Good Taste, a book of previously published articles written by a ghost writer Ruby Ross Wood , in it redefining “taste” as a middle class virtue.Beverly Hills home for Countess Dorothy di Frasso (1936) designed by Elsie de Wolfeher first career choice had been as an actress, and after her father’s death in 1895 left her in difficult financial circumstances, she performed in such New York productions as “A Cup of Tea” and “Sunshine” (1886), Thermidor (1891);andin 1901 she brought the play “The Way of the World” to the Victoria Theater and toured the U.S. in its leading role. She liked stage decorating interested her, and at the suggestion of Sara Cooper Hewitt, de Wolfe launched another career as an interior designer and lived for many years with Elizabeth Marbury, theatrical agent and daughter of a prominent New York attorney, in a lesbian relationship. In 1903 they bought and began restoring the Villa Trianon at Versailles, France. During World War I de Wolfe won two medals, the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor for her work with gas burn patients. In 1926 she married Sir Charles Mendl, Press Attache to the British Embassy in Paris the couple entertained together, but lived in separate residences at the outset of World War II, de Wolfe and her husband moved to Hollywood. Afterwards she returned to Vila Trianon, where she remained until her death in 1950. Her autobiography was published in 1935. Severence Hall, Elsie deWolfe and Elizabeth Marbury’s Vila Trianon restoration
Although he didn’t achieve as much recognition as his pears inside Denmark, Ib Kofod-Larsen (1921-2003) was still able to achieve renkown for his practical and versatile furniture designs and with graceful esthetic, mostly by working with companies outside of his home. He was born in 1921. Little is known of his early years, but as a boy he trained as a cabinetmaker and received high honors in 1944. After that he attended the Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhaigen for architectire, and got a degree in 1948 in the same year he won an award from the Danish Cabinetmaker’s Guild, as well as the Holmegaard Glass Competition.
These things led to some attention from a Danish manufacturer Faarup Mobelfabrik, for which he designed in the 1950's, he made some of his most memorable works, including the Model 68 Side Board.
The Model 66 Sideboard
His recognition at home led to success outside of Denmark in Sweden and England where he designed for the British firm High Wycombe developing the GPlan Line, including desks; sideboards; armchairs; sofas; and room dividers, and also the Christensen & Larsen, Carlo Gahrn, Bovenkamp, Petersen’s and Frederica Furniture companies. He perceived as being able to breath new life into designs which had become old and dated. He was known for “honoring the inate qualities of his chosen materials” and focusing on the native grains and patterns of the woods and also for following basic tenets of Danish design, which produced versatile and practical pieces with graceful, minimalism esthetic. Throughout his career, he worked with bentwood shells ans construction and seat positions was hired in 1953 by Dansk Glasfiber Industrie to develop heat-hardened polyester for the design of new furniture types. He worked with exoticwoods, including teak and rosewood, which were more plentiful and leather too. Airy lines was the hallmark of his work. The Penguin (or Shell) chair (1953), the Elizabeth chair (1956)-- named after Queen Elizabeth II who bought a pair -- and the teak and leather upholstered Seal chair went on to become a couple of his most famous chairs, and are becoming very very popular items in the mid century and flea markets. In fact, the Seal chair, was produced by a Swedish company OPE, helped to breathe new life into the financial strain that Swedish industries were experiencing in the mid 1950s. Larson’s Shell chair was produced by Selig, one of America's leading importers and producers of furniture, and copies were made into settees, dining chairs, and more, selling thousands of units.
Early sketch of the Penguin chair, characterized by an elegant, organic and sculptural style
1960 Sideboard by Kofod-Larsen
The U56 Chair, a.k.a. the “Elizabeth” combined a low seat height with a sledge back to create iconic, Danish modern design. It was also designed as a settee.
Although he passed away in 2003 he focused mainly on furniture design, Kofod-larsen designed glass, textiles, silver, radio and television cabinets, wallpaper and also worked in industrial design. His designs still resonate with homeowners and collectors today showing good design never goes out of style.
The Brutalism style was really popular in the 1960s and 1970s but was first coined as the French “béton brut” – Le Corbusier’s definition of his favorite material and the term was made popular by architecture critic Reyner Banham in the 1950s and 1960s. Today is due in part to 1970s-inspired fashion trends in films like “American Hustle”and disco dance music. Brutalism is hard edges jagged shapes rough surfaces patinad burned finishes, asymmetrical designs, spikey silhouettes, and metallic colors. In the production the term means that the welding and torch cutting are carried out in a “brutal manner” -- meaning the creftsperson performs his or her basic action on the piece in a given moment does not tamper with it afterward leaving the art piece raw, and, scrappy. To carry out this, the artist needs a thorough knowledge of what action is about to be taken, how to perform that action, steady hands, and most importantly, a ZenLike attitude towards the process. Today we're seeing Brutalist furniture emerge through a lot of pieces that can blend into a lot of design styles. The look is popular with Kelly Wearstler, Johathan Adler and Blackman Cruz, and is common in lighting wall sculptures and concrete pieces but you can find a variety of vintage and contemporary consoles, sideboards, and armoires that exhibit characteristics.The master of Brutalism was Paul Evans (1931 – 1987). Famous for his contributions to the American Craft movement of the 1960s, his metal furnnishings make him apart from the world of design. He was not easily categorized, Evans was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and spent his early childhood in New Hope, Pennsylvania his father was head of a Quaker school’s English department and his mother was, a painter. He eventually attended Cranbrook Academy near Detroit, Michigan, and afterwards demonstrated metalworking techniques at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. In 1950 Evans set up business in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he experimented in phases. He collaborated with his friend Philip Powell on pieces of furniture, combining gnarly wood forms with gilding metal filigree this led to covering cabinets with raw metal knobs starburst forms and surfaces. Evans was able to tread fine line his work being“stunningly beautiful, stunningly ugly, stunningly tacky, and stunningly sophisticated qualities, which one almost never encounters. His pieces are characterised by his esthetics: verdigris wavy forge perforated geometric fishscaled. Says gallery director Tara ,Evans career has a really interesting trajectory, from very craft-based in the 50s to very flashy in the 60s and 80s”. Although his patrons were intellectual, the market for furniture eventually cooled. Evans discarded much of his archive, but collectors rescue works from trash piles. Today has seen a major resurgence in Evans’ work resulting in high prices, inclusion in world famous collections and even a movie about of his life. Evans passed away in 1987 at 55.Paul Evans at work “Wavy Front” cabinet, 1971 by Paul Evans
Evans’ armoire of welded and etched aluminum
Other notable practitioners of Brutalism include the American artist(s) Curtis Jere (Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels), known for wall art, Silas Seandel, and Tom Greene, known for torch-cut multi-tiered chandeliers with stalacatite points, scrap lanterns and burnished cubist pendant.Mirror by Curtis Jere Brutalist interior by Carlo ScarpaBrutalist architecture was from 1951 to 1975, having descended from the modern architecture movement of the early 20th century, resulting in rough somber post-apocalyptic concrete fortresses of raw unrefined materials designed to project a sense of strength like those created by Le Corbusier Merril W. Baird, A. Quincy Jones and others. The terms also applicable to wood carving sculptures of different materials with a raw rebellious and awkward look to them. Brutalism remains one of design's most difficult styles to date, yet still manages to look new because of its highly expressive forms and an element of unrefined. “Habitat”, Expo 67, Montreal, Quebec, constructed of prefabricated formsan example of Brutalism architecture
The term “Hollywood Regency”, originating in the 1920s with larger-than-life personality designer Dorothy Draper (see January, 2018 blog), have no shortage of adopters and admirers. Becoming popular with the masses after the wind-down of the Great Depression, its going strong and its unbridled glamour has evolved in each coming decade. The enduring popularity of the style is its mix-in to other styles as Mid Century Modernism and brutalism.Named for the movies of Southern California, Hollywood Regency, is sometimes known as Regency Moderne, is typified by opulence a bold use of color, dark and light contrasts mirrors lush textures, glass and metallic accents, and luscious curve. The details are sumptuous its intent is to bring in to mind the glamorous estates of early Hollywood celebrities such as Carole Lombard, Clark Gable and Greta Garboe. During the “Golden Age” of filmmaking, producers tried to complement their larger-than-life stars with larger-than-life sets which carried over into interior decorating. As Rochelle summed it up: “Hollywood Regency is glitz and glamour covered in lacquer, chrome, and mirrored finishes. Every detail is meant to say luxury and there is always the feeling that people should look good sitting in the design— particularly if they are wearing satin bathrobes sipping a cocktail.Low-slung furniture in traditional forms contrasts with luxury-detailed accessories in the contrast mix. Key elements such as tufted sofas and modern Greek and Egyptian influenced silhouettes and furniture styles are plenty. Executed by a mix of bold statement pieces and delicate accents, Hollywood Regency combined fancy fabrics and finishes with traditional architectural elements. Think of the balance between positive and negative space on a canvas a concept becomes clear. Art Deco touches, lacquered finishes (shinier the better!!), mirror furniture, Jewel Tones, animal skins in cheetah, snakeskin and zebra, and black and white elements of the Hollywood Regency palette. Fabrics with glamorous textures channel the movie stars of the 1940s velvet suede chenille fur silk and satin. Think of a designer gown worn by Rita Hayworth at the Oscars and you’re a little way . When you think of Hollywood Regency, you think of drama. World travel, was picking up in popularity as the style took off so collected world treasures became in the mix too, including palm fronds gilded bamboo and Chinoisarie.
The sunburst mirror is a ubiquitous element in the Hollywood Regency repertoire
Greek Key Chest
Designers who have made this style part of their repertoire include the architect Paul R. Williams, Dorothy Draper, David Hicks, Kelly Wearstler and Billy Haines. Haines, one of the most important designers of the style, was originally an aspiring Hollywood actor. After winning a “New Faces” talent contest sponsored by Samuel Goldwyn, he came to Hollywood and appeared in more than 50 films before he was eventually ousted from the studios due to his refusal to deny his homosexuality and enter into a sham marriage. It was his friendships with Hollywood starlets, among them Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson--who were impressed with his taste in design-- that launched him into popularity as a decorator for the elite; many of his furniture designs are still much loved today. His work was characterized by oversized sculptures, bold colorways, deeply tufted seating, rich textiles and over-the-top feminine touches. One of Haines’ greatest contributions to twentieth century design was moving away from stiff and traditional earlier trends into a more playful aesthetic.
Los Angeles living room designed by Billy Haines
Dorothy Draper pushed the boundaries of the style, incorporating classic architectural elements with massive scale, bold patterns and the unabashed use of color. The popularity of her Greenbrier Hotel project made a household name and helped the esthetic.He spent his early years on the East Coast fostering interest in pottery. He studied semioticks and art history at Brown University, he began teaching classes at Mud Sweat and Tears in new york . Armed with sample of pots he made, he called Barney’s received his first order and became a potter. He became inspired by South American textiles and added them along with pillows and throws to his inventory that he opened in 1998 now 30 stores Nation Wide. In 2004 he got some commissions for interiors including the remodel of the Parker Palm Springs Hotel and Spa. His aesthetic owes a lot to a hollywood regency style.
Parker Palm Springs Hotel interior with a nod to Hollywood Regency, by Jonathan Adler
Paul Williams was a noted Los Angeles architect of African descent who represents the quintessential American rags-to-riches story. Shortly after his family moved to LA from Memphis his father died and then his mother separated from his sibling, he was placed into a foster home, and his new mother took a interest in her son’s development. Discouraged by a teacher at Polytechnic High School from pursuing a career he persisted and while training worked for several Los Angeles design firms eventually obtaining his building contractor’s certification in 1915 and his state certification in 1921. Earning accolades from employers he opened his own practice and became first Africanamerican member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1923. His practice grew to designing large homes in the Hancock Park, Flintridge and Windsor Square and his interior decoration became part of practice, garnering him commissions to design homes for Lucy and Desi, the Paleys, Jeniffer Jones and Frank Sinatra. His sought-after aesthetic made him an important contributor to what became known as the hollywood regency.
Hollywood style in red, Toluca Lake, California; Interior by Paul Williams
Although it has evolved far beyond its LA roots, Hollywood Regency’s enduring and intriguing allure remains timeless, and endures as an ode to the drama and glamour of its origins.
If you’ve ever looked —through—a piece of plastic furniture, you have one person to thank for. Charles Hollis Jones, American artist and furniture designer. Jones has worked with a lot of high profile clients including Stallone, Arthur Elrod, Kardashians, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, architect John Lautner, Tennessee Williams Paul László and Lucille Ball. She was an ardant fan of Charles Hollis Jones furniture and ordered several items including many pieces for her dressing room at Desilu Studios where the sitcom was filmed. He created over 1,000 designs over his 50-year career, and brought to life a esthetic thats part modernism over the top opulence, and Midwest Apple Pie.Charles Hollis Jones Charles Hollis Jones was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1945. Mother was a quilt maker and Father was in the lumber business and sold house designs a ranch, a split level and a two story. Apparently watching his father remove and replace the roofs and walls while restoring covered bridges gave Jones the idea to design the lampshade. “I saw many bridges exposed to the bones Jones recalls. It gave him understanding of underlying structural and an appreciation of stark beauty and strength revealed in a bridge’s complex, uncovered forms.What came after is history. He moved to Los Angeles at 16 after previously meeting Roide, on a vacation there. At that time, plastic and acrylic were not materials for upscale furniture, but Hollis Jones change all that. He saw potential in plastic. After several years of a job as driver and delivery boy for Hudson-Rissman, he began creating pieces, and designing furniture and domestic goods for Roide Enterprises, a Los Angeles business that retailed its designs at high-end department stores s as well as some of the world’s showrooms. In the mid 1970s he opened his CHJ Designs on Melrose in Los Angeles’ fashionable district.Admiring the optical qualities of glass but the material was too fragile, he developed a signature style recognized for its elemental and elegant geometric shapes—circles, squares, and rectangles in precise and refined combinations. Years of research experimentation and innovation resulted in manufacturing processes in which he mastered the art of bending, stretching twisting joining and casting acrylic into illusionistic furniture shapes and accessories. By exploiting the optical properties of clear acrylic and by outlining the contours of his transparent constructions in reflective polished nickel, chrome, of brass frames he created furniture accessories that were both domestic and public spaces at home.Notable art critics, he was well received, and Hollywood began to notice. He had a revolutionary conceptual approach to designing furniture: to never think of the accepted word for a piece. If one did not have in mind what had already been built, then mind was free to come up with an innovative solution. One that may include four legs. Lucite Rocker, 1970 Playwright Tennessee Williams was not only a loyal client of Hollis Jones, he also provided him with inspiration and a bit of Hollywood insider gossip. Jones tells the story about getting inspiration for his Wisteria chair from the author. Williams told him “Charles, take a look at my play to get inspired!” referring to The Glass Menagerie”. In it, a character is obsessed with the type of glass swizzle stick one uses to stir drinks. Jones translated that obsession to a Lucite chair with edges which were dyed green, and then polished. The Wisteria chair was born. In another concept, the Harlow chair, the sometimes-used metal frame was eliminated, making the chair entirely see-through: in a room setting its physical structure seems to dissolve and become points of light. Wisteria Chairs (1968), commissioned by Tennessee Williams, upon which the author purportedly spent much time Hollis Jones observing the manufacture of one of his pieces of furniture Using original Thomas Edison light bulbs, Jones created a lamp of steel and Lucite® to show the innerworkings of Edison’s original technology. It won him the California Design 11 Competition The Los Angeles Times has referred to Hollis Jones as pioneer in acrylic design”. He has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, and his work was in museums. In 2005 the MOCAD presented the Distinguished Designer Award to Mr. Jones who is renowned for his innovative Lucite furniture and accessories. Work was exhibited in several of the California Design exhibitions held at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art (now the Norton Simon Museum) in the 1970s and the Palm Springs Desert Museum in 2003 and numerous galleries across the country, in 2004 he received the Pacific Design Center’s "star of Design Award.In film "The Graduate," a college grad is given a word of advice by one of his father’s colleagues, a word meant to launch him on the road to riches: "Plastics."Jones resides in the Burbank and continues to design furniture and accessories.
Widicomb was found as a cabinet shop in 1858 in Grand Rapids Michigan. Its four employees were William, Harry, John, and George, Jr. sons of George Widicomb an immigrant and skilled woodworker from Devonshire England. All of the boys enlisted to fight in the union army in the Civil War and the company was dissolved during then. Eventually sons would rejoin the business, except for George Junior who died in 1866. It grew to almost 25 employees and moved to larger quarters with T.F. Richards joining the business in 1869, by 1871, the roster of employees, had grown to 150, and the company’s most widely sold products were spindle bed frames, hugely popular in the late Victorian era, and shipped either unfinished, or in white through the United States. In 1873, Widdicomb Brothers & Richards is incorporated as Widdicomb Furniture Co. In 1915 the company is purchased by lumber tycoon Godfrey von Platen. Maynard Guest who knew the furniture business, and Joseph Griswold, Sr., later merging with Mueller Furniture in 1950. In 1960 Mueller split off, and the company name is acquired in 1970 by John Widdicomb Company. 22 years later, in 1992, Stickley Brothers & Company acquired the design and rights.Spindle bed frame of the late Victorian era Widdicomb Furniture Company, 1878At seven, son John was apprenticed by his father into the cabinetmaking craft while living in Elbridge. American National Biography states “It is noteworthy that Widdicomb’s experience began in a water-powered factory. At this stage of industrial history, the manufacturing process still required the use of highly skilled artisans. During his life many industries would introduce machines that would hasten the demise of skilled work. Widdicomb was among those who pioneered the use of these new machine-operated manufacturing techniques that both changed the structure of the workplace and mass-produced consumer durable goods”. Another son, William, was “a clever mechanic who invented many improvements for machinery in the factory”,a mong the styles produced by Widdicomb from the 1880s were Colonial Revival, American Empire and French styles include chiffoniers, wash stands, bed frame, mirrors, nightstand and wardrobes made of low priced cherry, maple, ash, birch and oak, as well as other woods including San Domingo and Tabasco mahogany, walnut golden curly birch bird’sye maple, and also-- at the lowest cost of all a white enamel finish. Indeed, in 1887 and 1891, local describe Widdicomb as “ largest manufacturer of bedroom furniture in the world”.During the first two decade of the twentieth century, the earlier styles were passed-by in favor of then-popular Italian Renaissance, Georgian Revival Venetian, Louis XV XVI Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Early American, and “New England Colonial” styles. Freelance designer William Balbach created designs for Widdicomb beginning in 1917. From 1918 to 1920, a division of the company produced phonograph cabinets in the Queen Anne, Adam and Chippendale styles. The first modern pieces were introduced in 1928, and by 1938 these designs took the place of the traditional. It is this output that has become most widely known to the public—a.k.a. “mid century modern” style.English-born T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings (1905 - 1976) served as designer for Widdicomb from 1943 – 1956, he was trained as an architect and designer at the University of Liverpool and London University and was already well known in Europe before he came to the U.S. in 1929, and he started the interior firm Robsjohn-Gibbings, Ltd. in New York which he then ran. He began designing at Widdicomb in 1943 at the the Second world war although production did not begin until 1946 when it was ended. His Modern designs, for which Robsjohn-Gibbings is most well known, were blonde wood, and utilized Scandinavian modern and shapes or neoclassical influence. He is most known for a strapped chair the low standing lamp, the glass top cocktail table and the louver drawer. As well as authoring three books, Robsjohn-Gibbings got the Waters Award for Achievement in 1950. T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings Robsjohn-Gibbings two-tiered table with tapered legs Chaise from a Widdicomb sectional sofa, attributed to T. H. Robsjohn-GibbingsIn the early 1950s and 1960s, George Nakashima also designed. One of the leading innovators of 20th century furniture design, his output for the “Origins” collection emphasized the grain and texture of woods, including Circassian walnut and hickory and included bedroom dining room,occasional and upholstered pieces withj apanese and shaker influences. It is interesting to note that Nakashima learned and mastered traditional Japanese handtools and joinery-techniques from Gentaro Hikogawa while at Camp Minidoka in Idaho Walnut cabinet by George NakashimaA style leader produced collections in conjunction with such names as Mario Buatta, Jacques Grange, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Paul McCobb and Frank Lloyd Wright. Worksare on display at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum into New York.SaveSaveSave
by Carol SteffanIn the pantheon of twentieth century designers, Edward Wormley (1907 – 1995) is not a name that immediately comes to mind. But in his vision he conveyed modern residential furniture style to the masses. Using wood and upholstery in a tailored way, his work appealed to an audience not ready for the austerity of International Style design.Edward Wormley (1907 – 1995)Born outside Chicago in Oswego, Illinois, Wormley was stricken with polio at an early age and did not walk until he was 5; he walked with a limp for the remainder or his life. After completing high school in Rochelle, Illinois, Womley was accepted at age 19 to the Art Institute of Chicago. When, after two years his funds ran out, he became employed as an interior designer by Marshall Field & Company department store, and briefly for Berkey & Gay, a furniture manufacturer located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He began creating pieces with simplified silhouettes and plain surfaces after a trip in 1930 to Paris, where he met Le Corbusier and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, the Art Deco designer. During the Depression, Wormley met then-president of Dunbar Furniture of Berne, Indiana, who hired him to upgrade its furniture line, which had previously been purchased with coupons found in boxes of borax, a laundry aid. Womley was up to his new task, and his designs were an immediate success, with Dunbar becoming the top producer of modern furnishings by 1936. For the next 39 years, Wormley designed around 150 pieces a year for the company, which was sold in 1970.Wormley’s BENSEN Ed sofaDuring World War II he worked as the head of the furniture unit of the Office of Price Administration in Washington. After that, Wormley set up a private practice in interior design, and Dunbar became his primary client. After a few years a business decision was made to focus exclusively on Modern and Scandinavian designs. Paired with Wormley’s keen eye for quality and Dunbar’s exacting craftsmanship, the result was furniture which was exceptionally well made, sophisticated, understated and elegant, yet at the same time, mainstream, and thus very successful. Among the classics Mr. Wormley designed were an A-frame wood chair with a caned back and compass legs of 1959, and a ledge-armed tufted sofa in the mid-1960's.Mid century wingback chair by WormleyIn 1941 he served as president of the American Designer’s Institute, and his work was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s Good Design exhibitions in New York in 1951 and 1952, and at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago during the years 1950 through 1955. He also won the Designer of Distinction Award from the American Society of Interior Designers and the Elsie de Wolfe Award. He understood the essential elements of Modernism, and his inclusion in these exhibitions gave him a place along side more well known designers as Harry Bertoia, Charles Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames.Sideboard for Dunbar, 1950sSaid Jack Lenor Larsen: "Edward Wormley was a major influence on American design in the mid-century. And he did far more than furniture, designing carpets, fabrics, lamps for Lightolier and the first rheostat lighting system for the home." Examples of Wormley’s furniture are in the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Montreal and Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and he will long be remembered for taking the best historical and classical elements of design, an understanding of the past, a feeling for what makes a chair comfortable for an American, and incorporating them into a new and modern vernacular.Wormley died in 1995 at the age of 87 in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Although trained as an architect, Domenico “Ico” Parisi (1916 – 1996) was very much a renaissance man, and intensely interested in all forms of art. Not wanting to be labeled just as an industrial designer, painter, photographer or installation artist, he participated in all these forms, as well as in architecture in his more than fifty years’ creative life. Together with his wife Luisa, Ico Parisi created many classic pieces of design, and their look was the epitome of Modern Italian style in the 1950s.
Born in Palermo, Italy to an art teacher father, Parisi lived almost his entire life in Como, Italy, a lakeside resort town. His worldview however, was anything but provincial. He was drawn to Como at a young age because of progressive architects based in the region, including Pietro Lingeri and Gianni Mantero, from whom Parisi hoped to learn. He began his knowledge of building at the age of 15 by training in construction in Como, after which he worked at the office of architect Giuseppe Terragni—pioneer of Italian Modernism--also in Como. During a stint in filmmaking in the mid 1930s he worked on such experimental films as Como + Como + Como (1937) and Risanamento Edilizio della Citta di Como (Structural rehabilitation of the city of Como, 1939). In 1937 Parisi was involved in the design of the colonial exhibition in the Villa Olmo in Como, along with Giovanni Galfetti, Silvio Longhi, and Fulvio Cappelletti. Parisi was drafted into military service in 1940 in the role of Pontonnier , an officer in charge of bridge equipment and construction of pontoon bridges, and served in France, Yugoslavia and Russia.Ico Parisi eventually returned to architecture. He was founding member of the Gruppo Como and Alta Quota (which included Galfetti, Longhi and Cappelletti), where he met his future wife, Luisa Aiani. Luisa was a protégée of Gio Ponti. They married in 1947 and in April 1948 they together formed La Ruota (“the wheel”), a studio where the pair worked alongside each other creating their most famous pieces—among them, the Model 813 Uovo (Egg) Chair for Cassina (1951). Their friend Ponti was inspired to write of the design: “My dear, your egg chair is a marvel. You are a master, and all that is left for me is to retire and live in Civate in oblivion.”
The Parisis’ Model 839 Chair
La Ruota became known as a meeting place for artist–designer friends such as Lucio Fontana, Bruno Munari, Franscesco Somaini, Mario Radice, and Fausto Melotti. One resulting collaborative project was the Pavilion for the tenth Trienalle di Milano, completed in partnership with architects Silvio Longhi and Luigi Antonietti: its reinforced walls of concrete and glass formed a spiral-shaped room. Parisi believed in the integration of design, fine art, and architecture. One such space which embodies this synthesis is Casa Bolgiana in Como, a house that manifests the sculptural, built in furniture of lacquered woods, curved silhouettes, abstract paintings and ceramic plates designed by his friends.
Clients whom the Parisi’s worked for included Altamira, Cassina, Longhi and Singer and Sons. Parisi also worked independently from Luisa, designing ceramics, glass, jewelry, furniture (primarily in metal and wood), and on architecture projects, some of which included the State Library of Milan and the interior of the 1948 Triennial Journalism Exhibition, working alongside painters and sculptors such as Umberto Milani, Melotti and Radice. Other famous designs attributed to Parisi are the Model 691 Chair (1955) as well as the Model 839. Not content with his level of knowledge, Parisi continued studying architecture after he opened La Ruota, studying in Lausanne, Switzerland under Alberto Sartoris at the Institute Atheneum from 1949 through 1952, and from whom he adopted the idea that architecture should renounce all useless, superfluous elements and that harmonious color and line are supreme. In 1956 Ico Parisi joined the Italian Associazione per il Disegno Industriale. After the 1960s he changed his approach from one of elegance to radical and experimental. His three family residences along Lake Como became increasingly avant-garde, filled with futuristic designs for production.
Ico Parisi in the 1960s
In later years (1972), Parisi worked with art critics Restany and Crispolti on projects that fused architecture and art, among them Ipotesi per a Casa Esistenziale (hypothesis for a house to survive), and an exhibition at the 1978 Bienalle di Venezia. Moving into the 1980s, he focused on jewelry, satirical objects, and bizarre, site-specific installations such as cars dipped in concrete, the documenta urbana in Kassel in 1982 and also the exhibition Les années 50 1988 in the Center Pompidou in Paris. Almost ten years later in Milan was dedicated his first solo exhibition, entitled Ico Parisi: l'Officina del possible.Ico Parisi died in Como in 1996, preceded by his wife Luisa in 1990.
Pop icon Madonna once said of her pal and confidante, interior designer David Collins (1955 - 2013) “When I look around my houses in New York or London, I am struck by what an influence he has had on me. He has left his souvenirs everywhere: his touch, his taste, his flair and his blue.”Whether designing private homes in New York and London for Ms. Ciccone, impeccable retail spaces, Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel ,the Blue Bar in Belgravia or Larusmiani in Milan, David left souvenirs of his flair, taste, his unique touch and knowledge of all things chic and beautiful everywhere he went. Eschewing then-trendy chintz for comfortable seating , a variety of textures and saturated colors, Collins was a stickler for getting the details—among them, flattering lighting-- right. He liked to quote Mies van der Rohe: “God is in the details”. He might paint a wall in 17 shades of blue for just the right effect—or commission a blacksmith to create a custom piece of furniture. His luxurious style reached well and far beyond London and restaurant design, and included plump upholstery, silver leaf, banquettery. But, above all, Collins believed that “the whole experience should be fun”. Influenced more by good conversation, music, art, food, a good party and a laugh than showrooms, trade fairs and magazines, and never predictable or homogeneous, he created a look that was at once, glamorous, but also unintimidating and familiar, having a knack for making a newly opened venue seem exciting and fresh, yet old and established. Indeed, his own apartment served as a design lab and playground for his ideas, wit and generosity. Collins left an indelible mark on London’s restaurant and hotel design scene of the past two decades. Collins’ London drawing room Collins lighthearted sense of design, manifested in attaching a Line Vautrin paperweight as a door handle during a photo shootBorn in 1955 to Dublin architect Jack Collins and his wife Helen, David was youngest of four children. Even though at an early age he had a strong eye for light and color, Collins did not capitalize on those natural abilities until later in life. After attending St. Conleth’s School, he wanted to enter into law, however, he turned to design after he realized he lacked the prerequisite courses in Latin, after which he became enrolled in the Bolton Street School of Architecture. A friend asked for help designing the interior of his house, about which Collins said “I knew nothing”. The result, in a stoke of luck, caught the eye of chef Pierre Koffmann, who commissioned Collins to refurbish his restaurant, La Tante Claire on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. Collins took as his starting point the name of Koffmann’s daughter, Camille, using the deep pinks and ivory of that flower. Collins started his titular firm, David Collins Studio, in 1985. In 1988, he was asked to update the interior of Harveys for chef Marco Pierre White. The project was a smash hit. Later on Collins worked in partnership with the Maybourne Group, completing redesigns of the bars of the celebrated hotels, Claridge’s, the Connaught, and the Blue Bar at the Berkeley, where traces of his early love affair with pale blue reemerged in his painting of the Lutyens paneling. Another influence to Collins’ aesthetic was Hollywood glamour; many hours were spent in his youth at the local library perusing old black and white photos of movie stars. After 1998 he worked with Rex Restaurant Associates, designing five locations for Chris Corbett and Jeremy King, among them the Delaunay and the Wolesley. Other commissions included Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road (1998), Nobu Berkeley Street, the Charles apartment building on the Upper East Side in New York City. He also designed interiors for retail, including Jimmy Choo, Harrods and Alexander McQueen. And, as it is said, “the rest is history”. The Ritz-Carlton Residences at MahaNakon in BangkokGentleman’s compact wardrobe in blue suede by David Collins, made for his home Alexander McQueen’s flagship store on Bond Street, London, by David Collins Studio David Collins passed away in 2013 from melanoma, three weeks after being diagnosed. At his insistence, his firm David Collins Studio, continues to this day.
"[The majority of the objects in our lives are created and characterised by industry [...]". Thus spoke Gio Ponti (1891 – 1979), one of the most important architects, designers and essayists of the twentieth century. Gio PontiBorn in Milan in 1891 to Enrico Ponti and Giovanna Rigonere, Giovanni (“Gio”) Ponti served in WWI as a captain in the Pontonier Corps, for which he received the Italian Military Cross and Bronze Medal. After his military service he attended Politecnico di Milano University, where he received a degree in Architecture in 1921. The same year he married Giulia Vimercati.Ponti began his career in partnership with Emilio Lancia and Mino Fiocchi, working with the pair from 1923 through 1927, and was greatly influenced by the neoclassical Novecento Italian movement. Indeed, his career took him far beyond the return to neoclassicism. In 1923 he debuted publicly at the Biennial Exhibition of the Decorative Arts in Monza. Gio Ponti created, in addition to the architectural works that bear his unmistakable stamp, a vast amount of work in the furniture sector, and was a promoter of Italian industrial design who introduced the idea of "sophisticated," economic, "democratic" to modern furnishings. This is demonstrated in the "expression" of his home design ideas in his three Milanese houses-- fully furnished in the "Ponti" style: via Randaccio, 1925, Casa Laporte in via Brin, 1926 and the last in via Dezza, in 1957. During this time period he also designed Bouilhet villa in Garches, Paris (1926) and Monument to the Fallen in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio with Novecento architect Giovanni Muzio. The Casa Rasini apartment blocks in Milan and the Domus Julia–Domus Fausta complex on via Letizia, followed. During roughly the same period, he worked at Manifattura Ceramica Richard Ginori, involving some major Italian artists of the time, including sculptor Salvatore Saponaro; Ponti’s involvement in creating majolica vases, porcelain, and sanitary ware (sinks and toilets) revolutionized the company’s entire output.Geo Ponti embodied the very definition of “prolific”, and sought a merging of expressiveness and uniformity. He worked for Cassina designing an angular armchair "Distex", the very famous 1957 "Superleggera" (Superlight) chair, which was very strong but also so light that it could be lifted up by a child using just one finger—and the very famous "Due Foglie" sofa. He also created a line of furnishings, Domus Nova, for the Italian Rinascente department stores, glass bottles for Vitra, Reed and Barton flatware, as well as lamps for Artemide and Fontana Arte. The most famous of these is the “Billia”, whose silhouette remains as fresh today as it did in 1931.Sofa, 1954Ending his partnership in 1933 with Fiocchi and continuing on with Lancia, at a later juncture he teamed up with engineers Antonio Fornaroli and Eugenio Soncini to form Studio Ponti-Fornaroli-Soncini, whose first commission was the headquarters of Montecatini, an Italian chemical firm (1936). Several other university and industrial commissions followed, including offices for Fiat, the School of Mathematics at the University of Rome and the Palazzo del Liviano at the University of Padua, Ponti himself painting the frescoes for that commission. 1950 brought the win of a commission to design Milan’s 32 story Pirelli Tower, in collaboration with Arturo Danusso and Pier Luigi Nervi (for which construction began in 1956), and in 1951 the IINA l'Istituto Nazionale per le Assicurazione housing project in Milan. In 1952 he created yet another collaborative partnership with architects Alberto Rosselli and Alberto Fornarelli, known as Studio Ponti-Fornaroli-Rosselli, (1952 – 1976), an association which continued on with Fornaroli after Rosselli’s death.Ponti engaged in hotel design as well, one commission being the Hotel della Città et de la Ville and the Centro Studi Fondazione Livio e Maria Garzanti, in Forlì, Italy (1953 – 1957), and another, the Parco dei Principi Hotel, Sorrento (1960 - 1962). International attention came thereafter, garnering Ponti commissions in Caracas, Venezuela (Villa Planchart), Baghdad, Hong Kong, the Milanese churches San Francesco , the church at Ospedale San Carlo (1967) and the Taranto Cathedral (1971).Concattedrale Gran Madre di Dio, Taranto Italy Pirelli Tower, Milan Gio Ponti desk from Pirelli TowerIn 1928 he founded Domus magazine, and later, Stile, which he edited until 1948. After a hiatus from Domus from 1941 – 1948, he returned there and remained editor until his death. From 1936 to 1961 he worked as a professor on the permanent staff of the Faculty of Architecture at Politecnico di Milano University. In 1934 in Stockholm he was bestowed the title of “Commander” of the Royal Order of Vasa a Swedish order of chivalry, the Accademia d’Italia prize, the gold medal from the Paris Academie de Architecture, as well as an honorary Doctorate from the London Royal College of Art. His furnishings for Molteni & Company were exhibited at the Salone del Mobile 2012.“The most resistant element is not wood, is not stone, is not steel, is not glass. The most resistant element in building is art. Lets make something very beautiful. “Gio Ponti died at the age of 87 In Milan, Italy.D.153.1 "Distex"armchair, exhibited at the Salon de Mobile, 2012SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
“In design, it is important to have a point of view. And a point of view is derived from a sense of style. Style, in turn, comes from an awareness of the world around us." These words of wisdom were voiced by Jay Spectre (1929 - 1992) in a 1984 interview with Architectural Digest magazine. Jay Spectre. Photo courtesy of quietroomsgreen.comBorn in Louisville, Kentucky in 1929, Jay Spectre was educated in his hometown and began his work as an interior designer in 1951 when he joined the staff of Hubbuch, a local store. His work was marked by Art Deco, Asian and African influences. His designs have incorporated high-tech and hand-carved elements, and represent "a strong a 20th-century point of view". Indeed, of his own apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, with its Chinese raw silk and bleached oak with brushed-stainless-steel details, Spectre said “The reason I love the Orient and Oriental art is because they represent a culture that has survived, flourished, vanished and reemerged. There is a quality of timelessness." An interior attributed to Jay Spectre Gold and white porcelain box for Silvestri, 1991 In 1968, he established his Manhattan-based design company Jay Spectre Inc., whose clientele he described as "silent celebrities who valued their privacy”. The company completed commissions in Europe, South America, Canada and Asia as well as throughout the U.S. Not satisfied with being limited to designing for homes, Spectre also designed private jet interiors, yachts and large office complexes. In 1985 Spectre and his partner Geoffrey Bradfield founded a licensing firm out of Manhattan called J. S. P. S., Inc. to sell companies the right to manufacture articles that were designed by Jay Spectre Inc.Spectre’s apartment on Fifth AvenueCentury Furniture commissioned for Bloomingdale’s centennial celebration a sixty-piece collection by Spectre which utilized glass, wood and metals. Other projects included a print collection for American Textiles, table top items for Sasaki and lamps for George Hansen. His work was seen by the public in Architectural Digest, Interior Design, and Arbitare, as well as in other design magazines. "Eclipse" desk of blonde veneered cerused oakSpectre received much recognition. He was named “one of the top eight Designers of America” by the Smithsonian Institution as part of their "Giants of Design 1979" exhibition, and also awarded the “Dean of Design” award and Residential Design Excellence Award by the Chicago Merchandise Mart in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and was also the first designer represented in the permanent collection of the New York State Museum. Spectre died in 1992 at the age of 63 at his home in New Caanan, CT. Lounge chair by Jay SpectreSaveSave
While previous interior decorators dabbled in it, Syrie Maugham (1879-1955) shot into prominence and ensured a place in design history with her all-or-nothing approach to the all white room. Applying her lively and adventurous vision to gallons of pale paint, bleached and pickled furniture, yards of snowy fabrics and all-white flower arrangements, Maugham's drawing room in her townhouse at 213 King’s Road, London became the prototype for a style that would later be endlessly reinterpreted, copied, and paid homage to. Indeed, anyone who ever saw that room never forgot it. During the 1920s and 1930s, the rooms of the rich and famous were darkly paneled and furnished, a legacy of the Victorian era. Tassels and tapestries abounded. Maugham transformed all that, bringing a change to public consciousness that has never entirely faded from view. Vogue magazine once wrote that Maugham had "apprehended the sweet uses of light and white."Maugham’s 1927 London drawing room. Photo, Vogue magazine, 1932 Born in 1879 to a wealthy London couple (father Thomas Barnardo was founder of a famous children’s charity), Syrie ever knew her own mind. Offering her services, gratis, to Thornton-Smith Ltd. in 1910, she received in turn an education in interior decoration which included furniture restoration, upholstery, curtain design and trompe-l'oeil painting. An unorthodox move, to be sure --especially at the time—and one which induced gossip and upheaval among her social circle, which included Cecil Beaton and Mona von Bismarck. Maugham’s determination did not waver. Indeed, she became famous for being a rule-breaker, an arbiter of taste. Even though she came of age in the Victorian era during which opportunities (other than those brought by a good marriage) for bright young women were rare, Maugham created an independent life for herself. Having endured two disappointing marriages, at age 22 to fabulously rich American-born pharmaceutical magnate Henry Wellcome, 27 years her senior, and later to writer Somerset Maugham, a closeted gay man with whom she had a daughter, Syrie was a boldly modern woman. William Somerset and Syrie Maugham, 1929By 1922 Maugham borrowed £400 and opened her first store at 85 Baker Street in London, aptly named Syrie Ltd. An eclectic mix of French fabrics, rock crystal ornaments, Chinese paintings, avant-garde rugs and Regency furniture were included in its offerings. Soon she acquired clients in New York, Chicago, Palm Beach and California. Although dubbed “The White Queen” she only employed the all-white look once--in her own drawing room. She did employ other palettes, for example, all blue, in a seaside home. White-walled rooms that were almost bare of ornament, jewel-toned pillows and furnishings and Schiaparelli pink accents were tools in her palette. The combination of traditional furniture with exotic accents and modern pieces became known as “Vogue Regency”. By the end of the 1920s her clients included Noel Coward, Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales.Key to Maugham’s success was her unorthodox approach to antique furniture: instead of reverence, she deconstructed its preciosity: stripping, pickling, bleaching, crackling and painting were part of her repertoire. Cracks and wood grain became visible, integral to the piece’s new appeal. But austere her approach was not. Narrow-mirrored panes in chrome-plated frames, plump and comfortable tailored cream velvet sofas, bullion fringe, indirect lighting and decorative plaster work, fringed sleigh beds and fur carpets were all touches that brought softness to her spaces. Her aesthetic traveled far afield, influencing taste makers Babe Paley in New York, Jean Harlow in Hollywood and Coco Chanel in Paris, and even extends into the present: in 2017 Karl Lagerfeld used references to Maugham’s ideas such as mirrors and calla lilies as part of his Chanel couture show. Jean Harlow, in Dinner at Eight Breakfront by Syrie Maugham. Courtesy Todd Merrill Antiques In 1939 Maugham closed up shop and moved to Paris. Due to the encroaching war, she fled to New York with her daughter and grandchildren, where she became involved in relief efforts. She completed several more commissions after the war, including ones for clients Bunny Mellon and Lila de Witt Wallace, but by then her popularity had waned. Syrie Maugham died in 1955 at the age of 77. Her enduring legacy has been championed by such designers as Albert Hadley and Mark Hampton.SaveSaveSave
Described categorically by Billy Baldwin as “the last genius of French furniture”, the legacy of Jean Michel Frank has endured, now more acknowledged than ever before. An apostle of minimalism, Frank was a key figure in the Art Deco movement, and a key ambition of his was to produce ‘luxury from nothing”, often taking raw forms and unglamorous materials and transforming them to refined heights. Materials used by Frank were anything but typical -- limed oak, mica, silk, straw marquetry, iron, Hermès leather, parchment and vellum-sheathed walls. Frank was an early pioneer in what has become known as “minimalist chic”-- refined interiors emphasizing the importance of scale in furniture, and rigor in the selecting of decorative objects and the powerful combination of the simplest forms with the most exquisite materials. One of the most influential and original designers of the 20th Century, Frank developed a passionate following for his understated yet elegant furniture and interiors among the Parisian elite. Luxury was to be found not in the quantity, but the quality of furnishings. Frank is credited with the design of a modern icon, the Parsons table, developed while teaching at the Parsons Paris School of Art and Design--which he embellished with luxurious finishes. The designer’s close association with artists and patrons was unique to the Paris scene in the 1930s: among Frank’s artistic group were Diego and Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dali, Emilio Terry and Pablo Picasso and Christian Berard, and his pared-down rooms became the perfect backdrop to their works. Gypsum and Bronze CabinetBorn in 1891 to a wealthy banking family in Paris, Frank was educated at the Lycee Janson de Sailly, a then all-boys school which became one of the lycées of Parisian high society. A lonely and quiet child bullied by classmates for his slight build and Jewish heritage, Jean Michel was a first cousin, once removed, to Anne Frank. No stranger to tragedy, he lost older brothers Oscar and Georges in World War I, his father committing suicide shortly thereafter. His mother later passed in a Swiss asylum. Frank prevailed, due in no small part to an inheritance, and learned to create beauty out of the void. He found his niche within the 1920s set of Parisian intellectuals, artists and politicians. From 1920 to 1925 he travelled the world, and eventually met Chilean poet Eugenia Errázuriz, who became his mentor, adopting her philosophy “Elegance is elimination”. Sketches depicting the layouts of the salon and bedroom of Madame ErrázurizEntering into partnership in 1930 with Adolph Chanaux who had been executing Frank’s furniture designs, the two opened a boutique at 140 rue de Faubourg-Saint-Honore in Paris. Soon, Frank amassed a following consisting of influential designers such as Syrie Maugham, Francis Elkins internationally, and in France, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Gaston Bergery, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean-Pierre Guerlain, Count and Countess Pecci-Blunt and arts patrons Vicomte Charles de Noailles and his wife, Marie-Laure. Templeton Crocker of San Francisco and the Rockefellers of New York became his clients in the U.S.. Ignacio Pirovano of the National Museum of Decorative Arts championed Frank’s work in Argentina, co-founding in 1932, Comte, which provided designs for projects as well as the local retail market. By 1937 a workshop had been set up in Argentina to execute Frank’s designs, as well as offering period and contemporary designs. At the onset of World War II, Frank immigrated to Argentina and became creative director for Comte, completing private commissions, including the home of Jorge and Maria Frias Ayerza Born, and public spaces of the Llao Llao Hotel in Patagonia.Minimalist Sofa by Jean Michel Frank Jean Michel Frank (1895-1941) Frank’s simple, elegant style has garnered many admirers. Contemporary designers such as Andree Putman, Garouste and Bonetti and many others have cited Frank as their spiritiual mentor and inspiration.Jean Michel Frank ended his own life in New York in March of 1941. French writer Laurence Benaïm states “Frank will continue to haunt our memories. Through his creations, he showed us the modernity of a point of view, impossible to reduce to a fashion or style. His force is to have opposed any form of theory or message — the ultimate truth of a dateless taste.”Save
If he never produced another design than the eponymous Panton Chair, Verner Panton would still be considered a master of modern design. At once original and uncompromising, he established himself at the forefront of avant-garde furniture design through the use of strong colors and unusual and extravagant shapes, which were on the cutting edge of 1960s psychedelic sensibilities. A classic example of this aesthetic is the Panton, or “S” chair, designed in 1960 and made of injection molded polypropylene, but not actually produced until 1967 due to technical challenges. The Panton Chair was the first injection molded chair ever made and has won various design awards worldwide. It graces the collections of numerous renowned museums, and its expressive shape is instantly recognizable-- and therefore a true icon of 20th-century design. Verner Panton (1926 - 1998) The Panton, or “S” Chair, 1960Born in 1926 on the island of Funen in Denmark, Panton was first an experienced artist in Odense, later studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Upon his 1951 graduation, he began an apprenticeship with Arne Jacobsen, designer of the iconic Ant Chair. He later parted ways with Jacobsen and set off across Europe in his Volkswagen van to collect ideas and possible investors. Upon his return he set up his own design studio in 1955, wherein he became known for his innovative architectural proposals, including a collapsible house (1955), the Cardboard House, and the Plastic House (1960). What set Panton apart was the development of complementary groups of furnishings and the design of entire spaces, rather than concentrating on a single object. Due largely to his training as an architect, Panton fused floors, walls, furniture, lighting and textiles into wholly original and integrated interiors. A primary example of this approach was his Living Tower, an organically-shaped furniture sculpture consisting of an upholstered, stable frame made of birch plywood, which can be used on four different levels. The cleverly arranged interior niches were used in sitting and reclined positions, encouraging communication and relaxation. Panton stated “most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige conformity, mortally afraid of using color. The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting." Living TowerCone Chair, 1958. Originally designed for his father's restaurant, Kom-Igen InnPanton is also known for his series of modern lamps, which were unlike anything produced by his contemporaries; he created new theories about how lighting should work and how it influences its surroundings.VP Globe Moon Lamp, 1960 Barboy, 1963. All in one side table and closed container, its four levels hold bottles and glassware, while the top serves as shelf spaceAlthough Panton faded from the spotlight of the design scene by the mid 1970s, in 1995 a nude Kate Moss appeared on the cover of British Vogue in a Panton chair and many of Panton's designs were put back into production. Panton died in September, 1998 just two weeks shy of the opening of a show at Trapenholdt Museum in Denmark emphasizing the light and color of Verner Panton. After almost 2 decades of being ignored, he won several interior design prizes and accolades in the 1990’s. Part of the revival was due to IKEA’s production of a Panton chair in 1994. Characterized as “stubborn, and forever young” by Poul Henningsen, Panton used his imagination to combine high-tech materials with bold colors and playful shapes to create an entirely new idiom. SaveSaveSaveSave
Born Dorothy May Kinnicutt on July 15, 1910, “Sister” Parish received her moniker from her 3 year-old brother Frankie’s nursery nickname. The “Grande Dame” of interior design, she is credited with ushering in what has become known as “American Country Style”. Parish remains an acclaimed and enduring interior decorator, one of the giants of American interior design. Vogue magazine once said she was "the most famous of all living women interior designers, whose ideas have influenced life styles all over America." Her six decades in the business epitomized the rise of women in her own, and other professions in the early 20th Century. “Sister” Parish, born Dorothy May KinnicuttThe daughter of a stockbroker, Sister Parish was raised in baronial splendor by a patrician New York family. Her father, G. Hermann Kinnicutt, could trace his ancestry back to the fiery Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. Her mother, the former May Appleton Tuckerman, was descended from one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Kinnicutts had homes in Manhattan, Maine and Paris, as well as New Jersey. Sister’s privileged early life was one of the right schools, yacht clubs, coming out parties, and the Social Register. A cousin on her mother’s side, Dorothy Draper, was also an influential interior decorator in her own right. Parish was a strong traditionalist, and “what was important was permanence, comfort and a look of continuity in the design and decoration of a house," she once observed. Her sensibility was a reflection of her deeply felt Yankee roots. Her father-- a collector of antiques-- may have influenced her philosophy “that innovation is often the ability to reach into the past and bring back what is good, what is beautiful, what is lasting."Her firm, "Mrs. Henry Parish 2d Interiors”, founded in 1933 by the young Depression-era mother, was the result of her husband’s and father’s financial difficulties following the stock market crash of 1929. Although Sister Parish never received her high school diploma, her rise was made easier by her upper-crust roots. Parish met Jacqueline Kennedy socially in the late 1950's and helped her decorate the house in the Georgetown section of Washington where she and her husband, John F. Kennedy lived while he was still a Senator. Later, the public came to know her as the visionary who transformed the Kennedy White House from an outdated relic to an “American Camelot”. Electing an Irish Catholic to the presidency had been a major issue during the campaign, so news of Parish’s assignment caused one newspaper editor to assume it was sign of the Vatican’s impending influence as the paper published the headline: ”Kennedys Pick Nun to Decorate White House.” Parish and her partner Albert Hadley, who joined her firm in 1962, developed as long-time clients not only the Kennedys, but Brooke Astor, CBS chairman William Paley, and the Bronfman, Getty, Mellon, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney clans. One of Sister Parish’s rooms at the Kennedy White House Caroline Kennedy’s bedroom at the White House, 1962Over the course of its history, Hadley-Parish produced a huge body of work and influenced an entire generation of American decorators. Her ageless atmospheres appealed to both men and women, and dictated style on both sides of the Atlantic. A passion for homey, yet sophisticated touches, bold color and mixed patterns invoked charm, imagination, and a lived-in look to her rooms. Combining unexpected items such as Colefax and Fowler chintzes, overstuffed armchairs, patchwork quilts, knitted throws and rag rugs, baskets and showy painted floors, her philosophy was that things should be “put together not because they matched but because you liked them”. She had a revelation about painted furniture, which she saw while in her teens in Paris, and championed of the use of humble mattress ticking, using it for slipcovers and pillows, a practice which became widely popular. Because her rooms seemed to develop over the years, they were timeless and never seemed dated. Her sensibility and keen eye developed organically, and her handiwork was admired by friends who began coming to her for help with decorating. She later confidently recalled of her advice that "it never occurred to me that I wasn't qualified to give it." A room “in the spirit of Sister Parish”, courtesy Architectural DigestAn enduring member of a coterie of designers who came to prominence between the two world wars, Parish worked at her firm into her 80s, and died at age 84 at her home at Dark Harbor, Maine. Her legacy has influenced such designers as Mark Hampton, Bunny Williams, David Easton, Mariette Hines Gomez, David Kleinberg, Thomas Jayne and Brian McCarthy.SaveSaveSave
A new style, known as “Modern Baroque” was created by interior designer Dorothy Draper in the early years of the 20th Century. Dramatic color schemes of cherry red and acid green and black and white sprang from her belief that incorporating saturated hues and contrasting color schemes “have a vital effect on our mental happiness”. Large details, oversize mirrors, and combining stripes with florals, all elements in common use today, were offshoots of Dorothy’s imagination and her flair for the dramatic. Her vision, dubbed the “Draper touch” by Carleton Varney, was the antithesis of minimalism, and was quickly adopted into hotels, theaters, department stores, restaurants and the homes of suburban housewives. Schumaker sold more than a million yards of her signature “Cabbage rose” fabric in the 1930s and 1940s. “Ask Dorothy Draper”, a weekly column she penned, was carried by 70 newspapers. Now part of the collective zeitgeist, one of her most iconic looks was a bedroom scheme of pink and white striped wallpaper, organdy curtains and chenille bedspreads, adapted in homes across America and beyond.Dorothy Draper was born in 1888 to the aristocratic Tuckerman family in Tuxedo Park, NY, one of the first gated communities in the U.S. Her well-connected family included great grandfather Oliver Wolcott , one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and cousins Eleanor Roosevelt and Sister Parish, also an influential 20th century interior designer. Educated largely at home by a governess and tutor, Draper honed her eye for interpreting and transforming styles on a first-hand basis while on annual family trips to Europe. She made her debut in 1907, and five years later married Dr. George Draper, personal physician to president Franklin Roosevelt. Her background “provided Draper with a valuable network of clients and an innate sense of entitlement and authority” states Donald Albrecht, curator of the architecture and design department of the Museum of the City of New York.Dorothy Draper (1889 – 1969)Draper’s flair for decorating her own homes was so influential that her friends followed her lead and began to design theirs in her style. In 1925 she opened Architectural Clearing House, arguably “the first interior design business”, doing mostly apartment and hotel lobby restorations. In 1929 she changed its name to “Dorothy Draper and Company”, her first big break coming in 1930 with the commission of the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue. Draper was an independent businesswoman, relatively unheard of in the era, who divorced her husband after he made off with another woman the week of the 1929 stock market crash. Other commissions followed the Carlyle: Sutton Homes--apartments which were slow to sell; she transformed the property after having painted the building all-black with white trim and colorful doors; the Sherry-Netherland in New York, the Coty salon in Rockefeller Center, the Drake Hotel in Chicago (which I lobbied for –and won--as the site of my senior prom), the Fairmont in San Francisco, as well as the $10 million Quitandinha in Rio de Janeiro during the Depression. In 1937 she decorated the lobby of the Hampshire House, an apartment hotel with a dramatic black and white checkerboard floor, a thick glass Art Deco mantelpiece surround, Victorian-style wing chairs, and neo-Baroque plaster decorations, and the first known use of sliding glass shower doors instead of curtains. Another famous commission was the Arrowhead Springs Resort in Southern California, playground of that bygone era’s film stars.Main lounge, Arrowhead Springs HotelOne of Dorothy’s most famous projects was the redecorating of the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. During World War II it had been used as a military hospital, afterwards purchased by the railroad. The tip to toe remodel included such details as staff uniforms and matchbook covers, as well as the larger task of redoing over 600 guest rooms with 40,000 gallons of paint, 45,000 yards of fabric and 15,000 rolls of wallpaper. The $4.2 million dollar project took 16 months to complete and was unveiled at a party attended by such guests as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Bing Crosby. It is said that Draper’s commission was, at the time, the highest fee ever paid to a decorator. A few of Draper’s later projects were the 1954 café at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (which later became known as “the Dorotheum”, in her honor), Idlewild (today, John F. Kennedy) airport’s 1957 International Hotel, and the coordination of interior fabrics and colors for Packard’s automobiles.Chinoiserie curio cabinet for the GreenbrierHotel, White Sulphur Springs, West VirginiaDraper ‘s “Modern Baroque” styleSofa for the “Dorotheum” café, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkA great deal of Draper’s work survives today in the lobbies of apartment buildings and hotels such as The Carlyle in New York, and the Greenbrier . Her Victorian Writing Room was once called “the most photographed room in the United States”. Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler are both contemporary designers influenced by Draper.“There seems to be within all of us an innate yearning to be lifted momentarily out of our own lives into the realm of charm and make believe”. Well said, Dorothy.SaveSave
Truly a Renaissance man, Tony Duquette contributed significantly to multiple fields and artistic endeavors. Whether in advertising, theater, costumes, set design, nightclubs, motion pictures, fashion, interiors or tapestries, Duquette’s enormous creativity shone like a beacon.Originally from Three Rivers, Michigan, Duquette became familiar with the West Coast through winter trips with his family to Los Angeles. Duquette moved to the “City of Angels” in 1935, and the rest of his family followed a few years later. A graduate of Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), he began working in advertising, creating backgrounds for the latest seasonal fashions as well as freelancing for designers such as William Haines, James Pendleton and Adrian. He established himself as one of the leading designers in Los Angeles when he was discovered by Elsie de Wolfe and her husband Sir Charles Mendl, who introduced him to many luminaries, resulting in commissions. Increasingly, he worked for films, including MGM Studios under the auspices of Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli.After a stint in the Army during WWII, Tony Duquette returned to Europe with de Wolfe and Mendl and was introduced to their friends on the continent, which led to design commissions for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and an Alsatian industrialist. Upon his return he had his first one-man show at the Mitch Liesen Gallery in Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter was asked to do a show at the Pavillion de Marsan-- the museum of decorative arts at the Louvre--the first American artist to be asked to do so. He had many other one-man showings, including at the M. H. de Young Museum and Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the California Museum of Science and Industry and Municipal Art Gallery in Los Angeles, the El Paso Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, as well as one-man exhibitions in Dallas, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Phoenix. In 1956, he and his wife Elizabeth, a painter, opened a salon at the location of the studios of former silent film star, Norma Talmage, where they entertained friends Arthur Rubenstein, Greta Garbo, Aldous Huxley and Jascha Heifitz.During the 1970s Duquette created interiors for Doris Duke, Norton Simon, and J. Paul Getty, and a castle for Elizabeth Arden in Ireland. One of his more famous commissions during this era was for the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, for which he designed custom tiger-patterned carpets, light fixtures, fabric-mosaic tapestries and molded and lighted leaf furniture. Elizabeth painted many of the hotel’s native Hawaiian themed paintings. Lobby, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu
“Sea Anemone” light fixture for the motor court of Hilton Hawaiian Village .
Tony Duquette also designed tapestries and sculptures for the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago, the Los Angeles Music Center and the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as sets and costumes for many operas, including The Magic Flute and Salome; in 1961 he won a Tony Award for Best Costume Design for the Broadway production of Camelot.His environmental work “Our Lady Queen of the Angels” was a multi-sensorial exhibit seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors to the California Museum of Science and Industry. The exhibit included an experience of "ethnic angels," an 18 foot Madonna enhanced by special lighting effects which changed the Madonna's facial color "to represent the four races” stressing 'the brotherhood of man’, and a poetic narration by Ray Bradbury, spoken by Charlton Heston.The Duquettes left a lasting legacy. In 1979, they formed the Anthony and Elizabeth Duquette Foundation for the Living Arts, a non-profit public foundation whose purpose is to present museum-quality exhibitions of artistic, scientific, and educational value to the public and to purchase, promote and preserve Duquette's own works.Duquette at his ranch in Malibu, CASaveSaveSaveSaveSave
Influenced by the International Style, Samuel Abraham Marx was an American architect, designer and interior decorator. Born in 1885 to a Jewish family in Natchez, MS, Marx graduated from MIT’s Department of Architecture in 1907, and has been a major influence in furniture design, most notably, industrial. House Beautiful said about his work in 1948 that “Marx’s rooms have so satisfying a feeling that its frequently hard to say where the architecture ends and the furniture begins”.Silver Leaf Coffee Table by Marx, circa 1946After graduating, studying at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and before opening his own practice, Samuel Marx worked for Kilham & Hopkins (Boston) and Rutan & Coolidge (Chicago). Originally known for designing interiors of hotels and department stores, he later moved on to residential architecture, designing buildings with a spare aesthetic with integrated decorative elements and furniture, bringing to mind Mies van der Rohe’s works. Samuel Marx wrote in 1951 “Frank Lloyd Wright once told me, impressively, that it was of paramount importance to the creative urge never to become a slave of routine or habit”, a credo to which he faithfully adhered when he pulled out his palette of eclectic motifs and materials.One of Marx’s most iconic designs was for the 1939 Streamlined Moderne May Company Department store on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile. His third wife, Florene, notably, was the well-connected daughter of the May department store clan. Other important commissions were the New Orleans Museum of Art (which followed the winning of a design competition), the Alexander Hamilton Memorial in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Tom May’s home, Edward G. Robinson’s Tudor-revival home (for which he did an extensive remodel) both in Los Angeles, and Morton D. May’s house in St. Louis, now razed. Examples of his work are on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA (New York), and the Art Institute of Chicago.May Company department store, Los Angeles, CA Avid art collectors, Sam and Florene epitomized the architect’s own delight in crossing temporal and cultural boundaries in a collection of sculptures and paintings by Picasso, Brancusi and Braque, their acquisitions characterized as “wild and radical,” but with “the rapt concentration of diamond cutters”, as recalled by James Thrall Soby of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.Marx and his wife Florene in Chicago, 1952 (Arnold Newman/Getty Images)Although Samuel Marx faded into relative obscurity following his death in 1964, he had been a master of the understated, whimsical and lyrical, manifesting such diverse projects as a Byzantine-domed synogogue, a futuristic aluminum railroad car for Chicago’s Century of Progress exhibition, the Pierre Hotel in New York (owned by loyal client J. Paul Getty), a Mansard-roofed chateau, a chic black patent-leather side chair and an International-style villa of concrete and glass. He often sprang surprises on clients and friends. In an example of Marx’s wit, a department store’s maternity department featured a mural of birds and bees; in another, he placed marble balls atop stately columns in a billiard equipment tycoon’s library. While he personified old-school southern manners and Beaux-Arts training, he stayed true to Arts and Crafts ideals, and although a purist but never a puritan, his designs never seemed overbearing or cold due in great part to the voluptuous finishes and decorative flourishes that Marx reveled in. He was not above altering the proportions of a classic settee to better fit a contemporary man or woman, while at the same time keeping the original’s pleasing lines intact. He was able to maintain a vision of modernity united with the connoisseur’s passion for the best of the old, maintaining unity through a sense of appropriateness and a confident ease, which kept him above he fray of competing architectural ideologies.House designed by Marx for his brother-in-law, Tom May (image courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA) SaveSaveSaveSave