“A house that is like the life that goes on with it, a house that gives us beauty as we understand it---and beauty of a nobler kind that we may grow to understand, a house that looks refined.”
Elsie de Wolfe from The House in Good Taste
Porter library by Billy Baldwin
I started my design career in 1977--- it was very part time. I had two young daughters. Susanna was 11 and Elizabeth was 6. They were my first priority, along with their dad.
Elizabeth, Susanna & Jim 1982
I was influenced by the work I studied of many designers. There are so many more than the ones listed below, but if I had to select 10, these come to mind first. In one way or another, the rooms they created are always in my head.
HERE ARE MY TOP TEN IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Billy Baldwin was a master of chic, glamorous understatement. I will always remember the wonderful main salon of the VILLA FIORENTINA in the south of France as well as the chic apartment he did for LINDA AND COLE PORTER in the WALDORF TOWERS.
While most of the villas in the south of France were much more formal, he created a fabulous, appropriate room for Mary Wells and Harding Lawrence. Billy believed that the most important thing an interior DECORATOR (yes, he did not like to be called an interior designer) could do is to make sure that each project represented a PERSONAL expression of the client. His quote is one of my favorites... "DECORATING IS NEVER SUCCESSFUL IF IT IS NOT PERSONAL.”
David Hicks had impeccable taste----he was a British aristo who loved interior design. His rooms were works of modern art. I am still influenced by his prints (I am not a fan of prints, but love geometrics and stripes), especially his carpets. He made sure that each room he designed expressed something PERSONAL about his clients as well. You never see a David Hicks room without wonderful COLLECTIONS on a table displayed beautifully. His beds were always luxurious and dramatic as were his bathrooms.
Lord & Lady Londonderry’s drawing room
When I began buying antiques in Europe for my showroom in the Dallas Design District many years ago, I discovered Frances Elkins. I was buying every possible book on the designers of the 1930’s and 40’s because I was so attracted to this period when I began buying. Frances became great friends with JEAN MICHEL FRANK and other French designers of those periods. She was probably one of the FIRST AMERICAN DESIGNERS to use their piece. Her rooms looked modern and fresh, but still retained a classic, traditional style. I could move into one of her rooms today and feel that it had just been completed.
Her rooms were unlike anyone else’s at the time---she used WHITE liberally, which was unusual at the time, and her use of DRAPERY and MIRROR was dramatic. Very GLAMOROUS and LUXURIOUS. I will never forget a photograph I saw in a book or magazine of an entry hall she did in a Mayfair townhouse in London. There was an incredibly stunning mirrored commode with a lamp and mirror above. The walls were chinoiserie. When I saw that photograph, I knew that a room with all “brown” furniture would never work for me again!
Syrie Maugham's “All-white Room”
ELSIE DE WOLFE
Elsie is considered by many people to be the FIRST real interior decorator. Her book, The House in Good Taste, is still relevant today. I urge you to read it----her words about SUITABILITY are always in my head. There is nothing worse than unsuitability! My mother always used the word INAPPROPRIATE, whether in dress, design or behavior.
Elsie de Wolfe’s & Elizabeth Marbury’s Villa Trianon at Versailles
His rooms are elegant, HANDSOME and comfortable. He was a great partner to Sister Parish, but the rooms he designed were always my favorites. Sister, as she was called by those who knew her, certainly had her own style and she did create comfortable rooms, but she is not one of my influences.
Formal living room
His work is never formulaic----every project is completely unique. The way he MIXES periods and styles is simply genius! He cares about comfort and livability in the rooms he designs. I have always found his work to be inspiring.
I love his common sense approach to design---his rooms are always COMFORTABLE and INVITING. He must have been a lovely man. I own all of his books….if you don’t have them and you are interested in interior design, they are a must! There will be a LIST OF BOOKS to buy at the end of this post.
He understands LIGHT and COLOR and how to use them to best advantage. His sense of SCALE and PROPORTION in architecture is exceptional.
An American who truly created the ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE LOOK and started Colefax and Fowler. She made very large scale rooms look inviting by using several seating groups with comfortable sofas and chairs in addition to wonderful chairs from the Continent.
Nancy Lancaster’s London sitting room
BOOKS TO BUY OR BORROW
THE HOUSE IN GOOD TASTE BY ELSIE DE WOLFE
BILLY BALDWIN DECORATES BY BILLY BALDWIN
DAVID HICKS ON HOME DECORATION BY DAVID HICKS
MARK HAMPTON ON DECORATING BY MARK HAMPTON
LEGENDARY DECORATORS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTRY BY MARK HAMPTON
STYLE BY SALADINO
FRANCES ELKINS: INTERIOR DESIGN BY STEPHEN M. SALNY AND ALBERT HADLEY
Hopefully, you will be as inspired by these talented people as I have been throught the years. There is something important to learn from each of them.