Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Hollywood Regency 102: Billy Baldwin Remembers


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
7 Comments » | Published in Design Books, Design Press, Hollywood Regency, Vintage Looks  |  7 Comments


For a lot of designers, writing is a lost art. People have become lost in archispeak and are unable to describe a room or tell a story. This week I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a delicious memoir written by one of the best known decorators of this century: Billy Baldwin Remembers. I’m kind of kicking myself right now because it starts on amazon for about $10, and I paid $45 at that unfriendly Savannah book store, but it was worth it. You are a fool if you don’t hop over there (the title’s the link) and scoop this one up right now.


The book starts with some of Baldwin’s early inspirations and experiences. He describes the “stars in his crown;” iconic ladies of style like Nan Kempner, Babe Paley, Diana Vreeland, Jackie O. and even Garbo. Even better, he dishes the dirt about clients from hell, their peculiar habits, bad taste, lack of manners, bizarre requests and overinflated self importance.


Baldwin started his career working with Ruby Rose Wood. His style was timeless and included so much of the Hollywood Regency style we embrace today. He embraced exhubarent colors and textures, knew the perfect amount of chinoiserie to throw in, never met a grand chandelier he didn’t like, used symmetry without being boring, and most importantly, he paid attention to how people lived and how they planned to use space and kept this in the forefront of his mind while he worked for them.


This popular photo of Diana Vreeland pops up a lot. According to Billy Baldwin, she told him “I want this room to be a garden-but a garden in hell.”


He replied “I knew what it meant: red. I searched for an eternity before I found exactly the right material- in John Fowler’s shop in London. It was scarlet chintz with brilliant Persian flowers. I raced home with yards and yards of it and we covered the whole room – walls, curtains, furniture, the works.”

P.S. (added a few hours later) – those card pillows of Diana Vreeland’s sure look familiar…check out a new version that were likely inspired by these at jonathanadler.com 

If you liked this post, you may want to check out Hollywood Regency 101 and/or a contemporary of Baldwin’s, Albert Hadley.

All photos from Billy Baldwin Remembers

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. The Peak of Chic says:

    April 15th, 2008 at 8:48 am (#)

    Becky- Great minds think alike! I just got through reading this book- FABULOUS! So interesting, especially the part about the ill-behaved clients (what was the title of the chapter- Thorns in My Side? Or something like that?).

  2. Becky says:

    April 15th, 2008 at 10:01 am (#)

    “Thorns in my Crown” (his favorites were “stars in my crown.” Hilarious! I especially loved the stories about jerks out in L.A. who thought they were very important, and the South Pacific-themed room lady who made him throw out the entire living room she approved (including the giant U-shaped sofa that required an 18-story crane) and never paid for it. I was giggling through all of them! I also loved his descriptions of his odd interactions with Garbo.

  3. Columnist says:

    April 20th, 2008 at 10:03 pm (#)

    Knew the name, but not much about his work, so I will try and get that book from Amazon, or locally. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. So much of what you say about him, or what is said about him is reminiscent of my own style, (the symmetry, the grandeur, etc), although I am much much less flamboyant in my schemes. The swaggering styles do still exist of course, in many of the “English Country House” style offerings, but I prefer to pare this down, and only use elements; I’m not keen on wholesale use of a style, but prefer to adapt, to suit some of the new pieces available today.

  4. Hatch: The Design Public ® Blog » Blog Archive » Fabulous, “Eccentric,” or Just Plain Pugly? says:

    November 16th, 2008 at 1:36 am (#)

    […] So, what do you think? There are hints at absolute genius, like this space that reminds me of Diana Vreeland’s Garden in Hell by Billy […]

  5. DiscoverInteriorDesign.com » Interior Designer [4] Billy Baldwin says:

    January 14th, 2009 at 5:02 am (#)

    […] [Sources: Architectural Digest, The Peak of Chic, The New York Times, Hatch: The Design Public] […]

  6. Hollywood Regency 101 | Hatch: The Design Public® Blog says:

    October 12th, 2010 at 6:56 pm (#)

    […] if you stuck around long enough to read the longest post ever written, you might want to check out Hollywood Regency 102 and Hollywood Regency […]

  7. David Jones says:

    May 2nd, 2011 at 9:29 pm (#)

    I am very interested in the fabric that Billy Baldwin used in the New York apartment that he designed for Diana Vreeland, is the fabric still being printed an available, please advise me.
    Thank you so much in advance.
    Sincerely, David Jones

Leave a Response