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.comÂ
All photos from Billy Baldwin Remembers