hollywood regency interior design: glamorous… and dusty

 

creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

the glamor of the hollywood regency interior design style is a mimicry of the early movie heyday star’s lifestyles and tastes.  these people entertained lavishly, their homes were adorned with exotic furnishings and dramatic flair. they were adored almost as royalty.  hollywood regency furniture is a broad category difficult to define.  the look is not minimalist, but some pieces within the design can be.  it can include mid-century modern or older styles, asian pieces, blacks, whites, wood grains, just about any kind of color combination that suits your taste.  but heavily carved and heavily upholstered pieces are often included.  

designers william haines and dorothy draper lived this life and developed this look for others.  they were gutsy, wealthy, successful and admired.  these websites are worthwhile.  

haines interior

william haines interior

 

william haines
william haines, 1900-1973
The lobby of the Hampshire House, completed in 1937, Dorothy Draper

lobby of the hampshire house, completed in 1937, dorothy draper

 

dorothy draper 1889-1969

dorothy draper 1889-1969

we do not have to spend thousands to incorporate this style (just look like we did), thanks to online used furniture dealers. there is a large assortment of hollywood regency style furniture online, especially on ebay.  my favorite companies are ts and company and art collector-usa.  they offer an excellent blanket wrapped furniture moving service, tsc moving.

a regency is a substitute government or rulership.  they had them in europe when the royal heir was still a boy, for instance, or when there was no clear ruler for a time, or when the ruler was absent.  some would argue that hollywood movie stars are the royalty of america, substitutes because we don’t have anything else.  you don’t vote for or against the stars and argue endlessly about their ideas and actions.  the adored actors are just there.  wonderful, rich, envied.  this was especially true during and the decade after the second world war.  their world was a welcome escape.  it was a reminder that war and the hardships it created were not the only reality.  we welcome the same kind of refuge in these times.  when we mimic their style, we attempt to capture something of their lifestyle for ourselves, the ability to impress and offer the comfort and luxury to our friends as we entertain. 

but be warned: this style is dusty.  writing this piece i cannot help thinking about numerous vintage furniture items i have dealt with in the hollywood regency style.  you need a maid (or you are the maid).  these people had maids, believe me.  the tufted upholstery chairs are tricky to clean.  folds of fabric and those fabric covered buttons trap dirt and animal hair.  the buttons tend to go missing.  they are one of the most expensive re-upholstery jobs, the most time consuming if you attempt it yourself.  lots of carved woodwork, chandeliers, interesting ornaments sitting on coffee tables, all gathering dust.  do we honestly have time for this?  does the imagined serenity of the rich and famous really rule our desires?  maybe that ambition is also dusty.

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6 tips for practical furniture design – chairs, curves, glasses of wine

life is complicated, it has radical ups and downs.  we need more curves, they calm, they welcome us…. and a long lunch sometimes with a good friend,  good cheese and a glass or two of wine.

i noticed at this cafe (where i was appreciating the company, and the fare, this week) that the chairs were all in the style of thonet’s 14.  metal versions with vinyl seats, but here was thonet’s design, which was originally launched and sold millions in the mid to late 1800s in europe and america.

thonets innovative no. 14 chair

thonet's innovative no. 14 chair

later the same day i watched the 2005 movie “pride and prejudice” (one of my favorites).  there was nothing like this design in all the interiors. everything was elaborate, ornate, heavy- more so with the more affluent.  i wondered how thonet managed to be successful with this design in the society of those times.  and why, after 150 years, is it still popular?  these questions brought me to today’s blog, and here are my answers.

6 basics that thonet’s chairs have – great for any chair design, but especially for dining chairs.

  1. it is curved – most of nature has curved lines.  man’s inventions are most practically made with straight lines and sharp angles. maybe the curves are attractive because we need a break from the ups and downs of our man made days.  there are many angular modern furnishings available today, but i find this style unwelcoming.
  2. the design is simple – the french and american revolutions, and the industrial revolution, were pushing away the need for everyone to prove that they were rich and upwardly mobile in society.  class mattered less. increasingly, you could sit with a friend from any walk of life at a local cafe and have a meal together.
  3. it is radical – the simplicity and the new lines of the modern were, in thonet’s time, shocking.  this is a good thing.  we often need to be shaken out of our old ways, thoughts and patterns of living.  otherwise there is no change.
  4. it is strong – thonet’s chair must have held up well to use, or he would not have kept selling them.  when thonet’s bent beechwood proved to be weak in tropical climates, he worked on twisting the wood while it was being bent, and he bought the glue factory that supplied his factories so that he could improve the glue.  many chairs these days are made of cheap, weak materials, weak at the joints, or the design just does not hold up to use.  and now there is the problem of obesity.  recently i was shopping for a new lounge chair for our deck and the label said, among other things about the care of the chair, “maximum load 300 lbs.”  new challenge for chair designers!
  5. the seating can be replaced easily – the seat on thonet’s chair could be replaced and cleaned easily.  the seats were solid wood or a woven grass. when similar chairs are covered with fabric, which will inevitably get dirty or torn in a dining setting, a new covering can simply be stapled on and seat reattached the chair.  sounds like an unimpressive feature, but i have worked on many chairs that were a nightmare to repair or re-upholster.
  6. it is light – heavy furniture is made by people who never do any cleaning.
another thonet design for an after dinner rest with curves