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.


globalization, interior design, and art nouveau

Tassel House, Brussels, 1893, Victor Horta, First floor landing with view toward staircase

tassel house, brussels, 1893, victor horta, first floor landing with view toward staircase

if i could be transported to another time and place, i would be fascinated to visit the few decades before the first world war.  ideally i would not be in one place. i would travel the world and the world would be traveling to me.  globalization on the rise.  

Orchid desk, Louis Majorelle and Daum Frères, mahogany, gilded bronze, and glass

orchid desk, louis majorelle and daum frères, mahogany, gilded bronze, and glass, france 1903

Vilmos Zsolnay Vase, 1899, Hungary

vilmos zsolnay, vase, 1899, hungary

a crazed group of 1910 british bankers sing a frenzied song at little micheal banks in mary poppins, trying to induce him to invest his tuppence  in railways through africa, dams across the nile, fleets of ocean greyhounds, majestic, self-amortizing canals, plantations of ripening tea. 

this economic globalization paralleled a radically changing europe’s outlook and lifestyle. interior design and furniture design would be forever changed. you can argue for or against globalization, but this seems to be a waste of time.  it just happens.  go with the flow.  

interior designers, especially in the art nouveau movement, began the modernist trend toward lighter more open rooms and furnishings. forms and techniques used in islamic and asian, especially japanese, art and architecture were incorporated. new materials and techniques were possible because of the industrial revolution.  ancient styles, materials and techniques were rediscovered.  

the result was a grand flourish of exotic possibilities, pushing design away from the heavy, stodgy forms of the past.  

for more info go to the art nouveau exhibit at the national gallery of art from which i borrowed these four images.

the ladies luncheon Room, ingram Street, glasgow, scotland, 1900, charles rennie mackintosh and margaret macdonald.

the ladies' luncheon room, ingram street, glasgow, scotland, 1900, charles rennie mackintosh and margaret macdonald.

bauhaus furniture design, impressions of the tubular steel lounge chair

tubular steel and wheelchairs.  an unfair association?   

Mies van der Rohe D 42 Bauhaus Armchair

mies van der rohe D 42 bauhaus armchair

i should be impressed by the strength of the steel frame, especially the cantilevered form.  i am sure the 1920s-30s bauhaus generation that first saw the chair must have been suspicious, then most impressed.  then the clean smooth steel and simple fabric seat are inviting.  maybe this style is what you are looking for in your interior design.  i am not sure it is for me.  what is behind the like or dislike of this style?  

chaise-longue by mies van der rohe, germany 1931

chaise-longue by mies van der rohe, germany 1931

the designs that came from the bauhaus school (germany, 1919-1933) like the people who worked there, were rejecting adornment and frivolity.  they were german, french, and russian, reeling from the shock of the mud and trenches of the first world war, rejecting the aristocracy and the mess the world had become in their hands.  this is understandable.  my father’s family never recovered from the loss of uncle hugh, my granny’s brother.  we have settled down now into the normality of mechanized war, but that one was a particularly weird and prolonged horror.  in the cultural freedom of that once off lull time, between that war and the next big shock, the great depression, bauhaus designers made their clinical statement about life.  the radical politics of the far left and the far right were emerging as the would be salvation of the world.  this led to communism and fascism, the second world war and the subsequent cold war. so much for man’s big ideas to save us.  

sadly, we seem to be repeating history.  if adornment and frivolity are to be associated with riches and power, and we are just angry with the rich and powerful because they are not one of us or we are not one of them, we are on a dangerous road.  but this may explain our reactions to these chairs.  i am not a proponent of clutter, but nor do i want a totally unadorned or unfrivolous life that tries to exclude, somehow, the fantastic variations of people and places and the beauty of this world.  maybe you are impressed more by the messiness of life, the upheaval of our times, and a more clinical look to your interior design gives you hope.  pay attention, though, to your view of the world.  is it religiously clinical?  this will not save you and your life will be sadly crippled.

i found an interesting blog about mies van der rohe’s greenwald house.  i include here just one of several great pictures on that blog.  the huge windows and openness to nature is the best part of the design.  (i would stick a few rose bushes in the gardens, at least….)

Mies Van Der Rohe Morris Greenwald House

Mies Van Der Rohe Morris Greenwald House

interior design colors – a case against pink

i have been thinking about pink.

 my thesis statement today: avoid pink in interior design.

now there are some wonderful splashes of pink in the world that occur naturally or seem just to fit.  

i am not against pink altogether.  who can argue with a pink rose in an english garden, or a pink wild flower by the road in the mohave desert.


owls clover, mojave desert

owl's clover, mojave desert



Then there are splashes of pink tones in a sunrise or sunset when the atmospheric conditions are in line.  rare because pink sits on the very edge of the color spectrum.

pink flower arrangements are usually tagged with “adorable” and “pretty”, while girls wearing pink are “sweet” and “cute” (=not to be taken seriously?). and the world and people are not by and large sweet, cute, adorable or pretty.  let’s face it, God is wise and he has used pink sparingly. 

when my children were small i worked for six months as a librarian’s assistant in their elementary school’s media center.  the regular assistant was on medical leave.  i love books and enjoyed the work. the librarian was a wonderful woman and good at her job. but she was in the process of redecorating and decided that the whole library should be pink.  it would calm the students and create a nurturing environment, she thought.  all the books were removed from the shelves and stood in stacks all over the place while even the shelves were painted in shades of pink.  i found the project oppressive.  i did not see a change in the boisterous nature of the children either, when they were finally allowed back in to the room.  but maybe the librarian found herself calmed and nurtured and that in turn would have trickled down over time to influence the room.  we moved to a different school district the following year, so i could not follow up on her experiment.  

there is all sorts of psychology connected with color choices, (most seem exaggerated).  i agree that the choices made say something about the people that choose them — who they are and what they want to be: calmed by the tones of dusk, brightened by the colors of day, cooled and soothed by water’s blues…etc.    i prefer the predominant colors found in nature.  

here in florida there is plenty of green (life, growth, change) and brown (solid, stable, usable earth and trees), and blue skies (though clouds and cloudy days are an appreciated contrast).  small splashes of bright color are here and there in the flowers, butterflies and birds.  this is the balance i prefer as i am a practical sort of person not feeling a great need for calming and nurturing, or for bright cheerfulness or emotional stoking.  (others might argue that i would be helped by these influences, but they are not decorating my house.)  live, grow, change, be solid stable and usable….fran, will you wear something other than browns and greens? my friends ask….  well, i do branch out into a few other colors… just not pink.

a little bit of feminine softness goes a long way.  god worked hard to make the world and he did it well.  let’s follow his color scheme and avoid the overuse of pink.