The Couturiers' Private Lives, 1969: Part II

Posted by Laura
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Last week I revealed to you five American couturiers' homes from 1969; below are the final four. What is so intriguing is the classicism and traditional interior styles of so many of these designers who were seen as being at the forefront of American taste—while none were members of the 'youthquake' (this is from Town & Country after all!), they were designing the majority of high end clothes produced and worn in the United States. Their homes reveal an active engagement with traditional values and proper decorum, whether or not their statements about their lifestyles always agree...

All photos by Francesco Scavullo for Town & Country, September 1969.

Couturiers used to be known primarily for the clothes they designed. Today they influence nearly all aspects of fashionable living. Tuned in to tomorrow, they are sensitive to changes in social habits and often reflect trends they observe in their own adopted patterns of living. Since the advent of the designer celebrity, the way they look and entertain has set off a whole chain reaction of imitation and inspiration. For this feature they shared with us their private lives, revealing their views on décor, color, pattern, proportion. Their approach, we found, is usually bold, always creative and personal. Their observations are razor sharp, their irreverence for outdated concepts refreshing, their views on accepted values controversial but always aimed at breaking new ground.

Geoffrey Beene (pictured above) lives in an apartment-house beehive without loss of privacy. His prime reasons for choosing a duplex were its two entrances: one through the lobby; the other, a direct one from  the street, that allows him to avoid crowded elevators. His mode of living relates directly to his work: black and white, two longstanding Beene fashion basics, are the neutral keynotes of his living room. Bright red, his only pure fashion color, splashes the suede-covered sofa. His bedroom walls are lined with orange-brown paisley, a Beene favorite along with stripes and polka dots. Of his need for simplicity, he says "Too much clutter—at home or in clothes—upsets me. Like Cadillacs and jewelry, it is superfluous ornamentation."


Donald Brooks thought he had found just what he had always dreamed of in a 17th-floor penthouse, only to discover that the unfamiliar height gave him vertigo. He is now back in a modestly scaled brownstone. There his main goal will be comfort. "It is almost as important as beauty," he states, "and absolutely essential for a civilized man of 40 who spends so much energy and emotion in the daily thought process." By comfort, Donald Brooks means the luxury of personal service: someone who sees after his clothes, packs his weekend bag, plans menus, and makes reservations at restaurants specifying the right foods and wines. At home he likes calm and peaceful interiors. He prefers mixed furnishings of simple lines and exquisite craftsmanship. His favorite background colors are a strong greige, off-white, taupe, and warm chamois yellow.


Norman Norrell resides in one of Manhattan's few vest-pocket oases of civilized living, Amster Yard. His duplex is deliberately designed as an escape from city living. Inside his apartment the country feeling is reinforced with massed ferns, bright geraniums, bouquets of white peonies, and the faint scent of English gardens. The greenery outside his windows provides the perfect foil. Decorated by Irene Walker, the apartment is a complete reflection of Norman Norrell's fashion beliefs. There is the familiar emphasis on the classics, such as good French antiques; or modern standouts, such as the low blond coffee table by the late Jean-Michel Frank; or the Giacometti lamps. Then the Norell colors: black and white, plus vermilion, bright yellow, turquoise, and brilliant pink. There is the essential Norrell touch of extravagance in Chinese lacquer, vermeil bibelots, a van Dongen, and leather tiles in the bath.


Chester Weinberg uses pattern-on-pattern in his New York apartment with the skill and abandon of a man who knows how to handle and control it. His mad medley of raspberry reds and overscaled mixture of motifs may frighten people who think beige houses are restful. But Chester likes to maintain a constant level of stimulation through vibrancy. Another familiar formula he avoids successfully is matching colors or furnishings. "I never have understood the concept of a totally French room—or one done in just one period. It's so boring." The designer, a superb mixer and master of contrasts, thinks, "A house should be like a woman's wardrobe: added to constantly to keep it up to date, and filled in continually with new elements that reflect a maturing taste."

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