Gloria Vanderbilt at home. Photographed by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, April 1966.
In the trailer for the HBO documentary, Nothing Left Unsaid, Gloria Vanderbilt divulges a secret: “People were so fascinated by this family that apparently had everything,” she says. “I never felt that I belonged. I felt as if I were an imposter.” It’s hard to imagine the woman who, at least to the outside world, defined all things wealth, glamour, style, and confidence could feel like such an outsider. But she did—and she embraced it with great aplomb and an endearing sense of optimism. This is just one part of her personality explored in the new documentary, the narrative of which is outlined by intimate conversations with her son Anderson Cooper. It’s not only a documentary about her extraordinary life—the family fortune and “poor little rich girl” moniker, the quickie and multiple marriages, the jeans, the art—but also about the relationship with her journalist son. The two are the only remaining members of the immediate family after Vanderbilt’s husband Wyatt died when the children were small, and her second son, Carter, took his own life at the age of 23. Cooper felt the need not only to share her story, but also to make certain that—with his mother at 91 years old—there was nothing left unsaid between them, as the title suggests.
Vanderbilt has a signature quote when it comes to matters of the home: “Decorating is autobiography.” Throughout the decades of her life that will soon be broadcast to the world, she was constantly changing, painting, embellishing, and reconfiguring her houses in New York City and Long Island. It was, and still is, like therapy for her, a way to express herself creatively when she isn’t painting or making her signature “dream boxes” in the downstairs art studio of her Upper East Side apartment. Her original homes had quilts and mismatched tiles, life-size family portraits opposite pink velvet seating, and gingham mixed with chintz and wicker furniture. In her current home, she’s painted the fireplaces with stars, the tiles in the bathroom with names of her family and friends, and has a chandelier she hangs random objects on, changing them from time to time, of course. Even at their messiest and most chaotic, if her homes were indeed metaphors for her life, they would be, in a word, buoyant.
Here, we take a look back at some of Gloria Vanderbilt’s most cheerful and imaginative interiors through the years.
Gloria Vanderbilt in her dressing room. Photographed by Gianni Penati, Vogue, October 15, 1968.
Anderson Cooper, Wyatt Cooper, Carter Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt in their Manhattan apartment. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, June 1972.
Gloria Vanderbilt sits in her Manhattan living room. Photographed by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, June 1975.
Gloria Vanderbilt in her living room. Photographed by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, June 1975.
Gloria Vanderbilt in the bedroom of her New York City apartment. Photographed by Pierre Scherman, Vogue, April 1977.
Gloria Vanderbilt in her Gracie Square penthouse, April 1985. Photo: Horst P. Horst/Condé Nast Archive.
Gloria Vanderbilt. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier, September 2004.