Monday, April 17, 2017

How They Decorated

The cover of P.Gaye Tapp's new book
features a delightful 1937 watercolor by Cecil Beaton
depicting Harrison and Mona Williams in their
Palm Beach, Florida, living room
decorated by Syrie Maugham.
P. Gaye Tapp, author of the blog Little Augury, has just released a wonderful new book HOW THEY DECORATED, INSPIRATION FROM GREAT WOMEN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.  It is not a book about Lady Decorators, but about the women whose personal style influenced interior design, sometimes working with a design legend, but other times working on their own.
Evangeline Bruce's Georgetown townhouse is one of three
residences discussed.  Here, the Drawing Room features a
pair of Gothick chairs that had belonged to decorating
legend Nancy Lancaster.
Photo: Horst P. Horst, Architectural Digest.
The book is organized into four sections.  "Legacy Styles" features a chapter each on Lady Diana Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Louise de Vilmovin, and Sybil Connoly.  "In the Grand Manner" presents the interior of the homes of Helene Rochas, Gabrielle van Zuylen, Mona Harrison von Bismark, and Pauline de Rothschild.  "Fashionably Chic" shows the residences of the fashion plates Babe Paley, Elsa Schiaperelli, Fleur Cowles, and Pauline Trigere.  And the final section, "Unconventional Eye" discusses Bunny Mellon, Dominique de Menil, Georgia O'Keffe, and Lesley Blanch.

The Dining Room in the Paris home of Helene Rochas
is arranged for intimate comfort with elegant fauteuils
that formerly belonged to the style-setter Carlos de Beistegui.
The trompe-l'oeil panel over the mantel was painted by
Alexandre Serebriakoff.
Photo: Pascal Hinous, Architectural Digest.
Charlotte Moss, a successful interior designer in her own right, provides an insightful Introduction.  The text is generously supplemented with an invaluable cache of drawings and reference photographs, plus delightful watercolor illustrations by Jimmie Henslee created especially for the book.
The Grand Salon of Elsa Schiaparelli's
eighteen-room apartment on rue de Berri,
Paris, exhibits a folding screen
commissioned from Christian Berard.
Photo:Hans Wild, The Life Picture Collectiion/Getty Images
The Devoted Classicist has read the book cover-to-cover and throroughly enjoyed it.  All interested in the history of decorative arts are sure to appreciate HOW THEY DECORATED published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., the source of all images used here.
The Anteroom between the Living Room and Dining Room
of Bunny Mellon's New York City townhouse provided
a transition space between the two decorating schemes.
Photo: Michael Dunne, The Oak Spring Garden Foundation.


  1. Whatever we think nowadays about floral carpets, African animals at each side of the fireplace and a folding screen with life size figures, Elsa Schiaparelli's salon must have knocked their socks off. Do you know what colours she favoured?

    1. Hels, decorated in the 1930s by Jansen and Jean-Michel Frank, the decor of the apartment may have paralleled Elsa Schiaparelli but it could be argued that the color scheme did not follow it, more of a background for fashion rather than a duplicate of it. There are jewel tone accents, but none of the shocking combinations that one might expect from someone so fond of Surrealism. Sophisticated and pleasing to be sure, however. Thanks for commenting.

    2. Woops, there's no editing allowed. But what I meant to say was that the decor paralled her fashion.

  2. I don't know what "we think nowadays"; but Elsa Schiaparelli's apartment is the pinnacle of what I love in decorating. Personal, vibrant,completely individual and creative in the most refined sense.
    Floral carpets, folding screen , all of it. Blindingly beautiful. Breathtaking. Even in photographs. Bravo this book!

  3. Thank you, John Tackett , for reviewing beautifully this book. I was totally gobsmacked. I couldn't read it all at once. I still have a lump in my throat. I haven't even read the whole thing. It is overwhelmingly fantastic.
    I have been a decorator, (as you are) forever. The pages in this book are in my treasured notebooks of "tearsheets". Seriously. Every one.
    I have separate notebooks; compiled over the years, of these same exact women. Louise de Vilmorin......her "Verrieres" was in my first living room 45 years ago. Still my favorite.
    Literally all of them. (notebooks of ALL of them)... I have things from Evangeline Bruce.....(I even know where that favorite rug ended up! At her son's!!)
    I actually KNEW Fleur Cowles.....and followed her style and art....and Sybill Connelly.....(I told that story to P.Gaye.)
    What a triumph this book is.
    Thank you for covering it so well. It is up there in the stratosphere for me.....Thrilling.
    What a treat.....what a book. I hope young people learn from it.

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Penelope. Thank-you for commenting.

  4. That folding screen by Berard, nothing short of breathtaking! The whole thing. Wow.

  5. Congratulations on your publication This is a beautiful book and it is on my list.

    1. I am sure Gaye appreciates your comment, as do I. It is an interesting book on both the women and their homes.

  6. Looking forward to reviewing this one!
    Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I had the honor of having a book signing party in Montecito for Gaye Tapp. After she had the enormous honor of a book signing at the legendary "Virginia Robinson Gardens" in Beverly Hills. Kind of a secret divine place. Everyone immensely enjoyed both!! What a book!!!


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