Friday, April 15, 2011

An Albert Hadley BEFORE and AFTER for Brooke Astor

Albert Hadley's sketch of the proposed new Library from Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer.
The brass-trimmed, red lacquer library that Albert Hadley created for Brooke Astor is one of the iconic examples of twentieth century residential design.  Although photos of the library were not published in this country until the 1990s, it has been the inspiration for countless reinterpretations and is etched in the mind of many devotees of both architecture and interior design. But relatively few know how the room appeared before the transformation.

The BEFORE view of the room from The Finest Rooms By America's Great Decorators.
Albert Hadley tells the story of how the new room came to be in Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer, so I will not repeat it in detail.  But the summary is that Mrs. Astor wanted to improve the room and Mr. Hadley proposed making it into a true library that showcased her late husband's collection of books.

The AFTER views are all from Albert Hadley, The Story of America's Preeminent Interior Designer.
The existing 1920s interpretation of Louis XV boiserie was glazed a light honey color with portions comprised of shelving;  it was completely removed, and the room gutted.  The antique rouge royale chimneypiece was reused along with the furniture and the antique rug.

The sofa and upholstered chairs had recently been done by Sister Parish in the classic chintz by Brunschwig & Fils "Portuguesa" in the colorway with brown stripes with stylized red flowers.  So even the fabric remained on these primary pieces that coordinated so beautifully with the rug.
Although the architectural details are simple, the execution of the brass trim is faultless and it provides such a brilliant contrast with the gilt stamped leather book bindings.  The rich red lacquer finish, the result of ten coats of paint, ties it all together.  Mrs. Astor was quoted as saying this was her favorite room and Albert Hadley, the same.
The Childe Hassam painting over the fireplace Flags Flying on Fifth Avenue became involved in controversy when son Anthony D. Marshall sold it for $10 million and took a $2 million commission.  He was convicted of grand larceny and sentenced to one to three years in state prison in 2009, but has been released on bail pending appeal.

The Devoted Classicist attended Brooke Astor's 90th birthday celebration and predicted she would live to see her 100th.  She died in 2007 at the age of 105.

The apartment, which once was connected to her mother's residence, consisted of five bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, five fireplaces and six terraces on the 15th and 16th floors of 778 Park Avenue, was originally priced at $46 million.  It finally sold in February, 2011, for $19 million to Daniel Forcart, 47, a Swiss investment manager in currency trading.

The wonderful 2005 book ALBERT HADLEY: THE STORY OF AMERICA'S PREEMINENT INTERIOR DESIGNER by Adam Lewis can be purchased at a discount of 37% off the published price through The Devoted Classicist Library by clicking here.


  1. Genius.

    I once had the good fortune to meet John Saladino at his office in NY. Couldn't have been nicer or more appreciative of my portfolio and when we were through he said -you must meet my friend Mr. Hadley (whose office was in the same building). So I stopped by unannounced. Alas it was not to be and as I living in Atlanta at the time the geographic challenge proved to be a hindrance in working with Mr. Saladino as well. I so admire the work of both.

  2. Scott, as much as I admire Mr. Saladino's work, I think you would have been more appreciated by Parish-Hadley. If you have not already, you should make sure the decorating alumni (Bunny Williams, David Easton, Thomas Jayne, Michael Whaley, Brian McCarthy) are aware of your mural painting talent.

  3. Hi John,
    I remember Reggie and Tice telling me that this library was Alberts favorite room for a client. We worked with Ferguson and Oscar on the Wiener country house in Litchfield County, CT

    Dean Farris

  4. I'd be at a complete loss to explain why this room is good. Except that I think I'd feel perfectly comfortable waking in an taking a seat. In fact that's just what I'd like to do. It's made for human comfort rather than a photo shoot, IMHO.

  5. Hello:
    Absolutely fascinating. Strange as it may seem, we were not aware of this room or of its transformation until now. The result, as you have shown, was, and clearly is, a masterpiece of understated elegance.

  6. Absolutely love the color and finish of the bookcases

  7. I love everything about this room...the brass trim is just genius. What a difference from the original. Now I really have to go get that book!

  8. Undeniably one of the great rooms.

    A friend was reminiscing just the other day about a visit to Parish-Hadley's old office, and the sheer brilliance of the entrance area..

  9. What a nice surprise to see this room. Absolutely brilliant! I love your posts. Keep it coming!

  10. I only hope the new owners realized the importance of this room and didn't change it!

  11. Thank you for your kind comment on my post. I am so glad that it led me to finding your blog, which looks to be both enlightening and entertaining.

  12. This was a fascinating post, John! It's great to know some of the background on this legendary room. Thank you for your visit and kind comment - it's always a pleasure to have you stop by.

  13. Brooke Astor was definitely an icon and Hadley's designs convey here personility perfectly! Thank you for the skort insight on my blog.

  14. What's always impressed me, was the fact that the Portugaise chintz and the Bessarabian carpet were already present in that room when the oxblood lacquer and brass walls went up around them. The synthesis of styles is astonishing. Beyond a doubt, one of THE great rooms of the
    20th century.

  15. Beautiful post, thank you for it! I think the Astor library is a fine example of what money and good taste can do together in a very fine way. This is the finest library I have seen in the United States.

  16. Thanks for your comment Mr Frilund. I am a fan of all your interesting posts on My Little Housing Blog,


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