Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Atlanta Week - Louis in the sky with diamonds

Twenty seven years ago a book titled Landmark Homes of Georgia, 1733 to 1983 was published in Savannah, Georgia and a copy of it has become a treasured possession of mine - in fact my partner won it in a raffle and handed it to me saying, "you'll probably like this" and like it I did. I was rude enough to keep surreptitiously leafing through it during the evening party at which the raffle took place, but what is to be done when company palls because there is a new book to be read?

This book contains as the title suggests photos and descriptions of every extant significant residence in the State of Georgia and in the Mid-Twentieth Century chapter a penthouse at The Plaza Towers in Buckhead is described. Heading the article is a quotation by Russell Lynes:

"It could be argued that the very stylelessness of many modern apartment buildings is an asset as a blank canvas is an asset to a painter. It is to the obvious credit of the decorators that they have created such elegance or casual pleasantness in spite of the spaces they have had to work with."

Despite or perhaps because of that back-handed compliment to Modernist architects the book's editors designated The Plaza Towers as significant from the point of view that the twin towers were the first modern high-rise buildings to be built in residential Buckhead and even jocularly described high-rise dwellers as "cliff-dwellers."

The decorator of this penthouse was David Byers of an old-guard Atlanta firm, W. E. Browne Decorating Company. Of the client it was said:

"She had been an art collector for most of her life and needed the assistance of David Byers in designing a setting that suited her and her things. Her "pictures" (as the would be called in England) are a treasure that needed suitable surroundings. Because each unit of the tower was essentially just alike - a blank canvas - client and decorator felt fortunate enough to get an apartment before construction was completed so that her one-bedroom unit could be finished according to their specifications."

"One writer has said that the architecture of such buildings reflects the standardization of the mid-twentieth century. But Mrs. S ...... s' taste is anything but standardized. So, with the help of a contractor friend and one skilled carpenter, Mrs. S ...... s and David Byers went to work to set a Louis XV scene for her eighteenth-century French furniture and nineteenth-century French paintings. They made a comfortable home-in-the-sky scaled to Mrs. S ...... s' petite person and exquisite taste; a suitable environment for her possessions, complementing and enhancing their museum quality."

Russell Lynes is again quoted:

"A home is meant to reflect the personality of its inhabitants. The room is most successful as an example of the decorator's art that seems least contrived by its contriver, that most amiably and handsomely reflects the image of its owner and that at the same time seems to have happened spontaneously .... it is the function of the decorator to vanish."

David Byers was not the decorator who vanished: he helped with the then new Governor's Mansion, with the White House and with the U.S. Diplomatic Reception Rooms.


  1. Books are a form of drug don't you think? There isn't a book/design lover in the world who would have expected less of you than to open that gem and start ingesting right there on the spot. I am proud to say that books in my home reflect my personality. Nice mention at Little Augury's blog. Hope it brought more readers your way. You have a lovely style.

  2. Books are certainly an interest bordering on obsession. I love to have them around me, love to read them and love to own them. Thank you for your kind compliment - I enjoy blogging and it is an excuse to get out my books and search. Again, thank you.

  3. And, he decorated the home in which I was raised! He was quite the character. We must discuss him sometime.