Monday, November 30, 2009

On the shoulders of giants

I didn't immediately associate one of my favorite designers with this interior when I first saw the photos but I was pleased to see Melvin Dwork named as designer, together with James Maguire. The two worked together as Dwork-Magquire for two years only.

Mr Dwork who began work as a designer in 1970, has long been a favorite of mine, and in his eighties is working away. There was always something muscular in his work that appealed to me; there was none of the 70s and 80s (a period I associate his name with more than the 70s) flash and thunder - just simple form, brave juxtaposition and rather reticent color. I remember a room, his own I think, where he paired Baroque chairs with simple upholstery and an old wooden pallet doing duty as a cocktail table.

And so it was that I did not, as I say, associate his name with this interior done for Anna Moffo and her husband Robert Sarnoff, a former RCA board chairman, and it is not clear from the text where Mr Dwork's input lay. However, the point really is not who did what but when it was all done.

1979 is the date of publication and for me, though there undoubtedly are others I have not seen, this interior forms a visual bridge with the coming decade. Gone is the thicket, not entirely but well pruned; gone are the overheated colors which are replaced with ivories, creams, whites and inexplicably, purple - well cordoned off behind close doors; also gone is the elephantine upholstery; even the obvious textures of the early 70s play no role here, though there is mention of satin.

I'm not quite ready to leave the seventies yet - they're proving to be a gold mine of information for me and I hope for you too. I like rooting around the origins, the margins, the half-hidden and this decade has proved to be a clearing house of sorts. Many of the designers prominent during the 1980s and well into the 1990s began their careers in the seventies.

A lot of them, as mentioned in another post, did not survive the eighties and this profession lost a whole generation of talent. Luckily, or perhaps sadly, we are not given to marking our loss with symbols of mourning such as draped urns, broken obelisks, et al, but many of continue to find inspiration in the work of those who have gone before - itself a memorial.

Mr Dwork continues to work and long may he do so.

Photos by Jaime Ardiles-Arce from Architectural Digest, July/August 1979.


  1. The black room is simply stunning. Hasn't aged a bit!

  2. Thanks. I don't really understand; but your guided tours make me want to. Thanks for scanning big so I can enlarge the pictures and see details. Would folks dare use a big turtle shell today? (2nd pictures with 2 windows)

  3. I agree. I quite like the purple too - very now. Considering this was published exactly thirty years ago it has stood the test of time remarkably well. Dark walls are a trend again according to the editor of House Beautiful but in my opinion they have never gone out of fashion.

  4. I've noticed those shells around, as well as the large antelope horns that were popular the 70s and later the 80s. I have never been happy with bits of animals lying around the place.

  5. Beautiful pictures. Hard to believe they are that old. xoxo