Looking back in the old issues of Architectural Design, House and Garden, etc., it quickly becomes apparent that some designers were more prominent than others. Conceivably, the prominence they enjoyed went hand in hand with being prolific, or they or their PR people were good pals with the editor, or maybe had high-profile, even notorious, clients who needed exposure, but whatever the reason these decorators were extensively promoted.
Nothing stands still; in interior design especially, change is inevitable. And most homes are only seen by a select few. So for the most part, the published account becomes the historical record. Editorial decisions of yesteryear – who gets printed and who does not – become our picture of the design world of their times. Thus one could think that the history of late 20th century decorating lies in the work of a few people - that revered group of Hadley, Hampton, Parrish, Fowler, Taylor, Lancaster, Baldwin, Douquette, et al whose work and names are constantly before us. It's when we get the Best Decorators of All Time nonsense, that fears are raised that interior design history has a gloomy future.
This week I have discussed three decorators who left the scene early and whose work is scarcely remembered except by a remnant of their generation. There are others who should be remembered, Billy Gaylord for one, Kalef Alton, another, was frequently published in the 1980s. One of the most published at that time, Robert Metzger, is not someone whose work I would ever have called well-mannered - ostentatious being the adjective that comes to mind - so it was surprising to find these rooms that could only be described as congenial and urbane - the total antithesis of what his later work became.
So, how is history written? Is it simply that he who is remembered best is he who gets published more?
Photos by Marie Consindas, from Architectural Digest, November-December, 1974.