Friday, January 22, 2010

Shaken not stirred

In early December I wrote a letter to the editor of Architectural Digest about the magazine's, to me, quite ridiculous list entitled The World's 20 Greatest Designers of All Time. One of the more positive aspects of the list was that it included the name of Arthur Elrod.

Elrod, 49 years old when he died in 1975, is perhaps remembered today more because of his John Lautner designed house in the desert at Palm Springs. Known as the Elrod House and used as a location for scenes from the movie Diamonds are Forever in 1971 the house is a stunning piece of 1960s modernism.

I have found a number of photos of Mr Elrod's work, such as you see here, in my old magazines - photos of projects and some lovely black and white whole-page advertisements in the earlier issues. Seeing these photos makes me wonder why this man's work did not become part of the canon of 20th interior design. Did he die too young? Was his name overshadowed by his associates who continued the firm after his death and who eventually set up their own practices: Stephen Chase, Harold Broderick? Mr Elrod is not unknown but should be better known that he is.

The client, a 72-year-old bachelor and collector of contemporary art, "explains his interest in contemporary things. "They make me feel young and gay. I don't like clutter. I'm a purist. Arthur and Bill read me exactly. They saw this as a monochromatic apartment, a background for bold, contemporary paintings. They gave me exactly what I wanted. Nothing traditional. I'm a modernist."

These are flawless, contemporary rooms, flavored by but not reeking of the early 1970s, as relevant today as they were nearly forty years ago. The art, by Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothco, Jackson Pollock, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Hoffman, Franz Kline, Pablo Picasso and David Smith, also has stood the test of time.

I cannot tell you that James Bond uttered the phrase shaken not stirred in this movie though it was first used in the book of the same name to show how he preferred his martinis.

James Bond's Dry Martini

Three measures of Gordons, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.

Photos by Leland Lee from Architectural Digest, May/June 1972.
Recipe from here.


  1. Quite the art collection. I'm bowled over by everything in the bedroom

  2. Thanks for the education - I've always admired the home in that movie, but didn't know anything about it.

  3. I need more hours in the day! Stopped by to peruse your blog and it's now been nearly an hour of being sucked into its wondrousness... A belated Happy New Year to you -- I promise to return more often! xx

  4. Terry - I agree. My favorite is the sculpture by Barbara Hepworth. Makes one wonder what such a collection would be valued at today.

    Sanity Fair - you're most welcome. Next week, I'll probably post about that house.

    Lisa - a BIG thank-you. Happy New Year to you too. BTW loved your vacation almost as much as you did.

  5. I agree - the list in Architectural Digest is a joke. I have no idea why that magazine is still in print considering how few people actually seem to feel a connection with it. Knew not much about Elrod although was familiar with his name. Thanks for sharing the images.

  6. Well, the art says it all. It all works together beautifully. That Klein in the first