Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The god that protected boundaries

The god Terminus, the protector of boundary markers in ancient Rome, is the origin of these figures, male and female, that stood sentry, between walls of trompe l'oeil sienna marble, at the doors of Robert Metzger's glamorously riche New York offices.

Not very well-known today, Robert Metzger, was one of the most published decorators of the 1970s and 1980s and, I think, one of the most representative of the era - that of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, Bernhard Goetz, the murder of John Lennon, beginning of the Human Genome Project, the return of Halley's Comet, and Wall Street excesses culminating in Black Monday.

It was the excesses of Wall Street that enabled Robert Metzger to flourish and create some of the most lushly flamboyant interiors of the period. He wasn't alone in creating densely layered accretions of complicated deliciousness - Geoffrey Bennison, Denning and Fourcade (more well-known today than Metzger but surely on the point of slipping from memory) spring to mind, but even at its most extravagantly glamourous there was a light-heartedness in Metzger's work that set him apart. His rooms, though dense, were not boorish. There was none, one suspects, of that suffocating ancestral grime allowed to seep into his decorative schemes.

His office desk, in a room described by Robert Metzger as "... like sitting in someone's library or living room," is wonderfully of its time: the baroque base of an American pool table surmounted by an Italian intarsia top. Drawing up to this desk, surrounded as one was by one's future and suitably histrionic extravagances: gaufraged velvet, burly damask, bewitching brocades, plump brocatelles, waxen marbles, bright-cut crystal, chased bronze, ormulu, auroral needlework, Mr Metzger beaming at the far side, to discuss plans and budgets, aided perhaps by a flute or two of bubbly, cannot have been an irksome task,

Robert Metzger died of pneumonia at the age of 55 in 1994.

Photos by Jaime Ardiles-Arce and Dennis Krukowski from Best From the Interior Design Magazine Hall of Fame, Vitae, 1992.


  1. Please, more pictures if you have them. Wonderful how the colors play.

  2. "Suffocating ancestral grime"?

    Do you mean the detritus of breeders?

    Or is this simply a big shout out to people who have to buy their own furniture?

  3. I thought I hated the 'office' room but after inhabiting it for a minute or two, at least I am amused by it. What really struck me in your post was the mention of a Big Augury, Halley's Comet.

  4. Dean Yoder Interiors LLCApril 23, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    I was one of the lucky ones. I was a guest in Mr. Metzger's office in the summer of 1992. It was one of those moments that quiets the mind into intense focus, so you could take in the most masculine beauty one had ever gazed upon. It was a the purist of magic. I remember his quizzing me as to the origins of two very fine pull up chairs. I identified them as Russian. He exclaimed, "You are one of only a handful who have gotten that question correct." He inspired me as a lover of beauty and a then young designer. His style, thin voice, and drama are all missed by me.