Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At odds

One of the interesting things about my research in the last few weeks is that not only have I been able to reacquaint myself with old, sometimes forgotten favourites, but I have also been able to reassess old prejudices.

I must tell you, therefore, that I never got Michael Taylor - that is, until I saw the photos below. They are not a complete record of an interior, as far as I can tell, for when I found them I also saw that pages had been neatly cut from the bound copies of the magazine I was researching. However, the remnant was large enough for me to feel again the frisson I felt on first seeing them twenty-five or more years ago. I wish I had more photos to explain the whole interior but at least there are photos of the living room - the room that impressed the heck out of me all those years ago.

These photos come from an article describing the designer's debut, over thirty years before the article was written, as an augury of what became the California Style. When I first saw these rooms, as I say nearly thirty years ago, I felt this was one of the most sophisticated interiors I had ever seen and I also distinctly remember being almost disappointed that it was by Michael Taylor - I did not like the pale bloat, as I considered it, of his later style. Well, of course not, this was thirty years before he got to that and the invention of the ball-shaped throw pillow that galvanized every decorator from coast to coast.

In this golden, monochromatic interior, and it was probably one of the first monochromatic color schemes I actually liked, with its careful placement of what appear to be such ordinary elements, Taylor's hands created magic. I say quite ordinary, but perhaps fifty years ago, what today appears to be so run-of-the-mill, was extraordinary. And in a way, extraordinary they were, for three of those items came from the estate of Frances Elkins: the couch, the armoire and the floor lamp - provenance giving importance beyond their simple beauty.

Am I still at odds with Michael Taylor's mature style? I think I am. I understand his popularity, then and now, and in no way do I want to demean his achievement or his influence - and influential he was - but I can honestly say that when it comes to his mature style, I just don't get it. I will leave it at that, with all the implications of what could be a lack in me.

Photos by Russell MacMasters, from Architectural Digest, August 1984.


  1. Haha! I can see that I'm going to have to get up very early in the morning to stay ahead of you, Mr. Blue Remembered Hills! Our clip files are proving to be almost identical. This is one of my favorite Michael Taylor jobs also, and I had the entrance hall, which I find superbly calibrated, in a stack to scan for a 'favorite rooms' post. Ah well. I agree with you---I never much got Michael Taylor years ago, but as I've gotten, um, older...I am much more open to it. Love the pickled or cerused fireplace wall, also.

  2. PS.

    Is it really possible that this post was 25 years ago? no, no, it was maybe 10 years ago...or 12....

    25 years...oh, my. Blink of an eye, my friend, blink of an eye...

  3. Agree. I never understood his later use of round ball pillows and Flintstone furniture...

    These rooms are gorgeous.

  4. I too have always loved this MT interior...especially the entrance hall-!!
    And I too have had it in my clipping files cut from AD in 1984 (74?). In my youth when I was anxiously dreaming about "ROOMS" I held this house in my head as it combined Jean- Michel Frank, Elkins and my penchant for late 40s-50s Waspy neoclassicism.

    Ive always been as intrigued by the architecture as much as MTs reuse of Elkins' things. Dont make me dig it up... Isn't the architecture by William Wurster or Gardner Daily?

  5. Dilettante - you're right, in the blink of an eye! Still, the good thing is, one remains 27 on the inside and its only the mirror that disagrees.

    Mr Darling - Flintstone furniture - perfect. By the way, Little Me was waiting for me as I returned home last night. Look forward to reading it.

  6. At least you didn't pull a "Krapp's Last Tape" moment and start arguing with yourself about what was the TRUE memory! If, as I have read, that geography is destiny, I think Taylor's work has to placed in the land of Ahs where massive doses of decorator steroids are administered in the water and with sunshine blazing almost all the time.

  7. Anonymous - the architect was indeed William William Wurster. You're not as old as you fear - your clipping is from 1984. Very interesting comment, thank you.

  8. Oh, I did, I did, Home before dark, I just didn't write about it. I'm going to be the book about Michael Taylor and then I'll make up my mind about his work. You're right about the Land of Ahs!

  9. Do you know what city this house is in OR area, northern- southern CA?

  10. Funny, I recently started chatting on Facebook, with an old MT client, Pat Montandon. I also have gotten to "know" Suzanne Tucker, his former assistant, in a similar manner! She sent her new fabrics to us, we LOVE them!