Friday, February 26, 2010

The eleventh commandment

"Thou shalt have a decorator", according to Ruben de Saavedra, is the eleventh commandment. I'd always thought it to be "Thou shalt not be found out," but I'll go with his version.

Ruben de Saavedra's name is no longer well known. Like all the men I've written about over the past weeks, he belongs to that lost generation of decorators, and like all of them his name and work deserves to be remembered. One correspondent, JT, said of de Saavedra "he was HUGE in the 80s, with his exuberant personality matching his almost neo-baroque decorating."

Here, then, are photos of his New York apartment.

I could talk about how it's quite striking that this apartment, designed I think to be at its most beautiful after dark, is as classic today as it was thirty-five years ago, but I will forgo that pleasure. I could also say that perhaps today a different emphasis would be given to the interplay of levels of sheen from mirrored walls, lacquered ceiling, glittering gold, shimmering silk, polished marble, waxy wood, burnished leather, all contrasting with the visual roughness of carpet, animal-skin velvet, crusty paint, but I think that might be going too far in analyzing rooms as easy to read as they would have been to inhabit.

What I will say is that these rooms to my mind reflect the hospitable nature of the man: a man who took pleasure in entertaining; delighted in showing off his beautiful collections to appreciative friends; liked turning up the drama; was eager to provide quiet moments for the comfort of himself and guests; content with well-fed conversation around his Louis XVI dining table - a table at which robust wine was generously poured - and knowing he and they would look fabulous by candlelight.

Thou shalt have a decorator, indeed, and a sensual one.

I usually order a Manhattan at our favorite Italian restaurant, but this evening I fancy it will be a Gin and It.

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth

Straight up in an Old-Fashioned glass

Ruben de Saavedra died aged 57 of kidney failure in 1990.

Photos by Richard Champion from Architectural Digest, November/December 1975. Quote about eleventh commandment from text uncredited to any writer as far as I can see.


  1. I do love that Living Room rug. And surely I am not the only one who still appreciates (good) tiger velvet. Thanks for another great post.

  2. Yes, they would have sparkled in these rooms!

  3. JT - no, you're not the only one. I, too, love it when its the real thing not some printed copy and I think this of Saavreda's might be the real thing - woven in Italy, by hand, by a dying breed.

    Little Augury - Thank you.

  4. "liked turning up the drama..." oh, indeed, and agreed, quite timesless in an over-the-top kind of way...

  5. In a world that seems to be relentless in its converging on beige, this room sparkles for all time. If you can't look fantastic in your own home, what the hey?

  6. I have to say it's really wonderful to show us some history. We all have the idea we did it first, which we see of course, is not the case.

  7. Blushing Hostess, I love the idea of timelessly over-the-top!

    Home before dark, odd, isn't it, that color has drained away except in a few cases?

    Kevin, there's more to come.

    Thank you all.

  8. The masterful (and enviable) way in which you can analyse a room is one of the reasons your blog is so compelling, dear Blue.

  9. Very Dramatic, love it. my first visit.
    I am impresed with the looks.