Monday, February 15, 2010

A week off

I took last week off from blogging - it seemed almost that I'd reached the end of my search for material about what a friend called dead decorators yet I was able to find more about some I'd already mentioned, one I had never liked but was forced to reassess, and one whose name I remembered but had since his death dropped into obscurity. I have no doubt there will be more from thirty years ago who will tread again on this stage.

Thirty years - the very idea that what is so fresh in my memory can have happened so long ago, for some of you more than your lifetimes, is quite stupefying . Gazing unsteadily at my own mortality, I suppose. The men who I am writing about had to come to terms with their mortality more rapidly than they would today for they lived in what was for them uncaring and mean-spirited times, with society's leaders who, whether by intention, sin of omission, or indifference, judged them as being deserving of their fate and where research into the nature of their disease and a search for a cure had a resentful nascence.

Another reason I took time off last week was that I felt, rightly or wrongly, there was not much more to say about decorators of the calibre of Kalef Alaton that I had not already said. I realized too that my search had perforce become occidented, not in itself a bad thing, but there were designers on the east coast of whom I had, other than their names, little or no information.

Beyond mentioning that the bedroom and bathroom with their tart's knickers shades are appointed in what could be considered a more popular form of 1980s decorating - in complete contrast to the restraint of the formal rooms, I shall let the photos of Kalef Alaton's design of a house by Lake Washington speak for themselves.

Photos by Russell MacMasters from Architectural Digest, June 1984.


  1. regardless of those tart's knickers, the rooms have a fearless(ness) and fierce quality to them. A Bill Blass flirts with Versace vibe. Love the balancing of the wild elements of the console.

  2. "Tart's knickers"? That, among other reasons, is why I look forward to reading your blog, every posting a present to be unwrapped revealing a jewel inside...

  3. Hi Blue~ Thank you again for posting Kalef Alaton's and the other "dead designers" work. There is an ephemeral beauty to the work which is missing from much of today's interior design. Were they more talented or was their work enhanced by their early mortality? I love Alaton's juxtaposition of the gilded 18th century fauteuil with the faux rock console that I believe was from the '70's company Sirmos. Kendra

  4. Your writing is always a treat. These images are timeless. Thank you for taking the time to do the research and for sharing these works.

  5. Hello Blue! So happy to see you are back with your inspiring and informative posts!

  6. Little Augury - I know too little of either Blass or Versace to really judge - neither impinged on my consciousness very much. Blass' rooms by Rayner and Ertegun were superb but beyond that ...

    Mr Darling - no tart of my acquaintance wore such, but they and their moniker are so emblematic of the 1980s. Thank you, sir, for your compliment. I am both touched and thrilled to receive it.

    Soodie - thank you for that - I really appreciate it.

    Kendra - Alaton had a tremendously educated eye and certainly there are decorators in our day that share the same quality, but what I see in contemporary decorating, generally speaking, is a lack of clarity and an inability to allow space to do what it does best - be empty. I think the men of the 1980s finally were too ill, too scared, and too rejected to do anything but despair. The legacy of that lost generation is yet to be decided, but once it is, I hope Alaton is given his rightful place.

    Home before dark - Thank you, as ever. I'm doing what I enjoy and have inadvertently taken a path that gives me much gratification

    smilla4blogs - I'm glad to be back and thank you.

  7. oh, but those poufy curtains in the last picture must go.

    I share your amazement at the sudden passage of time. Nothing about my forties seemed significantly different from my 20's...a little less hair, maybe, but oh my, my fifties just whiz by, with no resemblance, physically, intellectually, emotionally, to my forties...and suddenly, I'm staring at 60...I see it there, just over the horizon...

    But far better than dead, I daresay.

  8. Glad you're back. I really think that your series has done much to shore up the legacy of these late designers. How quickly people forget...