Gone But Not Forgotten (Part 1): Interior Designer, Billy Baldwin
“A person with real flair is a gambler at heart.”
I love, love, love that quote! Who wrote it? None other than my all-time-favorite interior designer, the late Billy Baldwin (1903-1984)! This decorating icon continues to be one of the most influential forces in the world of home interiors. One of my most prized possessions is a vintage copy of one of the two books he wrote during his lifetime. (Both books are now out of print, but if you have an interest in owning a copy of either of them, a good resource is AbeBooks.com.) The book that I own is entitled Billy Baldwin Decorates (1972), and I refer to it constantly! Even more inspiring to me than the photographs in his book, is Billy Baldwin’s wisdom. When designing a room, I sometimes stop and think…
“What would Billy do?”
Billy Baldwin’s work is fabulous for more reasons that I can count, but perhaps the furniture pieces he is most famous for are his slipper chairs and the brass bookcases he designed for Cole Porter’s Waldorf apartment.
He once said, “Small women and football linebackers find it equally comfortable!”. The slipper chair is actually said to have been designed for Pauline de Rothchild’s tall, slender frame, in order to make it more comfortable for her to strike a beautiful pose with her long, lanky legs.
Here are two of the slipper chair options currently being offered for sale in the Billy Baldwin Collection by Ventry Limited.
There are many design truths that Billy Baldwin lived by, and they influence my own designs almost everyday! Here are a few of them:
- Always work with clients on a very personal, individual level. He once said, “Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.”
- Quality matters! If you have the choice to buy one high quality piece, versus several lesser quality pieces, choose the former. He once said, ““If you spend most of your decorating money on a Chippendale table or a Chinese lacquer screen, don’t fill in the gaps with mediocrity. Forget the gaps for a while; just have simple slipcover in one pretty color. Then, as you can, acquire other good pieces that are compatible in one pretty color. Let the room grow slowly to maturity.”
- Mix different styles together in your designs. (Billy was a MASTER at this trait!)
- Never try to discard everything in a client’s home, but rather try to incorporate pieces of it into your new design. He once said, “Decorators should never insist on throwing out everything the client has. Even when they are far from perfect, loved possessions add personality.”
- Decorate with books! He once said, “The best decoration in the world is a roomful of books.”
- Perhaps one of Billy’s greatest beliefs was that comfort is paramount in interior design. He once said, “Nothing is in good taste unless it suits the way you live. What’s practical is beautiful…and suitability always overrules fashion.”
- Create TIMELESS designs!
Now, take a look at some of Billy’s work below. He was famous for his lacquered brown walls, but also for the use of rich, bold colors.
“When you want to transform a room into an entirely different animal, change the color.”
“There is magic…in the deep-jewel-colored room, warm and mysterious, where you discover its many beauties as you sit, seduced slowly.”
– Billy Baldwin
Don’t all of his designs appear as if they could be modern-day designs? It’s that timeless quality of work that Billy Baldwin is renowned for creating! His designs never go out of style!
A new book written about Billy Baldwin’s work, Billy Baldwin: A Great American Decorator, was just released last month and can be purchased on Amazon.com by clicking HERE.
NOW, GO HAVE AN “It’s So Fabulous!” DAY!