Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Metamorphosis of a Room








A designer's home is his laboratory, so it's not unusual for it to be a constantly changing and evolving thing. I think this is quite evident in the former apartment of the late, great Van Day Truex. In a previous post, I showed you a photo of his apartment that was taken in 1944 (click here to see that post). I'm including it again as the very top image. The apartment is rather soft and subtle with touches of light blue and black against white walls.

Jump ahead to 1946 (image 2) where the apartment is dominated by vibrant green curtains and upholstery and black walls. The gilt framed mirror and chairs adds some shimmery opulence to the room. To me, the apartment has a very European flair. But, Truex must have been restless, because in 1949, the scheme changes yet again. This time, it's all about red. Red walls, red curtains, and red upholstery. The panes of mirror above the fireplace have been removed, and the framed mirror, the side chairs, and the mats around the artwork provide counterpoints of white (also, check out the fluffy white rug in the center of the room). Again, the room is rather formal, much like the green version, but things seemed to be slightly more restrained than its predecessor.

My favorite version, though, is the pared down 1951 scheme (seen below). I think we now see the modern vision that I associate with Truex. Gone are the ornate curtains and upholstery. The background of the room is rich umber, and the furniture is upholstered in browns and yellow (specifically Siamese yellow). Truex has added modern pieces such as Eames chairs (not visible in the images below), and the windows now have bamboo blinds. And there is no rug- we finally see the polished wood floor. The room now has more of a refined, contemporary American aesthetic, and this, to me, was the genius of Truex.




17 comments:

  1. Jennifer,
    I think this is a very interesting progression that seems to play itself out in the style developments of many designers. When starting out, there is so much to try out from the world of design, but as the designer matures, they become more comfortable with their own language they've developed an they're better at choosing just the right pieces. Usually to greater effect, as seen here in your wonderful example of Van Day Truex.

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  2. Bayou- Well said, and I agree. I'm amazed at the changes in my style since graduating from college!

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  3. As much as the room changes, it's interesting to note that the furniture arrangement remains very similar, and he keeps so many of the same pieces.

    I STILL maintain that that's a Knole sofa.

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  4. Anonymous12:12 PM

    I'd be eager to see how Eames chairs work in a setting of such opulence and "traditionalism"; anyone know where such an image can be found?

    -pt

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  5. What a design sequence, my fav is 1951 as well. Thanks for sharing these Jennifer!!

    ~Kate

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  6. Jennifer - I have been thinking about just this lately. The latest version is my favorite as well. The changes are so dramatic - it's great to see them all together.

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  7. He has been one of my design heroes for a long time. Thank you for the look into his progression! I think he got back to his original roots. The first and last incarnations are very similiar. Thanks!
    Katie

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  8. Morris- So true. He obviously got the furniture arrangement right the first time; he just tweaked things like color and fabric. (I'm going to look into the Knole sofa issue!)

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  9. djellabah5:05 PM

    Curiously, if you track the color-scheme changes of Billy Baldwin's own apartment in Amster Yard at the same time period, he aped Truex's chromatic moves shade for shade, and just as quickly. Check out "Billy Baldwin Remember" or "Billy Baldwin Decorates" and see. As a decorator of the period once told me, it was something much commented on in New York design circles at the time, ie Baldwin's close study of Truex, whose taste he revered.

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  10. Great post, by the way. What I find inspiring about the evolution of Truex room is how the primary elements stay pretty much the same, ie the furniture and art. Only the colors and fabrics change, really. Which is an inspiration to remember if you are tired of your own surroundings and want to change it completely ... without actually changing too much.

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  11. Yes, love the rich browns with yellow!

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  12. djellabah- This is v. interesting. I'll have to find photos of Baldwin's apt, but off of the top of my head, I do remember how Baldwin's bedroom went from all green to all yellow (assuming this was his Amster Yard apt.). But I never made any connection, so thank you.

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  13. Aesthete- Exactly! The elements stay the same throughout Truex's exploration of color.

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  14. It was seeing Van Truex's apartment and hearing the comments about people not knowing how to hang art and pictures that made me look around at my own home and see that hanging one photo/painting/art piece per wall section was a boring, waste of space. I then studied his examples and learned. I think he was a genius. I bet he'd agree with me. Very good post, and thanks for the link to the previous one.

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  15. I agree - the images from 1951 are definitely the best. So fascinating to stand back and watch a designers tastes progress over a decade. And amazing that he managed to re-decorate in such a new way almost every 2 years!

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  16. What an interesting post. After loving the first three pictures, in particular the first one, I was preparing myself to disagree with you vehemently that the 1950's version could be preferable.... until I saw the pictures - you are quite right. Oh I wish I had the freedom (and, you know, the money) to transform my home like that!

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  17. Djellabah's remark about Billy Baldwin and Truex is very interesting.. Some of his work in the late 1960s/early 1970s looks as though Truex had a major hand in it (the Newhouse living room, for example) Another person who it would appear was greatly influenced by Truex was Roderick Cameron, the travel writer/taste maker.

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