Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Who Influenced Who?




Have you ever noticed how many designers have made their mark on the design world by creating gorgeous brown rooms? And not just any brown, but a deep, dark, and sometimes glossy brown. David Hicks, Billy Baldwin, and Vay Day Truex are just a few of the designers who have created stunning (and legendary) brown rooms- rooms that still serve as inspiration today.

But what I want to know is who jumped on the brown bandwagon first. And who influenced who?



Van Day Truex seemed to lead the way with his gorgeous brown living room, designed in 1951. Truex was a style setter, so I wonder if he influenced Billy Baldwin's enthusiastic and masterly use of glossy brown. After all, when you think of glossy brown walls, don't you immediately think of Baldwin's Manhattan apartment:



So, was Truex responsible for Baldwin's affinity for brown? Or was it in fact Mrs. Walter Farwell, a friend of Ruby Ross Wood who designed a Coromandel lacquered room in her home that captivated Baldwin, at least according to his memoir Billy Baldwin Remembers :



And what about David Hicks? Hicks' living room with its Coca-Cola lacquered walls has a bit of an American look to it. Might he have been emulating some of his American counterparts? I have a feeling that had Hicks been influenced by American designers, he would not have divulged this information:



Albert Hadley has used glossy brown throughout his career. He freely admits that he was greatly influenced by the design greats such as Truex (a close friend) and Baldwin. Not only is Hadley a genius, he's a gentleman too:



And what about Sister Parish's living room circa 1968? Was she solely responsible for the choice of glossy brown walls? Or, was she testing out Hadley's more modern aesthetic:



And the cycle continues... Miles Redd chose glossy brown for one of his early projects. He has cited Hadley as having an impact on his style, so are we seeing that here?


23 comments:

  1. What is so interesting to see is that all the designers used cream or white to offset the dark brown; pillows, the upholstery, trim and floors. What a terrific post. great classic rooms.

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  2. Browns are very popular because they tend to suit almost every design style. It is not hard to find home decors and accessories that will go well when brown is your dominant color. And besides, browns create such an elegant and warm ambiance like those images above.

    Thanks for the info on this post, really interesting.

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  3. Philip- Good point. It's such a clean look, but a slick one too.

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  4. Ann- Yes, glossy brown is warm and elegant. You're right, too, about it suiting different styles. Glossy brown looks great with contemporary furniture and chrome details, or it can look chic with traditional brass or bronze furniture and fittings.

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  5. One of the better designers in HOuston was Billy Francis and he did a lot of work using dark brown. This was during the 70s. Years later I realized that Baldwin had influenced him tremendously.

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  6. Anonymous2:14 PM

    ...and don't forget about Bill Blass' famous brown rooms...were they at his home in Connecticut or at Sutton Place? So famous that I can't remember!

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  7. Anonymous3:40 PM

    One of David Hicks's obituaries mentioned that he actually painted his drawing-room walls dark brown as a precautionary housekeeping measure. During arguments his wife used to throw glasses of Coca-Cola at him, and the soft-drink splashes inevitably stained the walls.

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  8. I would argue that Truex was influenced in this direction by his friend Jean-Michel Frank? More than once Frank gave clients walls covered with leather, some of it deep brown. One of his rooms had its panelling (moldings, cornice, et cetera) completely covered in leather the exact colour of a marron glacé. Perhaps Truex was emulating that earthy, humidor-like atmosphere with a cheaper exedient, paint.

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  9. Although there's been much conversation regarding the Truex/Baldwin relationship in these terms (kind of a "which came first? the chicken or the egg?" question) I think Billy Baldwin wins on this one--my memory is that he painted his first office at Ruby Ross Wood this color, which was sometime in the 1930s.

    Such a great color, unless it's a flat finish during the day.

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  10. Jennifer -- brilliant idea for a post. I love this! I think you are on to something going back to Truex and indirectly Ruby Ross Wood.

    Most people probably associate brown with Baldwin, Hicks, Blass. It's great that you are spreading the word on Truex!

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  11. All stunning examples. I am still dreaming of a dark brown bedroom. One day...

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  12. Anonymous9:55 PM

    Mr. Blass had brown rooms in both NYC and Connecticut. His bedroom in Connecticut was brown, yes? And the bedroom at Sutton Place. Oh, where are my magazines???

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  13. I believe that it all goes back to a great piece of wood furniture with a beautiful brown patina. A signature piece sets the story.

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  14. Great post, as usual. Does it prove that "there's nothing new under the sun"? I think we're all influenced by many things in our lives, and it's how we use that influence to craft our own style that is remembered.

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  15. columnist is right ! We are all influences by somebody before us !We are not " virgin " ( I hope I didn't do a mistake by using this word , sorry for my english)

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  16. Classic case of the chicken and the egg. Lovely history lesson within the post. Thanks.

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  17. What about Ruhlmann? He used gorgeous deep brown lacquer panels in 1920s Paris. They were typically smoking rooms, offices and dining rooms, not living rooms or family rooms, but his rooms were a big influence on Baldwin and Blass.

    Love the blog.

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  18. Jennifer - a wonderful post, as already noted. I was wondering the same thing as I have just finished reading BB-Remembers. Sometimes I do think this kind of thing is "in the water" so to speak.

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  19. Anonymous10:26 PM

    I chose brown and white for my bedroom in high school, never having read a magazine or book about designers at the time--just loved some brown and white 'tree patterned' wallpaper and painted an adjoining wall dark brown. It was beautiful! It was also the first room that the new owners of our house redecorated. I still love brown and white and those rooms you showed inspire me to try it again some day.

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  20. I think for some people, brown is their black. In fashion, I buy some black (I do have black dress pants and a LBD) but not too much. I do find, however, that I buy lots of brown. It's my neutral.
    As always, thank you so much for your pics. Without you doing the research, most of us would never find all these pics assembled together.

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  21. Great post! I am going to study these pics more closely as I am looking for ideas to dress up my French Roast colored kitchen walls!! Thanks for the education as well!!

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  22. My late mom had a love affair with chocolate brown that nearly drove me from it permanently. Everything had to have a touch of chocolate. Looking back, our den was a wonderful collection of browns and tans (without the obligatory 70s oranges. Glazed birch paneled walls (no grooves) and one wall that was chocolate, tan and thin blue plaid. Brown leather furniture. Our car was this huge land yacht of a Mercury Marquis, also in Chocolate with cinnamon interior. And on..... I am glad it took a hiatus, because now I love it all over again.
    (and of course, during the height of my hatred of it, I moved in succession to three apartments with low chocolate brown shag!!

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  23. Anonymous4:51 PM

    ...and that should be "who influenced WHOM."

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