Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Zajac & Callahan




Edward Zajac and Richard Callahan. Not familiar with them? Well, they were only one of the hottest design duos around during the 1970s and early 80s. Truth be told, I had never heard of them until last year when a reader mentioned that I might find their work to be of interest. And how right he was!

Zajac and Callahan each had strong design experience before they joined forces in 1966 with Zajac having worked for McMillen and the great Billy Baldwin and Callahan having been employed by Jansen and Valerian Rybar. When they came together, the pair began to create interiors that were a bold breath of fresh air. Zajac & Callahan took traditional furnishings and combined them in exuberant and exhilarating way. One hallmark of the Zajac & Callahan look was pattern upon pattern upon pattern- not an easy look to pull off. But the key was that they took some unifying factor- color or scale, for example- and used that as a guide. And somehow, it seemed to work. Certainly it was a maximalist look and one that was apropos for that era in time, but I'll venture to say that their interiors don't really look terribly dated.

The interior featured here was a Paris apartment designed by Z&C circa 1971. The yellow entryway could have been designed in 2009! The dining room is totally fabulous with the decadent use of canvas fabric on the walls, although if I were living in this interior today I would remove that tablecloth. The bedroom? Okay, so I might have to tone it down a bit, but you've got to admit that it's a look.

In the new release New York Interior Design, 1935-1985, there is a chapter on the two, and in it Zajac admits that he was a bit dismayed that they became pigeonholed by clients who only wanted this audacious look, and he laments the fact that they never really got to do modernist interiors. I'm sorry too because it would have been interesting to have seen modernism in the hands of Zajac and Callahan. Still, I think it's worthwhile for us to revisit their work.



The lacquered yellow rotunda entryway with smashing blue ceiling.


The fabric shrouded dining room, again with a bright blue ceiling. The rope chairs are a Zajac & Callahan design.


A zany bedroom dominated by the classic Tree of Life print.


The husband's study is a blend of shell prints, plaids, geometric prints, and upholstered walls.

Image at top: The living room with its Chinese wallpaper and Indian rug. And lots of prints!

(All images from House & Garden, Nov. 1971)

23 comments:

  1. thank you for bringing them to our attention! These rooms are so marvelous, I especially love the blue ceilings.

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  2. Wonderful introduction for the new year! The bedroom is so groovy. Love how they incorporated the tree-of-life.

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  3. Great post...I love tons of pattern. The living room is fabulous. Not loving the bedroom. I might have my first psychotic episode in there.

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  4. I was in one of Mr Zajac's apartments for a client a few years and it was sensational. Really beautiful and elegant. FYI: That tented room owes a major debt to Baldwin, no? And the first photograph, of the living room ... a space, I would argue, that looked its best at night.

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  5. Their ability to mix patterns was amazing, sometimes so courageous that it seemed almost defiant. In these rooms that isn't as evident. What strikes me, seeing these rooms again thirty something years after first seeing them, is how very inviting they appear. I want to plop down in front of the living room fireplace!

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  6. Aesthete- I agree about the living room.

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  7. Jill- That's too funny!

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  8. Morris- Yes, the rooms are warm and inviting. I also think you'd feel quite chic lounging in that dining room!

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  9. At night ... with a Rigaud cypress-scent candle burning somewhere ...

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  10. Aesthete- Absolutely. You've inspired me to go home and light my Rigaud candle. Alas, my living room does not look as such!

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  11. Husband's study is so free and flowing. Great man to have been so cutting edge!

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  12. Anonymous10:46 PM

    Jennifer, I LOVED seeing your home in House Beautiful! I'd love to see more of your home-
    Thanks,
    Laura

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  13. How intriguing! I love their style and grace in design.....that yellow room is fabulous! Great post!

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  14. I love the yellow entrance and the study, both are fabulous!

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  15. Jennifer,

    Another fabulous post!

    Thanks for bringing this duo to my attention - Brilliant work and what incredible backrounds they both had.
    Thier work is very Parish Hadley!
    I will see Albert tommorow and ask his take on Zajac and Callahan.
    So happy you enjoyed my recreation of the 1948 HG you posted!

    Cheers

    James

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  16. Jennifer, congrats on your spread in House Beautiful! I just received my copy today. I LOVE the mural your sister painted. So talented. I love the fact that she put silhouettes of the two of you. Congrats! Lynn

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  17. Thank you Lynn! I must say I'm proud of my sister and am envious that she can paint! ;)

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  18. WOWZAH! The top and bottom photos do not even need any updating; I think they would fit right in the pages of a current Elle Decor as-is! The dining room has its good points, but besides the wallpaper, the bedroom is, well, groady to the max!

    becky

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  19. Anonymous2:01 AM

    Good god - what style and elan! Imagine the excitement of returning to these rooms at the end of the day. But I must take exception with Becky - this apartment is better than anything you see in Elle Decor, et al. today! Thank you for reminding us about Zajac & Callahan.

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  20. Anonymous7:31 PM

    What a great apartment - I need to learn more about Zajac and Callahan. Can't you picture Lee Radziwill and Truman Capote gossiping in that drawing room? KDM

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  21. absolutely amazing spaces! i love the layering of patterns - so well done. thank you for the introduction!

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  22. Jennifer,

    I've always loved them and their work, which reminds me of la belle epoque style...

    Dean Farris

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