Wednesday, September 08, 2010

On A Tangent

In the Boles family, my mother and I are known for beating a dead horse. Years after an event or situation, we're still talking and debating about it. (And usually, that's when my father picks up the newspaper and stays out of the conversation.) Sometimes, we're just not able to let something go. And over the last few weeks, the something- or rather, the someone- that I can't let go of is Michael Greer. I've written about him from time to time through the years, but lately I've been on a Michael Greer roll. His work was incredibly chic and elegant. There was a dramatic flourish to many of his rooms- and you know how drama never ceases to fascinate me. I wonder if Greer was the Miles Redd of his day? Take a look at Greer's Manhattan apartment. What do you think?

A view of his terrace at night. The awning with the wooden tassels is right up my alley.

His unbelievable bedroom. The walls were covered in beige silk and framed in black painted half-round molding that was supposed to mimic iron supports. The ceiling was also covered in fabric and trimmed with a Roman motif braid in order to look like a tent.

A desk vignette in Greer's bedroom.

The Salon with Louis XVI and Directoire antiques. Those triple arches led to the dining alcove.

Additional views of the Salon.

Trompe l'oeil paper lined the walls of the foyer. Greer employed trompe l'oeil effects often in his work.

The foyer stair. The carpet, designed by Greer, was pale gray.

The bathroom. That fabric on the walls? Trompe l'oeil painted against gray walls. I'm completely taken with that floor. Those faux iron supports look to be painted.

(Greer photo from Inside Design by Michael Greer; all other photos from America's Small Houses: The Personal Homes of Designers and Collectors by Henry Lionel Williams and Ottalie K. Williams.)


  1. Got my attention by mentioning Miles Redd. You have a point there. These a absolutely beautiful rooms.
    Have anice day.

  2. Love that terrace! Have a great day.

  3. John J. Tackett9:39 AM

    Truly classic decorating!

  4. Susan Windsor Jones9:47 AM

    More Michael Greer! I wish I could see these rooms in color.

  5. Wooden tassels-YES! that bathroom. I am inspired and that is a good thing! thanks peggy braswell

  6. Anonymous1:44 PM

    You are so correct! Timeless classic taste and style. These photos do not seem dated at all. Extraordinary.

  7. Great, classic style with enough of a twist that he certainly deserves the comparison to Miles Redd, to my mind.

    I'm intrigued by the space. Do you know where it was? The living room fireplace is close to the entrance door, and way off the center of the room and the halls and staircase appear very narrow. My guess is that it's a cut-up of other space- perhaps the upper rear floors of a brownstone or townhouse- in which case it is deserving of even further kudos for the clever use of architecture and decoration to minimize the oddities and maximize its strong points. Does the book give any indication?

  8. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Post Script: I meant to say, the rooms do not seem dated (not the photographs) and that is what is extraordinary!

  9. Michael Greer is one of the most underrated designers. These photos are now 50 years old, and basically every piece of furniture and accessory could be used today. He had a perfect sense of proportion and what is classic.

    I highly recommend his book, "Inside Design," for anyone interested in interior decor, antiques, or classic taste. The book is not only educational, but delivered with a dry, almost Diana Vreeland style wit that is amusing to read.

    Thanks for the great post.

  10. Anonymous5:19 PM

    I just got hold of a copy of the best in European decoration which you mentioned in an earlier post, and its truly a great book. I loved the appartment of james douglas and cecial beatons please. thanks for that hint.

  11. I've read every single one of your tent posts. I am not familiar with Michael Greer, but, I'm still on the same page with you. I like those tenty curtains, as well. Thanks, have you seen our tent post? Its:

  12. OK -OK -OK
    I am still screaming with envy.
    The awning with tassels we had
    attached to the florida room
    in Miami and it MADE the pool area. A great investment.
    Really it's a beautiful post. I like his work, much less the Apt.


  13. And to think, I was there, and saw it all (do you remember my story?), but was too nervous to appreciate it or to take it all in!

  14. Very nice; looks like sets from Waldo Lydecker's flat in the movie "Laura".

  15. Anonymous8:13 PM

    In my family I am known as the gruesome one, who asks the uncomfortable questions. So: What about his murder, and that sash around his feet?


  16. And then there is the grisly tale of how he was clobbered to an untimely death. Set up to look like a crime of passion, it was ultimately discovered to be a crime of revenge by an angry business associate!

  17. Anonymous2:13 PM

    Also , Greer is credited with popularizing French Empire style furniture and decoration and worked for Jackie Kennedy ... wasn't he murdered by his male secretary / lover ?

  18. magnaverde4:27 PM

    I grew up in a house full of books, but only two were decorating books. My own bible was the 1947 edition of House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration--a wedding shower gift to my mother--from whose oversize pages I acquired a taste for decorative styles that, by 1965, were already a quarter of a century out of date, as a result of which I've been playing catch-up for most of my life.

    My mother was much more of-the-moment and her book of choice was by Michael Greer, who was definitely the Miles Redd of the 1960s. She & friend had driven said friend's little yellow Corvair down to Chicago, supposedly to go shopping--with the size of the Corvair's trunk, they couldn't have been planning on buying much--but, actually, to go hear Michael Greer, who was giving a lecture at the Merchandise Mart, and she came back even more in love with him than she already was from seeing his picture in the paper.

    My mother was attractive & smart, and she often developed sudden infatuations on hunky men, meaning that my father's own place in her affections moved up or down, depending on how many men were then ahead of him on her list, but he never seemed to worry about the others, since they were generally unavailable for one reason or another: Rod Taylor & the young Clint Eastwood were two thousand miles away, & Micahel Greer might have been in Chicago for a week, but my dad probably assumed he wasn't interested in women, anyway. No, the worst effect of my mom's love affair with Michael Greer was her subsequent attempts to recast our rambling Craftsman style house into a semblance of one of Michael Greer's elegant salons, which of course, was a failure all around. By the time we moved to a new house in a new town---a house where Greer's style would have been a lot more appropriate--my mother had already returned to her first love, Rod Taylor. Even so, Michael Greer still held a spot in her heart, because, years later, she called me up at work--long distance--to tell me that he'd been killed. Somewhere, I still her copy of Micahel Greer's book. It might even be signed--I don't remember. The part I do remmeber--and was reminded about by this post--was how the book's photography & printing weren't up to the level of Michael Greer's decoration, which is too bad, because photos are all we have to go on. I doubt that there are any of his projects still intact.
    And I need to get The Best of European Decoration so I can see Jimmie Douglas' Paris apartment. There are some wonderfully evocative 1930s photos of his charismatic family & their beautiful Delano & Aldrich house online but only a single shot of what I assume is his Paris flat. All I know is when I see what looks like black velvet walls & a black velvet upholstered jib door, I need to see more.