Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Kennedy Seal of Approval

By the time this blog post is published, "The Kennedys" will have debuted on Reelz channel. Based on what I've read, the miniseries isn't entirely accurate, but I admit that if I had Reelz, I would probably watch it. I think that more than anything, I'm curious how Katie Holmes portrays Jackie Kennedy.

And speaking of Jackie Kennedy, I found these two photos of her New York apartment c. 1971 when she was Mrs. Onassis. In a way, her home is what I would have expected. There are rows and rows of books and lovely antiques and bibelots. But what I might like best about these photos is the contemporary fabric used on both the sofa and the dining table. Now that is not what I expected. The fabric was designed by Design Works, a textile firm located in Bedford Stuyvesant that trained people in the craft of textile design and production. The company, created by an agency that was founded by Senator Robert Kennedy, was championed by Onassis who, in fact, recruited D.D. and Leslie Tillett to teach and mentor the Design Works employees.

The two fabrics shown here were part of a collection that Design Works created for Connaissance Fabrics. The sofa featured "Large Feather", a print evocative of African textiles that was printed on cotton duck. The colorway was black and "hot rust". The dining table was covered in "Fish Head Plaid", an exuberant geometric print of brown, white, and coral. Yes, the colors are evocative of the early 1970s, but regardless, the prints added some zing to the rooms' more traditional furnishings. As the House Beautiful article stated, they gave "an additional dimension" to the antiques and objects.

And look closely at the shot of the library. On the sofa's side table is a Coke bottle encrusted in cement and shells. It was made by John Kennedy, Jr. for his mother. A poignant piece that makes me kind of sad.

All images from House Beautiful, November 1971.


  1. Perhaps it was the earlier Sister Parish influence, but certainly a Billy Baldwin contribution that a contemporary handmade fabric gives a freshness to an otherwise traditional interior. (I think Zajac & Callahan may have helped later, but unsure of the dates). It would seem that Mrs. Onassis was trying to give a livable home for her children rather than the glitzy decor preferred by Mr. Onassis.

  2. Such style and willing to take a risk in design!

    Art by Karena

  3. If I am not mistaken, Mrs Onassis was guided by the
    designer Harrison Cultra, during the period in which
    these photographs were taken.

  4. Her sister's recent spread in Elle Decor highlights Lee Radziwill's fabulous taste as well - her Paris apartment is extremely elegant...I particularly admire her Le Manach wallpaper, upholstery and curtains all in one room - c'est magnifique!!

  5. Anonymous10:16 PM

    At the time of her death and the auction of her estate, the apartment, as shown in the auction catalog looked entirely different. The look was lighter, with a combination of sofas both upholstered and slipped and an ease of decor that truly surprised me. I think her clothing and jewels were more paramount than her decor. From the looks of the rooms, they were certainly not overly decorated by antique furniture but certainly looked collected.