Over the weekend, I learned of the death of designer Barbara D'Arcy. As many of you know, D'Arcy was a designer and merchandiser with Bloomingdale's where she was responsible for creating the department store's much loved and much discussed model rooms. According to many of my New York friends, D'Arcy's displays were the hottest thing in interior design during the 1960s and early 70s. While it might seem strange to us today, department store model rooms were once at the forefront of design, usually showcasing the latest and greatest
trends. And customers often made special trips to the department stores just to see the latest model rooms. I think that the only thing comparable to this today might be the 7th Floor at Bergdorf's with its ever changing displays and vignettes.
I scanned some photos from Bloomingdale's Book of Home Decorating to give you an idea of what D'Arcy's rooms looked like. Obviously, many of the rooms reek of what was hot in the 1960s, something that makes these rooms of their time rather than timeless. But of course, that was the whole point of these model rooms; they were meant to be capsules of trends and flavors of the moment, a place in which Bloomingdale's could showcase their latest offerings. I think what is most notable about D'Arcy's rooms, though, is how accomplished she was at decorating both traditional spaces as well as groovy, futuristic looking rooms. It seems that D'Arcy's creativity was truly endless.
Image at top: According to her New York Times obituary, D'Arcy's Cave Room, at top, was one of her most famous rooms. The molded walls were made of sprayed urethane foam, while the floor was covered in one-fourth-inch square mirror tiles.
This room was inspired by D'Arcy's visit to a Japanese converted country farmhouse. The walls were covered in a plaster and straw mix, something that made the walls look "hairy", according to D'Arcy. The large support beams on the ceiling were large trees, while the smaller beams were small trees and saplings.
A model room made to resemble an Early American keeping room.
D'Arcy wrote that this room was a recreation of one she saw in a Portuguese palace. The floor was made of plywood painted to resemble marble.
D'Arcy wrote, "This room would certainly belong to a member of the Saturday Generation." By designing hyper modern model rooms, Bloomingdale's hoped to entice young, hip customers to visit the store on weekends- hence the term, "Saturday Generation".
According to D'Arcy, this room "combines everything." Indeed, it did, including Chinoiserie chairs, a brushed nickel and mirror cocktail table, urns holding flowers, and gunmetal patent vinyl wallcovering.
Another memorable room was this room in which everything- furniture, walls, and floors- were made of cardboard. The furniture was designed in collaboration with Frank Gehry.
This was the "Mary Wells Lawrence Room". The color palette was tonal, and yet D'Arcy introduced texture to give the room dimension.
I suppose this is another "Saturday Generation" room. Plastic furniture and a flokati rug were placed against a backdrop of a wall upon which a projected image of a deep sea diver was shown.
All images from Bloomingdale's Book of Home Decorating by Barbara D'Arcy.