Monday, January 14, 2013

A Tribute to Richard Nelson

A few weeks ago, I learned of the recent death of designer Richard Nelson. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, Richard was a man of great style and immense charm. Having started his career with Sister Parish (even assisting her during the Kennedy White House redecoration,) Richard eventually moved to Newport where he set up his interior design business and became a much sought-after designer. He also became a fixture on the social scene there, making many friends who remained close to him until the very end.

Although I never met Richard in person (and that is something which I greatly regret,) we had an email friendship over the past few years, touching base from time to time and discussing design.  And the fact that we had two mutual acquaintances, both of whom had attended Attingham with Richard, made the friendship that much more personal.

I wrote about Richard a few years ago when I covered a late 1960s Christmas party that Richard had hosted, one which was featured in an issue of House & Garden. (You can see a few photos from that article, including one of Richard, above.) The details of the party impressed me as few people host such elaborate parties anymore.  In fact, when speaking with Richard in anticipation of that post, he mentioned that while he lived in New York as a young man, he hosted guests at his home four to five nights a week!  I can only imagine that this exuberant style of entertaining held him in good stead upon his move to Newport.

Over the years, Richard's work was featured in numerous publications including Architectural Digest.  In 1998, the Colonial-era Newport house in which he lived with his partner was featured in British House & Garden.  I am showing that article's photos below as I think Richard's house is a testament to the warmth and personality that traditional interiors do have when decorated well.  I admire that Richard stayed true to the house's period and architectural style rather than attempt to turn it into something that it wasn't.

I know that a number of Richard's friends read my blog, and to them, I extend my deepest sympathy. Richard was a decorator of the old-school and a bon vivant to boot, and they just don't make them like Richard anymore.

Nelson house photos from British House & Garden, January 1998, Keith Scott Morton photographer.


  1. I was fortunate to have known Richard, and yes, he was of the Old School, so few left. And his shop in Newport, The Red Lion, was a stylish resource.

    1. TDC- You are lucky to have known him!

  2. Beautifully said. I think many of us need to entertain more. My NY resolution was to hold at least one dinner party a month so the 4-5 a WEEK astounds me!

    1. Stefan, it does to me too! I've been so busy lately that I'm lucky if I entertain once a month!

  3. I just read your two posts on Richard Nelson, a talented designer and interesting individual and bon vivant who obviously will be missed. I like the tradition of his Newport house, and also how he built upon the quirkiness of his New York apartment (where do apartments like that exist these days?).

    When I first saw the title of this post, I confused it with George Nelson, the innovative modernist designer. Although George Nelson died a long time ago, he is at the moment being honored with a retrospective exhibition at the Yale School of Architecture. If you or any of your readers happen to be in New Haven before January 26th, this would be a worthwhile stop.
    --Road to Parnassus

  4. I am so sorry to hear this Jennifer, I adore the yellow living and bedrooms featured in British House and Garden.

    2012 Artists Series

  5. Jennifer: what a lovely send-off for such a lovely man. It is always so nice to see such heart-felt writing.