Friday, January 10, 2014
Kevin McNamara Masters the Neutral Palette
If you have some of the old Architectural Digest books, you have likely seen these photos of a circa 1975 Manhattan apartment, which had been decorated to perfection by Kevin McNamara. Originally published in the November/December 1975 issue of AD, these photos are worth taking a second look at because they capture decorating with a neutral palette at its very best.
The 1970s was a great time for decorating with colors akin to "a Carr's water biscuit." Neutral-minded decorators often injected their beige-y interiors with judicious doses of dark, and sometimes glossy, shades of black, chocolate brown, and dark green, which helped to add drama and body to otherwise subdued settings. These same decorators were also adept at mixing antiques and modern furnishings, a combination that infused these spaces with both patina and sparkle. And finally, the fabrics that were seen in these interiors tended to be a combination of rough-hewn linen, glazed cotton, leather, and velvet, all of which imparted either luster or texture to their surroundings. Basically, these 1970s interiors were the antithesis of those seen in the 1990s, when neutral spaces, which were then all the rage, were meant to exude serenity, calm, and tranquility. Back in the 1970s, chic interiors were arranged as backdrops for sophisticated living, not as inducements for contemplation and self-reflection.
But back to the McNamara-decorated apartment: I don't see much here that is dated, except, perhaps the wall to wall carpet in the guest bedroom. But other than that, I'd say that this apartment is a pitch-perfect example of the richness and elegance that can be attained when decorating with mostly non-colors.
Image at top: The dining room had black lacquered walls and those great Billy Baldwin-style brass bookcases.
Another view of the dining room.
The living room contained 18th-century French furniture and Oriental porcelain.
More views of the living room.
The walls of the master bedroom were painted in a dark dill-green shade. The bed came from Rose Cumming's shop.
The guest bedroom with its French Empire desk and wall to wall carpet.
All photos from Architectural Digest, November/December 1975, Richard Champion photographer.