Friday, April 18, 2014
Carrie Donovan's Fashionable Lair
I long admired the style of fashion editor Carrie Donovan, whose Gobstopper-sized pearls, exaggerated eyeglasses, and Old Navy commercials helped to elevate the fashion maven to legend-status. So I was especially excited when I found these photos of Donovan's Manhattan apartment, circa 1975. Yes, her apartment might look a little wild and wacky today, but these photographs were published in the mid-1970s, a time when flamboyance and colorful personalities were the norm rather than the exception in fashionable society. And remember, this was also the era when Donovan wore modish turbans, and anyone who wears a turban must have a flair-filled home to match.
What is most notable about this apartment is Donovan's highly-enthusiastic use of one fabric throughout her apartment: a tulip-print cotton by Gloria Vanderbilt. The fabric covered most of Donovan's living room furniture, including banquettes, slipper chairs, and tables. In fact, Donovan was so enamored of this tulip print that she is shown wearing it in her portrait by artist Ben Morris. (You can see the portrait in the photo directly below the text.) The splashy red fabric must have served as a snappy backdrop for some very fashionable entertaining.
And then, in a design move reminiscent of Donovan's mentor, Diana Vreeland, Donovan chose the same tulip-print cotton for her bedroom, although there, the fabric's vivid red coloration gave way to a white background. (If you'll recall, Vreeland also used a single fabric, a floral chintz, in both her "Garden in Hell" living room and her bedroom, although in her boudoir, she chose the blue colorway rather than the red version used in her living room.) The effect is much sweeter and more soothing than the living room's zesty shade of red.
Did Donovan borrow this design idea from Vreeland? I'm not certain. But what I do know is that Donovan lived in an apartment whose style was almost as big as her persona- and those ubiquitous eyeglasses and pearls, of course.
All photos from Home Decorating by House Beautiful, Spring 1975.