Thursday, August 07, 2014

Zajac and Callahan: The Later Years

If you have followed my blog for the last few years, you know that I have frequently featured the work of designers Edward Zajac and the late Richard Callahan. Zajac and Callahan, as the design duo was better known, became design-world darlings in the late 1960s, when their work appeared almost constantly on the covers of American shelter magazines. What made their work so popular at that time was the designers' enthusiasm for zesty color and bold patterns. In fact, it was not uncommon to see five or six different patterns used within one Zajac and Callahan-decorated room. But rather than mixing color and pattern in random fashion, Zajac and Callahan concocted their pattern-laden decor with planning and forethought, something which resulted in rooms that were cohesive in spite of their variety and robustness.

Throughout their careers, Zajac and Callahan remained committed to marrying disparate patterns in their work.  In the Long Island home of Callahan's sister and brother-in-law (seen here and originally published in House & Garden, January 1999), the designers took an exuberant and playful approach to the home's decor, which H&G described as "American rococo."  Here, the Zajac and Callahan medley included Chinoiserie-motif wallpaper (a custom print designed by Zajac,) floral chintz, geometric-print ceiling paper, damasks, and even foliage wallpaper.  And tucked amongst this pattern-on-pattern was a collection of antique furniture in an array of styles, something which elevated this decorative play of prints to a level of maturity that was appropriate to its surroundings.

More than anything else, though, I think this home- and really all of the other Zajac and Callahan projects that I have shown on my blog- was evidence of the design duo's love of decorating.  Only enthusiastic decorators like Zajac and Callahan could have concocted such an enchanting blend of fabrics, color, prints, and furniture under one roof.

Image at top: The house's entrance hall.  The unique window valances were designed by Edward Zajac.

The living room.  The sofa was covered in "Fairoak", a Rose Cumming chintz.

The fireplace in the master bedroom.  The floral-print carpet was by Stark.

The dining room walls were covered in a custom paper designed by Edward Zajac.

The study with its foliage-papered walls ("Foret Foliage" wallpaper by Brunschwig & Fils.)

The master bedroom.  The bed canopy was based on a valance seen in a Venetian palazzo.

All photos from House & Garden, January 1999, Melanie Acevedo photographer.


  1. My friend David has been creating mirrors similar to some of the ones that Zagac did. They're fabulous!

  2. I can hardly express how much I love the design works of Zajac and Callahan! The artful choices of furnishings, accessories, and fabrics is stunning. The color palettes, superb!

    The Arts by Karena

  3. This is beyond strange for me. I am just starting out blogging about my home and dying to work in the field of interior design and was feeling frustrated about it all when I actually googled "how to be an amazing interior blogger" and this is what popped up! My last name is Zajac! I'm sure this all seems ridiculous but for me its a sign that I needed. Thank you for your post! It couldn't have come on a better day!!

  4. Great design never goes out of style! I have always loved Zajac and Callahan! Great posts!

    Jamie Herzlinger

  5. I love when you show the work of Zajac & Callahan! I just adore their work. I remember seeing this when it was published and saved it. Have you come across the house they did for Albert and Pearl Nipon in Philadelphia that was in AD? I recall it was well done, but a bit subdued as far as pattern and color mixes that made these two so marvelous. Thanks for another great post!

  6. These are some great designs that will never die. Thank you for sharing! I am just curious about how the staircase of such a house looks like. Do you have any pictures?

  7. linjr1:12 PM

    Sadly, I just read that Edward Zajac passed away on August 10. I am so pleased you've published Zajac & Callahan's work on the Peak of Chic; they're truly inspirational & well-deserve to be remembered. Wondering if you or anyone has any photos of the two of them. I've been unable to find any online.


    1. So sad to hear of yet another significant designer passing. Mr. Zajac came to my New York book party, and it was a real thrill to meet him. If you visit his Facebook page, you'll see a photo of him.