Friday, September 05, 2014
Ava Gardner's Abodes
When I think of Ava Gardner, it's not her Oscar-nominated performance in Mogambo nor her upbringing as a North Carolina sharecropper's daughter that come to mind. I also don't immediately think of her tumultuous marriage to Frank Sinatra. Rather, it's her penchant for bullfighters that inevitably pops into my head before all of her other claims to fame. I don't know why, but there it is.
It was the bullfighter thing that I thought of when I first saw photos of Gardner's George Stacey-decorated Madrid residence in Katherine Tweed's 1964 book, The Finest Rooms, and, more recently, in Maureen Footer's enjoyable and informative monograph, George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic. (If, like me, you gravitate to books about design greats, then you should consider adding Footer's book to your library.) One might have expected a home that was overtly sensual, much like the sultry characters that Gardner so often played. And yet, her home was in reality rather prim and proper thanks to an attractive assortment of refined antiques, sumptuous fabrics, and traditional paintings.
In her later years, Gardner quit Madrid for London, where she eventually took up residence in a Knightsbridge flat. According to Footer, Stacey decorated both a house and an apartment in London for the actress, although the Architectural Digest issue from which the photos below were taken make no mention of Stacey. Nevertheless, Gardner's London flat, like her Madrid apartment, was a model of elegant- and some might say aesthetically cautious- decor. But for all of the home's play-it-safe furnishings, the residence wasn't lacking in glamour. It was a fitting last home for a woman whose earthy good-looks and, at times, earthier lifestyle helped to make her a true Hollywood star.
Her Madrid Home:
Her Home in London:
All photos from Architectural Digest, April 1992, with the exception of photos #2 and #3, which appear in George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic.