Tuesday, September 08, 2015
Modern Meets Traditional
Variations on a modern theme. That's how a 1940 issue of House & Garden described the Sutton Place apartment, seen here, of socialite Mrs. J. Cheever Cowdin. Decorated by Virginia Conner, who was also the decorator of Henry and Clare Boothe Luce, the apartment appears as if right out of a sophisticated late 1930's movie. Like many of that era's cinematic Manhattan apartments, Mrs. Cowdin's home is, on the whole, traditional, polished, and fitting for a lady of society. And yet, there is nothing dowdy about this apartment, something which can be attributed to Conner's choice of high-style, glamorous, and, for that time, modern accents.
If you look at the apartment's most traditional room, the pine-paneled library (which, quite frankly, looks a little squashed by the room's low ceiling), you'll find the traditionalism relieved by beige corduroy-covered armchairs. In fact, throughout the apartment, Conner used shades of beige, white, and blue to help lend a clean, modern feel to the home. Mirror can be seen throughout the apartment, especially in the foyer, where it covered walls, and in the dining room, where it was applied to the top of the dining table. And there are even accents that remind me of Syrie Maugham, especially the foyer's palm-frond plaster table.
When I look at these photos, I can't help but think of the movie Laura, in which Gene Tierney plays the title role. Like Mrs. Cowdin, Laura also lives in a traditional-yet-glamorous Manhattan apartment. I'm reminded of the scene in Laura's apartment in which Dana Andrews, who plays a detective, refers to Laura as a dame. A disgusted Waldo Lydecker, played by Clifton Webb, admonishes the detective and then asks, "Is this the home of a dame?"
I think it's safe to say that Mrs. Cowdin's apartment, like that of Laura, was definitely not the home of a dame.