Monday, April 11, 2016
An Early Thirties Set Piece
Of skincare maven Helena Rubinstein's homes, much has been documented. I've seen photos of her avant-garde Paris apartment as well as her Manhattan abode. But what about the homes of Rubinstein's great rival, Elizabeth Arden? Other than images of her Irish castle, which was decorated by Tony Duquette, I've seen nary a photo to indicate how she lived back home in New York City. That is, until last week, when I found these 1933 photos of her Manhattan apartment. My heart skipped a beat, because most, if not all, of the early-Thirties design tropes are here: satin fabrics, robust brush fringe, mirror galore, a liberal use of stylized decorative motifs (in this case, plumage,) and a whimsically-appointed bijou bar.
The apartment's decor is credited to Nicolai Remisoff, a Russian artist who fled the Bolsheviks, alighting in Paris and later New York, where he worked as an illustrator for various Condé Nast publications and owned a chic nightclub, Club Petrushka. Remisoff also achieved acclaim as a stage designer, whose theatrical background might explain the dramatic flair of Arden's home. (According to some, Remisoff was also responsible for designing Elizabeth Arden Salons throughout the country.) After interludes in Chicago and San Francisco, Remisoff finally settled in Southern California, dividing his time between houses in Palm Springs and Los Angeles, where he worked as an art director and production designer on a slew of Hollywood movies. In fact, his swan song in the film industry was art directing that 1960 Rat Pack classic, Ocean's 11.
I suspect that if the apartment had been shown in color photographs, I might be a little less enthusiastic about it. I'd rather not see how the solarium furniture's red, white, and blue brush fringe really looked. On the other hand, how striking the living room's pink, gray, and chartreuse color scheme must have been when not inhibited by black and white photography. But color or no color, the home still makes quite an impression, even eighty-plus years after it was published. It's dramatic, flamboyant, glamorous, and, yes, even over the top- basically, everything I hope to see in an early-Thirties interior.
Image at top: Along the stairway, the French gray walls were adorned with painted feathers in shades of white, black, and gunmetal. The steps were made of black marble and were softened by an ivory carpet runner.
All images from House & Garden, March 1933.