Monday, July 18, 2016
Valerian Rybar's Feverish Eclecticism
Recently, two neighbors of mine, both fellow children of the Eighties, joined me in watching my all-time favorite mini-series, Lace, which I sheepishly admit to owning on DVD. I adore Lace, because everything about it captured the flash and the cash of the 1980s, though in slightly dramatic fashion. Most of the characters were chauffeured around in Rolls-Royces, donned high-fashion wardrobes (think Ungaro by day, Vicky Tiel by night), and plotted revenge and love affairs while frequenting only the most glamorous locales, including Ascot and various French chateaux. Life wasn't bad for the lead characters, except for that secret that almost led to their undoing.
With Eighties decadence on the brain, it seems fitting to talk about The Carlyle, a Houston, Texas restaurant that, no doubt, would have been just the sort of establishment that the ladies of Lace would have been drawn to. Decorated by that virtuoso of haute luxury, designer Valerian Rybar, The Carlyle was a veritable den of design iniquity, all mirror, velvet, wanton red, and risque black. Named after the Upper East Side hotel, The Carlyle was opened in 1983 by Houston businessman, Harold Farb, who gave carte blanche to Rybar. And it's a good thing he did, too, because otherwise, we might not have had the opportunity to behold such a lavishly appointed restaurant.
There was a mirror-clad Entrance Foyer that led to the Reception Room, which was outfitted in an Eighties-inflected version of the Neoclassical style. "Although I call it Neo-Classical, the result incorporates elements deriving from ancient Rome, the Baroque, the Directoire period," opined Rybar. "The cool discipline of a Neo-Classical frameworks allows you to get away with some feverish eclecticism!"
Dinner and dancing took place in red-drenched rooms, which, like the other spaces, was embellished with Rybar's profuse use of mirror. And finally, there was the Venetian Room, a private dining room that was swathed in chic black. Said Rybar, "This all-black decor makes guests appear extraordinarily glamorous."
"A public space of the scale and ambition of this one will surely attract all manners of adventurers," predicted Rybar. But based on what I've read online, those adventurers never really came, forcing Farb to later close the supper club. A shame, really, because for all of the interiors' flashiness, the restaurant had a flair that, today, seems rather novel and even exciting. After a decade of dining among rough-hewn wood, industrial light fixtures, and Edison bulb-lighting, I, for one, would be thrilled to spend a Saturday night ensconced in crimson and mirror.
All images from Architectural Digest, September 1983, Jaime Ardiles-Arce photographer