Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Design Legend Anthony Hail

The late Anthony Hail is a designer about whom I know little. But I will say that I have been struck on more than one occasion by old photos of his interiors. I feel that only an elegant person could have created beautiful interiors such as these.

What I have been able to find out is that Hail was either a Texan or a Tennessean (conflicting reports on the internet) who was raised in Denmark and France. He studied under Walter Gropius at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, served as a correspondent for various magazines, and set up his own interior design business in San Francisco in the late 1950s. For years, Hail was the éminence grise of the San Francisco design community. In
his obituary from 2006, Hail was described as one who understood living on a grand-scale. It also seems that Hail was a bon vivant who counted Alexis, Baron de Rédé, Arturo Lopez-Willshaw, and Truman Capote as friends. This worldliness of Hail's certainly seemed to shine through in his work.

If any of you have additional information on Hail, I'd love for you to post it in the comment section.


  1. Brilliant! I'm really impressed by the picture hanging in the bathroom - perfect symmetry, courtesy of the mirror.

  2. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Another interesting post. Additional photos may be found in "Decorating for Celebrities" by Page Rense (1980).
    Marion from Kentucky

  3. I don't know anything about Mr. Hail except that he had impeccable taste and style!! I love it! Great post, Jennifer!

  4. You are the keeper of the archives of interior designers! Thank goodness you do this for all of us!
    Please go to my blog and leave me a message on one of the Obama posts.
    I'm using those posts as my archive and scrapbook, a memory poem to the day, and I would so much love if you would be a part of it.
    xo xo

  5. I had the great pleasure of knowing Tony hail. He was very charming, with a low, Southern voice. He was delightful to talk with, and was adored by many (popular in very exclusive circles, "high society"), he was also a mentor to young designers. His taste was certainly to the Neoclassic! He grew up in Denmark and the South. His rooms frequently incorporated Danish, and Swedish Neoclassic (Gustaviansk) pieces, Baltic, etc...His house on 1055 Green Street (designed by Julia Morgan) epitomized San Francisco style at the time. His rooms captured the brilliant light of the city, and a sophistication that the city had in the 50's and 60's. There was a light touch, with more of an emphasis on continental antiques. The Chinese rugs and porcelains, sang di boeuf jars museum wired as lamps, Ming period chairs etc are part of that look when San Francisco was "the Gateway to the East"
    He was a true gentleman. I miss him.

  6. Anonymous1:29 PM

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Hail, a Tennessee native who grew up in Denmark, in the early 90s when he was decorating an apartment at One Sutton Place South just below an apartment I was improving. Later I had the opportunity to visit two homes that he had decorated for the parents of clients; they were filled with wonderful Baltic neo-classical antiques, a great testament to his fine eye for objects.

  7. I am so grateful you paid this talented gentlemanly designer of the old school such a fine tribute. His style was rooted in the 18th Century but he can still teach us plenty about "savoir vivre"!

  8. I knew Tony Hail at his residence in the 1000 block of California Street, opposite the Pacific Union Club. He entertained very informally and generously late into the evening with his partner, Chuck Posey, an especially good guy. Although compelled in such rituals to indulge very widely in small talk, he was plainly occupied completely by thoughts of his own work, and would come to life much more regarding its historicism than with whatever setting had commissioned it. I also was familiar with his work in a couple of residences, and it is fair but slightly unhappy to say that it stamped the places as plainly his. The trade-off is obvious, but there was no doubt of his taste. It was opulent and unyielding.

  9. Anonymous4:33 PM

    I know you wrote this article quite a while ago, but I just wanted to say that your writing was a great tribute. And I am very lucky to know someone who has a set of items that was custom designed and pick by Anthony Hail for sale. My friend redecorated her bedroom and now she has to let her Anthony Hail items go because it does not match her new bedroom. If you know someone who might be interested in the item do let me know as she wants to find the right owner to these beautiful pieces.

    Here is a link to the items on sale.

  10. My wife and I lived in the same apartment building at 1055 California, before he moved to Green Street. Walking into his apartment was like walking into a dream of beauty. Nothing flamboyant. The beauty was an exacting harmony of curated control. He, himself, could be very intimidating, and his quick wit could painfully cut. Deo Gratias, I never fell prey to his entertaining malice, but he was never malicious just be malicious. His principal targets were people who entered his own turf to impress with silly pretensions, and would have none of that. He had a brilliant mind, sharp tongue, and Southern aristocratic delivery that combined to devastate in the most humorous way to all, except the victim. Most of us had never seen living on his grand scale. If you were invited to dinner, a round table was set up in the sitting room, covered in silk damask and a crisp, linen, cover, on which was set porcelain, silver, and crystal that no mere American mortals had ever seen before. Russian imperial flat wear, 18th century Floradanica, and stemware that belonged to Frederick the Great. in this exalted setting we ate Southern Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, the best you ever had.

    1. John, What wonderful insight! He certainly had quite a mystique!