Monday, April 11, 2011

At Home with Halston

When planning this week's posts, I realized that most of them have to do with parties or tablesettings. I can't figure out if I'm itching to go to a party or to host one. I'm hoping it's the former because God knows I don't have the time over the next few weeks to play hostess. Anyway, today's post is about entertaining chez Halston.

The October 1977 House Beautiful article from which these photos were scanned focused on the interiors of Halston's Paul Rudolph designed townhouse, one of the only townhouses built in Manhattan since World War II. (This article was written in 1977, so perhaps others have been built since then.) The interiors were awash in white and gray, a color that Halston felt looked good on everybody. In the spacious living room, furniture was upholstered in a knit flannel that the designer also used in his clothing collection. The floors were covered in a gray velvet carpet that Halston had designed for Karastan, one that resembled Halston's beloved Ultrasuede. The designer preferred a spartan way of living (that is, in his decorating), so he avoided copious amounts of accessories and artwork. Only a few choice pieces were hung here and there. The walled garden off of the living room, planted with bamboo, was backed in mirror in order to reflect light into the home. Now that's chic.

But what really caught my eye was the dining table set for a dinner party. The lucite block table was also a Rudolph design. It almost looks like a slab of ice. Because Halston felt that "candlelight coming up from below is the most flattering light", Elsa Peretti designed votives were scattered across the tabletop. Now you know that I adore Peretti's designs, especially her creations from this era, but I'll be honest- those votives look very similar to the cheapo versions that I bought at Pier 1. Not that that's a bad thing. The flatware and crystal were from Tiffany.

What's interesting is that Halston said that he never set the table as it was photographed here. Instead, he used the table as a bar or a buffet. He felt that people preferred to be close to the floor, so guests tended to dine at the marble-topped cocktail table, on hassocks on the floor, or on the stairs. And in terms of the menu, Halston believed that people ate lighter in the evenings, meaning no elaborate courses were served. Dinners often began with crudites followed by entrees of blanquette de veau, salmon, or baked potato with caviar. It was simple but delicious fare.

No mention was made in the article of whether Sister Sledge's "He's the Greatest Dancer" played at Halston's get-togethers.

All images from House Beautiful, October 1977.


  1. Instead of being a new townhouse, architectural publications always noted that this was a renovation of a carriage house, albeit an extensive reworking that surely left little visible of the original structure. An austere Brutal facade gives no indication of the interior which had usually been photographed at night with hundreds of votives. Architect Paul Rudolph's own townhouse on Beekman Place is probably an extensive renovation as well. But the most notable of the completely new townhouses up to that time was the French style residence built the decade before for Paul and Bunny Mellon.

  2. Paul Rudolph was one of my heros. My dream was to go to Yale Architecture School where he had been dean & designed the building - somehow at the end of college I just wasn't ready for more school!! The townhouse is fabulous - don't you just love the wall of windows?! My father-in-law worked for the company that owned Halston so I inherited some great vintage things, including a fur. This is all so of that era - even the eating at the cocktail table - can't you just picture Bianca Jagger in all white sitting there?!

  3. Classicist- Thank you! I knew that you would know.

  4. Quintessence- That's a very cool story! You should blog about your vintage Halston pieces. I'd love to see them!

  5. It is hard to believe at this point, but I was acutally in
    Rudolph's apartment in the late
    60's. He did not have a whole townhouse, but rather the top two floors of a townhouse.
    It was on Beekman Place, with fantastic views over the East River. I lived across the street.
    The apartment was not as streamlined and as pared down as Halston'a house, and was almost scary with cantalivered walkway and balcony over the view, and
    railless stairs!

  6. New York in the 70s--I lived on E.63rd Street for a couple of years--such a great vibe. Halston, always amazing.

  7. amazing how contemporary his space looks, with that era roaring back in style!

  8. OMG! I've been to parties in that house! So good to see it again.
    I love how you unearth gems like this.
    xo xo

  9. Valorie- I bet you have some great stories to share about Halston parties! Fun!