Wednesday, April 20, 2011

T. Gordon Little and the Decorator Dorm

Decorator Dorm...that's what some people call the building in which I live. It makes sense as we have many designers, showroom owners, antiques dealers, a lighting expert, and a few design bloggers who call Plaza Towers home. I guess you could say safety in numbers. This isn't a recent phenomenon, either. Designers have long gravitated to Plaza Towers because of the location (so convenient to ADAC) and the "blank canvas" appeal of the apartments. You can make them contemporary, midcentury modern, traditional, or, to use a term that I'm not crazy about, transitional.

The apartment that I'm showing here is what we non-New Yorkers might call a "New York apartment." That's a compliment that many of us bestow upon chic apartments that have that Manhattan look to them. You know, a sophisticated apartment that comes to life at night thanks to a clever use of mirror, reflective finishes, and luxe objects. This particular apartment was the home of the late, well-known Atlanta decorator T. Gordon Little, a man known for his great style. Like so many designers of his era, he had a very fine collection of antique furniture and porcelain and artwork. But what gives his home snap is the way in which he mixed in contemporary pieces like a glass and chrome cocktail table and a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona stool. While most of the furniture and accessories might be deemed traditional, there was a sophistication to everything that made his home seem quite cosmopolitan rather than stuffy.

Keep in mind that these photos are over thirty years old (they appeared in the first issue of Southern Accents in 1977), so the colors might seem a little drab. Still, I think the photos prove that traditional antiques don't have to be as old-fashioned looking as some people might think.

One more thing- I couldn't resist including Little's thoughts on "eclectic", a look that many of today's designers strive for and a term for which Little did not care. He said, "I believe that the truly eclectic interior contains pieces that seem unrelated yet, in fact, are related, either intentionally through scale or connotation (historic, literary, romantic or intellectual) or simply by the personality and idiosyncrasies of the person who assembled them. I feel that so many rooms professing to be eclectic are merely a mishmash of totally unrelated objects thrown together cavalierly in the hope that, by some miracle, or just because they are unrelated and therefore fashionable, they will look wonderful." Just some food for thought.

A very good antique Chippendale card table stood amongst a mirrored wall and bookshelves in the home's entryway.

A daytime view of the living room, a space in which Little managed to include a fair amount of furniture. Thank goodness for these photos because furniture placement in my living room has, at times, given me fits.

And the living room at night.

A William Kent console holds an antique terracotta figure, porcelain cachepots, and antique French candelabra.

A glass top dining table was supported by an old stripped pine Corinthian capital. The chairs were Irish Chippendale. I think that my favorite part of the dining room was Little's porcelain collection displayed amongst the bookshelves.

Remember, it was 1977, so the Mylar paper on the kitchen walls was quite chic at the time. My kitchen still has the original lights like that seen here.

The chocolate brown study was the most modern looking room of the apartment. The closet's louvered doors were covered in panel wallpaper (new at the time), making the doors look like a screen. Now that was clever.

Photography by Sutlive/Warren.


  1. Move me in!!!! Tres Chic!!!!

  2. I do not like to see a mirror over a sofa -- and he did it twice! No doubt because of the use of sheets of mirror elsewhere. I presume it was a two bedroom apartment, but the Master Bedroom was not shown; exclusion was a fault that the magazine never resolved in its whole history. The transformation of the closet doors was my favorite. I understand the designer's objection to "eclectic", but I use it as a complimentary term for a skillful integration of various styles. There are too many decorators today that just throw a lot of stuff together; that is "mishmash".

  3. Very good post! Little is absolutely right about "eclectic." The rooms do not appear dated at all except perhaps, as you point out, for the mylar wall covering - and they are thrity-five years old. The need for a fireplace in a building that is chimneyless is interesting - when we bought our flat we inherited a pretty French marble mantle that neither of us felt we needed. That apart, Gordon Little's design is classic.

  4. Dear Jennifer,

    Another GREAT post! I remember meeting T Gordon, and what a gent he was...loved his white Rolls Royce! Thanks for sharing,

    Dean Farris, Naples, FL

  5. Classicist- SA did include the master bedroom, but I did not show it b/c it was too difficult to scan (I wouldn't be able to show the entire room). I will say, though, that it wasn't a particularly exciting room :)

  6. Zac Abramson9:23 AM

    Gordon was an old friend of mine. When I purchased my Federal cottage in Florence Alabama, Gordon, who was then in his 80s, flew over from Atlanta to consult with me on the restoration and design. I still have all his notes and cards full of advice and funny comments. He was the best!

  7. Zac- One word: Wow! He had such great style. Hang on to those notes! I bet your cottage looks amazing!

  8. I love the topic of eclectic. The look is really derived from the previous eras of primogenitor, when people inherited generational houses with all the contents. Family possessions combined from years of accumulations, sequels, and sojourns. The character displayed by all of these layers gives one a sense of comfort in continuity.

  9. The discussion of eclecticism is an interesting one. I totally agree with the consensus that creating an eclectic interior is much more difficult than it looks! Organized chaos, if you will. I love that these spaces still look livable today...with the exception of the mylar, of course!

  10. I have a copy of this issue somewhere. I remember my parents had it when I was growing up. I thought the glass-topped table with corithian capital was so cool. Still do! You couldn't miss Mr.Little all over Buckhead in that Rolls.

  11. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Classic interior, classic building. Makes me even more glad we made the move to Plaza Towers.

  12. G. Boyd- How could I have forgotten to mention the Rolls??!!! :)

  13. Wow, what a pretty apartment and I do like his interpretation of 'eclectic' - that's a hard one and very personal for a lot of people I guess. You do have to be careful so a space doesn't look like a mishmash.

  14. Anonymous10:43 PM

    Great post! How stylish and current many of the elements still are.

    Karen T.

  15. I have every issue of the first two years of "Southern Accents" in mint condition if anyone is interested in purchasing them.