Monday, November 19, 2012

Inman Cook and the Celanese House

While looking through the November 1965 issue of House & Garden in hopes of finding Thanksgiving related photos, I found an interesting article that featured the work of designer Inman Cook.  I've seen Cook's work before, usually in mid- to late 1960s design magazines, and it has always caught my eye.  Like so many other designers of this era, Cook embraced bold prints and colors, and yet, there was a reserved elegance to his work as well.  His interiors were exuberant, but they also conveyed a traditional sense of propriety.  If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that a friend told me that Cook was Southern, so this might explain his work.  And if Cook wasn't born in the South, well, then, what do I know.

The photos seen here show Cook's decoration of a mid-19th century brownstone in midtown Manhattan that temporarily housed the Celanese House, a show house sponsored by Celanese Contemporary Fibers.  The Celanese Corporation charged Cook with decorating the four-story brownstone for a mythical family.  The challenge, though, was that Cook could only update the home through paint and fabrics woven of Celanese.  According to this article, the house was rife with exposed pipes and radiators, but as they were mostly located near windows, Cook was able to hide them using cleverly designed curtains and low screens.  Now that you know this fact, you can look at the photos below and determine which rooms were plagued with these eye-sores.  I have to say, though, that Cook was successful in his cover-up.  My only question is, if Celanese is a synthetic fiber (am I correct?), then how did the fabric near the radiator not go up in flames?

The other thing that struck me about the interiors is that if you didn't know this was a show house, you just might think a real family lived here.  Nothing looks temporary nor too staged, something that sometimes happens at show houses.  And despite some of the dated-looking prints, I must say that few of the rooms look out of place today. 

Image at top: The Living Room.  Note how the curtains extend beyond the corner of the room. This device helped to conceal exposed pipes. 

The Upper Hall, one converted into a sitting room.

 A view from the library, looking into the parlor-floor hall and the living room beyond that.

The Library

 The Dining Room

 The Foyer, what the article said was "a new room for entertaining".

 The Guest Bedroom

 The Master Bedroom

 The Guest Room

A corner view of the Master Bedroom

All images from House & Garden, November 1965, Otto Maya photographer.


  1. This may be an over-simplification, but radiators (and their uninsulated pipes) provide radiant heat. The natural air movement caused by the reaction of warm to cold heats the whole space through convection of sorts. Curtains or screens would prevent this efficient distribution of heat, but most likely would not cause a fire; one would not want direct contact of fabric to warm metal however.

  2. Maybe they didn't heat the townhouse? This is a glorious space for the time frame, but I don't think that a leopard skin with intact head would fly very well today. The upper hall is stunning. Have a super Thanksgiving week.

  3. I adore reading about Designers I have never heard of before.

  4. Anonymous8:01 PM

    What a great spread! As someone who lives in a four storey nineteenth century townhouse in New England with a turn of the (last) century heating system, I can tell you that you can put just about anything on or near the radiators and pipes and nothing really happens. I leave my mail on one of my radiators (they're steam) and it doesn't burn or curl or melt.

    1. Thank you for enlightening me! I live with c. late 1960s forced heating and air. :)

      Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    2. Anonymous6:55 PM

      Thanks, you too! Your blog is one of the things I'm grateful for -- I love reading it!