I recently came across a beautiful book by Paige Rense, a former Editor-in-Chief of Architectural Digest. In it she interviews twenty of the world's best interior designers of the time.
The book was published in 1980 and includes words with the likes of Angelo Donghia, Lee Radziwill, Bruce Gregga, Albert Hadley, Mrs. Henry Parish II, Sally Sirkin Lewis, and Valerian Rybar.
Here are some examples of what these designers had to say about their background, client relations, their likes, dislikes and design in general.
ANGELO DONGHIA says....
Formal design education is necessary because...
it gives security to people who want to get into this business. It does not give them the design background, because only experience gives you that.
Design is not a science. It is not factual. Design is a point of view.
Clients were coming to Yale Burge and getting Angelo Donghia instead, well, they had never heard of me. I quickly learned that two things were very important. Integrity and a strong point of view. When you make a statement, you don't say, "Well, we could do it this way or that way." When people are spending a lot of money they want to know they are spending it the right way, that you have thought it through. So I say, "This would be perfect for this room. I've thought about it very carefully, done many trials, and I've found that this is perfect."
Clients must feel that they are number one. They don't want to know that you have other jobs.
You can never be too busy for them. I call my clients daily. Too many people treat decorating like an art form. It's not. Decorating is a business. It's about buying and selling. Along with your tastes, you are selling furniture and the works.
SALLY SIRKIN LEWIS says...
Years ago people were terribly insulted if they were called decorators...
They considered themselves interior designers. True, I do consider myself an interior designer, because I design. Half the items that go into a house, I design, because I don't like to do the same thing twice. They say that a decorator is one who chooses draperies, picks a sofa and picks a fabric. A designer goes in from the beginning with the architect, understands everything drawn on the blueprints, everything about lighting and structure. A designer may say "Let's not use anything that's sold in the marketplace." They design the rugs, the fabrics, the furniture, the lighting...everything.
Amateur designers are frightened with scale. Things are so ditsy. And they usually have no sophistication in color. They'll do the expected, what's seen in the magazines. The "color of the month".
Scale, color and style...those are the three things most people are really insecure about.
If you are doing your own house, do what's important to make the environment right for you. Don't adhere to any rules. As far as I'm concerned, there are no rules. But do avoid "suites" of furniture, don't use sets and try to be loose. It will look more interesting than the pat, set thing.
Study the work of good designers and always buy quality.
MRS. HENRY PARISH II says...
In 1934 I started decorating professionally for reasons of necessity...
With the crash, we knew our whole way of life had to be entirely different. My husband came home Christmas Eve and I knew something had happened. Finally, he said, "My job is changing and we will have to live in a different style, but we will work it out."
The Monday after Christmas I found, in the village, a room in part of the saddle shop for forty-five dollars a month. I took it for my office and went to New York the same day. I walked into what I was told was a wholesale fabric house. There seems to be a lot of indecision on everybody's part about whether it was Stroheim & Romann of Schumacher, but it was one or the other. I went through the revolving doors, panic-stricken. I'd never been through revolving doors, but I asked to speak to the president. No one ever knows how I got to see him. I didn't know his name. I simply said, "Our life has changed and I want to make money and help my husband and I want a charge account". He looked completly baffled. I had the definite feeling that he would give me a card right away just to get me out. And he did.
I thanked him and then said, "Oh, by the way, may I use the telephone? I want to call my children in the country and see if they're all right." He replied, "Lady, this is not a business for you." But I had the card, and I brought aproximately a hundred fabric samples back to my new little office. I set it up right away, brought some furniture in from my own house, put some flowers around, and when Harry came home we went to the village. I asked if he noticed anything different. He didn't, so I showed him the sign, made that day. It read "Mrs. Harry Parish II, Interiors."
And that was the beggining of my career.
more to come.....................