Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Diana Vreeland's "Garden in Hell"

That is how she described it.  "Red is the great clarifier - bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can't imagine being bored with it - it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden - but it had to be a garden in hell." 

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" and have been unable to get her style and look on life out of my mind. She was an extraordinary woman who lived through the beauty of the Belle Epoch (she was born in Paris in 1903), made her mark during the Roaring Twenties in New York and right on to nights at Studio 54 and changing the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art into the glamorous institution it is today. 

Known as the woman who changed fashion (working for Harper's Bazaar from 1937-1962, and Editor-in-Chief at Vogue from 1962-1971), she also had her own ideas about interior decoration. 

“There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself."

I think that is the truest statement that can be made.


The front door of the Vreeland's apartment at 550 Park Avenue. 
“Style—all who have it share one thing: originality.”
The dining room was half covered in a striped fabric, while the opposite wall was lined with bookshelves. Books played a major part in her life, and she had said that from the time of her marriage until she went to work (12 years), all she did was read. 
 “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”


“It was all done in 1957, and even then it was already a period piece.”Looking towards the front door and dining room from the living room. The bookshelves turn the corner and enter this room as well.
The one wall of the living room not covered in chintz was filled with photos and memories. 
“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red. I can never get painters to mix it for me. It’s exactly as if I’d said, ‘I want rococo with a spot of Gothic in it and a bit of Buddhist temple’—they have no idea what I’m talking about. About the best red is to copy the color of a child’s cap in any Renaissance portrait.”

Unable to get the perfect red mixed, she had Billy Baldwin cover almost everything in a scarlet Fleurs de Mal chintz. The wall to wall red carpets covered the floor in the living and dining rooms.
Photo from Architectural Digest

“When I arrived in America, I had these very dark red nails which some people objected to, but then some people object to absolutely everything.”
Photo from Architectural Digest

Red peonies and a corner of curiosities.
Photo from Architectural Digest
 “In my leisure time I appear rather... impractical. But I do think that I’ve made a practical woman out of myself. You can’t have worked the number of years I have, through hell or high water, without being basically practical.”
Mrs. Vreeland used the same chintz in the bedroom, but in a different color. Her dressing table was covered in perfume bottles, shells, and a photo in a red frame of her dear husband and greatest passion, Reed.

On her bed is a silk scarf where every night her shoes and handbag were laid out in the evening.              “A very happy room to be in, even when I was ill.”