From Calvin Klein’s coffee table to Baroness Pauline de Rothschild’s chintzy bedroom, Abrams’ beautiful new book of Horst’s photographs of interiors is a perfect portal to publisher-advocated voyeurism
Text by Ana Kinsella
Who among us would turn down the opportunity to look around the homes of some of the world’s most glamourous, interesting people? This was the motivation behind Vogue’s 1968 Book of Houses, Gardens, People, which collected the work of photographer Horst P. Horst as he got up close and personal with aristocrats, designers and artists at home. Abrams and Chronicle have now published Around That Time, which reprints much of the original book’s contents, including essays on the fabulous occupants and their world by Valentine Lawford, Horst’s long-term partner. With encouragement from Diana Vreeland, these colourful, opulent images constituted something of a comeback for Horst, who had made his name in mostly black-and-white photography. Vreeland, who arrived at Vogue in 1963 determined to make it modern and dynamic, employed Horst as a kind of conduit between the world of fashion and that of high society – vital for the magazine to remain relevant during the youthquaking 1960s.
Elsa Peretti (above)
“The Italian-born jeweler, model and Studio 54 VIP posed in her East 55th Street bedroom with one of her two King Charles spaniels. She wore scarlet pajamas designer by her best friend, Halston, who lived in the apartment before she did.”
Elsa Peretti represents much of what glitters about 1970s New York glamour – jewellery and beautiful gowns, art and interiors. She shared much with her friend Halston, although the pair also fought, and apparently Peretti once burned a fur coat he had given to her. Her spare apartment in midtown Manhattan was clearly a place to escape from the melee of the city, with bare white walls, simple furniture and wabi-sabi flourishes.
Cy and Tatiana Twombly
“Canvases stacked against the ballroom wall. The Twomblys were always shifting and shuffling their furniture and art from room to room, changing the display, as it were. But as each item was precious, chosen with scrupulous aesthetic care, there was a total lack of clutter and untidiness. ‘Ideally, I would have nothing but statues – and trees, of course,’ the artist said.”
American painter Cy Twombly married Tatiana Franchetti, a portrait painter, member of the Italian aristocracy and descendant of the Borgia family in 1958. The pair then lived in an apartment in a Roman palazzo on Piazza de Ricci, a space for the couple’s art collection as well as Twombly’s own works. Outside, Lawford writes, “acquaintances passing below whistle or shout up from the piazza; and conversations thus begun often continue through the window for hours.”
“All the rooms were painted in tones of white, whether cool or warm (including a creamy hue named for an Auvergne cheese, Crème de Cantal). Floors were black or dark brown: ‘They show off my Art Deco pieces like diamonds in a Cartier showcase.’ The major pieces here were from a house decorated by Elsie de Wolfe, c. 1930.”
It’s hardly a surprise that Karl Lagerfeld likes to decorate his own homes. In 1974, he was living in an apartment on the Place Saint-Sulpice, near the Jardin du Luxembourg, decorated in homage to the glamour of Art Deco design. All the major names of that period were there in Horst’s portfolio, including Roux-Spitz and Compagnie des Arts Français, every object positioned with precision by the designer himself.
Ahmet and Mica Ertegün
“The clothes, the mood, the sculpted soar of the staircase – all curvaceously, seductively modern. Mica wore Adolfo pantaloons and bolero. Above the couch, an Ellsworth Kelly painting, York (1959). Chair by Henry B. Urban. On the table, ivory boxes and plates found in the Portobello Road and an ostrich egg from South Africa.”
The Upper East Side townhouse of Mica and Ahmet Ertegün, interior designer and music mogul respectively, was named by Vogue’s Polly Devlin in 1969 as “one of the few relevantly modern houses in Manhattan, a house with the feeling of a space venture.” Paintings by René Magritte and Jack Youngerman sat alongside Victorian curiosities and an 18th-century banqueting table in their relentlessly contemporary home.
Conte and Contessa Brandolini D’Adda
“At the Brandolinis’ Left Bank apartment, which surrounded a courtyard, a Venetian exuberance was contained within a traditional 17th-century French building. In her bedroom, the contessa (dressed by Cardin) rested her hand on the head of a 17th-century cutout of a Dutch boy. Behind her, a sepia wash drawing by Victor Hugo.”
With a little help from society decorator Renzo Mongiardino, who also filled the houses of the likes of Gianni Versace and Lee Radziwill, the Brandolinis made a luxurious, opulent home on the Left Bank. It was maximal and catholic in its taste, juxtaposing imported Genoan frescos with Louis XIV Boulle armoires and drawings by John Ruskin. Of course, there were contemporary touches, too – terracotta busts of the couple’s sons, for instances, providing a little modernity.
“Calvin Klein exemplified relaxed elegance in 1975, in the living room of his 46th floor Manhattan apartment, decorated in minimalist black and white by Joseph D’Urso. He had an easy rapport with Horst – who by then had been making friends (and influencing people) in society and fashion for some four decades.”
By the mid 1970s, Calvin Klein’s name was synonymous with contemporary American fashion. Already a member of New York’s fashion establishment, he was also becoming a vital part of the downtown scene, fraternizing with Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger at Studio 54. His Upper East Side apartment was a symbol of his success at the time – all polished white walls and smooth black leather.
Gianni and Donna Marella Agnelli
“Donna Marella in the salone dipinto, or painted salon, of her hunting lodge in the foothills of the Cottian Alps. Despite the Rococo ornateness of the ornamentation, the salone dipinto was the most lived-in of the reception rooms. ‘It is a place where everyone is happy,’ she said.”
Casa Agnelli, located an hour from Turin and the Fiat headquarters where Gianni was chairman, was a palazzo with clear evidence of Donna’s taste for the rococo throughout. The Italian socialite was known for being one of Truman Capote’s Swans, the chosen stylish women of his inner circle. Inside, Renoirs shared wall-space with works by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, in a house built for entertaining with friends and family.
Baroness Pauline de Rothschild
“Even in marriage the baron and baroness maintained their bachelor apartments in Paris. Her bedroom on the rue Méchain was an exquisite jungle of 18th-century wallpaper, with a steel-and-brass bed tented in taffeta.”
A visit to Pauline de Rothschild’s Left Bank apartment in 1969 revealed a collection of Louis XVI chairs and sofas and painted Chinese wallpaper depicting flowering gardens. This was Pauline’s own home, aside from her husband the Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, who lived in the 16th arrondissement, and it was a temple of her own tastes for chinoiserie and 18th-century furniture: interiors, Lawford wrote, “that felt like gardens or woodland dells.”
Around That Time: Horst at Home in Vogue is out now, published by Abrams Books.
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