Tag Archives: Interior design

Le style ballets russes

The influence of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on the worlds of dance and music has been well-documented; less known today are the reverberations that the company’s productions sent straight to the heart of Parisian fashion and interior design. Schèhèrezade, the hit of the 1910 season, epitomized the exoticism of “le style ballets russes” for designers and their galvanized patrons.

The first, and perhaps the foremost, to espouse the company’s saturated hues, sumptuous fabrics, and seductive Orientalism was Paul Poiret, who daringly introduced harem pants and turbans (inset), with boldly colored silks and velvets. Poiret also popularized brightly colored interiors, replacing conventional furniture with divans and tasselled cushions.

The company’s visits to London had a similar impact. “Before you could say Nijinsky” Osbert Lancaster recalled in Homes, sweet homes (London: Murray, 1939) “the pastel shades which had reigned supreme on the walls of the Mayfair for almost two decades were replaced by a variety of barbaric hues—jade green, purple, every variety of crimson and scarlet, and, above all, orange.” He added that the style’s adherents had “a tendency to regard a room not so much as a place to live in, but as a setting for a party.”

This according to “The wider influence of the Russian ballet” by Stephen Calloway, an essay included in Diaghilev and the golden age of the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929 (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010). Above, one of George Lepape’s illustrations for Les choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (Paris: 1911), a book commissioned and published by Poiret in a limited edition of 300.

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Elton John’s décor

When Elton John returned to London in 1991 after six weeks in an addiction recovery center it was essential to establish a new home that was free of associations with his former compulsive behavior. He rented Queensdale Place, fell in love with it, and bought and completely redecorated it with Biedermeier furniture and Regency and Neoclassical artwork.

Over the years Sir Elton’s passion turned to collecting photography and contemporary art, and in 2003 he decided that Queensdale would be the perfect context for exhibiting and enjoying his new collection. The auction of his former collection is documented in Elton John and his London lifestyle: London, Tuesday, 30 September 2003 (London: Sotheby’s, 2003).

Related article: Liberace’s taste

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Liberace’s taste

Władziu Valentino Liberace’s Las Vegas home represented the democratization of aristocracy, a do-it-yourself coronation, the people’s palace. It is the apotheosis of décor as persona and persona as décor.

The Moroccan Room (above, click to enlarge) is a tile-and-glass atrium with Tivoli lights made from a sundeck that Liberace had always found either too hot or too cold. The large convex sofa in flame-stitch upholstery (foreground) sounds a proper note of sloe-eyed languor, while pairs of Italian-Baroque-style blackamoors—referred to by Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson as “harem boys”—support the fireplace mantel (left) and the candelabras that flank the bar (rear).

This according to “Liberace’s taste” by Grant Mudford and Susan Yalevich (Nest 10 [2002] pp. 588–590). Below, Liberace plays Tiger rag in 1969, when he was the highest-paid entertainer in the world.

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