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Give Them What They Didn’t Know They Wanted!

by habituallychic

09 . 18 . 07

When I was looking for Jeremiah Goodman illustrations yesterday, I came across one he did of Diana Vreeland’s living room. I had been meaning to write a little post about the grand dame of fashion for a while and now seemed like the perfect opportunity. I also think it’s another example of the world of fashion, art and design converging again.

Diana Vreeland was certainly a character. A larger than life woman who loved fashion and frivolity but who also needed to work to help support her family and their lavish lifestyle. She was friends with the who’s who of the time including C.Z. Guest, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Cecil Beaton, Cole Porter, and even Andy Warhol. She worked for Harper’s Bazaar for 26 years, and later was editor in chief of Vogue. After she was unceremoniously fired, she went on to work with the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and turned it’s benefit into the fashionable fete that it is today. Ali McGraw was at one point her wide eyed 21 year old assistant! Can you imagine working for Diana Vreeland? Amazing!

She was known almost as well for her blood-red living room at her apartment at 550 Park Avenue as she was for her fashion sense. “I want this place to look like a garden, but a garden in hell” she said and it looks like she accomplished that in the above photo by Horst and illustration by Jeremiah Goodman. She spent all her life pursuing the perfect shade of red, the great clarifier she called it, bright and revealing.
I could go on and on because her life story is fabulous and a bit tragic at times. She was a woman who when the going got tough, she got going and with gusto! I love reading inspiring biographies of interesting woman and I loved reading about Diana Vreeland. I suggest picking up Eleanor Dwight’s wonderful book, Diana Vreeland, and reading that one first. I made the mistake of reading D.V. first and later learned that Mrs. Vreeland liked to exaggerate just a wee bit, kind of like my grandmother. Got to love her. I also own the Sotheby’s catalog from the auction of her estate that is a wonderful record of her lovely home and life. Included in the catalog, are the two Oberto Gili photos above and below.

Not only did Diana Vreeland give us more than we knew we wanted, she gave us more than we could have ever dreamed up ourselves. She truly was one remarkably chic and elegant woman!

Comments Closed

  1. patricia gray inc.com September 18, 2007 | 6:03 am

    Great post on a very gutsy woman.
    You have to be to live with all that red. She was larger than life. I read in her book that she waxed (or had waxed) the soles of her shoes everyday. Do you know if she had an Interior Designer for her home?

  2. Habitually Chic September 18, 2007 | 10:46 am


    Yes, she had the soles of her shoes polished everyday by her maid of course.

    Billy Baldwin was her decorator but I have a feeling that she had very determined ideas and told him what she wanted, instead of him telling her what she needed.

  3. Suzy September 18, 2007 | 2:03 pm

    Another great post. That living room is stunning. Not sure I could live with that much red, but it certainly is the perfect shade of red.

  4. Brilliant Asylum September 18, 2007 | 2:08 pm

    I remember my mom showing me a photo of that room when I was younger. For better or worse, it made a lasting impression on me.

  5. Habitually Chic September 18, 2007 | 4:31 pm

    Suzy, It vertainly is a lot of red but she was a lot of woman so I guess it worked.

  6. Habitually Chic September 18, 2007 | 4:32 pm

    BA, What a stylish mom you must have had for her to be showing you Diana Vreeland’s apartment! I think that’s fabulous!

  7. ALL THE BEST September 18, 2007 | 8:17 pm

    Thank you for posting on DV. She was truly a fascinating and complex women. Every time I learn more about her the more I love and appreciate her unique style.

  8. Habitually Chic September 19, 2007 | 6:31 pm

    Ronda, You should definitely buy the book and read the whole story. She is beyond fascinating!!!

  9. Jackie Von Tobel September 19, 2007 | 6:33 pm

    She used to be my hero back in the day. Such a class act and she just exuded power! She looked like she ate male executives for breakfast.

  10. Anonymous September 20, 2007 | 9:34 pm

    Decorators should address their clients’ desires, by the way, re Vreeland … that is, after all, their job, no? Interestingly, note how only the sofa, thre chairs, and sofa wall of the living area of Vreeland’s apartment had the “garden in hell” stage-set aspect … the rest of this area of the apartment (which I once visited) was largely white with lots of stuff providing interest … (the red door to the left of the folding screen led to her husband’s dressing room and their bedroom and a little guest room, as I recall) … the relatively restrained use of fabric seems like a cost-cutting decision, no, re the fabric being carefully confined to one spot … did anybody see the Capote movie “Infamous” that showed Vreeland (wretchedly played by Juliet Stevenson) entertaining in her “dining room” … Vreeland’s small apartment didn’t have a dining room (and certainly not the ugly one the movie’s set designers came up with for the scene) … guests actually dined on the banquette in the stripe-walled area of the L-shaped living-dining room …

  11. Rachel Mallon September 26, 2007 | 3:04 am

    The first image is designed by billy Baldwin, one of my favorite interior decorators. This work is not my favorite but it fit the client well and that is what I love about him. Thanks for sharing.
    Rachel Mallon