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Billy Baldwin at Home

by habituallychic

10 . 08 . 10
I’m counting down the days until Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator is published later this month but until then, I’m making due with my old copy of Billy Baldwin Decorates.  His own studio apartment on East 61st Street where he lived after his retirement in the early 1970’s is one of my all time favorite interiors.  Except for a few elements and the old photography, it still looks good today.   
Billy Baldwin says in the book, “the best decoration in the world is a room full of books” and this space is described as “the look of a library for one-room living.”

Even in the 1970’s decorators had to deal with “all the usual juts and protuberances of modern apartment buildings.”  Billy chose to deal with all the “beams and bumps” by coating them in shiny dark brown paint. 

“It occurred to me that this was strictly a city room, full of shine: the floor, the walls, the windows.  So I added more shine: a varnishy eighteenth-century painting of dogs, a wonderful Korean lacquer screen, and a few strategically places mirrors.  I put all my books on tall brass bookshelves-the warm glint of the brass become terribly important in the dark room.”  The Porter Etageres are available through Ventry Ltd. as are the slipper chairs and other pieces. 

The Louis XV chair was one of Billy’s prized possessions and he loved the texture that it and the crackled black Portuguese table, and the Korean screen added to the room.

The room was luckily not a big box and the bump outs allowed for furniture groupings including one for sleeping above.  The sofa is really a twin bed in disguise.

Billy added rugs for softness and had three sets of slipcovers made for all the upholstered furniture including ivory cotton, blue denim, and dark paisley.  I’ve only ever seen photos of the pieces in ivory slipcovers so this was interesting to find out. 

Like all decorators, it looks like Billy moved things around.  In some photos, the desk is placed in front of the windows and in others, a sofa has been placed in that area. 

In the beginning of Billy Baldwin Decorates is the following quote, “only your eye can tell you what you will be happy with.  Today, thank goodness, we are more concerned with the personal than with perfection.”  But it’s clear to see that Billy apartment was pretty darn perfect!

“A person with a real flair is a gambler at heart.” – Billy Baldwin

Comments Closed

  1. Emily Amy Gallery October 8, 2010 | 4:01 pm

    I’ve always loved Billy Baldwin. I especially love that library…gorgeous!

  2. Teresa at Splendid Sass October 8, 2010 | 4:30 pm

    His work is absolutely stunning!

  3. Maria October 8, 2010 | 4:41 pm

    “The best decoration in the world is a roomful of books.” Billy Baldwin

    great designer & lovely post & gorgeous library…

    have a great weekend!


  4. Patricia Torres October 8, 2010 | 5:50 pm

    *sigh* the bookshelves are beyond gorgeous! That must have been some collection..

  5. Karena October 8, 2010 | 7:09 pm

    Billy’s apartment is timeless, those etageres are to die for. The
    manly shiny brown and oriental screen …..it all adds up to a classic!


    Art by Karena

  6. Barbara October 8, 2010 | 7:28 pm

    I love Billy Baldwin. Great post, HC. Lucky you to have his book.

  7. Pigtown-Design October 9, 2010 | 2:02 am

    I am headed to an all-day lecture on the great BB tomorrow, in his/my hometown, Baltimore!

  8. jones October 9, 2010 | 11:04 am

    “A person with real flair is a gambler at heart.”–That must be why some of my designs haven’t sold?! Billy Baldwin, Mark Hampton and Albert Hadley–no one has surpassed that triumverate. Thanks for highlighting this new book–it has been added to my want (need) list. Mary

  9. Acquired Objects October 9, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    Books are a inexpensive way to bring a room to life and give it color. Love Billy Baldwin’s designs, they’re timeless in my opinion.

  10. Cathy Whitlock October 9, 2010 | 2:04 pm

    I just got an advance copy and its wonderful. I have all of his original books and this one is a fitting tribute.

  11. Square With Flair™ October 10, 2010 | 12:13 am

    Baldwin was a design genius, and the rooms look just as good 35 years later. I think it is important to note that a few green foliage plants add freshness to these and any room decor.

    Also, note that Baldwin used polished brass, bronze, and gold leaf finishes. I’m weary of this mania to banish any gold finishes in favour of chrome, nickel, stainless, and pewter. The gold finishes are more classic and warmer, in spite of what current fashion has dictated.

  12. Alexandra Rae October 10, 2010 | 3:23 am

    Fabulous and timeless. Thanks for the Ventry resource!

  13. Ms. Wis./Each Little World October 11, 2010 | 4:43 am

    I have to agree: I never tire of this room. Nice to see it again.

  14. currentlychic.com October 14, 2010 | 12:25 am

    gotta say… I love your blog. Your content is really very interesting.


  15. Ree December 1, 2010 | 3:46 pm

    Billy Baldwin and Habitually Chic…What more does one need for contented reading?