Monday, August 27, 2012

Billy Baldwin Does Dallas





The photo above is one with which most of you are familiar. It shows the Dallas living room of the Harding Lawrences which was decorated by Billy Baldwin in the late 1960s. I first saw the photo years ago while reading Billy Baldwin Decorates, and there were two memorable things about this photo. First, the combination of those pink walls, floral print fabric, and modern artwork looks smashing. And secondly, there was some kind of color separation issue with the printing as the blue and white garniture looks strangely bleached out. (That problem seems to have been corrected in Adam Lewis' recent book, Billy Baldwin: The Great American Decorator, where the photo also appears.)

I was always curious as to what the rest of the home looked like, and I recently found additional photos in the May 1970 issue of House Beautiful. Now you know that I think Billy Baldwin was one of the greatest decorators ever. However, while the rest of the house was attractive, it seems to have lacked the punch that the pink living room had. The article did mention that when the Lawrences purchased the house, it was a dark, gloomy Tudor style house. Baldwin was charged with making the home bright and light, and that he certainly accomplished by painting walls and trim in soft, pale tones and upholstering furniture in colorful, cheery prints. Still, for me, the masterpiece of the house is that gorgeous living room, a room that ranks up there as one of the most attractive of all Baldwin's work. It just doesn't get much better than that.



In an effort to make the home feel comfortable, the Lawrences chose to forgo a formal dining room in favor of a combination dining room and library.




The sitting area of the dining room cum library with accents of sunny yellow.




When the Lawrences entertained (which, according to the article, was not often), they set up three tables to accommodate no more than twelve guests.




The "South Porch" where the Lawrences relaxed and took lunch. The cotton fabric was of French origin and made especially for Baldwin.




Mr. Lawrence's dressing room had walls upholstered in brown and white striped cotton.




The master bedroom, an oasis of beige cotton, boasted a view of Turtle Creek Park.




A view from the staircase. You can see the South Porch straight ahead on the first floor, with what I believe is a glimpse of the pink living room to the right. Note too the plaster palm torchères.


All photos from House Beautiful, May 1970.



20 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:33 AM

    Does anyone know if the house is still standing?

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    1. Anon, see Devoted Classicist's comment below. It seems that indeed it's still standing. I'm curious as to what the interiors look like today.

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  2. Anonymous7:52 AM

    Thank you for the pictures, which I had never seen. My understanding is that the Lawrences tended to give their decorators carte blanche and show up six months later to see the results. That would explain the anonymous look of these rooms. That bookcase in the second dining room photo is so sad.

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    1. I did not know that, but it does explain why the home's interiors are not as personal looking as other Baldwin interiors. Also, it would be interesting to know how often the Lawrences used this home.

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  3. I am in awe of Mr. Baldwin's art. His use of color is effective and sophisticated. He neither floods you with color nor simply scatters a few bright pieces around. I can understand your enthusiasm for his work.

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    1. Parnassus, that's an excellent way of describing his work!

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  4. It's a great house on a prominent site just before the entrance to Highland Park. Although it has a few Tudor touches, the house was built in the Arts & Crafts style, which has had a revival of appreciation since this article was written. The Hardings' serious entertaining was done, of course, at their villa on the Riviera, La Fiorentina, also decorated by Billy Baldwin.

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    1. Classicist, any idea what the interiors look like today? I know that you've done work in Dallas.

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    2. No, I'm sorry that I do not know what the interior looks like today. Although I don't disagree with the comments about the air of impersonalness, I am old enough to let you know that it was considered a modern, fresh, and tailored approach to traditional decorating at the time. But it is a lesson that Less is not always More.

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  5. The colors and the freshness of these rooms is what strikes me right now. Nothing could quite match Baldwin's decoration of La Fiorentina. Thanks for brightening the day...I've got a pair of BB parson's benches like the one shown in Photo #5--they are sassy, perfect in any setting. Mary

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    1. Mary, I have always admired those parsons benches. How great that you own a pair!

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  6. That pink room is what made me want to be a decorator!

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    1. I can see why! And, I can see BB's influence on your work, too!

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    2. Thank you so much. That's the best compliment that one can give me. And guess what, I grew up in Dallas.

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  7. love bb + that pink LR is another reason. thanks xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  8. Apart from La Fiorentina, wouldn't you say that Billy Baldwin's work for the Lawrences was distinctly odd?
    That penthouse shown in his book Billy Baldwin remembers, with it's quasi-Turkish undertones, was almost
    a victim of its own particular time. Mrs Lawrence's houses by David Mlinaric have a kind of rigorous approach
    to luxury, which may indeed have more to do with Mary Wells Lawrence than the taste of either of her appointed
    decorators.

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    1. Toby, As much as I hate to admit it, I think that both their Manhattan apartment and the Dallas home lacked the typical Billy Baldwin razzle dazzle. The pink living room had it, but the other rooms are a little ho-hum. There seemed to be a consistency amongst the Gilberts' homes, for example. I'm just not sure what the issue was here.

      Of course, La Fiorentina was in a league of its own!

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  9. Peak, did you mean to say the Gilbert Miller's homes?
    If so, I agree with you!

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    1. Toby, I'm just now reading your comment. I was awake in the middle of the night when it occurred to me that I had written the Gilberts rather than the Millers! Yes, the Gilbert Millers.

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