Sex Appeal and Furniture

Armani is commonly considered to be the real star of American Gigolo. He and Richard Gere where at the beginning of their careers and are a perfect fusion of understated elegance and effortless cool. After AG, Armani continued to dress Gere for the rest of his life for free, since he so beautifully embodied the ideal Armani man.

Though I think it was set dresser George Gaines that was really the unspoken hero of American Gigolo. His fingerprints were all over the film. From the sleek interiors of Julian Kaye’s apartment to the red drenched dining room of the Beverly Hills Hotel, his chic eye continued the vibe of high class style seamlessly throughout the movie. With the assistance of visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti he took every scene and made it cool. Most notably the line play across walls created from the metal horizontal metal blinds that would go on to be a staple of 80’s film Noir and music videos… think The Hunger and anything by Ridley Scott in the 80’s. I recently tried to recreate that for a portrait and instead of metal blinds had to make do with blue tape stuck on the window….. I’m sure the people across the way thought we were nuts..

Gaines had a stunning if short career doing art direction for visually lush movies like Shampoo, The Cotton Club, The Big Chill, Heaven Can Wait and All the President’s Men. American Gigolo not only represents quintessential 80’s Beverly Hills luxe and Palm Springs desert Chic but the minimalist Armani inspired touch keeps it utterly timeless as well.


Nothing says 80’s like the Memphis design movement. Launched in 1980 by Ettore Sottsass when he gathered a group of designers at his home in Milan for a pow wow. The result was a visceral response to the austerity of modernism that had dominated for decades, and the quintessential, over-the-top-ness of the 80’s began.

They chose the name from a Bob Dylan song, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” Apparently that was the soundtrack for the night.

For me the Memphis look is one of the few true original styles of design that didn’t come from a previous decade or look, much like the Punk movement. Nothing has ever been seen like it before or since. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a design aesthetic since that is so original. This makes me respect and admire it even more...

Primary colors, graphic patterns, geometric shapes mixed with bold black and white stripes was coveted by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and David Bowie. Lagerfeld was known for periodically getting rid of everything he had and starting fresh. His Monte Carlo home in the 80’s is the best example of Memphis in full swing. Bowie was also a huge collector, though after his death it performed poorly at auction. Recently Memphis has started to gain popularity on the market and many of the designers that created the movement are discovering a rebirth in sales. You can see much of his collection in GQ.

I would never go so extreme with it, but the occasional statement Memphis piece really brings a sense of fun and contrast to a room. London was one of the first places to rediscover Memphis and about 5 years ago I started seeing pieces popping up in London home interiors which for me opened the vault to all things 80’s...

Speaking of statement pieces, the furniture design of Swiss architect Mario Botta has been high on my shopping list lately. Known primarily for his work as an architect, he too embraced pure geometric forms and major volume. Quintessential attributes of the 80’s.

He began his career working with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he went on to open his own practice in 1969. His ‘Mountain Church’ San Giovanni Battista at Fusio is one of my favorite references. The fluid lines and intricate patterns are almost otherworldly. He built the church in Switzerland after a small town was destroyed by an avalanche in 1986. The innovative building is made of alternating layers of Peccia marble and Vallemaggia granite. The church has no windows, and the interior is lit only by natural light that enters through the glass roof. So so chic.

The Elements of Style

“You should feel at all times that what is around you is attractive . . . and that you are attractive.”

If you know about Angelo Donghia, then you know he was America’s original superstar designer and multi-hyphenate. Encouraged by his father to start designing for his tailor shop at a young, Donghia built a true legacy and a versatile career all before the age of 50, when he tragically passed away from AIDS.

Donghia’s first major hit was in 1966 designing the Opera Club for the Metropolitan Opera House

at Lincoln Center. It has silver foil ceilings, blue chandeliers and black upholstery. He had a glamorous take on minimalism with luxurious surfaces and lots of texture, two things that ended up defining his career and iconic look.

“I’m going to be an interior designer, it doesn’t mean that I should die being an interior designer. I’d like to write a book. I’d like to do a movie. I’d like to do everything.”

Amen to that philosophy.

In 1968 Donghia launched a collection of fabrics and wallcoverings, which is still an important source today, the incredible Donghia Textiles. He was the first American decorator to put his name on a mass-produced line of sheets for JP Stevens and his empire of textiles, furniture and licensing deals is worth over $60 million.

Donghia’s style was minimal, based in 30’s glamour with a love of white. His trademarks included the use of silver gray, often through gray flannel, an attention to ceilings and “fat” furniture which we are starting to see again after a plethora of mid century small apartment proportions.

Interesting little fact, his most iconic sectional sofa designed for Ralph Lauren’s apartment in the early 80’s is still the number one selling collection at the studio. Style is never out of fashion.

The quintessential touches like suede walls in his master bedroom design below and the evocative lush glamour of his interiors is very 70’s and 80’s New York.

Needless to say Halston, Diana Ross  Barbara Walters, Mary, Liza Minelli, Grace Mirabella were amongst his residential clientele. I mean, c’mon who wouldn’t kill for a client list like that.

I wish he was still here today, I am sure he would have incredible stories to tell. The AIDS memorial on Instagram recently wrote a post on Angelo which is the reason I wrote this post today. I can only imagine what he would have gone on to inspire us with.

The 80's are coming...

When I was designing the Orchard St., 3 bedroom show apartment on the LES, I turned to New York in the 80’s for my inspiration. The culture clash of Uptown meets Downtown. Yuppies, punk rock, Haring and paradise garage.

Nothing says 80’s LIKE A VIDEO MONTAGE. Check out some of my favorite 80’s design moments in this little montage with some major Memphis vibes that I showed at “What’s New What’s Next” this past September in 200 Lexington Design.

Down and Out in Beverly Hills with some Steve Chase realness and Ruthless People for Memphis overload. I’ll be dancing on the ceiling baby…