Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In Search Of Billy Baldwin

It's no secret that I among countless others are influenced by the great American decorator Billy Baldwin. His work has never gone out of style, and he remains a mentor for a the latest crop of designers and decorators and bloggers.

"Foliage" or "Fauve" or "Arbre de Matisse"?

Recently I ran across a remnant of fabric from Brick House Fabrics that got my pulse raising. It looked like the brown and white print Billy B. and his lifelong friend Woodson Taulbee designed and manufactured for Woodson's New York apartment.

I found a precious and affordable remnant at Brick House Fabrics

The photo of this apartment is beloved and it has been featured in every book on Baldwin. In "Billy Baldwin The Great American Decorator" the caption reads: "The New York apartment of Woodson Taulbee. The Henri Matisse drawing was a gift to Taulbee from Baldwin. Together Baldwin and Taulbee developed the design of the cotton fabric 'Foliage.' that is used on the sofa and slipper chair".

From the book 'Billy Baldwin The Great American Decorator" - Get it! (Thanks Sara)

In another fascinating and dishy book on Baldwin (thanks Mitchell), "Billy Baldwin An Autobiography", Billy B. himself says, "It was one of those marvelous one-room apartments in New York, and the decoration of it was based entirely upon a beautiful Matisse drawing I bought for nothing from Kurt Valentine in 1965. The drawing was of two women sitting in front of a table on which there was an open book, and behind them there was the most magical black ink tree, I said to Woody that I thought the tree wood make the most marvelous wallpaper as well as a fabric. He was terribly excited by the idea and got to work. The result was a tour de force, and we covered the furniture in his apartment with it. It was such a wild success that Woody manufactured it through the entire color spectrum, from black and white to pale pink".

This room  designed Billy Baldwin  circa 1965 is a case study in modernity  - Baldwin was instrumental in helping his friend Woodson Taulbee start a wallpaper business "Woodson Papers" - Together they designed this print called "Foliage"

I found a snip of a  discounted Clarence House fabric called "Fauve" that looked so much like the print Billy and Woody designed together. I had the best upholsterer in New Orleans, Leonels, make me a couple of pillows. I love them!

My Billy Baldwin pillow made by Leonels

As I continued to research the fabric that Baldwin originally used, I realized the vintage "Fauve" print was an expensive elegant knock-off done by Clarence House! Every source seems to attribute the print that Billy Baldwin used to a Quadrille (China Seas) print "Arbre de Matisse Reverse".

The Arbre de Matisse Reverse fabric attributed to the famous Billy Baldwin room done for Woodson Taulbee

Still I am happy with finding my vintage piece of fabric made by Clarence House. It is just one more thing in "My Billy Baldwin Living Room", that continues to cement my creative relationship with Billy B. I'm not a rich girl, and my house is humble, but I think Billy Baldwin would like my home.

Clarence House "Fauve" fabric

The "Arbre de Matisse" tree trunk is drawn slightly different than the "Fauve"

Here's a round up of some photos of the very popular fabric inspired by Billy Baldwin and Woodson Taulbee, still very much in use and never ever out of style. Be on the lookout for vintage Clarence House "Fauve" on eBay and sites like Brick House Fabrics.

This current fabric from Clarence House would make a nice companion to "Fauve" or "Arbre de Matisse" - The faces look like the Matisse drawing Billy Baldwin gifted to Woodson Taulbee

Window shade in kitchen is "Arbre de Matisse Reverse" - design by Lindsay Reid

Martha Stewart used "Arbre de Matisse" wallpaper

Bill Barr had the fabric made for his client

Club chairs in "Arbre de Matisse"

This room featured in House Beautiful has many takeaways from the original Billy Baldwin room

A sweet little bench upholstered in the Matisse inspired fabric -  You could do this if you find a remnant

From The World of Interiors - White piping is used with "Arbre de Matisse"

Tory Burch used blue 'Arbre de Matisse"

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  1. looking good -love these pillows! Esp love that your couch has ONE bottom cushion! I'm having the hardest time finding a sofa I like with just one cushion for my new place!

  2. Love the pillows and YES I am sure Billy B. would be most pleased with you gorgeous home!

  3. beautiful post, valorie. I am a BB devotee; but can't even afford a copy of "Billy Baldwin Decorates" since it's sky high! donna

  4. This is what I so love about your blog Valorie. You have such a great eye for that perfect and last accessory that pulls a room together. I am going through this currently in my own living room trying to pull those last few fabrics together. I just spent a few minutes at China Seas and my list of samples is growing. So much to love there. You have done a great job!

  5. Fabulous choices!! Love the look of the sofa with the pillows. I have a similar sofa and now, after seeing yours, am adding nail head trim. One question though: what is the sofa fabric itself? I was thinking some kind of white twill?
    Thanks for the vision!!!

  6. My sofa is faux white leather. Pet and husband (and kid friendly). xo xo

    1. See what I mean?!! Another great choice. Never would have thought of that... sigh... Perfect. LOLOL
      Thank you!

  7. I love the Woodson Taulbee room! Amazing that it was done in 1965, almost 50 years ago, and it still looks so awesome. Thanks for giving us more info and sharing modern takes on this look. And your pillows look great!

  8. For what I see, I already love your home...
    But what's that about pet and husband, hmm?

  9. I love those prints but prefer them in small doses like on the pillows rather than on an entire piece of furniture. The colors are fantastic!!!


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