A former actor on the silver screen in Hollywood’s heyday, William Haines redefined the way stars lived. Under Haines’ discerning eye, the interiors of some of the most famous stars of the day, including Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard and George Burns, became lighter, fresher and more cosmopolitan compared to the often oppressively dark and heavy style that was currently in place.
The new look was called “Hollywood Regency” as it was inspired by early 19th century England. Haines’ work is synonymous with southern California and Hollywood glamour. Hollywood Regency recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity through the work of decorator Kelly Wearstler among others.
William Haines’ aesthetic vocabulary included tufted couches, lamps with art objects as bases, and Chinoiserie. He also mastered the art of mixing period antiques with his own modern designs.
One of Haines’ signatures was to create one of a kind lamps from objets d’art and custom lampshades, which gave each client’s home personality. These unique lamps would inevitably become conversation pieces. A number of his original designs can be found for sale on 1stdibs:
Exotic artifacts namely Chinoiserie, would also become one of his signatures. Haines’ affinity for Chinoiserie can be seen in the bases of these upholstered swivel chairs from 1stdibs:
“When you do a home, you must do it with the feeling that it has been lived in for years. The rooms must look as if there might be carpet slippers beside a chair, and a pipe or two on the table.”
Living rooms designed by William Haines always had plentiful occasional seating so that everyone could find a place to perch at parties. Haines’ Hostess Chair and Elbow Chair are pieces that are still seen in many living rooms to this day. Another piece that Haines often used in his designs was a “confidante” — an “s”-shaped sofa whose seats were separated by separate arms. This style of seating was made popular in the court of Louis XV.
Haines preferred tight-back sofas because it looked neater and you could add throw pillows for extra dimension. In addition, the look of the sofa (and conversely the room) can easily be updated by changing the pillows. One key goal for Haines when designing furniture was for pieces to be visually interesting from every angle, as seen the photo of the Haines-designed Bel-Air sofa:
“A house is a shell. The people who live in that house make it come alive and no designer in the world can do that for them.”
I highly recommend CLASS ACT William Haines: Legendary Hollywood Decorator by Peter Schifando and Jean Mathison (Pointed Leaf Press). which can be purchased here.
“You can hide things behind veils and ruffles, but when you come to simplicity, the truth comes out.”