We are a culture of idols: actors, musicians, politicians and sometimes those who are famous for being famous—you know who they are. As a child I, too, fell for the likes of Bobby Sherman, but as I got older my teenage idols were replaced by individuals I admired for their accomplishments.
Throughout my career, many have inspired me: Van Day Truex, Diana Vreeland, Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley and Bill Blass. In fact, I am greeted everyday in my office with a black-and-white photograph of a very debonair Bill Blass. Not only am I a fan of his classic fashion sense (double-faced wool city suits!), but his weekend house in Connecticut has always been one of my all-time favorite interiors.
Recently, I spent an afternoon with Albert Hadley and a dozen local interior designers who had participated in "Rooms with a View," the Southport charity event. During the afternoon, my mind kept replaying another afternoon 20 years prior, when I first visited the country home of Mr. Hadley. I was excited to meet the designer who had been called "Dean of American Design," but I was not prepared for the profound effect his work would have on me. From the moment I stepped inside the door of his country home in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., I was taken by his masterful interiors. There was a playful mix of the ordinary with the extraordinary, modern pieces were placed alongside antiques, and scale and proportion were the underpinnings of each room. Perhaps the one room that, to this day, firmly proved this talent was a small bedroom that had a four-poster bed in the middle of it, to which Mr. Hadley instantly remarked, "Never make excuses for the size of a room." As we drove back to the city, my head was spinning with all that I had seen and learned.
Mr. Hadley stands out in the pages of modern American design. Many of his interiors—from the Kennedy White House to Brooke Astor's library—look as fresh today as when they were completed. And while the lives of these bold-faced names might seem to contradict the next line, it gets to the heart of Mr. Hadley: "Forget grandeur. I don't think it is a quality we want today. Too much of what passes for design now is theater. Interiors would be a little more successful if the designers were a little less intent on having a good time. Their very determination to be zany renders the results lifeless. What's missing is restraint and knowledge."
So unlike many idols that dominate the media today, only a few transcend the moment and earn a rarefied, more distinguished four-letter designation—icon. Hollywood can have its idols. An icon lives in Southport.
Editor in Chief
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