Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The highs and lows of "Inside Design"

I had another Interior Designer that I found inspiring. When I was in college pursuing my design degree, I stumbled on the book Inside Design by Michael Greer.  On the back of the book it
states: Michael Greer is one of the handful of interior designers practicing today who is famous not merely for his fertile imagination, but also for flawless, undeviating taste. He has worked on five of the available six continents; his clients represent a dazzling roster of business, social and theatrical celebrities, and include both crowned and elected heads of state.

(Michael Greer, on left, at the White House)

I had tremendous appreciation for his talent, but what I enjoyed most was his witty way in discussing his interiors. The following are some examples:
Whether or not you have much money to spend, but especially if you haven't, you need one marvelous decorative object which you love outrageously, which you may have spent far more for than you could afford and perhaps which no one else in his right mind would ever have spent as much for as you did.

I wish family rooms didn't have to be called family rooms, but this or anything is better than calling them Florida, Texas or California rooms---asinine as calling a pea, a garden pea, as menus or restaurants along throughways do.

The place to start in decorating any interior, is with color. Colors must be sorted into three categories: those the client can't bear, those it can, and those it prefers. Since the wrong (for you) colors can drive you as surely crazy as Chinese water torture, color is the first consideration chronologically and the first in total importance as well.

Maybe because there's so much of it locked up in Fort Knox, gold has the reputation of being a more pretentious decorating device than silver. It is not. In fact with its mellow warmth, gold and gilt can be a lot friendlier and more hospitable than silver, which after all has the exact cold hard color of steel.

Far less demanding and in the long run far more economical, unreal flowers can be as attractive though not in the same way, as real ones. For me they're at their best when patently unreal---made of porcelain, glass, fabric, wood, metal, stone. Plastic ones produced to date, with their embalmed oily-transparent look, should be led away and shot, and beaded ones, created by the Italians for graves, painfully destroyed.

These are just a few of his pearls of design wisdom. I would love to tell you that Michael Greer, a native of Monroe, Georgia, is remembered for his talent, but in later years his lifestyle not only caused his fall from grace, but also his death. I am quoting from People magazine, May 10, 1976:

At the height of his career, Michael Greer had everything. He was rich, handsome and celebrated. A decorator of considerable fame, he volunteered to beautify the diplomatic reception room of the White House. Actresses Joan Fontaine, Mary Martin, Geraldine Page and Ethel Merman graced his list of clients. He supped with the Queen of Denmark and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He drank from Baccarat crystal and travelled in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. With his French cook-butler, he entertained the Vanderbilts, Revsons, Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson.
Late last month, the tall, silver-haired, 60-year-old Greer was found dead in his Park Avenue apartment. His body, clad only in a short, blue kimono, was sprawled across one of his prize possessions, an antique steel bed. His ankles had been bound with a silk scarf of his favorite color—red. He had been strangled, police said, with a cord of some kind. Several photographs of Greer with famous friends had been turned face down. Otherwise, his apartment was not disturbed. The door had not been forced open.
The bizarre murder ended what friends call "a period of deterioration" in Greer's life. "He was on the road to self-destruction," says one close friend. "No one could help him." Greer, a homosexual, frequented Manhattan's gay bars and, according to a doorman in his building, "often entertained young men in his apartment." The murderer, police believe, was a homosexual pickup.

Link: People magazine article (May 10, 1976)
Though his lifestyle was questionable, his work is a pretty good epitaph. I enjoy his book as much today as when I received it years ago. The man had talent!

Source: Michael Greer "Inside Design"

1 comment:

  1. Hi Debbie,
    I enjoyed this post. One of my clients once hired Mr. Greer. I believe that Mr. Greer was murdered by his "personal secretary" (see New York Times). According to my client, Mr. Greer did not charge a design fee, just a mark-up on purchases. DF