Memorable Photographs of Interiors
The influence of photography on the history of interior design is, of course, pervasive. I often think that rooms can only be influential if they photograph well, meaning they look good on the page and screen. I also understand that every photograph gives an artificial impression—sometimes, via styling, lighting, and angle, an image taken adds more artifice than reality (then there is the recent factor of altering digital images). Despite the seen and unseen variables that a photograph of a room presents, many remain in my memory. These are some of my favorites:
Julius Shulman’s cantilevered room over the Los Angeles hills. What is a room? Is this a room that isn’t? No walls, seemingly no foundation…
Nancy Lancaster’s famous yellow room—an image clients still refer to when they ask for a yellow room.
A 19th-century American room; I admire the complication of the scenic wallpaper with the mirror and paintings layered on top.
Billy Baldwin’s studio apartment with the famous brown walls and the etageres he designed.
The Eames’s house broad play of architecture against the collections of antiques and ethnographic materials always engage my eye.
Queen Elizabeth II photographed by Cecil Beaton against a completely artificial suggestion of a room.
Two scholars, Stephen Calloway in his “Twentieth Century Decoration” and William Seale in “The Tasteful Interlude: American Interiors Through the Camera’s Eye, 1860-1917” touch upon the role of photography and interior design in their respective books. They feature great photographs—Stephen has other media, too, and really sound, scholarly chapters and captions. I cannot recommend them more highly.