George Stacey’s Women
Though not nearly as well known as his contemporaries, such as Billy Baldwin and Sister Parish, interior designer George Stacey had a lasting impact on 20th-century decorating—in addition to an impressive client list.
Excerpted from George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic, by Maureen Footer
In 1938 Brenda Diana Duff Frazier made her society debut to much fanfare, landing the cover of Life and giving hope of a brighter future to a Depression-weary America. Naturally, the world’s most famous debutante needed stylishly decorated digs to suit her newfound stature. Her signature red lipstick, Footer writes, “may have had much to do with the honing of Stacey’s signature red and green palette” at her home, Meadow Wood Farm, in Oyster Bay. Frazier is photographed here in the drawing room; the illustration appeared in Vogue.
The introverted Stacey “surely fed off [Diana] Vreeland’s energy and confidence . . . as well as her prodigious imagination,” Footer writes. “It was a reciprocated admiration.” At the legendary fashion editor’s apartment at 400 Park Avenue, Stacey designed a “high style, high contrast” entry hall replete with four-foot-tall blackamoors and ebonized floors, where Vreeland posed dripping in pearls for George Platt Lynes (above, right). Stacey acolyte Billy Baldwin decorated her later residence, at 550 Park Avenue (above, left), employing Stacey furniture, Vreeland’s beloved “cinquecento” red, and a large draped mirror, a decorating device borrowed from Stacey.
Socialite Babe Paley, who was once a fashion editor at Vogue (Horst captured her fragile beauty in the image at left), took on Stacey as her decorator after her sisters, Minnie Astor and Betsey Whitney, reported successful collaborations with him. The pair shared a passion for French antiques, which filled her Gold Coast estate, Kiluna Farm (above, right), enhancing the considerable collection of 19th-century French paintings amassed by her husband, CBS television chief executive William S. Paley.
After she gained fame as an actress, Grace Kelly (above, middle) enlisted Stacey to decorate an apartment overlooking Central Park, and she later retained his services upon becoming the Princess of Monaco, in 1956. In the Palais Princier, Stacey introduced subtle designs that refreshed the public rooms, such as the Salon des Glaces (above, left), where Princess Caroline poses on a reupholstered bench. The airy conservatory/family room (above, right) is anchored by substantial pieces, including an eight-seat borne (a sofa with a central back) and an ample writing table.
Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner had starred together in the 1953 film Mogambo, and when Gardner decamped from Hollywood for Spain, Kelly sent Stacey, who was spending lots of time in Paris, her way. The living room (above, left) and dining room (above, right) of Gardner’s apartment in Madrid are excellent examples of Stacey’s finely honed eye for balance and scale, as well as color palettes, such as dove gray and chocolate brown in the former and persimmon, gold, and black in the latter.