Monday, November 19, 2012
Inman Cook and the Celanese House
While looking through the November 1965 issue of House & Garden in hopes of finding Thanksgiving related photos, I found an interesting article that featured the work of designer Inman Cook. I've seen Cook's work before, usually in mid- to late 1960s design magazines, and it has always caught my eye. Like so many other designers of this era, Cook embraced bold prints and colors, and yet, there was a reserved elegance to his work as well. His interiors were exuberant, but they also conveyed a traditional sense of propriety. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe that a friend told me that Cook was Southern, so this might explain his work. And if Cook wasn't born in the South, well, then, what do I know.
The photos seen here show Cook's decoration of a mid-19th century brownstone in midtown Manhattan that temporarily housed the Celanese House, a show house sponsored by Celanese Contemporary Fibers. The Celanese Corporation charged Cook with decorating the four-story brownstone for a mythical family. The challenge, though, was that Cook could only update the home through paint and fabrics woven of Celanese. According to this article, the house was rife with exposed pipes and radiators, but as they were mostly located near windows, Cook was able to hide them using cleverly designed curtains and low screens. Now that you know this fact, you can look at the photos below and determine which rooms were plagued with these eye-sores. I have to say, though, that Cook was successful in his cover-up. My only question is, if Celanese is a synthetic fiber (am I correct?), then how did the fabric near the radiator not go up in flames?
The other thing that struck me about the interiors is that if you didn't know this was a show house, you just might think a real family lived here. Nothing looks temporary nor too staged, something that sometimes happens at show houses. And despite some of the dated-looking prints, I must say that few of the rooms look out of place today.
Image at top: The Living Room. Note how the curtains extend beyond the corner of the room. This device helped to conceal exposed pipes.
The Upper Hall, one converted into a sitting room.
A view from the library, looking into the parlor-floor hall and the living room beyond that.
The Dining Room
The Foyer, what the article said was "a new room for entertaining".
The Guest Bedroom
The Master Bedroom
The Guest Room
A corner view of the Master Bedroom
All images from House & Garden, November 1965, Otto Maya photographer.