May 18, 2014


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Lot 190: William "Billy" Haines, designer

Lot 190: William "Billy" Haines, designer

Swivel stool

Custom designed for the 1015 North Beverly Drive residence; this example commissioned 1960
12" x 19.5" diameter
Provenance: Rita Roedling, Beverly Hills;
Anita May Rosenstein, Beverly Hills
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000
Price Realized: $6,250
Inventory Id: 12190

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William "Billy" Haines (1900-1973) devoted his life to good taste and design, a passion he pursued after starring in his final film in 1934. On and off set, he was a self-proclaimed wisecrack, yet to his Hollywood friends he was a charming man of confidence, which made for a smooth transition from the silver screen to the living room interior. He famously remarked, "I can only tell you this – I would rather have taste than either love or money." After opening his own antique shop on La Brea Avenue, decorating costar Joan Crawford's home, and renovating and decorating acclaimed director George Cukor's home, Haines transformed the 10-acre Beverly Hills home of Jack Warner of Warner Brothers into "the most talked-about residence in Los Angeles." Haines' design vocabulary – Chinoiserie and Classical objects blended with a modern touch – is clearly represented in the Warner estate.

By the later years of his life, Haines was one of the most sought after interior designers, especially amongst the Hollywood elite. In 1960, Rita Roedling, daughter of Mervyn & Kitty LeRoy, commissioned Haines to produce numerous custom designs. The LeRoys are well-known for their contributions in the film industry. The renowned director Mervyn LeRoy produced The Wizard of Oz and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his extensive accomplishments in film. In the early 1950s, they collaborated with Haines to furnish the interior of their Samuel Marx-designed home in Bel Air. Around the same time in 1953, Haines worked with Tom & Anita May to furnish the interior of their Samuel Marx-designed home in Holmby Hills, a neighborhood adjacent to Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Both the Mays and LeRoys were passionate supporters of Haines.

While Haines was known for his flawless attention to detail and clever taste, he also had a discerning eye for design. As his business flourished in the 1940s and 50s, Haines began designing his own furniture and lamps. His custom lamps – usually incorporating acquired sculptures or antiques – were included in almost every interior. And no Haines interior was complete without custom furniture, from chairs and couches to entire dining room sets. The intersection of these early champions of Haines' interiors is displayed in the details of the Rita Roedling commission: a table lamp with a Tang Style figure, which incorporates a ceramic from the LeRoys' Haines and Marx interior, as well as two Ledge Back "Seniah" chairs, one of his most celebrated and enduring creations. Self-taught, ambitious, and modern, Haines pleased his prestigious clients by producing some of the most distinctive interiors of the 20th century.

Schifando, Peter and Jean H. Mathison. Class Act William Haines: Legendary Hollywood Decorator. New York: Printed Leaf Press, 2005. Print.
Mann, William J. Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.