7 surprising ways Halston changed interior design forever
Atsushi Nishijima / Netflix
Netflix Halston The series has fashion and design enthusiasts obsessed – for the clothing and glamor scene of the 1970s, of course, but also for the perfect recreations of Halston’s homes and workshops. If the show’s sets feel authentic, it’s thanks in large part to the extended research director Daniel Minahan done in his cutting edge subject matter, which is played in the series with Perfect Pitch by Ewan McGregor.
A former journalist turned director and writer (his credits include I shot Andy Warhol and episodes of Dead wood and Game of thrones), Minahan spent 20 years trying to get her favorite project off the ground. During this time, he toured all of Halston’s former homes and offices and interviewed any eyewitnesses he could find, including Paul Rudolph, the Modernist architect behind Halston’s mid-century townhouse on East 63rd Street, the setting for his legendary parties, where he is said to have served caviar, baked potatoes and cocaine to friends like Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor.
For Halston, designing the perfect backdrop was essential to his brand’s appeal. We asked Minahan about Halston’s flair for the set, which he recreated – alongside Oscar-winning set designer Mark Ricker – for the sets for the series.
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His townhouse was the backdrop for influencer OG
In 1974, Halston purchased a remarkable residence: a 19th century carriage house on the Upper East Side that architect Rudolph had transformed in the 1960s into a Modernist townhouse with white walls, steel beams, a 32 foot high living room and a floating staircase. The interior remains so iconic that Mr. Cool himself – fashion designer and director Tom Ford – bought it and gives the staircase its Halston-era look again.
Minahan searched for Rudolph before his death in 1997 to ask him about the project and learned that Halston himself had saved the house.
“I went to Rudolph’s in Sutton Place and he spoke highly of Halston,” Minahan says. “Rudolph had built the townhouse for a family in Texas who had changed so much in design. When Halston bought it, he employed Rudolph to restore the house to his original intention. He put everything back in place. It was Halston who came up with the idea of adding industrial gray carpet and the bamboo garden to the exterior, which we approached as close as possible. We found a lovely home in Red Hook, Brooklyn, owned by an art dealer. Mark installed the floating staircase and installed a living room and kitchen below. It was a very nice approximation of reality. ”
He was the pioneer of Haute DIY (with the help of Angelo Donghia)
The series features Halston’s first studio, a raw brick-walled building on the Upper East Side that the fashion designer furnished with sisal rugs, white Parsons tables, potted palms and a ransom of orchids. white. But it was his friend, interior design superstar Angelo Donghia, who created the backdrop for Halston’s first fashion show with a collection of hand-printed kaftans (previously a milliner, he launched his career when Jackie Kennedy chose one of his signature pillbox styles.).
“Halston and Donghia shared a home on Fire Island for years, and they used to go on vacation with their mothers,” Minahan says. “Donghia was at the peak of her career and had decorated the private rooms of the Met. For his studio and fashion show, Halston had big ideas, but he didn’t have a lot of budget. So out of necessity, Donghia went to the fabric district of New York and bought the cheapest batik fabric he could find, then draped and nailed it all up like a tent. It was pattern upon pattern upon pattern – the rich hippie look. It’s one of my favorite sets because it was so resplendent and not very well known.
NB: Elsa Peretti, former colleague and muse of Halston, jewelry designer Tiffany & Co., later took over Halston’s penthouse studio and used it as her apartment in New York until shortly before her death more early this year.
He made minimalism the height of chic
After his bohemian caftan phase, “Halston became known for his very rigorous minimalism,” notes Minahan. “In fashion, he took off all the buttons and zippers and only used one seam. His clothes were beautifully designed and he brought the same aesthetic to his interiors. He was very influenced by Elsa Peretti’s personal style, which was very simple, but also drew inspiration from the art world. There were artists in the 1960s and 1970s like John McCracken and the Color Field painters who did beautiful minimalist work.
He designed rooms to flatter their occupants
Halston’s minimalist interiors had a cultural influence that still feels relevant and fresh today – probably because they make the people inside look great.
“It was interesting shooting the townhouse scenes; I would say to cameramen, “Don’t be afraid of negative space. Use the white walls, ”says Minahan. “Halston wanted his house to show the people in his life to their best advantage. He was also very aware of the good lighting and comfort: he covered his benches with gray wool jersey, which was easy to live with. When you have a neutral space that is white, gray, and black, everyone will look great in it. And he was always trying to make a house that felt like a house for his family – his creative family. He wanted to show them to their best advantage.
He used red as a neutral
Many scenes in the Netflix series show Halston’s office at the Olympic Tower, a glass-walled space on Fifth Avenue in New York City overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His studio was on the 21st floor of a state-of-the-art skyscraper built in 1973 by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). He decorated the space with red lacquer tables, bench-style sectional seating, and wall-to-wall red carpet from Karastan (one of his licenses), custom designed with an interlocking H pattern.
“Halston controlled all aspects of his world, and the Olympic Tower office was a prime example,” says Minahan. “The glass walls from floor to ceiling were intimidating and had a dizzying effect: you felt like you were going to fall. And so Halston installed a Plexi railing all around the space to define it and then ground it with that red color. “It was difficult to determine what exact shade of red he used from the images. But by chance, I have friends whose dad made the lacquer furniture for the space, and they remembered it and even still had some of the tables at the Parson. This is how we understood that the furniture was a kind of cinnabar shade and the carpet was more of a vermilion. We recreated the setting on a soundstage and matched it as closely as possible.
Blame Halston for the upside down book trend (and sisal rugs and duck canvas)
One of the prettiest homes in the Netflix series is Halston’s Precinct in Montauk on Long Island. He leased the property to its owners – Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey. Minahan visited the house when Morrissey still owned it. “Warhol hired it from Halston because he loved the income,” Minahan says. “Halston completely redecorated it. He put on his signature benches and covered everything in white duck canvas. One thing that was remarkable were the shelves. Halston didn’t like to see all the different colors of the bindings. He liked everything to be very tone on tone and wanted a placid look at the place. So he turned all the books upside down, the pages facing out. All you’ve seen are the raw ends of the books.
He was a lifestyle brand
Halston’s fame was built on his elegant fashion and fragrance (the series shows how Peretti’s sculptural design for the glass bottle was a key ingredient to his success). But if he never had his own line of furniture, the designer plunged into the domestic world with his many licenses. These ranged from the rugs he designed for Karastan to sheets and towels. He also designed airplane seats for Braniff Airways in beige and taupe, and dressed flight attendants in jersey wrap dresses, polyester coveralls and Ultrasuede coats. “He commercialized the lifestyle and had a huge influence on culture and design,” says Minahan.
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