While at Yale, he had considered studying architecture, but felt he lacked the math— he was passionate about houses and decoration—as well as music, but that is outside the scope of this post. Throughout his lifetime, he made many contractors, real estate brokers, architects and decorators very happy. I believe that there were over 30 houses and apartments over the years, usually two at a time. The decorating firm of McMillen alone handled 17 commissions for him. There were at least five by the brilliant modernist master Ben Baldwin.
Finding the McKim, Mead and White interior not to his taste, he commissioned his decorator, Natalie Davenport of McMillen, to find an 18th century boiserie in France. Once located, it was brought to this country, along with French craftsman to install it. Then the fun of furnishing began. These rooms were as far from the age of Aquarius, then dawning, as the best upholsterers and painters in New York could make them. When finished, it was the ne plus ultra of the rich taste of the era, recalling the apartment, also by McMillen, for the Henry Fords, and the Wrightsman rooms at the Metropolitan Museum, which were then being decorated by Jansen of Paris, who also supplied many of the modern furnishing pieces used in this commission.
The octagonal room was hung with silk of an indescribable shade of pale peach, and was centered on the most extraordinary lacquered bed imaginable, supposedly made for the Brighton Pavilion, an attribution shared with almost all Chinoiserie furniture of the early 19th century.
Needless to say, our friend grew architecturally restless, leaving the Pulitzer apartment for awhile, trying out two modern apartments on 5th Avenue, a summer house in Connecticut, another in Maine, a small chateau in France, then moved back to the Pulitzer House apartment which he’d kept through it all. He then resolutely switched to modern, eventually winding up in a sublimely reductionist apartment nearby, with interiors not by McMillen, but by modernist master Benjamin Baldwin. Here, after his former wife’s death, his parent’s English portraits also came to roost.
After a few years, the new owner wearied of this heavy opulence (I myself would last about 3.2 seconds in a Denning & Fourcade interior before I’d have to be taken, screaming, to a monastic retreat to sooth my shattered nerves). In 1986, Patrick Naggar was called in, degilded the boisierie, hung new curtains, and gave the room a luxe French Moderne touch.
All McMillen photos, from ‘The Finest Rooms by America’s Great Decorators’
Denning & Fourcade and Patrick Naggar Drawing room photos, Edgar De Eviva & Lizzie Himmel, New York Times Magazine, January 31st, 1988
Denning & Fourcade Bedroom and Dining Room, New York Magazine, n.d.
Mario Buatta Bed Sketch, Konstantin Kakanias for the New York Times.
Baldwin decorated apartment, Architectural Digest by Peter Vitale, September 1979.
Hoyt Villa Hall, Architectural Review