Cultured Magazine

Winter 2012

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BILLYHAINESCulturedMiamiDec_Layout 1 11/19/12 5:19 PM Page 70 Haines' Game Suite, 1939 "Haines was the creator of the Hollywood Regency aesthetic." William "Billy" Haines Haines' Desert Living Room, 1939 Decowas the Deco decorator, and Wright auction house Master Billy Haines is determined to bring him back into the spotlight this winter. BY LINDA LEE "Billy Haines' work reflects the best of American glamour and interior design in the late 1930s and '40s—truly high style," says Richard Wright, founder of the Wright auction house in Chicago. "Haines was the creator of the Hollywood Regency aesthetic, which defined West Coast interiors at the time. It seems obvious to us now to mix periods and styles, but Haines popularized that concept among the Hollywood elite, his clients." And while Haines designed custom furniture and rooms for the Hollywood elite, none of his pieces were put into production in his lifetime. "The only people who ever had Haines furniture were our interior design clients," says Jean Mathison, who worked with Haines in his later career and who wrote the Haines biography Class Act (2005) with Peter Schifando. Yet his reputation grows and grows. It was kick-started by a Christie's auction in 1990 of Haines pieces from from the estate of Hollywood mogul David Warner, then goosed by Kelly Wearstler's Hollywood Regency look. Haines was Hollywood Regency. On December 13, as part of his Important Design auction, Wright is offering a William "Billy" Haines Game Suite. The backgammon table, two leather-covered saddle chairs, a lamp with turquoise accents, two game cups and a few Lucite game pieces come from the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939, where Haines' Desert Living Room took pride of place even over designs by Alvar Aalto, Josef Frank, Richard Neutra and Marcel Breuer. Haines, a former actor who switched to interior design after he refused 70 CULTURED to participate in a sham marriage, was the significant Deco and post-Deco interior designer in Hollywood along with Dorothy Draper. Unlike Haines' signature Brentwood chair and Elbow chair, still in production by William Haines Designs in California, there was only one Desert Living Room game suite. The suite survived intact due to Ann Rutherford, Haines' loyal client best known as Mickey Rooney's girlfriend in the "Andy Hardy" series. Haines designed a home in Hollywood in 1942 for Rutherford, who was then married to an heir of the May Company retail fortune. She kept the backgammon table, lamp and chairs through a Haines redo during her second marriage, to the producer William Dozier. It was part of her estate when she died earlier this year. There's no telling if the price of the Game Suite will blow up as did the 1942 Bertoia teapot Wright sold in October for $136,000. "There were two bidders who wanted it," Wright says. "It takes only two." (The estimate was $20,000 to $30,000.) The Game Suite is estimated at $70,000 to $90,000. "Haines must be laughing in his grave," Mathison says. "The prices are just amazing." Bidders on important creations like the backgammon suite now wait to register until 24 hours before the auction, according to Wright. "If it's $3,000, people will fax in big as soon as it goes online. The more expensive it is, people hover—they are cagey," he says, thus making an auctioneer's life more nerve-racking. Still, he says, "I'll take all bidders, anytime." IMAGES COURTESTY OF WRIGHT; PHOTO BY SAMUEL C. FROST (GAME SUITE) —Richard Wright

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