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August 20, 2020

Garden in Hell: Inside Diana Vreeland’s Glossy Red Apartment in New York City

Diana Vreeland (September 29, 1903 – August 22, 1989) was a French-American columnist and editor in the field of fashion. She worked for the fashion magazines Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, being the editor-in-chief of the latter, and as a special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vreeland herself was certainly never boring. In 1955, her new apartment at 550 Park Avenue needed a bold and original decor to match. Vreeland worked with close friend and famous New York decorator Billy Baldwin to design the apartment, famously informing him, “I want this place to look like a garden, but a garden in hell.”

The end result was completely bloodred. Scarlet chintz covered with brilliant Persian flowers draped the room. Piles of patterned red pillows, a thick scarlet carpet, and a mix of red accessories completed the monochromatic look. As Vreeland pointed out, “Red is the great clarifier – bright and revealing. I can’t imagine becoming bored with red, it would be like becoming bored with the person you love.”

“I knew what that meant: red,” the designer wrote in his 1974 memoir, Billy Baldwin Remembers. “I raced home with yards and yards of it, and we covered the whole room – walls, curtains, furniture, the works.”


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