October 12, 2014


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Lot 416: Paul Laszlo

Lot 416: Paul Laszlo

Paddle armchair

Executed 1946
32" x 35" x 31"
Provenance: Commissioned for the Rene Williams Residence, 606 North Beverly Drive, Los Angeles, California
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Price Realized: $4,687
Inventory Id: 16416

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The architect and interior designer Paul László (1900-1993), the story goes, once refused a commission from Elizabeth Taylor because the actress insisted that she be allowed to collaborate with him on her decorating scheme. Other clients—who included Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Barbara Hutton—could have advised Taylor that he did just fine on his own.

László turned his hand to every element in the décor "down to the last ashtray," as Time once wrote of him. From the late 1930s and well on into the 1960s, among members of the smart set nationwide his name was a byword for sumptuous modernity. Like his clients, László was at ease with luxury—not the luxury of the rare and precious, but the luxury of rich colors and textures, and deep comforts. But, he also had a contemporary élan, shown in an appreciation for spaces that were bright, airy, uncluttered, and up-to-date.

Aligned with no artistic or design movements, László relied on his own carefully-honed instincts. Born in Hungary at the turn of the century, László learned about quality from his father, a prosperous furniture manufacturer. In Vienna, where he trained and worked, László absorbed ideas of beauty, grace, and warmth. He learned his technical skills in Stuttgart, and there, at age 27, he established an upscale design business that gained an international reputation. Nine years later, with the Nazis entrenched, László, a Jew, left Germany for America. He made his way to Los Angeles, where he was pleased to find that his Stuttgart credentials carried weight.

While he had any number of large commercial assignments—many for national department stores—custom residential work was László's stock in trade. In 1946, László was commissioned to furnish the interior of Rene Williams' residence in Beverly Hills. The designs made for the Rene Williams residence display many of the classic earmarks of László's interior furnishings. The "Paddle" armchairs (Lots 414, 415, 416) are more than generously proportioned, and feature namesake armrests that are flat and wide—perfect spots to rest a cocktail. Case goods, tables and dining chairs have clean, elegant lines, and, rather like the Wiener Werkstattë furniture László knew in Vienna, are simply-formed, yet somehow warm. László frequently employed artisans who were also Central European émigrés to realize his designs, and one of his favorites was the weaver Maria Kipp (1900-1988). The lampshades for (Lots 420, 421) are one of her signature constructions, featuring macramé-like horizontal bands that hold in place a vertical array of slender sticks. Like every facet of a László interior, the shades contribute to an environment that is at once robust and relaxed.

Todd Merrill and Julie Iovine, eds., Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam. New York:Rizzoli, 2008.
"Rich Man's Architect." Time. August 18, 1952: n.p. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
Laskey, Marlene L. "Designing with Spirit: Paul László." Oral History Project Transcript. University of California Libraries, 1986. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.
"Paul László, 93, Dies; Architect to Celebrities." The New York Times, 7 Apr. 1993. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.