Gold Coast designer George Stacey's golden touch
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American interior designer George Stacey was known for using his worldly style and creative flair to transform homes on Long Island's Gold Coast. No place was this more apparent than at Peacock Point in Locust Valley, the family compound where Frances Cheney, the wife of silk manufacturing heir Ward Cheney, commissioned Stacey to decorate the couple's Art Moderne update of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
It was the first commission for Stacey, who hailed from Connecticut and sold antiques in Paris. The octagonal home, built in the 1930s, was featured in magazines. His original designs were both elegant and fresh, a mix of antique and modern furniture that became a sensation.
"Stacey was in the vanguard for making Victorian, 19th-century furnishings fashionable in the 1940s and 1950s," says Maureen Footer, author of the recently published "George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic" (Rizzoli, $65), who will be signing books tomorrow evening in Locust Valley. "He tended to use these pieces in a rather witty rather than a literal way."
Painted renderings that appeared in Town & Country in 1949 show how years later Stacey changed the living room of the Locust Valley home, adding small-scale upholstered chairs -- some New York City upholsterers called the style a "Stacey chair" -- along with books, flowers and potpourri to make it less dramatic and more comfortable and inviting.
After completing his work with the Cheneys in 1934, Stacey was called upon by many other wealthy trendsetters, including Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, Minnie Astor, Averell Harriman and Grace Kelly. The interior of Paley's Kiluna Farm in Manhasset was inspired by the 19th-century French paintings her husband, CBS executive Bill Paley, collected. Babe Paley was also a Francophile, and she and Stacey would go antiquing together in Paris for Kiluna Farm.
Stacey, who died in 1993 at age 91, was an integral part of the Cheney family, designing a succession of their homes, from an Amagansett beach house to a town house on Manhattan's ultra-tony Sutton Square. He even had his own country digs at Peacock Point, an old squash court that he turned into a chic country cottage, decorated with a mix of 18th-century French furniture and terra-cotta pots of geraniums.
WHAT: Book-signing and cocktails with Maureen Footer, author of the new book "George Stacey and the Creation of American Chic"
WHEN/WHERE: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Elizabeth Pash Antiques and Decoration, 94 Forest Ave., Locust Valley
INFO: Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org