Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: June 20th


William “Billy” Haines

William “Billy” Haines devoted his life to good taste and design, a passion that he pursued after starring in his final film in 1934. On and off set, he was a self-proclaimed wisecrack yet to his Hollywood friends he was a charming man of confidence, which made for a smooth transition from the silver screen to the living room interior. He famously remarked, “I can only tell you this – I would rather have taste than either love or money.” After opening his own antique shop on La Brea Avenue, decorating costar Joan Crawford’s home, and renovating and decorating acclaimed director George Cukor’s home, Haines transformed the 10-acre Beverly Hills home of Jack Warner of Warner Brothers into “the most talked-about residence in Los Angeles.” Haines’ design vocabulary – Chinoiserie and Classical objects blended with a modern touch – is clearly represented in the Warner estate.

While Haines was known for his flawless attention to detail and clever taste, he also had a discerning eye for design. As his business flourished in the 1940s and 50s, Haines began designing his own furniture and lamps. In the late 1940s Haines was called upon by F. Hugh Herbert, noted playwright, screenwriter, novelist and director, to furnish and design his Bel Air estate. The Herbert estate included both custom Haines designs, as well as furnishing Haines chose and altered to fit the interior, inciting his dual nature as both a designer and a decorator.

F. Hugh Herbert (1897 – 1958), known to his friends as Hughie or Fredrick, began his film career in 1926, after immigrating from Europe to the US. Herbert was heavily involved in the Hollywood scene in the early 1930s to the late 1940s, and became particularly famous for writing the screenplay The Moon is Blue, which was based on his play that ran a total of 924 performances on Broadway.  Herbert also wrote the screenplays for The Little Hut, Sitting Pretty, Vanity Fair, Fashions of 1934, and Dark Command. He also wrote the Meet Corliss Archer series, which first aired on radio and was later adapted to television.

The Herbert’s loved entertaining and hosting pool parties at their Bel Air Estate. Their famous pool parties attracted celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kirk Douglas, and David Niven. Pam Callies, niece to Mary Herbert, distinctly remembers Lucille Ball playing many card games on the leather Haines leather game table (Lot 73), among a number of other stars.

Three highlight pieces that I am most drawn to from the collection of 26 custom-designs and furnishing are the leather game table (Lot 73), the coffee table that incorporates a Japanese screen (lot 72), and the coffee table with the removable tray (Lot 87).

The leather game table (Lot 73) is distinctly modern with an echo of classical craftsmanship. The legs on the table are meant to resemble a unicorn horn. I have never before seen a Haines piece actually stamped or marked in any way, and this table and the coffee table are both stamped “DESIGNED BY WM. HAINES”.

Combining Asian classicism with elegant, functional design, the coffee table (Lot 72) is constructed around a panel from a vintage Japanese coromandel screen inlaid in wood covered in Stergis leather. The coffee table with removable tray (Lot 87) incorporates a tray Haines probably bought in Europe, which he transformed into a table. An obvious Asian bamboo inspiration is used in the table legs, which is then juxtaposed against the French pastoral scene on the tray.

Lot Information:

Lot 72
William “Billy” Haines  
Coffee Table  
Studio  circa 1948    
17″h x 19.75″ x 68.5″  
Retains impressed gold foil stamp “Leather by Stergis” and “Designed by WM. Haines”  
Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air  
Estimate $7,000 – 9,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction 

Lot 73
William “Billy” Haines  
Game table  
Studio  circa 1948    
Table 30″h x 36″ x 36″
 Table retains impressed gold foil stamp “Designed by WM. Haines” and “Stergis”
Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air
Estimate $8,000 – 12,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction  

Lot 74
William “Billy” Haines  
Pair of lamps mounted to tall pedestals  
Custom manufactured  circa 1948  
Glazed composition and wood  
68.5″h x 12″ x 12″    
Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air
Estimate $5,000 – 10,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction  

Lot 84
William “Billy” Haines  
Yellow slipper chair  
Custom manufactured  circa 1948    
31″h x 28″ x 28″    
Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air  
Estimate $1,500 – 2,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction 

Lot 87
William “Billy” Haines  
Coffee table with removable tray  
Custom manufactured  circa 1948    
18.75″h x 25.25″ x 19.5″    
Provenance: F. Hugh and Mary Herbert, Bel Air
Estimate $1,500 – 2,000
June 26, 2011 Modern Art & Design Auction  

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s