A daring red, black & white color scheme was novel retro art deco living room decor

New York city home of author Katharine Brush in 1933 (2)

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Here’s an adaptation of an article from 1933, giving the backstory on how this beautiful art deco-influenced room was created inside the opulent East 57th Street apartment of 1930s writer Katharine Brush (1900-1952).

At the time, Brush was a wealthy celebrity author riding high on the success of several novels, including “The Red Headed Woman,” which had just been turned into a movie starring Jean Harlow.

The problems that confronted architect Joseph Urban, when he came to decorate the luxurious New York apartment of 1930s author Katharine Brush, were far more difficult than those faced by the “Young Man of Manhattan” or any situation created by “The Red Headed Woman.”

As the only light was from two tall north windows, a coldness had to be overcome. So Mr Urban closed off the east and south corners, developing the latter into a bright, airy glass pavilion where the sun streams through orange and yellow chiffon curtains.

Details of this retro art deco living room decor

Round mirrors on opposite walls were the real architectural element of the room. They acted as powerful agents to set the room into motion.

The fireplace wall was a study in white. The walls were white plaster, and the fireplace was white marble. The niches were covered with white leather, and the large couch — which was connected with a low bookcase — was upholstered in white leather.

The cushion was white velvet with a red stripe to repeat the scheme of the fabrics used. The legs of the two comfortable leather seats built in the niches were transparent glass.

New York city home of author Katharine Brush in 1933 (1)

The metal was used as a protection at the base, and to outline the niches, around the fireplace, and to frame the large circular mirrors of highly-polished silver.

The opposite wall has the same treatment in white, except the large couch there was upholstered in a geranium red velvet. Whereas on the opposite wall seats were built in the niches, here they had bookcases in the niches.

The visible portions of the niches were again white leather, and the bookcases were white lacquer. The inner side of the shelves, however, was in red lacquer to match the upholstery of the couch, and the books completed the color scheme.

ALSO SEE: Slate blue decor defined this upscale modern living room in New York back in the 1930s

The north wall with the two tall windows was painted a black-blue. A window wall is always dark in contrast to the light effect, and in this case, the darkness was emphasized to harmonize with a painting that Miss Brush already owned.

Katharine Brush portrait and work - Red Headed Woman movie poster
Katharine Brush’s portrait, a novel ad, an article, and the 1930s ‘Red Headed Woman’ movie poster

To relate the art to the adjoining wall, the same geranium-red velvet of the couch was again used for the curtains.

The carpet in the room was black, and a few large squares were woven in to repeat or reflect the warmth of the various reds that were used in the room.

Along the shelves that lined the sides of the right-angle sofa before the fireplace, brightly-hued book bindings wove a brilliant tapestry of color — in dramatic contrast to the rug and sofa frame. The white leather upholstered the sofa, and zebra-striped cushions provided an accent.

ALSO SEE: This dramatic vintage 1930s dining room had a starburst-pattern floor & fuchsia decor

A silver head by Josef Hoffmann of Vienna embellished one of the bookcases, and a centerpiece of silver by Dagobert Peche, another famous Viennese, adorned the mantel.

There were several art deco touches in this room, including those seen on fireplace andirons, and the handle on the black cabinet in the back corner of the room.

To be happily liveable, a room should both express the thoughts of the designer, who controls the scheme and makes the room artistic, and should contain furniture and articles cherished by the owner. With commendable skill, Mr Urban used Miss Brush’s treasured possessions in his scheme.

New York city home of author Katharine Brush in 1933 (2)

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